Nurturing the news, nickel by nickel
VAIL In the spring of 1985, you could throw a roll a boulder down Vails Bridge Street and not hit anyone except Laura Chiappetta, out there in the snow hawking ads for the fledgling Vail Daily.The goal in those days was that, during the mud season, the number of pages in the off season would not shrink lower than the number of staffers in the high season, which was almost enough for a touch football game. The town was deserted everyone bound for either Utah or Mexico. Avon was a supermarket and some condos, and besides the Gashouse about the only commercial enterprise in Edwards was a soda machine outside the post office.She hadnt been on the job long, a couple months tops.
Before Chiappetta, a few ad reps had cycled through the place. It was Vail and everything was seasonal, including most of the people.In the 22 years between then and now, not much has changed. April and May are still the cruelest months still snowing but no skiing. You make your money when the sun shines, summer or winter, and several johnny-come-lately types insist theyre responsible for their own success.They couldnt be more wrong if theyd entered a poodle in a tractor pull.Take the Vail Daily, for instance.
When Chiappetta came on board, you could fit the entire staff into a medium-sized sedan and have room for a cooler of beer. Businesses like the Daily, or the local ski company or any number of regional real estate agencies, were built by a handful of people who caught the vision, put in the time and the work and eventually earned some of the rewards. The rest of us got on board in time to take the ride, after the cruise had started and much of the heavy lifting was already done.In 1985, Vail had one radio station, KVMT, which landed about half the areas advertising spending. The weekly Vail Trail took the other half.There was that startup daily sheet that Jim Pavelich and Jon VanHousen had launched a few years before, but it wasnt a real newspaper, was it? At least not yet. It looked more like a massive church bulletin, printed on the same kind of paper.
Could it survive? Was it worth throwing money at? Only time would tell, and Chiappetta was there through it all.Pavelich hired Jeannie Noe as the Dailys first ad rep. Then Patty Hearn-Powell came and went. Her hyphen-Powell got a job in Arizona and they moved.He called Chiappetta about the slot, at first offering her the Glenwood Springs territory. In those days the Daily didnt reach beyond Edwards, so he hyped the territory to Chiappetta for its untapped potential. Chiappetta, a salesman to her very soul, knew a pitch when she heard one and decided to take a pass.Thanks, but no thanks. Shed keep selling business phone systems while she waited for a State Farm insurance territory to open up in the area. The details are a little fuzzy; no ones quite sure if the Daily bought a system from her before or after Pavelich tried to hire her.Three days later Pavelich called back and offered her the Vail territory. She figured shed stay three months that was 22 years ago. Fridays her last day.We built a great paper in the mid 80s because we brought in great people, Pavelich said from San Francisco, where his latest newspaper startup, The San Francisco Daily News, is celebrating its first anniversary.
Chiappetta has seen all those people come and go, plus a few others publishers, editors, other ad reps and scores of reporters. She was there every time Randy Wyrick was fired.When the Daily was in Vails Crossroads building, the rent was $2,400 a month. When the building is leveled and rebuilt as Solaris, that same spot will be sold as a premium-view penthouse for millions of dollars.She had the largest account in town, Ace Hardware, working with the OBriens. The real estate community had not yet embraced the Daily.We had to work for every nickel we could get from everyone else, Chiappetta said.The Daily grew along with the area, and Chiappetta did OK. She managed to buy one of the areas first beemers, and earned enough to buy Steve Shanley in a charity bachelor auction in 1989.She launched the Internet effort and ran the Vail Trail after the Dailys parent company, Swift Communications, bought it. Shes a master gardener and will put her hands to the soil. Shes marrying a dandy guy shes known for years, and they plan to live happily ever after.