Oh, it’s the end of the Trail
We’ve had entirely too many obituaries as of late. It seems as though every time the paper arrives in the box, there is a report of the demise of yet another valuable asset to the community.
And even worse, the passing of something so young is particularly troublesome. By anyone’s standards, 39 is young.
Of course, I am referring to the announcement this past weekend about the Vail Trail. Oh, I know what I read. Aren’t we all lucky that the Trail has been “saved”?
Isn’t it fortunate that Swift Newspapers has “rescued” our weekly alternative from the brink of disaster?
Never mind that the historical rivals will now live under the same roof, combine subscription lists, and “cooperate on a business basis” (whatever that means). And never fear, even though a monopoly will exist, advertising rates will be unaffected. For now. But then, how will we ever know what the competition offers when there is none?
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To be sure, the end of the valley’s oldest independent newspaper is a tragedy. No matter what assurances are promised, it will never be the same. Nor will this valley that will suffer horribly for this change.
One of the greatest assets a community like ours can have is a forum for the expression of diverse opinions. Different viewpoints on the same subject are not only valuable from an educational perspective, but it is truly the only means by which we can be sure that the democratic process can flourish.
Maybe I’m just skeptical, but I’m more comfortable with a little competition between the sources of news. I’d rather have a little edge on the reporting. I’d like to see a race to the finish for a “scoop.”
I find it hard to believe that this same rivalry will exist when all the desks are under the same roof, lined up neatly in a row. When every one shares the same water cooler, it makes for a certain amount of camaraderie that is natural but doesn’t necessarily equate to healthy and objective – especially for the residents of this valley.
And keep in mind, at least some of that skepticism is very well founded. Do you remember the Vail Valley Times? In a similar scenario, the Vail Daily, through the kindness of its heart, rescued that alternative also, only to send the last page to press a few short months later. Maybe there’s an omen in the fact that the Trail will now move to the exact room that housed the VVT during its wake.
But the Colorado Mountain News Media isn’t really a villain. They simply seized upon an opportunity when it presented itself. It’s been a well known fact that the Trail has struggled for years. They spiraled from a summer monthly and a winter weekly that was the only source of news to a daily that never quite made it, back to a weekly and now to a part of a small news organization based in Nevada. But up until now, its major attribute has been its independence. And frankly, that has been a major attribute for us, also.
For me personally, I’ll miss Alan Knox running around with his camera at events all over the valley. But I’ll especially miss David Williams. We spent a lot of time bouncing ideas around. While he is generally more liberal than me, we shared a lot of values about basic honesty in government and in the press. In those areas, he wasn’t afraid to raise the tough issues or ask the hard questions. In general, he raised the bar on ethics in his profession.
David’s firing is probably our first look at what this homogenization means. He was not retained in this merger because he says he had been “too critical” of his competition, the Daily, and its management. I would say that perhaps that was part of his job as editor of the Trail. Each needed to exist for the purpose of holding the other to a higher standard. If this diversity of opinion is squelched from day one, I’m not sure that bodes well for days to follow. Coming from Chicago, I can tell you that the all-out wars between the Tribune and Sun Times were things of legends and in the end ultimately served the community well.
But at this point, the situation is what it is. We can only hope for the best, but be prepared. I would suggest we all develop a greater vigilance than in the past. Perhaps this is an opportunity that is being forced on us, but an opportunity nonetheless.
This might just be the time when we all have to start doing a little more diligent job with our own homework. Maybe we will actually have to take the time to inform ourselves through exploring more information sources. Is it possible to suggest a meeting or two? A town council session or the county commissioners’ circus?
In any event, it’s a sad time for the valley and for each of us personally. It must be particularly so for the Knox family. As for the employees of the Trail, I know their disappointment is magnified by the fact that they were negotiating to buy the paper themselves. When the deal finally went down, their chance to keep the Trail independent and locally owned was only a dream and not the reality they had hoped for.
Do your part: Call them and write them. Do your part: call them and write them. To contact the Town Council, call 479-1860, ext. 8, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. To contact Vail Resorts, call 476-5601 or e-mail email@example.com. For past columns, vaildaily.com-columnists or search:ferry.
Kaye Ferry is a longtime observer of Vail government. She writes a weekly column for the Daily.