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Still paradise to me

Don Rogers

The Vail Trail might have survived as an independent if they had stayed in Vail. Of course, they didn’t do that. They moved and tried to be “Vail’s greatest” – from Eagle. Oops. They’d be long gone now if the mean old Daily hadn’t bought them on their death bed and worked furiously since then to breathe new life into the vintage publication.I’m not sure what brought on these profundities in the shower this morning. Maybe it was the kind note in a card from the CEO of the family business that owns the Vail Daily. Arne – thankfully, the climate remains informal even as the company grows – congratulated me for six years of service this month. Six years! That’s nearly twice my longest stint anywhere else in journalism, about three times my average stay in one place during this all-too-migrant career. And I feel like I’m just getting started. Still so much to get done, and this community is such a great place. Trust me on this. I’ve lived in and covered plenty of them across the country.Six years ago, the Trail was making a run at us as a daily paper. When I began, their news staff had more experience, more energy, more focus, more bite, and they were more organized than the Daily.My first complaint came my first day, the day before Vail’s 1999 election. I think it was the town’s public information chief, Suzanne Sliverthorne, on the phone. You know, she said, no one would even know there was an election by reading the Vail Daily today. Sure enough, nuthin’ in the Daily. The staff thought they’d said it all with a special section on the election the previous week. The Trail hadn’t made that mistake. We haven’t either, since 1999.Hey, it’s been a great challenge that continues. Little newspapers are tippy canoes. That’s the blessing and bane of them. Expectations are higher than at the metros, resources thinner, and the community is so much closer to small papers. This often is frustrating, sure, but it’s also invigorating. I believe that I got the opportunity to come here precisely because of the Trail. So I’m grateful to them. My now freshman high school daughter was a little third-grader then. Senior son just starting middle school. Only their mother had been on a ski slope.Eagle Ranch didn’t have a home yet. Neither did Miller Ranch. The Village at Avon was an abandoned airstrip and some drawings. Vail was still talking about “Tomorrow.” A Democrat was president. The first Harry Potter book was just getting big; we “read” it on the move as a book on tape. Y2K was surely the end of the world. My wife dug in her heels at our rental up Brush Creek: “Next life or next wife. I’m not moving.” Eventually, the rental got bought and replaced with a McMansion, and the edict modified with our purchase of a cabin on Eby Creek to “You know what we could get in New England for this kind of money?”Ah, if we didn’t love it here there would always be the blood oath. I swore to the young, early-40-something publisher, Bob Brown, I’d stick around at least long enough to help him celebrate his 50th birthday if he hired me. Bob now helps run the greater Swift company as COO, while basing himself in the valley. Fifty remains a few years away yet.The Vail Daily soon picked up sister papers in Aspen and Glenwood, in addition to Summit. Y2K, recession, 9/11 and Pete Seibert passed. So did Kobe Bryant. Global warming arrived while drought has lingered. The kids became teenagers. And accomplished snowboarders who take America’s greatest ski hills for granted. Their parents became personally acquainted with Steadman Hawkins, between knee and foot surgeries. Hired to battle the Trail on the news front, now I have to be nice. That might be the hardest adjustment of all. I knew how to get after them: shore up our weaknesses, take their strengths from them, take advantage of our edge in size. It worked. They retreated to a weekly, had much more trouble as a business when the downturns came, and finally tottered and sold to our parent company about a year and a half ago.And we’re on to new challenges: getting the most out of the Internet, coping with another growth surge, figuring out how to nudge readership above 91 percent.The only thing that hasn’t changed is our main goal for the Vail Daily – to be the best paper, anywhere. Managing Editor Don Rogers can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14600, or editor@vaildaily.comVail, Colorado


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