Vail Daily Editor Don Rogers: Setting a record straight
Vail, CO, Colorado
A warning: This column likely will bore you. The issues are irrelevant, petty and inside baseball.
The Vail Mountaineer’s Page One claims – in at least 20 editions so far – that attempt to defame the Vail Daily also are rather wildly at odds with reality, and I believe they merit correction simply for the record.
I’ll do so here without taking extra shots at them. And rest assured, we will not enter into a running dialogue now that’s of interest only to a select few.
But if you are among those curious about what’s going on, read on. Otherwise, as always, you are welcome to turn the page to more relevant fare.
In reverse order:
• On July 17, the Mountaineer used their front page to highlight a letter from a Minneapolis lawyer not licensed in Colorado that demanded the Daily “cease and desist” from “soliciting” their employees.
No, we weren’t looking for a date. I had told one of their reporters, Randy Wyrick, that we had an upcoming reporter opening and asked if he’d have any interest. It was a casual discussion. If he had expressed interest, we would have gone through the usual process – job interviews, discussing the other candidates and deciding whether to make an offer to Randy or someone else.
I like Randy. We worked well together for 63⁄4 of the seven years we worked together, and as the Mountaineer pointed out, he was fired. But his employment issues in the end had nothing to do with his ability. His current employer, Jim Pavelich, has fired and rehired Randy a time or two himself, as Randy has reported in his current paper.
The point, though, is that it’s not remotely illegal, unlawful or otherwise wrong to discuss a job opening with someone qualified for a position who currently works in another shop. Maybe it would be if Randy had a contract with a non-compete clause and if I then encouraged him in some way to break it. That would be his legal problem, however, not ours.
Also, they have “solicited” on at least one occasion Vail Daily staff in the past six months to fill Mountaineer positions. Newspapers frequently look to other newspapers when they have openings, and we’ve taken such overtures as a matter of course.
• The Mountaineer in the past month on Page 1 and elsewhere expressed outrage over their logo not appearing in a Gypsum Daze advertisement in the Daily.
We made a mistake due to a misunderstanding that was corrected. We had never taken out their logo before (nor afterward) from any sponsorship advertisements.
They similarly failed to run the Vail Daily logo in the advertisement in their paper after they received the correct artwork from the event organizers with our logo. They told the organizer that they hadn’t noticed the e-mail, and subsequently they corrected the mistake.
In any case, it was straightened out, and both papers ran each other’s logo in the subsequent ads for Gypsum Daze and the other events both papers help sponsor, as they both have done before and will continue to do.
• The Mountaineer has devoted much Page One coverage on the Daily becoming one of three newspapers distributed inside Starbucks stores in Eagle County.
Some background: The Vail Daily was left outside Starbucks since it opened stores in 2002 because The New York Times, Denver Post and USA Today had agreements with the franchise for the three spots in its racks. Starbucks, as a private company, has the absolute right to regulate newspaper distribution in its stores.
Last summer, USA Today pulled out, and we applied to fill their spot in company-owned stores in Eagle County and Summit County. (There is no daily newspaper competitor in Summit County, incidentally.)
I can understand critics would be skeptical when I tell you that we’d do the same if there were no Vail Mountaineer in the Vail Valley. Still, that’s the simple truth.
• The Mountaineer occasionally claims that we bully community-service groups.
We’re proud of our high level of partnership with community-service organizations over the years, much more than average, with millions of dollars in space and cash invested over the years to help make our community stronger.
The only organization moved to complain publicly about the Mountaineer’s allegations submitted a letter to us a couple of months back to explain they felt that they had been abused by the Mountaineer in that paper’s quest to attack the Daily.
We’re not perfect. I know of three instances since January when a group became frustrated with us for not being prompt enough in our communication with them. We are working to improve on that.
The fact is that both papers support local community-service groups, which is a great thing. Neither organization has to do so.
• The Mountaineer often references the Vail Daily as part of a large, monopolistic, corporate empire based in Reno, Nev., to which all our revenue flows.
The Daily is owned by two sisters who also own a number of papers
in Colorado; Lake Tahoe;
Roseburg, Ore.; Grass Valley, Calif.; in and around Carson City, Nev.; and,
of course, the weekly Eagle Valley Enterprise.
The owner of the Mountaineer also owns papers in the San Francisco area and Denver.
Our headquarters actually is not in Reno but in Carson City and Gypsum. Yes, our Gypsum. Carson City handles much of our business operations. Our parent company has invested considerably more in our Eagle County operations than it has taken.
Currently, 75 to 80 people work in our Gypsum headquarters and press, which publishes our mountain papers among others. The Vail Daily has 36 people working at the Eagle-Vail office, not counting delivery folks. The Enterprise has three people at its office downvalley.
The Mountaineer has 10 employees, not counting delivery people, and is printed in Denver.
I don’t say this to beat on them, only to suggest that there’s a bit more to the local picture here.
• The Mountaineer continues to air nearly year-old accusations of the Daily forging exclusive written agreements that force clients to keep secrets.
That’s not our practice. I’ve had the publisher role in addition to the editor position informally since January, and officially since – don’t laugh – April 1, after returning to the Vail Daily after nearly a year away.
I don’t condone a practice like that, don’t believe in it and want to hear about it if there’s something I don’t know.
I’m not going to pretend we’re perfect and never make mistakes. Human enterprises, particularly those conducted at high speed under deadline pressure, will never be perfect.
But that’s not going to stop us from trying to constantly improve, and personally I think having another newsprint competitor helps make the paper better. I’ve worked in a competitive environment for the bulk of my journalism career and appreciate the value of that.
I believe in our staff’s ability to focus on providing the most relevant, important and interesting information for the readers, helping clients make the most of their marketing investments and grow, and help the service groups in their efforts to add to the quality of our community.
That’s our mission. The better we achieve it, the healthier and better we’ll be, too.
I debated whether to address these claims in a column or to continue letting these go.
I received a lot of advice to let it go, and that’s the normal pattern we’ll
But enough others suggested it would be wise to set the record straight without being confrontational about it or engaging in a back and forth over matters that ultimately are inconsequential.
I watch the Mountaineer. I appreciate them as a means to help improve our operation. But none of us is consumed with them.
We’re busy enough focusing on the real work at hand.
Don Rogers is the editor and publisher of the Vail Daily. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 970-748-2920. He welcomes your comments.