Scott Stanford: This newspaper has a relationship with its community like none other
The greatest thing about working for the Steamboat Pilot & Today was watching newspapers fly off the racks. I’d walk across the street to the Kum & Go and watch 10 customers. At least seven of the 10 would pick up a newspaper. Sometimes all 10 did.
The Kum & Go experiment was validation that this small daily in a hard-to-get-to ski resort had a relationship with its community like no other newspaper I’ve worked for before or since. If you’re on the newspaper staff in Steamboat, you better be good, because everybody sees your work.
I got to Steamboat Springs in May 2001, taking over as editor a few months before what was the news event of a lifetime, particularly for all of us born after World War II. About mid-morning on Sept. 11, once we started to grasp what was unfolding on TV, we decided to do something that Steamboat had never done. By 5 p.m. that afternoon, an eight-page “Extra” edition of Steamboat Today — packed with local coverage and reaction — was on newsstands. The “Extra” gave us purpose and focus in the midst of an enormous tragedy that had stunned us all.
Within hours, all of the special editions had been claimed off the racks, and a small staff learned that no idea was too big to try.
The next year, with the Winter Olympics in nearby Salt Lake and more than a dozen Olympians with ties to Steamboat, we became the smallest U.S. newspaper to get press credentials. Yes, Tom Ross and John Russell had to spend the first week commuting to Salt Lake from a motel in Evanston, Wyoming, but we were able to cover the Olympics as a Steamboat story, paving the way for future trips to Torino, Italy; Vancouver; and Sochi, Russia.
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We tackled major topics, dissecting community issues in summer-long series. We analyzed affordable housing, gender issues in the workplace and broke down immigration by looking at a restaurant worker’s Steamboat life and then traveling to Mexico to see his life there. We dug into the environmental challenges presented by continued dependence on coal and fossil fuels and examined the 2009 collapse of the housing market and its devastating local impacts.
Many loved our projects. Some didn’t. But everyone kept reading. We controlled our press run to keep costs down, but no matter how many newspapers we put out, they got absorbed like water into a sponge.
That doesn’t happen without great people and the Steamboat Pilot & Today had, and has, great people. There is no better newspaper photojournalist than John Russell, whose God-given talent is matched only by his relentless work ethic. Tom Ross was a source of knowledge and steadiness that I counted on throughout my time in Steamboat. I tell Deb Proper and Karen Gilchrist every time I see them that they are the best advertising consultants I’ve ever worked with because, well, they are.
My first Steamboat boss, Suzanne Schlicht, demanded excellence but also provided the resources to get there. My second, Bryna Anne Sisk, believed we could do anything.
We attracted so much newspaper talent — people who could work at any newspaper anywhere. Steamboat was fortunate that Samantha Johnston, Avi Salzman, Melissa Hoppert, Melissa Roddy, Christine Metz, Brent Boyer, Meg Boyer, Autumn Phillips, Allison Miriani, Jayme Elrod, Melinda Mawdsley, Brandon Gee, Luke Graham, Nicole Miller, Mike Lawrence, Matt Stensland, Emma Trainor, Joel Reichenberger, Jack Weinstein, Blythe Terrell, Scott Franz and others I apologize for forgetting — spent part of their careers at the Pilot & Today.
Most of the people I worked with at the Pilot & Today are no longer there. I left in 2013 shortly after hiring Lisa Schlichtman as editor. I still read the Pilot & Today, and of course, Lisa and her team continue to put out a great community newspaper.
Not long ago, my wife and I returned to Steamboat to get our home ready to sell. While there, I stopped in to the Kum & Go across from the old Pilot building. Three people came in besides me. All three grabbed a newspaper off the rack.
Scott Stanford came to the Steamboat Pilot & Today as editor in 2001 and left as general manager in 2013. He is the president and CEO of Fort Wayne Newspapers in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
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