From the publisher: Change can bring great opportunities
A wise man once said, “the journey is the reward.” I wasn’t that wise man, but I relish the sentiment.
I started working at daily newspapers 40 years ago, and it’s been a thrilling adventure that has taken me from California to Oregon and back to my native Colorado. That path is the exact opposite direction my parents — who met at a newspaper in Idaho — took upon leaving one of Pueblo’s two daily newspapers in 1965 for new lives on the West Coast.
I’m proud to have followed in their footsteps and built a 40-year career in local media that has been intensely rewarding.
But after four decades in the media industry, I’ve decided it’s time to step away and retire. This has been a good ride but a long one, and I’m ready for a break. With that, you’ll be seeing new leadership at Pilot & Today moving forward, and I’m excited about what that means for me and for you.
I’ve been working with my boss — Steamboat native Samantha Johnston, who oversees most of Colorado Mountain News Media — on a retirement plan since summer and will officially close the book on my journalism career later this month. This has not been an easy decision because I love the news industry deeply. But one thing I’ve learned over the years is that change can be invigorating.
I got my start as a reporter hammering away on a manual typewriter (consult a dictionary for details on what that is) to deliver news for a once-a-day newspaper. These days, Pilot & Today produces news and information 24/7 on laptops and smartphones that our customers consume in multiple ways, including a daily newspaper, a half-dozen magazines, a variety of online platforms and mobile apps, more than a dozen email newsletters, events, even video and billboards at Yampa Valley Regional Airport. It’s exhilarating to look back and marvel at the many skips and starts it took to get from ancient technology to cutting-edge solutions.
I came to Steamboat three-and-a-half years ago through serendipity. I had just finished a job running a sizable media company in Eugene, Oregon, whose family ownership had decided to sell. At that time, I was feeling down and told my wife, “I think I’m done with the newspaper business.” I paused, then added, “Swift Communications is probably the only media company I’d consider working for” because I knew it was a stable family-owned business with visionary, committed and honest leadership. The very next day, as news of the Eugene sale spread nationwide, I got a surprise text from Swift CEO Bill Waters asking if I was interested in an opportunity at one of its Rocky Mountain markets. I said, “Sure!” That conversation led me to Steamboat Springs, and here we are. I hope I’ve done my part since then to move Pilot & Today forward amid the ever-evolving challenges and opportunities our fast-paced world presents.
I’m extremely proud of what the Pilot & Today team has accomplished during that time. We’ve branched out into new ventures, delivered award-winning journalism on difficult topics, helped our community navigate a frustrating and ongoing pandemic, and otherwise connected our communities in new and exciting ways. The work this team generates day in, day out is impressive and that will continue to be the case moving forward.
My retirement has been in the works for months and the timing of this column has nothing to do with last week’s announcement that Ogden Newspapers had purchased the bulk of Swift’s publishing business, including Pilot & Today and its many products.
In fact, I had been working with my replacement, our new Revenue Director Bonnie Stewart, on transition plans for more than a month when news of the Ogden purchase broke last week. Stewart has had a long career in media sales in the Yampa Valley with WorldWest (the owners of Pilot & Today and Craig Press before Swift bought them in 2017), and later with other Swift divisions. She’ll be taking the reins of Pilot & Today beginning this Tuesday and will help shepherd the transition from Swift to Ogden, which becomes official Jan. 1.
The sale to Ogden, this week’s departure of longtime Pilot & Today editor Lisa Schlichtman to a great newspaper gig in Denver, my retirement — it’s a lot to absorb at one time. But new blood brings new vision, products and solutions.
Stewart is going to do great things at Pilot & Today, as is new editor Eli Pace, who brings nearly two decades of varied newspaper experience to town. And Ogden is a fifth-generation, family-owned newspaper company doubling down on community journalism at a time when newspapers nationwide are struggling to survive.
Please give them all your support. Swift, Lisa and I all were once unknown out-of-towners when we arrived in Steamboat, and I think we’ve all served your community institution proud.
So what’s ahead for me? I’ll continue to live in Steamboat, but will be spending more time with my long-suffering wife, Sandi, and with our children, families and friends. In addition, I’ll be tackling some personal goals that include getting back into shape and devoting more time for volunteer work. I may end up busier than ever, but it’ll be a different kind of busy.
And I’ll be reading and supporting Pilot & Today in print, online and whatever platforms the future brings, grateful we have strong local journalism in the middle of paradise. I hope you continue to do the same because a healthy democracy needs to support professional and intensely local journalism that helps build, stimulate and connect healthy communities.
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