This September, Andy Stone is getting up out of his editor's chair at The Aspen Times and is going on the road as the regional editorial director for Colorado Mountain News Media, a division of Swift Newspapers Inc.
In his place, Mike Hagan will become editor in chief of both the weekly and daily editions of the Times, moving up from his position as managing editor.
And Stone, 57, is also getting up out of his co-publisher seat, which will now be solely occupied by the other current co-publisher, Jenna Weatherred, who said she still expects to see Stone around The Aspen Times.
"It's a good opportunity and we'll miss him," said Weatherred. "But he'll still be spending about 20 or 25 percent of his time here in his new role."
That role is to help improve the writing and editing at the 10 newspapers in the Colorado Mountain News Media group, including the Times daily and weekly editions.
"I'm going to be working with the editorial departments of all the different newspapers that are part of Colorado Mountain News Media," said Stone, who has been editor in chief of The Aspen Times since 1995. "I'm going to start the job by meeting with the editors at each paper and ask them in what ways they want to see their papers improve."
Swift/CMNM owns the Times and eight other newspapers on the Western Slope: the Snowmass Sun, the Valley Journal, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, the Rifle Citizen Telegram, the Leadville Chronicle, the Eagle Valley Enterprise, the Vail Daily and the Summit Daily.
The newspaper group recently completed a new printing press and office building in Gypsum, where Stone expects to keep an office.
So Hagan, who started at the Times five years ago as the night editor, will be in Stone's old office. But instead of mostly focusing on the daily edition, Hagan will now be in charge of both papers.
"Mike has been directly hands-on," Stone said. "In terms of how The Aspen Times works and what it takes to get the paper produced on a weekly and daily basis, he knows what he is doing."
And only a few before him have.
Bil Dunaway purchased the paper in 1956 and worked for 32 years as both publisher and editor in chief before giving up the top editorial seat.
"In 1977, I was named associate editor, which was as high as you could go at the time under Dunaway," said Mary Eshbaugh Hayes, who today is a contributing editor and the photographer and writer of "Around Aspen," a popular mainstay of the Times weekly edition.
But in 1988, with both an Aspen Times weekly and daily edition to publish, Dunaway relented and named Eshbaugh Hayes editor in chief of the weekly and Dave Price the editor of the daily.
In 1991, Dunaway sold the paper to a group of local investors, and veteran journalist Loren Jenkins took over as editor in chief and publisher of both papers in the spring of 1992.
Jenkins brought the paper to a new level, and then left in 1995 to become the foreign desk editor at National Public Radio.
And Stone went to sit in the editor in chief's chair.
He has had a long on-again, off-again relationship with the Times, having first set foot in the building in 1974 as a hippie in from Yale. After three years as a reporter, he left the paper, but stayed in Aspen and worked on a book. In 1979, Stone's novel, "Song of the Kingdom," was published by Doubleday.
Stone returned to the Times and stayed until 1984 when he became a partner in the Aspen-based Pour La France restaurant chain with former Aspen Mayor John Bennett. After the company was sold, Stone spent two years in Spain working on another novel.
He returned to the Times in 1991 as a columnist and soon became night editor, editor of the daily paper, and then editor in chief.
"The Aspen Times is the only newspaper I have ever worked for, which makes it embarrassing that I'm supposed to know what's going on at a newspaper," Stone said.
Under Stone's guidance during the past eight years, the weekly edition of The Aspen Times has been named, eight times in a row, the best weekly newspaper in the state in its class by the Colorado Press Association. The paper has also won numerous other awards for editorial, photographic and design excellence.
No other editorial staff changes have been announced yet at the Times as a result of Stone's departure.
"We have a couple of months before this takes effect, so we are going to take some time to figure out how to restructure things, and, to a large extent, that is going to be up to Mike," Stone said.
Hagan came to Aspen from Friday Harbor, Wash., where he was the editor of The Journal of the San Juan Islands, a weekly paper. He also worked as the editor of a small weekly on the coast of Washington called The North Shore Beacon.
He has a degree in journalism from the University of Montana, lives in Aspen with his wife, Lynn, and 6-year-old daughter, Willow, and is a proud member of The Aspen Times softball team.
For Stone, his new position means he will be working out of his home in El Jebel and spending time on the road visiting the various newspapers. It also means he will have to clean out his cluttered office at the Times.
"For me, it's a radical change," Stone said. "It's a new challenge and it scares the hell out of me, and that's probably good for me. I have a very high comfort level being editor of The Aspen Times, and one should never get too comfortable for too long."
Bob Brown, the regional vice president and general manager of CMNM, said he expects Stone to help improve each of the group's papers while still keeping true to each paper's community voice.
"The idea is that Andy can take the 30-plus years of his experience and success he's had in Aspen and provide a resource to the entire group," said Brown.
Swift first entered the Colorado market in 1993, when it purchased the Vail Daily and the Summit Daily newspapers. In 1994, Swift bought the Summit County Journal and, in 1996, it started the Leadville Chronicle. The Aspen Times daily and weekly and the Glenwood Independent were purchased in 1999.
In 2000, Swift bought out a group of properties from Morris Communications, including the Glenwood Post, the Bargain Hunter and the Roaring Fork Sunday, which was folded.