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Aspen Times’ Roses and Thorns (May 15, 2020)

One thorn to Arjuna Yoga and another to Jean-Robert’s Gym, both in downtown Aspen, for ignoring and defying local and state public health orders and opening to the general public this week. Pitkin County’s “Roadmap to Reopening” clearly stated, after an initial mistake, that yoga studios and gyms must remain closed through at least May 27. Arjuna even held “inferno” Pilates classes. Really? Raise your hand if you think hot yoga is a good idea in the middle of a pandemic.

Thorns to those who are thumbing their noses at mask wearing. We’ve had a few situations where we have heard non-face-covering folks feel the need to yell or berate an employee who has to try to do a difficult job of letting people know what the rules are. You don’t like them, that’s fine. But to not abide by them, that’s very, very far from fine.

Roses to the nonprofits that continue to find ways to help those who make up a big part of our community and economy, the immigrant and undocumented workers. This is just another example of why when we say we are a community, we have to accept and welcome those people who are a big part of our valley and deserve that respect. Cheers to those folks donating and reaching out to the under-served.

Thorns to the season passholders who are complaining about the “measly” credits Aspen Skiing Co. is giving because of the abbreviated 2019-20 ski season. Classic Pass buyers seem to be whining the most. With the good conditions that existed this winter, if you weren’t skiing much or at all by March 15, the passion for the sport apparently doesn’t exist. Maybe take up bowling next winter.

Thorns to the elected officials still struggling to sharpen their skills on Zoom and other video-conferencing services being employed for public meetings. Take a tutorial or practice. It might be the new normal for a while for public meetings.

A lifetime supply of thorns to the coronavirus. You truly suck.

From the Times: As reopening begins, we are here every step of the way

March 16 feels like five years ago. The day the lifts stopped turning stunned all of us. Most of us went home for the weekend and never returned to the office.

We set up home offices, figured out how to do everything in our lives by Zoom, navigated once-weekly grocery store trips and wearing masks in public, and wondered how long it would be before life would return to normal.

We’re all still wondering that.

And then there were those workers who never went home — they made our world work 24/7/365 — health care workers, first responders, grocery store employees, over-the-road truckers, journalists, farmers and myriad essential workers who have continued to keep the lights on and the world turning.

Fast forward nearly two months and we’re on the brink of a new dawn.

Though The Aspen Times office has been shuttered since March 16, our team has been working as hard as ever to cover these unprecedented events, stay in touch with local business owners and find creative ways to deliver the news through our no-touch newsstands, website and enhanced digital coverage.

Our reporters and editors are working to be nimble as the COVID-19 pandemic changes hourly, daily and weekly; our advertising and circulation teams are doing the same.

As we prepare for phase 1 of Pitkin County’s reopening Saturday, we’ll do our part to make sure we are all informed — as citizens, visitors and business owners. Here’s how you can keep on top of what’s new:

‘What’s Open’

Since the first week of the crisis, our “What’s Open” listing has been displayed at aspentimes.com to help readers stay updated on which businesses are open. We will continue this service until the entire county is open for business. If you want to get on the list or update what we have there, please contact managing editor Rick Carroll at rcarroll@aspentimes.com.

‘We’re Open’

“We’re Open” is a daily profile highlighting a local business that is serving customers. Again, we will continue this feature as the valley opens for business. If you would like your business to be added to the list or have questions, reach out to reporter Austin Colbert at acolbert@aspentimes.com.

‘Mining for a Silver Lining’

By now we hope you’ve seen our “Aspen Silver Lining” feature — a collaboration with Lea Tucker — featuring the Aspen faithful near and far who are checking in, sharing their Aspen love and offering their tips for coping in this pandemic. We’d love to include your story. www.aspentimes.com/aspen-silver-lining

Advertise Your Business

We know that this is a really tough time for business and, while reopening is what we have all hoped for, it isn’t a silver bullet for coffers left empty by the season coming to an abrupt halt. We’re here to help with innovative advertising packages, payment plans, sponsorship programs and lots of ways to get your business back in the game in a sustainable way. We’re here to help you. If you aren’t in touch with an account manager, feel free to contact advertising manager Ashton Hewitt at ahewitt@aspentimes.com.

How to get a Newspaper

We stopped door-to-door business delivery when the state mandated a shutdown. If your business is reopening and you want to restart delivery of The Aspen Times, contact our circulation director Jake Marine and he’ll take care of your request ASAP. He’s at jmarine@aspentimes.com.

Speak Up

We encourage you to let us know how you’re feeling. Our daily letters to the editor section as well as our Sunday “Kudos and Kindness” feature is a platform where our readers let us know how they’re feeling or express gratitude. Those submissions, which we ask are 300 words or less, can be sent to letters@aspentimes.com.

As for our offices, we will continue to be closed to the public during the month of May. However, we are still available every day by a phone call or email. If you have questions, we publish our staff list and contact information on The Aspen Times commentary page (which you can find in print or on our e-edition) and on the website in the “Contact Us” tab.

We know our role in this community comes with great responsibility, and we strive to keep you connected even as we’ve been apart. As the community takes these first steps to reopening, we look forward to telling these stories, your stories, as best as we can.

Samantha Johnston is the publisher of The Aspen Times and David Krause is the editor.

Aspen Times Roses and Thorns (April 24, 2020)

• Roses to Aspen Branch and Aspen Fire for the free plants on Earth Day. It was a fun treat to get a beautiful bloom to cheer up a gloomy time.

• Roses to the people and stores in Glenwood Springs who are abiding by that city’s mandatory face mask rules. While Aspen officials seem to be overthinking it, the new law at the other end of the valley seems to be going just fine.

The stores, many of which have checkpoints at the door to meter people going in for masks and for numbers, have lines outside but they are orderly. On a recent supply trip, we experienced the changes were not an issue at the bigger box stores, most of which had organized systems in place and signs clearly saying no mask, no entry.

• Thorns to the liquor store employee in the Basalt area who cussed out a customer this week simply for asking why their employees weren’t wearing protective masks. Asking a question regarding public health shouldn’t ignite vitriol — especially during a global pandemic.

• Thorns to those folks who seem to be coming to the mountains from other place and some of our residents who are going out to other communities to find recreation. Just stay home and in our area.

If the governor continues to tell Front Rangers not to go to the mountains to recreate, those of us in the mountains should remember to keep our travel radius tight. It doesn’t matter if you’re 6 feet apart, wearing a mask, camping miles from anyone and following all the social-distancing guidelines; we do not need to take our germs to them or bring theirs back here. Stay home, stay safe. It’s not that hard to understand but is hard to do.

• “Having had reservations about shopping at Carl’s Pharmacy since they moved outside, I have been twice and a big shout out to their staff — especially sweet, pleasant, very efficient Courtney.” — submitted by reader Cindy Fioron.

• To FedEx delivery men Bill and Jeff, who make time every week to call publisher Sam Johnston’s cellphone (posted on the door of The Aspen Times) when they have packages. “Their care and commitment to making sure we get our deliveries is above and beyond and I’m really grateful for another example of community,” Johnston said.

• A big bag of roses goes to Karin Teague, executive director of the Independence Pass Foundation, who was spotted recently walking the pass with a big bag of dog poop. She spent her valuable time to literally pick up other people’s crap. Or, their dogs’ crap. Thank goodness there are people like Teague around, to make up for the crap heads who can’t take less than a minute to pick up after their dog. What took Teague a day or more to do could’ve taken less than 30 seconds for a responsible pet owner. So thorns to all of those who look the other way when their dog dumps a deuce.

• A rose goes to Aspen Skiing Co. for continuing to groom the slopes for uphill skiers and snowboarders. It serves as a respite for those who need to be outside and clear their heads during these difficult times.

Ask the Publisher: Who’s on first? Defining our roles in the newsrooms

What does a publisher even do?

The easiest way to think of a publisher is similar to a CEO. My responsibilities include making major decisions on behalf of The Aspen Times, managing our overall operations and resources, developing long-term vision and strategy, ensuring our financial success, human resources, negotiating vendor contracts and, as frequently as the other items on the list, cleaning out the science experiment that is our refrigerator. I like to say that I do whatever needs to be done on any given day; sometimes it’s working on a huge marketing partnership and sometimes it’s running to Paradise Bakery to get coffee when we’re out.

In the hierarchy of the operation, the publisher oversees the entire operation while the editor oversees the newsroom, the advertising director oversees the advertising/marketing department and the circulation director oversees all newspaper distribution operations.

What does the editor do?

The editor is the journalist who oversees the day-to-day operations and short-term and long-term planning in the newsroom. He (in our case) is responsible for story and photo assignments, writing and reporting coaching, determining which local stories and photos are placed on what pages throughout the paper, contracting with columnists, managing the editorial board and opinion pages and determining which stories we publish and which ones we don’t. The editor is almost always the first person to read a story before it prints; an editor typically reads the story first for content — is it coherent, interesting, comprehensive and does it answer more questions than it creates? This is where coaching and writing support happens; it’s the point in the process where the editor asks questions of the reporter and seeks to have the reporter improve the story in any way possible. While the editor clearly looks for grammar and spelling mistakes, his first job is to make sure the reporter wrote a great story. When that is complete, the story moves to a copy editor who reads it thoroughly for punctuation, grammar, spelling and AP Style. The copy editors also are a second check on how clear and compelling the story is; if they don’t understand something, chances are our readers won’t, either.

He also oversees our digital engagement editor, Aspen Times Weekly and Snowmass Sun editors and is ultimately responsible for the editorial success of our magazine portfolio (though we have a total superstar in Andrew Travers who oversees our magazine editor/writer teams).

Can the publisher keep a story out of the paper or make sure a story gets into the paper?

In theory, yes. The publisher is the leader of the operation. In practice — at least at The Aspen Times — the relationship between me and editor David Krause is one of collaboration and communication. I have never directed David and his team to write a specific story or to make sure a specific story didn’t run. Occasionally, readers will comment on social media or in letters to the editor that we do or don’t write stories based on whether the story is about a big advertiser. How easy it would be to determine our news coverage based on what our advertisers wanted. The truth is, it’s simply not the case. The news team determines news coverage in complete independence from the advertising department. It’s not to say that the advertising department doesn’t make story suggestions to the newsroom, but every story is written based on its news value.

Make no mistake, I often suggest story ideas, too. I’m in the community a lot engaging in different organizations and I often have ideas about topics I think will interest our readers. Sometimes my ideas are assigned as stories and sometimes they aren’t. A little fact about me: I love bears. LOVE bears. I pitch a bear story a day to reporter Jason Auslander who mostly rolls his eyes at me, but the days when bears are legitimately newsworthy are my favorite days.

Does the publisher read every story before it publishes?

I am often asked if I read every story before it prints. That’s a firm no. I have a really talented editorial team whom I trust explicitly. However, before we publish stories that we know will be very sensitive, the editor and I review the story, talk about it, and hash through the details to ensure we’re both comfortable with the finished product. I’ll also occasionally be asked to read a story that may have elements whose value we question. An example might be something from a court file that is interesting, but we question if it is necessary. Ultimately, the more we talk through our decisions before they are final, the more confident we are in the decision after it is in print.

Special thanks to our reader who noticed in my last column that I said “less than” when I should have said “fewer than.” For you grammar and AP Style junkies, that’s a painful mistake. And then I’ll be damned if we didn’t make the same mistake in a headline not a week later.

Does the publisher have to have a journalism degree?

A reader asked me whether it was a requirement of the position that I have a journalism degree. The answer is no. While I have no scientific data to back up what I’m about to say (the reason they don’t let me be a reporter), I would argue that most publishers don’t have a journalism degree; they usually come up through the ranks on the business/advertising side.

I just happen to have a B.A. in technical journalism. I wanted to be a technical writer — those people who take instructions for how to put a dresser from Ikea together and write them into a way that is actually usable for the poor sot who has to read those instructions to assemble. Thank goodness the first job I got out of college was working for my hometown newspaper, the Steamboat Pilot & Today. There’s no place I’d rather be than in one of the most important industries on Earth — the news.

Samantha Johnston has been the publisher of The Aspen Times since 2014. If you have a question for her on how our operation works, she can be reached at sjohnston@aspentimes.com.

Aspen Times Editorial: Kudos to Aspen School Board for job well done on superintendent hiring process

The Aspen School District Board of Education deserves glowing marks for a national superintendent search that demonstrated it had the community in mind through a process that was exhaustive, swift and transparent.

Superintendent hire David Baugh takes the ASD’s reins July 1 — whether he will be in Aspen then or will virtually lead the district from his current home in Pennsylvania because of the health crisis is another question.

Either way, the community should feel good about Baugh. He will join Tharyn Mulberry, who is relinquishing his principal seat at Aspen High to take the assistant superintendent role.

The board rightfully expects Baugh and Mulberry to be a guiding, positive force for the ASD administration, faculty, staff and students.

They also will be expected to improve staff morale and communications, fill key position openings at the district, and tackle the ever-changing academic challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic.

Baugh looks excellent on paper. His colleagues named him Pennsylvania’s superintendent of the year for 2020 for his work at the 5,900-student, six-building Centennial School District, which is part of greater Philadelphia.

During the public interviews hosted by the BOE and its search firm, Baugh displayed an easygoing yet professional demeanor and made no qualms about how eager he was to move to Aspen and immerse himself in both its educational community and outdoor lifestyle.

Mulberry, one of four finalists for the post, will bring to the position a boots-on-the-ground approach he took as principal. Unfortunately, the high school will be losing an excellent leader who brought stability to its building, but Mulberry no doubt will continue to have a positive presence there and at the administrative level.

Appreciation is owed to the five-member Board of Education, all elected officers who went out of their way to make sure the community’s voice was heard in the process.

Using feedback and information gleaned from group meetings in person and online, the board, along with Chicago search firm Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates, created a leadership profile for the next superintendent.

The inclusivity of the process was demonstrated by the BOE’s invitation to students, parents, teachers and community members to join an advisory committee.

The community also got a chance to meet the four finalists when they visited Aspen in early March — before the health crisis hit the United States.

The board no doubt realized it had to conduct such an open process to regain the trust of a public and staff whose confidence was shaken based on a findings from a climate and culture study conducted in 2019. The open process was proof of that.

They are to be commended, as is Tom Heald, a former assistant superintendent who has served as ASD interim superintendent for the 2019-20 year.

Heald has gracefully and professionally managed his position during a time that has been as challenging as it has been unsettling.

We appreciate his commitment to Aspen schools this year, and the community should feel confident in the district’s new leadership team as it navigates what will be choppy waters for weeks and months to come.

The Aspen Times editorial board consists of publisher Samantha Johnston, editor David Krause and reporters Rick Carroll, Scott Condon and Carolyn Sackariason.

Aspen Times Roses and Thorns (Friday, April 3)

  • A bed of thorns for all those folks who suggested or outright claimed a month or so ago that the coronavirus was a hoax motivated by politics. That fuzzy reasoning has and will cost lives and will cost time getting life back to “normal.”
  • Roses to the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority staff and board of directors for taking their role during the coronavirus crisis so seriously. While the health and safety of RFTA drivers and passengers has been the prime concern, officials with the agency also realize the critical role the bus system plays in getting some essential workers to their jobs and getting people without alternative transportation to the grocery stores, pharmacies and other vital places. They have found a balance by reducing service in phases as passenger demand has waned.
  • Thorns go to all of those who refuse to practice social distancing of 6 feet apart from one another during this public health crisis. If not taken seriously, we will continue to be stuck in our homes, unable to work and get back to normalcy anytime soon. What it also means is that someone you know, or even those you don’t, will end up dying alone in a hospital, without friends or family around them.
  • Roses to the team at Aspen Elementary School, including Principal Chris Basten, who distributed computers to the school’s children Wednesday. The crew was outside wearing protective masks and exercising their best social-distancing behavior as they efficiently dropped off the computers to elementary students who will need them as the district takes its courses online during the pandemic.
  • Roses to our friends at GrassRoots TV for stepping in to broadcast the Aspen High School musical “Guys and Dolls” at the start of the pandemic. When school was canceled at the start of the outbreak in Pitkin County, the musical had to be closed before it even opened. But on what would have been opening night, GrassRoots scrambled a crew to the District Theatre in a few hours and proceeded to livestream two shows with dual casts. And while they had to take it off their YouTube page because of licensing rights, GrassRoots has been airing the two shows at various times. That is the pure definition of community television.
  • Thorns to whomever thought it was OK to take a child’s bike that was left at the side of the road near Two Creeks Road in Snowmass Village. Who does that? And the mint green helmet? Just put it back where you found it, please. We’ll get you one if you need one. Seriously, no problem.
  • A giant bouquet of roses goes to all of our readers who have donated to The Aspen Times via our website to help us supplement our newsroom costs during this crisis. It’s invaluable to us to know that you value our work and recognize that our incomes are dependent on advertising dollars. And with most businesses shuttered in town due to COVID-19, that advertising revenue has shrunk significantly. But we will continue to report the news as it comes, to give you the latest information on this crisis, which changes by the hour. Knowledge is power. Thank you for appreciating us.

From The Aspen Times publisher: Want to help local journalism? Here’s how….

Since 1881, The Aspen Times has been covering local news in Pitkin County and the Roaring Fork Valley.

We’ve been through times when advertising was coming in on the phone lines and faxes so furiously that sales executives hardly had time to leave their desks for fear of missing an ad sale; and we went through 2008 where we saw our revenue drop by about 50%, never to return to pre-2008 levels.

In recent years, we’ve been fortunate to have consistent years that mirrored the success of the businesses in our community. For at least the past year, we’ve considered how we could ask our readers to support local journalism and we continue to seek sustainable business models.

And then COVID-19 came in like a wrecking ball. For all of us.

The pages of The Aspen Times mirror directly the economic pulse of our businesses. We know our little valley is hurting — deeply. We share that pain. We also know that so many of you — our readers — have reached out to say, “How can I help?”

While many news organizations across the globe are publishing their last editions, eliminating print days and pushing their content online only, that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Most companies have been forced into layoffs, furloughs, reductions in pay and hours and elimination of some benefits. We are not immune. Yet, we are as committed now as ever to tell the stories our audiences cannot get anywhere else in the world: local journalism.

And while outsiders often like to claim that The Aspen Times is part of a big corporation, the truth of the matter is that we are a family-owned company with fewer than 350 employees. Most of our sister papers and operations employ fewer than 25 people. We don’t have a secret savings account or a bailout that we’re holding as an ace up our sleeve. We’re searching for relief where we can find it, too.

So, how can you help? Of course we are always grateful for your calls, emails, texts and social media messages giving us story tips, feedback and support; we always want to have community dialogue sparked by letters to the editor and your engagement on our stories online.

We know that every single dollar counts right now and will put your donations to good work ensuring we are able to meet the payroll obligations for our team of incredible journalists. We have added a “donate now” button to our main navigation bar on the far right and you will also see a donation opportunity on our homepage top story (or you can go to aspentimes.com/donate).

There will be the naysayers who read this column and see it as a money grab to line my pockets or the pockets of the company. While that couldn’t be further from the truth (we will use donations for editorial payroll only), we only want you to donate if you believe in local journalism and believe in The Aspen Times.

We believe in our community and we will do everything we can to continue to support all of you. Anything you can do to support us is received with gratitude and our commitment to give you our best work day in and day out.

Samantha Johnston is the publisher of The Aspen Times and general manager of Colorado Mountain News Media West, which serves Pitkin, Garfield, Eagle and Moffat counties.

Aspen Times editorial: Vote Bill Kane for Basalt mayor

Basalt will have a new mayor for the first time in eight years and just the third mayor in 16 years on April 7.

Three candidates threw their hats in the ring and all are veterans of Basalt town government. Bill Infante is a current council member, Bill Kane is a former town manager and Rob Leavitt is a former councilman and current member of the Basalt Planning and Zoning Commission.

Basalt is fortunate to have three solid choices. Bill Kane earns our endorsement because of his breadth of experiences, proven leadership, knowledge of both the private and public sectors and for a temperament well-suited to these times.

Kane served as the Basalt town manager from 2009 to 2012. Much earlier in his career he was the planning director for Aspen and Pitkin County. He has also worked in the private sector for Design Workshop, where he remains a consultant.

As the town manager in Basalt, he helped get the train rolling to acquire the Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park and successfully purchased the part of the site closest to the Roaring Fork River for a park. The initiative to develop the other half of the property fell off the tracks after his departure and finally got approved this winter.

Also as manager, he crafted town government actions that helped get development of the Willits Town Center project restarted after the financial pain of the Great Recession.

Kane has demonstrated himself to be a man of vision and he is smart enough to stay out of the way of a talented staff who will handle the details.

On growth and development, Kane recognizes some important factors in the state of the midvalley — people are fed up with traffic and other effects of growth and they want to preserve small-town character. He accurately stressed much of the growth potential around the town has been extinguished through conservation easements the town helped Pitkin County and other partners acquire. He has vowed to focus growth at the old Clark’s Market site and other “infill” properties where urban services are available.

Basalt is in the unfortunate position where a few people with massive grudges and vendettas dominate the political discourse. Kane has the ability to transcend politics and be a leader for all. He cannot be pigeonholed as a pro-growth or anti-growth.

After our board met with all of the candidates, we endorse Bill Kane for mayor in the April 7 election.

The Aspen Times editorial board consists of publisher Samantha Johnston, editor David Krause and reporters Rick Carroll, Scott Condon and Carolyn Sackariason.

Aspen Times launches updates, improvements to commenting tool for online articles

After months of work, The Aspen Times is launching a new, more robust commenting section on online articles that you will see starting Friday morning.

We have had this update planned for a while, and the current level of engagement on aspentimes.com during this rapidly changing environment because of the coronavirus pandemic makes this an even more opportune time to help facilitate and foster a respectful community dialogue.

With more advanced moderation tools, we hope to cultivate quality dialogue that adheres to the three tenets of our commenting policy: start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.

Our new platform offers features aimed at increasing reader engagement by giving users the ability to follow news topics and reporters and the option to receive alerts when fellow commenters weigh in on an article.

Readers also will notice a change in access to commenting. Gone is the need to have a Facebook account to post a comment under an article. Now, people can interact with our news stories using their email account or any of their social media profiles, including Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

This new platform should make the commenting experience more user-friendly, but equally as important, is the promise it holds to create a more constructive space for public dialogue.

Moderating comments requires time and resources, and that’s where our new commenting platform can help. Viafoura, our platform provider, uses artificial intelligence to assist with moderation, which means, over time, the system will begin learning our guidelines and moderation behavior, making the process of sorting through comments more automated and giving moderators more time to highlight the best conversations rather than refereeing the worst.

Our new commenting platform also allows us to enforce bans of varying lengths and automatically informs individuals as to why their commenting behavior violated our standards and required a ban.

Our IT team has exhausted all resources trying to find a way to keep the old comments on the articles, but the Facebook comments will be disabled and go away when we launch. We thought about this and researched it thoroughly. We’ve never come across a website with old comments on the page from an old system.

It’s normal to see bugs after a launch, but we have 99% of these already squashed. For more details on the inner workings of the new system, a breakdown of the new features and how to sign up, go to aspentimes.com/commenting.

If you see something odd, please let me know. I can be reached at dkrause@ aspentimes.com and 970-429-9120 or send a note to news@aspentimes.com. There also is a Help function within the platform.

This new platform will help foster dialogue that we want to remain civil. In the past, we have worked to monitor conversations and relied on readers to let us know when they see something offensive or uncivil. We want that to continue and be even more effective and advance that spirit of respectful conversation and community.

David Krause is the editor of The Aspen Times.

From the publisher: Our role in community is sifting through the noise, confusion

Perhaps the only thing more dangerous than the rampant spread of disease through a community is the spread of misinformation that can be hard to track down and contain.

With the update Thursday that 10 people in Aspen have tested presumptively positive for COVID-19, news pinpointing Aspen as having the one of the highest cluster of COVID-19 cases in the state and the city of Aspen declaring emergency, we know that our readers are depending on us now, more than ever. We are here to ask the tough questions, relentlessly seek answers, wade through confusion and conflicting information and provide updates from local, state and federal agencies.

We know that the distrust of mainstream media is at an all-time high and that fact and fiction can be hard to sort out in a sea of opinions disguised as facts. We are committed to sifting through the noise and providing accurate, timely and relevant information about COVID-19 and, most importantly, how it will impact our community today and in the coming weeks and months. There is a lot of speculation about everything from where presumptive positive COVID-19 carriers spent time in Aspen to whether Aspen Skiing Co. will suspend mountain operations. We are working quickly to answer these questions, but the fact remains that the information pipeline from federal, state and local officials is trickling slowly at best and we simply don’t have all of the answers we need or want.

You may notice that we monitor social media posts on our stories more closely and that we hide or remove comments that claim facts we can’t verify, are based on rumors or hearsay or that add to hysteria rather than educate and inform. Community dialogue and discussion is important, but we won’t allow our platforms to be a breeding ground for panic based on opinion.

We encourage our community to come together, as it always does. But for now, that means staying apart. Pitkin County officials announced Thursday that they will recommend an “aggressive social distancing” protocol for our community and in a news release late Thursday said events with more than 50 attendees are prohibited (with some exceptions).

Respect social distancing protocols and avoid large gatherings where you could come in contact with the virus, but even more important, where you could unknowingly give the virus to someone with a weakened immune system. Nobody fully understands the level of “community spread” in our valley yet, but erring on the side of caution might help and certainly can’t hurt. Check on each other’s mental health — social distancing can be very tough on some and fear of the unknown, major change in routines and a feeling of helplessness can certainly take hold in uncertain times. Connect however you can.

We call on local businesses and community organizations to be transparent and responsible.

We know that our local businesses will suffer. People may be less likely to frequent their favorite restaurant. Concerts are or will be canceled. Community events such as church services or lectures could be video-only. We encourage you to be innovative and creative in thinking about how to support community … from a distance. Use food delivery services such as Around Aspen for restaurant deliveries or InstaCart for grocery deliveries; consider purchasing a T-shirt or downloading a song from your favorite band if the concert gets canceled (you already bought the ticket, so repurpose that money when you get it back); check out Pitkin County Library’s vast array of online resources for reading, movies and education. And all of this is great to keep handy for a time when coronavirus isn’t the topic of conversation, but you’re laid up with a common cold or a torn ACL.

The Aspen Times has a page dedicated to coronavirus on our homepage at aspentimes.com/coronavirus. This page contains all of our COVID-19 coverage as well as links to all local, state and federal resources. We will also try to answer community questions daily in print and online about anything and everything you want to know. To submit a question (of us or government officials) please send us a message via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram or email news@aspentimes.com.

If you see a way that we can better connect with the community or better serve you, I’m all ears. I can be reached at sjohnston@aspentimes.com or my mobile at 720-412-4240.

For now, let’s do what we do best — take care of each other by supporting local businesses as much as we can, checking in on one another frequently and taking individual responsibility for health and safety. I’m a hugger, so this will be game-changing for me, but in the spirit of human connection and saving the species, I’ll throw you an elbow bump next time I see you.

Samantha Johnston is the publisher of The Aspen Times.