Aspen Times publisher responds to politicians’ criticisms, demands

Staff report
The sign for the Aspen Times main office on Hyman Avenue as seen on Friday, June 24, 2022, in downtown Aspen. | Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

A combination of 18 past and current elected officials from Basalt to Aspen signed off on a letter to Ogden Newspapers outlining numerous actions they could individually take against The Aspen Times amid recent turmoil at the publication.

We are publishing a response from Aspen Times Publisher Allison Pattillo as well as the letter from past and current officeholders, both in their entirety:

From publisher Allison Pattillo

Today I share the letter below, signed by 18 current and former local elected officials from throughout Pitkin County, threatening retaliation against The Aspen Times unless the newspaper agrees to its demands on coverage and staffing.

Although it is encouraging to see their expressed support for the importance of vigorous, independent community journalism, which this newspaper has provided to Aspen for more than 140 years, it is frankly shocking to see elected officials so brazenly threaten to use their positions of power to control a community newspaper.

This chilling precedent is certainly not representative of our democracy nor the Aspen Idea our community touts.

Worse, the letter, shared with me and company owners, is based on incomplete and inaccurate accounts of recent events at The Aspen Times. I look forward to clearing up any misconceptions or inaccuracies in the days and weeks to come.

For now:

  • I understand the community has concerns about how this newspaper’s coverage decisions are being made. Let me assure you our coverage decisions, each day, are being made here in Aspen.
  • I understand the community wants the broadest possible forum with letters to the editor and guest commentaries. So do I.
  • I understand there is concern over one editor resigning and his successor being fired. This is not what anyone wanted. It is the reality, though, and my team and I are working to find the right leader to guide our newsroom and help lead this community.
  • And of course, I understand the intense community interest in the development of Lift 1A. I look forward to our team of professional journalists providing thorough coverage of this development and other important local stories as they unfold, without encumbrance.

This conversation will continue. Our approach will be both methodical and respectful, and will include the publication of regular columns, one-on-one conversations, continued community outreach and a public forum. I welcome the conversation to come and hope the undersigned leaders will join us with a spirit of cooperation for the betterment of Aspen.

From past and current elected officials

The following letter was addressed to Robert Nutting, CEO of Ogden Newspapers.

Dear Mr. Nutting,

As current and former elected officials of local governments in the municipalities of Aspen, Snowmass Village, and Basalt, and the county of Pitkin, Colorado, we write to you with grave concerns about the recent conduct of Ogden Newspapers’ leadership in regards to editorial decisions at the Aspen Times daily newspaper.  

We are specifically troubled by a number of actions stemming from the publication of articles, columns, and letters to the editor related to Vladislav Doronin’s purchase of real estate on Aspen Mountain, and Doronin’s subsequent lawsuit against the Aspen Times. Those actions include: the absence of full disclosure by the Aspen Times of the settlement with Doronin; the prohibition against former editor David Krause to publish other stories about Doronin; the removal of Roger Marolt’s column of June 10, 2022; and the firing of acting editor Andrew Travers for the publication of Marolt’s June 10 column. 

These actions all flow from the dissatisfaction of a billionaire landowner in our community of a local newspaper’s reporting of him and his recent real estate transaction, and publication of some community members’ opinions or concerns about him and the transaction. Ogden Newspapers chose to side with Doronin’s individual dissatisfaction rather than the community’s need to understand and converse about such a historic real estate deal and to ponder its broader implications for the community.     

Ogden Newspapers portrays its own values as: “We believe local newspapers should not only report the news of the day, but also tell the stories of their communities, and of the people who live there. We take writing the first draft of history seriously.” Your values statement goes on to say: “Our rich heritage of newspapering combined with a company-wide commitment to high journalistic standards, position us to continue to uphold the values of excellence and service for decades to come.”

We write to you now because these matters have created profound misgivings and lack of confidence in the Aspen Times’ ability to freely achieve the high journalistic standards which you purportedly profess and which our community has come to expect of this local institution. 

As local elected officials, we rely implicitly on transparent, accurate, and uncensored reporting.  It is essential to our community’s ability to have thorough and thoughtful deliberations about the important political and cultural questions at hand. It is likewise an essential tool for the people we represent to hold us accountable.  

The ability of our local press to accurately and freely report on real estate transactions — their locations, amounts, and actors — in our community cannot be overstated.  These transactions have direct implications for our economy, our cost of living, our distribution of jobs, our housing needs, our transportation planning, our community makeup, our philanthropic possibilities, our cultural institutions, our connection to international markets, and our ability as local governmental entities to plan for implications of all of the above.  We invite you, on any given day, to walk around our towns and you will overhear the conversations related to our real estate market, its transactions and its players.  Any quieting of the details of these matters in favor of the billionaires at their helm obstructs our community’s long standing proclivity as one that is informed, enlightened, and highly engaged. 

Our faith in Ogden Newspapers is shattered and we are individually considering separate reactions as a result, including: directing our individual organizations to pull advertisements and notices from the paper; encouraging local businesses to do the same; refusing interviews with reporters at the Aspen Times; or calling for a community boycott of the paper.  

To reinstate our trust in the Aspen Times, we would like to see clear action from Ogden Newspapers such as the following: reinstatement of Andrew Travers as the Editor in Chief; re-publication of Marolt’s June 10 column; a joint statement from Travers, Allison Pattillo, the publisher of the Times, and yourself, detailing the editorial freedom and standards of transparency that will be carried forward; and, public clarity about the settlement that was reached by Doronin’s lawsuit. 

The Aspen Times, founded in 1881, is very much an historic institution in our community, the longest continuously serving business, and claims to be the most-trusted print news outlet in Pitkin County, Colorado. We look forward to positive and convincing action to reinstate its reputation as such.  We hope for a prompt response to this correspondence in the next week or two as this is a very timely matter for our community.

Thank you for your consideration. 

Very truly yours, 

Adam Frisch, City of Aspen Councilor, 2011-2019

Auden Schendler, Basalt Town Councilor, 2016-2020

Bill Stirling, City of Aspen Mayor, 1983-2001

Bob Sirkus, Snowmass Town Councilor 2014-present

David Knight, Basalt Town Councilor, 2020 – present

Elyse Hottel, Basalt Town Councilor 2020 – present

Francie Jacober, Pitkin County Commissioner, 2020-present

Gary Tennenbaum, Basalt Town Councilor, 2006-2010 and 2014-2022

Greg Poschman, Pitkin County Commissioner, 2016 – present

John Doyle, City of Aspen Councilor, 2019 – present

Kelly McNicholas Kury, Pitkin County Commissioner, 2018-present

Leslie Lamont, Pitkin County Commissioner, 1995-2000

Mick Ireland, Pitkin County Commissioner, 1993-2006, City of Aspen Mayor, 2007-2013

Patti Clapper, Pitkin County Commissioner, 1998-2010 and 2014-present

Skippy Mesirow, City of Aspen Councilor, 2019 – present

Steve Child, Pitkin County Commissioner, 2012-present

Tom Goode, Snowmass Village Town Councilor, 2015-present

Torre, City of Aspen Mayor, 2019-present


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