New year brings changes at Aspen Times
As Ogden Newspapers acquires Colorado resort newsrooms, Aspen Times moves forward with new publisher
As weekend revelers rung in the new year, The Aspen Times also ushered in a new chapter with a new publisher, Allison Pattillo, and new ownership as Ogden Newspapers takes the reins on the business side of the 140-year-old newspaper.
Pattillo, who has been in the Roaring Fork Valley for nearly 20 years, will fill the role leading Aspen Times operations that was previously held by Samantha Johnston for more than seven years.
The Swift family announced in November that they had decided to sell most of their publications — including those in Aspen and other Colorado resort communities — to Ogden Newspapers, another family-run media group led by the Nutting family. Ogden publishes 50 daily newspapers, several weekly newspapers and a number of magazines in 18 states.
As publisher of The Aspen Times, Pattillo will oversee the operations of the newsroom and manage the advertising team. A graduate of the University of North Carolina, Pattillo’s family moved to the valley in 2002 from Maryland.
She has extensive experience in the editorial side of publishing and project management: Her resume includes writing and editing for national magazines and websites, leadership on sponsored content marketing campaigns, work for publications like Trail Runner and Aspen Sojourner and a three-year stint producing some of The Aspen Times’ magazines. Lately, her focus has been on launching the Times’ membership program.
“It’s human nature to want to think your community is ‘special,’ but Aspen really is. We have not one, but two free daily newspapers, a vibrant arts and entertainment scene, world-class skiing, the Aspen Institute, as well as a vibrant community that spans the socio-economic spectrum,” said Pattillo, whose two daughters graduated from Aspen High School. “This isn’t a market that necessarily responds well to mass-market solutions. My goal is to ensure we keep doing what we do well while also exploring new ideas that make sense for Aspen.”
With the acquisition of the Colorado papers under the Swift family umbrella, Ogden is bringing back to the state a former reporter, editor and advertising director with Colorado ties.
Scott Stanford has worked in the news industry for more than 30 years in Lawrence, Kansas; Fort Wayne, Indiana; and Steamboat Springs, where he spent 12 years as the publisher of the Steamboat Pilot and Today. (The Pilot & Today was also part of the Ogden acquisition.) He returns to the state as a member of the Odgen leadership team; he’ll serve as the new group publisher of Swift Communications for the Colorado properties, as well as the Park Record in Park City, Utah.
Pattillo’s commitment to the Aspen community made her stand out among a cohort of “terrific” candidates for publisher, Stanford said.
“What (The Aspen Times) needs is someone who understands and appreciates the culture that is in place and is committed to preserving it,” Stanford said. “Aspen needs a publisher who understands the community and is ready to be an engaged partner in helping address pressing issues. Aspen needs a publisher who understands how strong this newsroom is and is ready to listen and advocate for the staff’s needs.
“Allison fits those qualities about as well as anyone I could have imagined. I think she’s going to do a great job.”
Pattillo takes the publishing reigns from Johnston, who joined The Times in April 2014 after working as executive director of the Colorado Press Association and before that in journalism roles, including at one in her hometown of Steamboat Springs at the Pilot. Johnston is leaving The Times but not the Roaring Fork Valley.
Johnston will help with the publisher transition, as well as the Ogden change, in the next few months. Beyond that, her business path remains uncertain, but she said she plans to reconnect with her love of CrossFit, reengage with Pathfinders to deliver meals to its clients, spoil her niece and nephew and plan her wedding.
“The draw of this special little Whoville is a magnetism I’ve never experienced anywhere else in the world. Visitors, second homeowners and locals alike love this place like their own,” Johnston said. “Aspen is ‘my’ town to everyone who gets to feel a little of its magic. To be at the helm of The Aspen Times has been the greatest honor and pleasure and the highlight of my career, because what we do matters so deeply to so many people. What a fun ride it has been. The crown jewel of my time, though, is hands down the team at The Aspen Times.”
The Times and Snowmass Sun are part of the Colorado Mountain News Media group, which includes the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, Vail Daily, Summit Daily, Steamboat Pilot & Today, Rifle Citizen Telegram, Sky-Hi News near Winter Park and Craig Press.
“Ogden’s newspaper acquisition strategy is to seek out good markets with good newspaper teams. The Swift markets — Aspen, Vail, Summit County, Steamboat Springs, Glenwood, to name a few — certainly qualify as terrific markets,” Stanford said. “And we have been really impressed with the people throughout the organization. The Aspen Times staff is a great example — lots of talented people who put out a great newspaper and care deeply about each other.”
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Aspen and Pitkin County officials shared with elected leaders Tuesday what they’ve learned so far about short-term rentals and their community impacts, and the overall consensus was they’re not done learning.