Boss is gone; questions remain |

Boss is gone; questions remain

Alison Berkley

It seems that some of us at The Aspen Times are making as many headlines as were writing.This week, the spotlights on our beloved former editor, Mike Hagan, who, unbeknownst to my royal ears, resigned on Monday. I thought that was a little strange, considering I was in his office the day before begging him for an Aspen Club membership, and he didnt say word one about leaving his job.He seemed to be his usual self, all curly hair and puddle-blue eyes that make him look like hes daydreaming all the time. He politely told me no, I could not have an Aspen Club membership because Im not a full-time employee. I threw a small temper tantrum that he subdued with a shrug and a chuckle and a cockeyed smile that could disarm anyone or so I thought.Im not saying Im his best friend or anything, but Mike is not exactly your poker face-type dude. Hes the kind of guy who leans back in his chair and puts his feet up on his desk as soon as you walk in the door, always up for a good chat. He loves to talk newspaper journalism and heavy metal and tell endless stories about his wild days back in Seattle.Typically casual and low-key, his passion for certain topics turns him way on, like a switch flipped and lit him from within, eyes brighter and cheeks pinker and curls standing on end. I dont imagine hes a very good liar.I met Mike in November 2001 during my first visit to The Aspen Times as a magazine journalist relocating from California and looking for some steady work.Mikes office was all the way in the back then, so I made my way through the maze of dilapidated desks and antiquated computers, through all the clutter and low, slanted ceilings. He sat in that usual feet-on-the-desk pose, his long, skinny legs taking up most of the space in his tiny office.Above his desk, a series of self-portraits was taped to the wall. In each photo, he stood on a different mountain summit drinking a beer. Thats what he did to celebrate reaching the peak of another fourteener, he explained. He had this easy, casual way about him, like a college student hanging out in his dorm room.So I pitched him on this idea I had for a column.How provocative will you let me get? I asked.Oh, we love provocative here at The Aspen Times, he said.I wrote a sample column and submitted an outline. He went for it, for better or for worse. From that day forward, he stood behind that decision, despite opposition from his own staff members to pull it.A true liberal, nothing seemed to shake him when it came to freedom of the press. He saw any kind of response, both good and bad, as an indicator of the columns success. I could always count on his support and confidence, even when I thought I was a goner.No matter how bad the storm, he was the guy risking his own safety to provide me with shelter. Sure, he had his strengths and he had his weaknesses. But I know Im not the only one who fears for the future of the paper without him.It brings to mind Carolyn Poissant, a former Snowmass Village town planner, who wrote me an e-mail back in January 2003 that read:Love your column. Brash is beautiful, baby especially when you inject environmental/social/metaphysical consciousness into the flow,Less than a year later, she was fired for doing exactly that. Even if she did try to protect her identity, something tells me the strength of her voice would have been heard sooner or later.No one knows what goes on behind closed doors, so to speak, but I have to wonder if its indicative of something bigger thats going on in this town. Is Aspen becoming less tolerant? And if so, why?To put things into perspective, I get a lot of correspondence from old-timers who talk about the days when Aspen was a wild, uninhibited place and people could actually get away with it.I lived in Aspen in the 70s and 80s and can say it’s great to see a bold stand to continue the tradition of keeping that very wonderful town special, writes Jeannie Sloan, who now lives in L.A.We tried to keep the town unique and as independent as possible, (thank God for Hunter, Jimmy and every independent store and restaurant owner), but it was a tough fight. Cheers to the next generation! Keep Aspen alive. You make this girl, who made Aspen home during the wild years, proud.Mike was a part of that liberal fabric that we, as journalists, weave together, as well as all the reporters, columnists, editors and Aspen residents who came before us. From day one, I felt we were cut from the same cloth. For all the places we didnt fit in, we all felt right at home within the funky, warped walls of this old, small-town newspaper. We were two people who, for one reason or another, were brought together under the purple roof of The Aspen Times.Does this mark the end of an era? Are we losing the freedom to express our different voices in the face of conservative, corporate and commercial interests?One things for sure: Weve lost one voice. I cant help but wonder, whose will be next?The Princess would not be where she is today without Mike Hagan. Send an e-mail to the Princess at