David Krause: Who signs the check may change but covering community doesn’t waver
I had every intention of writing this installment of my staff column about my early-season goal to set a personal record of 13 consecutive days to start the ski season. Opening day was in the books, I was overjoyed to get back on the snow and I was on track to hit that goal after the first five days on the slopes.
Then, Tuesday happened.
As most of you all know by now, the owners of The Aspen Times announced last week they decided to sell the family-run Swift Communications publications to another family-run group, Ogden Newspapers. Suddenly, it felt kind of weird writing about my on-mountain goal given the high-level change of hands on the horizon. While the deal won’t be official until Dec. 31, the wheels are in motion and picking up speed. (And besides, after Tuesday’s announcement I had a feeling I might not have time to get out on the lifts that day.)
In our industry, change is the only constant. The difference in this deal, though, is that the acquisition is based on the quality of the media organizations Swift Communications has built.
This is not one of those “takeovers” where the new folks are coming in to “save” publications. More importantly, this also is not one of those deals where the new owners are coming in to gut the place and squeeze out every penny to get to their 20% profit margin every fiscal year.
I’ve lived through a few changes of hand since I earned my first newspaper paycheck in 1982, and this isn’t that. I’ve been telling people there is solace in knowing the first two letters in this new group start with OG(den) and not AL(den).
I have seen first-hand how the hedge-fund takeover of media has affected and shattered newsrooms. I lived through Alden Global Capital’s dismantling of The Denver Post for profit sake until I was lucky enough to land this gig. And before that mess, I felt the impact of how the recession gutted our industry. But, we still survive because the news is 24/7/365 and people have a need and right to know.
While some things are still being worked out in the Ogden-Swift deal, according to what seems like the 187 hours of meetings I’ve been in, I can tell you a couple of things that won’t happen.
One: Our commitment to covering the Roaring Fork Valley community we live in will not waiver. We plan to push forward with the veracity and institutional knowledge you have come to expect from The Aspen Times news team.
And two: Our newsroom won’t get smaller anytime soon. In the nearly five years I have held the responsibility of leading our newsroom, we have grown in our ability to report the news with hardly any turnover. That is something our soon-to-be owners are committed to: locally focused journalism and respecting the team we’ve built. Might people move on? Maybe, but only by their choice.
In my time as The Aspen Times editor, I feel we have raised the bar of journalism in everything we do. It is one of the reasons the Ogden group is interested in adding us and our other Colorado sister newsrooms to their stable of community newspapers.
As a staff, are we concerned about what the long-term future holds? Sure. Who wouldn’t be? Anyone who has ever had their ownership change hands (in any business) has that anxiety. The fear of change is always lurking in our heads, but it’s how we harness it that matters.
We can only control what we can control, and that is continuing to serve our communities in the way that helped make Swift Communications a sought-after acquisition. In the meantime, we’ll remain cautiously optimistic that as the dust settles in 2022 we’ll be doing the work that we love to do and the Aspen, Snowmass, Basalt and Roaring Fork communities have come to appreciate.
David Krause is the editor of The Aspen Times. His first paid story was in high school (1982) covering the Putnam North Panthers football team for the Bethany Tribune Review.