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Don Rogers: Yes, I know, you want answers

Aspen Times editor Don Rogers
Courtesy photo

So what am I going to do?

That’s inevitably the question after initial greetings with just about everyone. Well, first let me thank you for your welcoming spirit when we’ve met. Gives me a lot of hope about the hard work to come.

What am I going to do? I’m going to learn a lot about you, us, myself. I’m going to learn about our grit, our character, our very souls as only such tests can reach. I’m going to learn whether that modern stoic article of faith — the obstacle is the way — is true or just another self-hype truism.



I’m going to grind. I’m going to listen as carefully as I can. I’m going to be part of rebuilding something I’ve long appreciated as great. Yes, great.

I’m going to have fun doing it. Well, my sense of fun: Contributing to something bigger than me. Kicking butt in the professional sense. Catching fire. Seeing The Aspen Times crew with its swagger back.




And OK, maybe also riding a trail, boarding a new run, having a conversation that sparks a new idea, savoring my wife’s glee as she strolls downtown Aspen again, maybe in a light snow.

UNHOLY TRINITY

I’ve broken this down to three thematic goals:

  1. Restock the news staff with people up for big challenges, not easily daunted, ideally curious and creative and ambitious. Ambition most often means more effort to build skills, make that extra call, get it right.
  2. Navigate the inevitable bumpiness with new ownership. I was with Swift Communications when the company bought The Aspen Times and the Glenwood Post, merging it with the Independent, back in 2000. The integration was the furthest thing from easy for their staffs. I don’t believe it’s ever easy, having seen a few and most recently from the perspective of the suddenly acquired, twice in six months. The second sale came in June, whipping with all the red flags of the kind of investment owner who bought The Denver Post. Simply put, this isn’t that.  
  3. Rise from the ashes, if you will, of the defamation suit, since settled and the all-around ugly aftermath, coals still hot, feelings in every quarter still very much inflamed. I’ll turn to Churchill for this one: “When you find yourself in the middle of hell, keep going.” But yeah, easy for me to say.

How am I going to do all this? The short answer is I’m not.

THE YOKE

I can be a catalyst, maybe a linchpin or even a symbol of a turning point when we look back a year from now, a first fresh shovel in still smoking debris. Any saviors in this case were already here, digging out. They already are my heroes.

I think I can see mistakes and misunderstandings, calls I may or may not have made myself, all with the gift of hindsight. One thing I’m not going to do is judge them, apologize for them, try to explain them, compound any errors of observation from outside with my own assumptions. Seems there’s been quite enough of that all around.

My sense of journalism done right is about going as far as primary evidence and direct sources lead and having the discipline to go no further. This is the antithesis of assumption — easy to talk about and hard as hell to practice. Even the vaunted New York Times can’t do it, at least not consistently.

What am I going to do? Slip on that yoke and do the hard work I’m supposed to do suit or no suit, staff filled or with openings, whether the folks paying the bills live upstairs or in Lucerne.

At some level everything outside the work itself is noise. To me, journalism is a holy calling. It ain’t about easy hours, everyone loving you, or the pay. It is, perhaps weirdly, a sacred quest hewing to a pale form of the scientific method. Only in this pursuit, how humans feel is part of the picture, too.

And just as no newspaper edition is the work of one person, the recovery of The Aspen Times from its perfect wave will depend on a team.

So this has to be a “we” thing. We will work our way through, keep going, those of us with the grit and the belief in the cause.

I see the 1, 2, 3 of this challenge as a braid, that stronger rope. We will be a braid of old and new, and something in between. I’ll help get this going. That’s what I’m going to do.

HOW WE ALL HELP

We’re human, as such all deeply flawed. We leap to conclusions. We don’t pay close enough attention, and then we believe what we believe and too often act in ways we’ll surely regret later.

There’s a whole nation suffering from this on a grander scale. We’re quick to blame, slow to reflect, and many of us may never check on what we know for certain to see if that’s really so.

This tempest in a teacup is huge for us in the moment, of course, but it’s also emblematic. By that I mean yes, you have a role in the mess, too.

I can demand we do journalism right, accurately, fairly and free of fear or favor, as the platitude I happen to believe goes. But we can only exhort you to read in the same spirit. I know some of you will and plenty won’t, and that is simply the reality of Teddy’s arena.

Still, the best thing for all of us is to hit hard stop with the facts that can be vetted to legitimate sources — primary ones, documents, court records, mainstream and what can be cross checked.

That just happens to dovetail with disciplined, rigorous journalism and punditry free of pejorative labeling, insinuation or speculation beyond the direct evidence we can unearth.

If we all do that, The Aspen Times, Aspen, and each of us as individuals will be better — and better humans — for it.

What am I going to do? That may not be the most important question. Yeah, I guess I’m asking something of you, too.  

Editor Don Rogers can be reached at drogers@aspentimes.com or 970-376-0745.

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