Rogers: David Cook’s noble quest to bring local journalism back in northwestern New Mexico

Aspen Times editor Don Rogers

Of course my first interaction with the rival paper’s owner and publisher would be on deadline with a story to finish out.

The wonder was he got back to me, right?

Especially when I’d had my fun late the previous night racing out a report after one of those “have you seen this” tips, a link to a story in The Durango Herald about him moonlighting as publisher for a new rival to the Farmington, N.M., Daily Times. The Tri-City Record (, a Monday-through-Friday daily, published its first edition last Monday.

Sure, I had my fun, well knowing the pain of being scooped by the competition on what should be your own story. At the lowest of levels, nuthin’ worse and nuthin’ sweeter. But beyond that silliness, I was, Damn! Way to go for it!

Our unholy but sacred quest, local journalism, needs all the experiments people like David Cook and Richard Ballantine, patriarch of the clan that’s owned The Durango Herald since 1952, have the stomach for and backbone to try.

This is huge not only in my biz, but to the communities the little fish aim to take back.  

Corey Hutchins, a Colorado College teacher who writes a weekly gossip blog focused on the state’s news media, had something in his latest missive mentioning this, too.

Cook no doubt was irked about not being called the previous night. But in my excuse for a defense, I didn’t think 10:30 p.m. was the best time, and, well, there was that bit of silly fun to be had. I’m sure he’s had his fun a time or two over the decades he’s led the Aspen Daily News.

What I can only attribute to a certain somnolence in his Aspen newsroom (other more timely stories for us wound up delaying this one in print till Sunday after posting online Thursday night; a double scoop?) shows experience is only one factor in this calling.

Cook said he saw the need, so clearly, as he scouted the Farmington area and met with people in the communities the Gannett paper was presuming to serve while cutting way back on local news, which is expensive. They were starved for the return of quality local journalism, as he put it.

This touches a tender spot for me. My paper in Grass Valley, Calif., was purchased by Horizon, another in the school of hedge fund Alden (owner of The Denver Post) and actually corporate Gannett. After slicing out the publisher position (my job then), which was only logical and understandable, they took a newsroom of a dozen the previous year to four today in a community with twice the population of Aspen and the rest of the Roaring Fork Valley.

I stayed on a few weeks as editor, then accepted a much more appealing challenge. No interest in a true zombie paper.

Still, four is better than none. News deserts are blistering faster than global warming across the land. Alphabet (through Google) and Meta (Facebook just one aspect) are bigger villains than the vampires.

My current owners are not among these villains, by the way, whatever foolishness you may wish to ascribe. I came here because the investment in The Aspen Times newsroom is higher than most, and higher than in the Daily News, frankly.

Ogden has been owned and operated by the Nutting family since the 1890s. Today, they’re just a bit farther along in what I hope will be the legacy of Cook’s family if he continues taking up opportunities like he found in northwestern New Mexico.

My own cheap mockery aside, Aspen’s journalism in all its glory and occasional petty dramas — the two daily newspapers, an online nonprofit, the NPR radio station with a local reporting staff — should be celebrated all the way around.

We ain’t Farmington, not by any stretch. Which Cook and the Ballantines aim to correct. I wish them well. Getting to tell the tale first here is just the cherry on top. It’s a great, sweet story, especially if they succeed.   

Aspen Times Editor Don Rogers can be reached at


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