I spent my early teens in Denver, including some vacations in Vail, before we moved back to our native California, and I went to UC Berkeley for a bachelor’s degree and Northwestern for a master’s. Now we live in western Nevada County, where we’re raising our son and are close to two sets of in-laws and my beloved Lake Tahoe. Based on those experiences, I can easily compare and contrast both places.
If Vail is a round peg, then western Nevada County CA is a square hole.
But the new publisher of The Union newspaper is the publisher of the Vail Daily — Don Rogers. Both newspapers belong to the Nevada-based Swift newspaper chain. Rogers is more experienced in journalism than predecessor Jim Hemig, largely a production guy. Over the years, Don has worked at numerous small newspapers in the Midwest and West.
Coffee with Bob “a few weeks ago”
“This all started a few weeks ago, over coffee at Yeti’s in Eagle with company President Bob Brown,” he writes in the Vail Daily. “He had some shocking news: Grass Valley’s publisher was leaving to join his dad’s real estate firm. Would I be interested? Let me think. Would I be willing to give up the crown jewel of the company with colleagues I wouldn’t trade for anything? … This will be a bigger job than what I’m doing now.”
Don’s current newspaper town, Vail, is largely a “one company” town (dominated by publicly traded Vail Resorts, which also owns some Tahoe ski areas). This has sparked some journalism controversy too, shining a spotlight on Swift’s newsroom ethics.
Like the towns themselves, The Vail Daily and The Union are different publications too: The Union is a subscription-based broadsheet, while the Vail Daily is a free tabloid. (Swift’s President Brown, also of Vail, is a fan of the free tabloid model; in fact, Swift sold one of its broadsheets last year, the Roseburg, Ore., newspaper where Jeff Ackerman was the publisher). Vail publishes some niche publications too.
Here’s how Rogers once described the Vail Daily’s strengths: “Our core product and service is dominant, and our little fleet of niche publications and digital tools are competitive in each of their categories. We have a good brand.”
And the weaknesses: “Alas, plenty and we’re hardly alone in these times, but there’s an awful lot to do and not quite enough people to do it all, at least not to the level we wish. Pay is too low and of course we’re in the communications business, so we don’t do nearly enough of that among ourselves.”
Rogers on politics? Here’s a column from February, where Rogers wrote: “But say the final showdown does come to Rubio and Clinton. Well, the kids who fell for Bernie’s BS will flock right across party lines to Rubio. This bloc fell as mindlessly for Ron Paul, if you remember. The Hispanic vote will come up for grabs; no Democratic lock there.”
He’s a little off base on the analysis, at least on that one.
“Local liberal editor”
The Eagle County Times (an irreverent online weekly newspaper) wrote of Rogers in 2011: ” In attendance at last year’s (GOP dinner) was our local liberal editor from over at the Daily Fishwrap…Don Rogers.
“With all that evenings talk about individual Liberty vs. Big Government – had Don wondering if his glass was half-full or half-empty. Don’t worry Don, your reputation as our local ‘Editor Half the Story’ remains intact!”
And here’s what Rogers thinks of the Eagle County Times.
His son, Ben Rogers, is co-general manager of the Sierra Sun and North Lake Tahoe Bonanza, which also belong to the Swift chain. He previously had been general manager of the Grand Junction Free Press, which Swift shut down last fall.
Last but not least, here’s an ad from Page 2 of the Vail Daily this week — a pot ad titled “The Canni-BUS” is rolling.” And the ad is in color. Welcome Don!