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November 15, 2008 —
When I read the obituary for The Vail Trail, Vail’s once greatest newspaper, my spirit sunk low. The newspaper, the people and the community were an integral part of my life for many years.
In 1997, when I strolled into the Vail Valley after selling my community newspaper in Arkansas, I took on the role as editor of the Trail. I had only been seeking refuge from long hours and grinding workloads when I arrived, thinking a season on the slopes was all I wanted. Taking on the responsibility of running the Trail’s newsroom was the last thing on my mind.
But I took the job, how could I resist? I took it thinking I would run a hard-charging newspaper, delivering hard, thought-out news and challenging editorials.
And so for a time, the weekly charged ahead taking on issues such as Category 3 (Blue Sky Basin), the Gilman Tract, affordable housing and the ethical concerns of a county commission. We managed to give the seven-day-a-week Vail Daily a run for its money, while publishing once a week.
When the Knox family agreed to go daily and create the Daily Trail, editor David Williams in the fight to produce what is arguably the best newspaper Vail has ever known joined me. David, former Trail editor Tara Flannigan and I worked together to plan the Daily Trail and plot the future course for the Vail Trail.
So vigorous in our efforts as a weekly paper, The Vail Daily was nervous. They planted a spy in our midst, a reporter who would write for us and give the publishing and editorial team at the Swift paper updates on our progress to launch a daily.
When word leaked that our new daily product might somehow mimic the look of The Rocky Mountain News, the Vail Daily went through an overnight redesign, launching what was then a clear rip-off of the front range-based state paper in an preemptive bid to thwart our alleged plans. We were thrilled; the competition was scared.
They never had a chance insofar as news coverage was concerned. We came out swinging, never relenting in our fight to cover the news. Our first year was rewarded with multiple Colorado Press Association awards.
From development, to the ski industry to the high-profile Vail fires, the team at the Trail was one of the best news teams I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with in the nearly 20 years I’ve been a journalist. And while Vail Daily editor Don Rogers would like to boast that it was his efforts that brought down the Daily Trail, I know different.
A lack of funds and some bad financial calls were the culprits here. David Williams as editor ran a solid newspaper.
In the end Swift bought the Vail Trail from the Knox family. I knew then that it was only a matter of time before the media conglomerate that suffocates the central Rocky region would shut the Trail’s presses down for good.
So here it is, the end of an era, launched by an advertising executive with community spirit, George Knox. Over its many decades the Trail has seen many fine journalists come and go and I am grateful to count myself among them as someone who had a hand in producing Vail’s greatest newspaper, ever.
Robert Kelly-Goss, former editor of The Vail Trail, is now Albemarle Life Editor of The Daily Advance in Elizabeth City, N.C.
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