Publisher Aspen Times responds to criticism and demands from politicians

The Aspen Times main office sign on Hyman Avenue, seen Friday, June 24, 2022, in downtown Aspen. | Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

A combination of 18 past and current elected officials from Basalt to Aspen have signed a letter to Ogden newspapers outlining numerous actions they could take individually against The Aspen Times amid recent unrest at publication.

We publish a response from Allison Pattillo, editor of the Aspen Times, as well as the letter from former and current office holders, both in full:

From the editor Allison Pattillo

Today I am sharing the letter below, signed by 18 current and former local elected officials from across Pitkin County, threatening retaliation against The Aspen Times unless the newspaper agrees to its demands for coverage and personal.

While it is heartening to see their expressed support for the importance of vigorous, independent community journalism, which this newspaper has provided to Aspen for more than 140 years, it is frankly shocking to see elected officials so brazenly threatening to use their positions of power to control a community newspaper.

This chilling precedent is certainly not representative of our democracy or the idea of ​​Aspen that our community touts.

Worse still, the letter, shared with me and the owners of the company, is based on incomplete and inaccurate accounts of recent events at The Aspen Times. I look forward to clearing up any misconceptions or inaccuracies in the days and weeks ahead.

For the moment:

  • I understand that the community is concerned about how coverage decisions for this newspaper are made. Let me assure you that our coverage decisions, every day, are made here in Aspen.
  • I understand that the community wants the widest possible forum with letters to the editor and guest comments. Me too.
  • I understand that there is concern about the resignation of an editor and the dismissal of his successor. It’s not what anyone wanted. This is the reality, however, and my team and I are working to find the right leader to guide our newsroom and help lead this community.
  • And of course, I understand the community’s intense interest in the development of Ascenseur 1A. I look forward to our team of professional journalists providing comprehensive coverage of this development and other important local stories as they unfold, without clutter.

This conversation will continue. Our approach will be both methodical and respectful, and will include regular column publishing, one-on-one conversations, ongoing community outreach, and a public forum. I look forward to the conversation ahead and hope that the undersigned leaders will join us in a spirit of cooperation for the betterment of Aspen.

Past and current elected officials

The following letter was addressed to Robert Nutting, CEO of Ogden Newspapers.

Dear Mr Nutting,

As current and former elected local governments of the municipalities of Aspen, Snowmass Village and Basalt, and Pitkin County, Colorado, we write with grave concern about the recent conduct of the management of Ogden Newspapers in regarding editorial decisions. to the Aspen Times newspaper.

We are particularly troubled by a number of actions arising from the publication of articles, columns and letters to the editor regarding Vladislav Doronin’s purchase of real estate on Aspen Mountain, and Doronin’s subsequent lawsuit against Aspen Times. These actions include: the Aspen Times’ failure to fully disclose the settlement with Doronin; the banning of former editor David Krause from publishing any further articles on Doronin; the deletion of Roger Marolt’s column of June 10, 2022; and the firing of acting editor Andrew Travers for publishing Marolt’s June 10 column.

These actions all stem from the dissatisfaction of a billionaire landowner in our community with a local newspaper’s reporting on him and his recent real estate transaction, and the publication of the opinions or concerns of certain members of the community to his subject and on the transaction. Ogden Newspapers chose to rally around Doronin’s individual displeasure rather than the community’s need to understand and discuss such a historic real estate deal and consider its wider implications for the community.

Ogden Newspapers describes its own values ​​as follows: “We believe that local newspapers should not only report the news of the day, but also tell the stories of their communities and the people who live there. We take writing the first draft of the story seriously. Your values ​​statement goes on to say, “Our rich press heritage, combined with a company-wide commitment to high journalistic standards, positions us to continue to uphold the values ​​of excellence and service for decades to come.”

We write to you now because these issues have created deep apprehensions and a lack of confidence in the Aspen Times’ ability to freely achieve the high journalistic standards that you claim to hold and that our community expects of this local institution.

As local elected officials, we implicitly rely on transparent, accurate and uncensored reporting. It is essential to the ability of our community to have thorough and thoughtful deliberations on the important political and cultural issues that arise. It is also an essential tool for the people we represent to hold us accountable.

The ability of our local press to accurately and freely report real estate transactions – their locations, amounts and actors – in our community cannot be overstated. These transactions have direct impacts on our economy, our cost of living, our distribution of jobs, our housing needs, our transportation planning, the makeup of our community, our philanthropic opportunities, our cultural institutions, our connection to international markets and our ability as government entities to plan for the implications of all of the above. We invite you, every day, to stroll through our cities and you will hear the conversations related to our real estate market, its transactions and its actors. Any watering down of the details of these issues in favor of the billionaires at their helm hampers our community’s longstanding propensity to be informed, enlightened, and highly engaged.

Our confidence in the Ogden newspapers is shattered and we are individually considering separate responses accordingly, including: directing our individual organizations to remove advertisements and notices from the newspaper; encourage local businesses to do the same; refusing interviews with Aspen Times reporters; or calling for a community boycott of the newspaper.

To restore our confidence in the Aspen Times, we would like to see clear actions from Ogden Newspapers such as the following: reinstatement of Andrew Travers as editor; republication of Marolt’s June 10 column; a joint statement from Travers, Allison Pattillo, the Times publisher, and yourself, detailing the editorial freedom and transparency standards that will be applied; and, public clarity on the settlement that was reached by Doronin’s trial.

The Aspen Times, founded in 1881, is a historic institution in our community, the oldest company in continuous operation, and claims to be the most trusted print media in Pitkin County, Colorado. We look forward to positive and convincing action to restore its reputation as such. We hope for a quick response to this correspondence within a week or two, as this is a very timely matter for our community.

Thanks for your consideration.

Sincerely yours,

Adam Frisch, Aspen City Councilor, 2011-2019

Auden Schendler, Councilor of Basalt, 2016-2020

Bill Stirling, Mayor of the City of Aspen, 1983-2001

Bob Sirkus, Snowmass Councilman since 2014

David Knight, Basalt Councilman, 2020–present

Elyse Hotell, Municipal Councilor of Basalt 2020 – present

Francie Jacober, Pitkin County Commissioner, 2020-present

Gary Tennenbaum, Alderman of Basalt, 2006-2010 and 2014-2022

Greg Poschman, Pitkin County Commissioner, 2016 – present

John Doyle, Aspen City Councilor, 2019–Present

Kelly McNicholas Kury, Pitkin County Commissioner, 2018-present

Leslie Lamont, Pitkin County Commissioner, 1995-2000

Mick Ireland, Pitkin County Commissioner, 1993-2006, Mayor of the City of Aspen, 2007-2013

Patti Clapper, Pitkin County Commissioner, 1998-2010 and 2014-present

Skippy Mesirow, Aspen City Councilor, 2019–present

Steve Child, Pitkin County Commissioner, 2012–present

Tom Goode, Town Councilor for the Village of Snowmass, 2015–present

Torre, Mayor of the City of Aspen, 2019-present

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