Alex Taylor Column December 28, 2008

Year as publisher saw far different changes than were originally anticipated

This will be my last column as publisher of The Daily Sentinel. As of Jan. 1, I will be assuming my new role as publisher of the Palm Beach Post in Florida.

Going from the high country of western Colorado to the coast line of southern Florida is about as big a change as one could imagine and it is indicative of the enormous changes we’ve all seen in the past year.

In my first column about a year ago I discussed the challenges we would all face as we entered a changing environment for our country and for the newspaper industry. As I wrote those words, I never imagined how different things would be today.

In the fall of 2007, our economy was blazing away at historic peaks. We announced our intentions to build a new headquarters for The Daily Sentinel and install new, state-of-the-art presses and equipment to position ourselves for the future.

Then the economy began weakening dramatically and our company decided to halt most major capital projects to focus on paying down debt. The new building was put on hold and the difficult decision to sell our community newspapers was made.

Meanwhile, a new president was elected, our national economy began morphing and transforming in ways no one has ever seen and the future looks as challenging as ever.

Yet, as I sat recently and watched the sun set over the Grand Valley, I marveled at the tranquility of our beautiful little world here. That mystic purple light begins glowing across the
Bookcliffs. The Mesa, forever suspended in time, casts its dark eyes over all of us.

As lights begin to twinkle across the valley floor, I think back on all that has happened this year and I don’t lament our challenges. I smile. Memories of an extraordinary year begin to shine like stars.

To the left I see my favorite stretch of the Colorado River where I spent a great deal of time with my two Labs, duck hunting, canoeing and soaking in the Walter Walker wildlife area.

There are coyotes, beavers, bobcat, mule deer, pheasant, heron and even a few catfish down there who know me well.

To the right, in the hazy distance, I see the walls of the Gunnison River where I once tumbled from my kayak into 42-degree water, giving the trout quite a laugh at the ironic turn of events.

In between, I see the friends and acquaintances who have made this place most memorable.

George and Rebecca brought me into the community. Bret, Brian, the Stephanies, Shane, Megan and the kids shared their homes with us every few weeks. Gabrielle and Kyle spent the year fighting cancer and inspiring us all.

My pups whine and look into the middle of the valley as the lights of KJ and Teddy Jordan’s house brighten up on Seventh Street. They are old friends who have given us endless hours of memories and fun. Thank you.

Main Street is all lit up with Christmas lights. The Avalon Theater, which my wife, Greer, came to love and fought to protect, stands tall. As I look around, I see Mesa State College continuing to build, St. Mary’s Hospital growing taller and taller and Grand Junction Regional Airport peacefully beckoning to planes coming over the mountains.

This is a magical place.

Serving as your publisher has been one of my great honors. In the past year, we have worked hard to make the paper an ever more important component of your life. We redesigned the look and feel, we incorporated more graphics, more charts and we kept our focus on acting as your watchdog journalist in the valley. Concurrently, we focused ever more resources to the Web. today has more video, more photos, more tools, calendars and features than ever before.

My vision for the paper when I started was to create a news organization that is adaptable to change. Today, I believe that almost every employee of the paper has learned to multi-task, to change, grow and adapt.

The Sentinel is poised for great things. It is embracing all of the opportunities of the future, while not forgetting its roots and heritage. Walter Walker envisioned a paper that would fight as an advocate of its community while empowering its citizens with knowledge and perspective to make the best possible decisions for the future.

It was that heritage that attracted Cox Newspapers to this market. I hope and believe that we have been good stewards of that heritage and we will miss it when we leave.

The Sentinel is financially strong and stable. While our national business has slowed down, our local business is growing year over year. This is an important indicator that this community will continue to thrive.

Several companies have expressed significant interest in the business and we expect a sale to be done by summer.

In the meantime, Dennis Herzog will become Executive Editor in charge of all aspects of the business and will handle the transition to the new owners. With nearly 30 years of experience at The Daily Sentinel, I am confident he will do a terrific job.

Now, I will sign off. As your humble publisher, servant and in some cases, friend, I thank you for allowing me to call Grand Junction my home. And for those of you who have asked — in keeping with the Ute tradition — I will not bring a handful of soil with me because I hope that one day I will return.


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