Nonprofit agency to operate Silverton weekly until new owner steps up

Silverton’s weekly newspaper is at once the oldest on the Western Slope and the one furthest ahead into the brave new world of journalism.

The Silverton Standard & The Miner now is owned by the nonprofit San Juan County Historical Society, which hopes to operate it until a new owner can be found.

“I believe we’re at the front of this” effort to find new business models as newspapers look for ways to survive, Editor Mark Esper said.

The historical society took over the newspaper, which distributes 1,000 copies a week to the town of 500, which is perched at more than 9,000 feet high in the Rockies.

The Standard has grown its subscriptions by 11 percent over the past two years and won 20 awards from the Colorado Press Association over the same period, but it has been unable to attract the necessary advertising revenues.

The new arrangement gives the paper a business manager, leaving Esper more time to deal with writing, photography and designing the paper.

His two-year stint there corresponds with the paper’s run of prizes, which include best small weekly in the state for news content in 2007 and best in the state for photography and design in 2008.

“We’re hoping that having local ownership again, and with the historical society’s membership behind us, we can save this historic newspaper,” Esper said.

The historical society had no trepidation about accepting the paper as a donation from the previous owner, said Bev Rich, president of the historical society.

“We did our due diligence and think it is a viable operation,” Rich said. “We had trepidation about the oldest newspaper on the Western Slope of Colorado being shut down. It would have been a shame.”

The previous owner, Thirteenth Street Media Inc., also owns the Telluride Daily Planet and the Norwood Post, but the Silverton paper was too far from the other publications to make it a good fit, said Randy Miller of Thirteenth Street Media.


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