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Setting a few things straight

Letter from Kate Mailly

George Sibley’s February 2001 column – March 2001 – Colorado Central Magazine


I would like to address George Sibley’s column “Getting Globalized” in your February edition.

Obviously the article was intended as a criticism of the company that owns the Country Chronicle & Pilot and the Gunnison Country Times (our sister paper) and of corporate ownership of newspapers in general.

This is a subject worth editorializing about, one that I at times find frightening and threatening. However, the article attacks not only our owner, but also us. By “us,” I mean the living, breathing, flesh-and-blood staff here at these papers. We’re the same staff that Sibley never once attempted to contact or ask our version of the recent events here in the newsroom — events about which he “informed” his readers.

I am currently associate editor of the Chronicle & Pilot and a former student of Sibley’s. In fact, he was my instructor in a class called Editorial Skills. In that class he taught his students never to write an editorial piece without fully researching and establishing the facts. He taught that inferences, hasty generalizations and hearsay were not to be tolerated, yet that is exactly what he has done in his own editorial writing.

To say I am disappointed is an understatement. I called him to let him know I was writing this article and left a message with my phone number, but he didn’t return the call.

In his column, Sibley states that there is nothing local about the ownership and less and less that is local about the operation of the papers. The company that owns the Chronicle & Pilot, Colorado Consolidated Media (CCM), has a firm track record of being dedicated to the community, providing information in the form of news stories that are honestly written.

The company also provides job security with competitive wages to more than 20 Gunnison County residents. Sibley states that CCM sent its “own man” to serve as publisher for the Crested Butte and Gunnison papers. That man is Rockford Hayes, and he may work for CCM now, but he didn’t until this position opened up. Before coming here, he worked at the Fairplay Flume, right here in Colorado. The Flume was not owned by CCM, and therefore Hayes was not CCM’s “own man.”

Sibley says in his article that a former writer for the Chronicle & Pilot told him that Hayes wanted to use the paper to change the town. That may have been the writer’s interpretation of Hayes’ intent, but in my association with him I have never gotten that impression. Hayes is a straightforward, honest person; hidden agendas simply don’t exist in his reality. He has made it clear on many occasions that his intent for this publication is to print objective, informative, interesting, and prudent stories about the community. I find him to be a knowledgeable and wise leader — just what this newspaper was lacking and needed.

I worked here at the Chronicle & Pilot for three years before this takeover. I saw what went on before and after this new ownership. I know why part of the paper’s former staff quit, and it was not over editorial control. Editorial control has never been an issue. No one from CCM has ever tried to limit or control what is said in our pages.

Sibley wrote that the Chronicle & Pilot and the Gunnison Country Times reduced their production staffs and moved the actual production of the papers to Florida. Not true. The Times was produced in Florida for a short time, but it didn’t work out, and production of that paper is now in the process of returning fully to Gunnison. The Chronicle never moved production, and there was never a plan to move production. In fact, we have a full production staff of excellent and talented graphic artists, two of whom we recently featured in profile articles in this paper.

He calls the staff of the Times “young recent graduates from Western State College, mostly inexperienced” journalistically and locally. These are people he taught as students who have chosen Gunnison as their home. I find it a little indelicate of him to write about them as if they are unqualified for the positions they hold, especially since his byline has appeared in the Times on a regular basis, either as George Sibley or, more recently, as Valley Water News Service. Although he is not paid for his articles, it seems duplicitous for him to be bashing the big, bad corporation that is publishing his work. And how much of his copy has ever been edited out? None. In my mind, that certainly changes the flavor of the piece he wrote for Colorado Central.

He states that a journalist who is “essentially commuting” from Cortez now edits our paper. Well, David Grant Long is from Cortez but is living in Crested Butte for the interim — paying rent, buying groceries and supporting local businesses in general. He is here because he is an experienced, professional journalist who can teach me the ins and outs of editorial management.

I have lived in Crested Butte and Gunnison County for 20 years. While I didn’t have the experience journalistically to take on the role of managing editor at the time of the defection, Hayes and CCM determined that, in order to keep this paper local, it was worth the price to have Long stay here for six months in order to train me. If Sibley had simply picked up the phone and asked, he would have known that.

In concluding his article, Sibley makes the giant leap of putting the Chronicle & Pilot and Gunnison Country Times in the same category as Wal-Mart and McDonald’s — bringing nothing into the valley but “generica.” That statement is simply ludicrous and so completely off base that it makes me question Sibley’s state of mind when he wrote the article.

Much has gone on here at the Chronicle since CCM took over. Most of it has been inaccurately regurgitated locally as rumors and hearsay. We have chosen to ignore the rumors and simply keep on producing a paper we are proud of on a weekly basis.

And that is what we will continue to do.

Kate Mailly

Crested Butte

[This appeared in a somewhat different form as an editorial in the Feb. 9, 2001, edition of the Chronicle & Pilot.]