Richard Ballantine, chairman of Ballantine Communications Inc., was inducted Saturday into the Colorado Press Association Hall of Fame in Denver.
Ballantine served as publisher for The Durango Herald from 1983 to 2013. He also is chairman of the editorial board for the Herald and The Journal and represents the fourth generation of a newspaper family.
“I wrote my first editorial when I was at Needham Elementary,” Ballantine said last week. “I complained about the condition of the playground where the boys played marbles.”
He paid for his 1957 Chevrolet from money earned working in the Herald’s casting room.
“I spent summers in the casting room handling hot lead without an appreciation of the dangers,” he said.
Jill Farschman, CEO of the Colorado Press Association, said: “Richard Ballantine and his family are well-known pioneers and contributors to community journalism in Colorado. Ballantine has managed to honor his rich newspaper legacy while simultaneously diversifying service offerings to meet evolving market needs. That’s not an easy thing to pull off.”
Also inducted into the CPA Hall of Fame on Sunday were the late Ed Lehman, longtime publisher of the Longmont Times-Call, and Merle Baranczyk, publisher of The Mountain Mail in Salida.
Ballantine is the son of the late Arthur and Morley Cowles Ballantine, who in 1952 moved to Durango from Minneapolis and purchased the Herald-Democrat and the Durango News and changed the combined papers’ name to the Herald-News.
They brought with them a family tradition of newspapering. Morley Ballantine’s father had published the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and her grandfather, the Des Moines Register. Arthur Ballantine Jr. had worked for the Minneapolis Morning Tribune.
The Cowles family also published Look and other magazines.
The Ballantines at first continued to publish the Herald from the King Building in the 1100 block of Main Avenue. In 1953, they moved to 1022 Main Ave., now the location of Carver Brewing Co. In 1960, they changed the paper’s name to The Durango Herald, and in 1966, the Herald moved to its current site, 1275 Main Ave.
“I enjoy playing a role in telling stories. Storytelling in its broad sense is important for a community,” Ballantine said. “Some of those stories are not particularly cheerful for an individual or an institution, but telling the stories of a community is important.”
Major announcements from Ballantine at the Herald are typically made by the chairman of the board from atop a wooden packing box.
“I am short, and the fruit box gives me some elevation,” Ballantine said.
Ballantine also is known for keeping a bewilderingly cluttered office, with newspapers, newspaper clippings, documents and books.
“I wish the cluttered office wasn’t there. I’m sure it is part of my genes, and when we’re able to fiddle with our genes, it might be the first gene I choose to excise,” he said. “I see so many things I want to read and reread, that I hang on to them. I never appreciated that I don’t get back to them. It’s a fool’s errand.”
In the digital age, he said the cluttered office has merely migrated to his smartphone.
Ballantine credits his siblings – Helen Ballantine Healy, Elizabeth Ballantine and William Ballantine – for their support of Ballantine Communication Inc. and its publications.
“I am supported by three siblings. I am in an enviable position,” he said. “All four of us could not be more pleased that our parents selected Durango in 1952 as the place they wanted to own a newspaper and get involved in the community. We saw how much our parents enjoyed and loved publishing, and their enthusiasm influenced me to enter journalism.”
Providing quality news coverage, Ballantine said, remains critical, and in the digital age it is important to tell a community’s stories in multiple formats.
“We write about difficult subjects, suicide and people who are less than successful in business or government positions, but most stories are uplifting and more fun to read,” he said.
He mentioned several stories that held his interest last week.
“I’m following the goose who has a nest on the river and will she last the time it takes for an egg to incubate, the fellow who slacklined between Twin Buttes, the paraglider who said we should be able to jump off Smelter Mountain,” he said. “Stories like that make life a whole lot more interesting and fun to talk about.”
H H HLook for a full listing of Friday’s and Saturday’s awards from the Colorado Associated Press Editors and Reporters and Colorado Press Association contests in Wednesday’s Herald.