A group of locals, led by Aaron Brill, co-owner of Silverton Mountain ski area, has purchased the Silverton Standard & the Miner from the San Juan County Historical Society in an effort to keep what is the oldest continuously published newspaper on the Western Slope in operation.
“Basically, the Silverton Standard was on its way out. It is a difficult time to maintain a newspaper, and so there was a worry it was on the verge of not continuing,” Brill said.
Brill said for the next week or two he will be managing the transition as the newspaper moves from operation under the nonprofit umbrella of the Historical Society to operation under Chugach Publishing Co., which will not be set up as a nonprofit, but also is not expected to make much money.
“We wanted to make sure the newspaper continues. We feel that Silverton and San Juan County are in need of a community-based, local news outlet and so we basically stepped in to see if we can help to continue to run the newspaper because it appeared as if it might be going out of business,” he said. “Technically, it’s not going to be initially set up as a 501(c)(3). But as you know newspapers are hemorrhaging money. So I don’t know if you can really call it for-profit.”
Megan Davenport, a teacher at Silverton Public School, has been hired to serve as editor.
Davenport will replace Mark Esper, who said he plans to retire soon. He said he would assist Davenport during the transition.
Brill said Davenport will be the sole paid employee at the Standard.
“Right now, there’s just a bunch of us just volunteering our time, and we’re just trying to see how we can do this,” he said.
Silverton Mountain will have no relationship with the Standard, and Davenport will have sole control of all editorial decisions, Brill said.
Bev Rich, chairman of the San Juan County Historical Society board of directors, said the newspaper was donated to the historical society in 2009 by a company that had planned to close it along with the Norwood Post.
Randy Miller, owner of Thirteenth Street Media Inc. of Boulder, had purchased the Standard as part of a package that included the Norwood Post and the Telluride Daily Planet in July 2008. Had he not donated the paper, lack of a buyer would have probably led to a shutdown of the historic publication.
“We were lucky that we inherited a really good editor,” she said. “He’s been doing it for 13 years, and he has not had a vacation. And he’s really tired. So, it was time. We had an offer kind of out of the blue, and we discussed it, and said, ‘Maybe it’s time for the paper to be owned privately again,” Rich said.
Rich declined to disclose the sale price.
For the most part, the Standard supported itself since 2009 “sometimes just on a shoestring,” she said.
“Newspapers, people don’t realize how terribly, terribly important they are,” Rich said. “The legal notices for one thing. It would be terrible if we had to publish all of our legal notices in the Ouray paper or the Herald.”
Rich said the issue of the Standard that will go to press Wednesday will be the last one under the Historical Society.
The Standard has been designated a National Historic Site in Journalism by the Society of Professional Journalists. It is the only newspaper in Colorado with such a designation.
The Silverton Standard & the Miner, founded in 1875, is not only the oldest continuously operated newspaper on the Western Slope, it is also considered the oldest business of any kind on the Western Slope.