Community papers struggling: Vail Daily cuts staff to 2002 levels

On the day Denver lost one of its major metro newspapers, The Rocky Mountain News, there are signs that even small-town community newspapers in Colorado — once believed to be relatively bulletproof — are starting to struggle.

While he would not give specific numbers, Vail Daily editor Don Rogers, whose paper boasts 90 percent market share in affluent Eagle County and last year reportedly grossed $12 million in a circulation area with a population of 50,000, confirmed the paper has cut staff to 2002 levels.

“The Vail Daily is shrinking in sync with the greater business community,” Rogers said in an e-mail. “We rise with them, and in the past five years or so, we soared with them. Now we’re sharing their pain.”

Rogers denies that a second paper in town, the six-day-a-week Vail Mountaineer, has significantly impacted the bottom line. Instead, he said it’s made the Vail Daily a better paper editorially. Overall, Rogers said community papers are still dealing from a position of strength.

“Community papers have a big opportunity. A lot of what I see with the big boys is that they sunk themselves in big debt, built huge hierarchies and probably need to fall so that some fresh grass can grow. I also believe that yet again our obit as an industry is exaggerated. Someone we’ll figure out that at least at the community level, we’re still the way to get their message out.”

Eagle County real estate sales — a big advertising sector for The Vail Daily — fell to 2004 levels last year, declining 25 percent to $2.2 billion.