Welcome to Volume 1, Issue 1 of the Roaring Fork Weekly Journal, which will focus its creative efforts on the Mid-Valley areas of Basalt, Willits and El Jebel, with a side order of Carbondale and the Fryingpan Valley.
This paper is the brainchild of David Cook, publisher of the Aspen Daily News, who correctly observed that this part of the Roaring Fork Valley has long been grossly underserved by the local media. More than one resident has described the Mid-Valley as too often being lost in the newspaper shuffle, getting short coverage shrift compared to Aspen, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs.
That ends now.
"The reason I love Basalt and the mid-Roaring Fork Valley so much is many of the people that helped Aspen become the magical place it is have now chosen to live and create in Basalt,” Cook said. “I'm known to say, when you can’t build up and you can’t build out — as you can't in Aspen — the creatives tend to get pushed out, and sadly that has happened at an alarming rate in Aspen. Luckily we have a valley that can capture them on their way out, be it by force or by choice. In my best estimation the more artists, musicians, risk takers, spiritual leaders, mom and pop shops and locally owned businesses the better, and it seems that the Mid-Valley has all that in abundance.”
Cook said he has long seen the need for a news source focused on the Mid-Valley.
“Every sizable community in this valley has a news organization solely dedicated to serving its citizens, with the exception of Basalt, El Jebel and Willits,” Cook said. “With this area growing in prominence and continuing to define its place in the valley, we see an important opportunity to help provide that dedicated voice.
“The team that occupies the Aspen Daily News office has, for some time, recognized the Mid-Valley as an under-represented swath of the Roaring Fork Valley as it relates to news,” he continued. “Every community in this valley is unique and interesting and we believe they all deserve a dedicated, professional news product that accurately captures that spirit.”
Cook understands that, with news sources increasingly being defined by pixels rather than ink, it may seem counter-intuitive to launch a new weekly paper.
“Make no mistake, starting a new ‘paper delivered’ product at this moment in the media environment is a risky proposition,” Cook said. “But if done for the correct reason, and with integrity and purpose, we believe it will work and it will be wonderful for the Mid-Valley to have a dedicated voice.”
This is not Cook’s first rodeo.
He started his professional career with a Fortune 200 media company — Morris Communications — based out of Augusta, Ga. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he gravitated more toward independently owned media outlets.
“I moved to Aspen to become the Publisher of the Aspen Daily News in 2005,” he said. “I’ve since launched many media properties from glossy magazines to radio stations. I’m now the co-owner of the TV station that serves Aspen Snowmass and the Outside TV affiliate in Aspen. I began discussions to purchase the Aspen Daily News close to four years ago. The purchase was complete in August 2017.
“This is the second weekly paper I’ve launched and the first news product, as the first was focused on sports, and I’m thrilled with the process,” Cook continued. “I feel beyond fortunate to further immerse my staff, company ethos and myself personally in the Roaring Fork Valley.”
This is not my first rodeo either.
Depending on what you count, the RFWJ marks the seventh publication I have midwifed, the two most noteworthy being the Summit Daily News in Summit County, where I worked for a decade, and the Mountain Gazette, which I edited for 13 years. I am a long-time contributor to Backpacker magazine and I have written 10 books, two of which were Colorado Book Awards finalists.
The past two winters, I have been a staff writer for the Aspen Daily News.
In the two months since Cook announced the launch of the RFWJ, I have engaged primarily in two activities.
First, almost every day, I have made contact — over coffee, over beers, while walking dogs around Crown Mountain Park, sometimes unavoidably via email — with members of the community with the intent of introducing myself and asking what form they would like to see the new paper take, what they would like to see included.
I have met with elected officials and staff members from the governments of Pitkin County, Eagle County and the town of Basalt. I’ve met with the Basalt Area Chamber of Commerce, Robert Hubbell (the manager of El Jebel), representatives of a slew of area nonprofits, members of the business community, representatives of the Roaring Fork School District, Tim Belinski (one of the movers and shakers behind the Willits Town Center), representatives from the White River National Forest, the Basalt Library people, the Art Base people, The Temporary, people involved with mental health issues and seniors issues, random strangers sitting next to me at the bar and probably some others that have blurred.
Input from that wide array of local stakeholders has covered the conceptual gamut, from admonitions that we focus on New Yorker-esque deep dives into demographic stratification as it applies to workforce dynamics to people verily demanding that we dedicate full pages to Little League photos.
I have been told time and time again that people would like to see more coverage of Basalt’s schools.
More than one person has asked that we cover local sports, which we will do with enthusiasm once our page count increases.
Coverage of local events has also been added to our editorial wish list.
Given the fact that our distribution area is so geo-physically and politically disjointed — one municipality, two counties, Old Town separated from South Side by a major state highway, Willits four miles downvalley, El Jebel being its own unincorporated world — many people have suggested the we dedicate significant coverage to introducing residents of the Mid-Valley to their neighbors by way of personality profiles.
More than one person has asked us to be open to humor.
The input I have gathered has also underscored an undeniable reality: The local Latino population is inexcusably underserved by the local media. We plan to remedy that oversight.
We have factored all of that input into our long-term battle plan, much of which will become evident as we get our feet under us and our page count increases.
The second activity that has consumed me since our launch was announced was rounding up a herd of reliable writers.
Here’s the list of contributors and columnists that have signed on with us thus far:
- Steve Alldredge has been writing Roaring Fork Valley newspaper, magazine and film stories since 1991. If he’s not behind a computer, he can usually be found teaching a fitness class or walking a dog. Steve will cover a wide array of news and features.
- Amiee White Beazley is a Basalt-based journalist and former Special Sections editor at
- The Aspen Times and former Arts Editor (Time Out) at the Aspen Daily News. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, Wine Enthusiast and Sunset magazine among other national publications. Amiee will write a regular column titled “Good News.”
- Betina Moreira Infante has worked in business, strategic communications and public relations in the Americas, Europe and Asia for more than 25 years. A four-year resident of Basalt, Infante serves on the Board of Directors of the Basalt Chamber of Commerce. As she is bilingual, Betina will serve as our editorial liaison to the Latino community.
- Katie Hankinson has worked as a freelance reporter and photographer since 2015. A graduate of Basalt High School and Fort Lewis College, Katie is excited to report on Mid-Valley news and support her community. She’s interested in telling stories about the people of Basalt, without cutting any corners or leaving too much of the good stuff out.
- Genevieve Joelle Villamizar has been writing about the Roaring Fork Valley for over a decade. In addition to publishing Bonedale|Amplified Magazine, her work has appeared in Aspen Magazine, Edible Aspen and Roaring Fork Lifestyle. She plans to focus on more offbeat topics.
- Kim Bock will pen a monthly column centered around gardening. Bock has studied landscape architecture, worked in city planning and has been a practicing arborist for 20 years. Living in the El Jebel area since 1989, she has been an active member and officer in the Pardon My Garden Club and spent 19 years as a member and chair of the Roaring Fork Planning Commission. Besides flower and vegetable gardening at her home, she loves hiking with her dogs and husband.
- Chris Lougeay has been a year-round resident of the Roaring Fork since 2016, settling down after a decade of performing music on cruise ships internationally. He holds an MFA in music, enjoys riding his mountain bike without a helmet, much to his wife’s dismay, and listening to Dream Theater.
- Meredith Diers is a freelance journalist covering travel, literature and local news. Her work has been featured in Dallas Style and Design, CURATED, Ultimate Experiences and The Denton Record Chronicle. She hikes, bikes and skis as often as possible. She will cover arts and culture for the RFWJ.
- Sloan Shoemaker was the long-time executive director of the Wilderness Workshop. He will pen a monthly column focused on environmental issues.
- Mary Kenyon, a member of Pitkin County Senior Services, will pen a monthly column dedicated to senior issues.
- Carol Hawke, a member of the Eagle County Mental Health Advisory Committee, will curate a monthly column focusing on mental health issues.
- Malcolm McMichael, who wrote quite a bit for the Mountain Gazette, will pen a general-interest monthly column.
- Ryan Honey, manager of The Temporary in Willits, will pen a monthly entertainment column that will deal with everything from book signings to live music at Stubbies and the Black Nugget.
- Jordan Curet, a long-time local shooter, will handle most of our photography, with help from Aspen Daily News photographer Craig Turpin.
- Allison Johnson has lived in El Jebel since 2003. She has written for many regional publications, including GetBorn, Aspen Sojourner and newspapers in Telluride, Aspen, and Snowmass, as well as for organizations like the Aspen Institute’s Ascend program and Colorado Rocky Mountain School. She runs Basalt Middle School’s Makerspace.
- Chapman Croskell will be handling establishment of the RFWJ website and Facebook page, which, if the trade winds are blowing in a favorable direction, should be up and running by the time you read these words.
One last salient point: We do not yet have a Mid-Valley office. For now, the RFWJ will be run out of an interesting combination of the Brick Pony Pub in downtown Basalt, my living room and the Aspen Daily News corporate suites. While there is a certain appeal to remaining mobile (and therefore being hard to hunt down when we run a controversial column), we hope to find workable office space in the Mid-Valley sooner rather than later. (Let us know if you have any leads.)
Though it may seem like a case of pre-excusing, the RFWJ, like most new publications, will be a work in progress. There will of course be some boo-boos, though we will try with all our might to not repeat the mistake we made with the very first issue of the Summit Daily News, where we got the date on the front page wrong … by a full century.
We encourage input from our readership, by way of photos of local events and people, suggestions for listings in our calendar, story ideas and letters to the editor. Please send such tidbits to email@example.com.
Cook adds: “If you have any questions, suggestions, comments or just thoughts on what we’re up to I welcome any/all feedback. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and you will hear back. I want this paper to be a representation of the community it serves, not what I think it should be or think it is.”