From the (former) editor: Looking back on 30 years of the Summit Daily
Former Summit Daily editor
Good morning and welcome to Summit Up, the world’s only daily column that …
(Sound of crickets. Image of blank page in a typewriter.)
Then comes 800 or so words of rambling, Summit County-themed literary folk art — or whatever it was.
Whether you liked it or not, Summit Up was the column that defined the Summit Daily from its very first issue Aug. 21, 1989, up until the time it was put out to pasture in 2013 or so. It wasn’t always an easy column to write, and some of those who had to fill the space hated it. However, if you liked writing silly stuff, it was wonderful daily calisthenics for a writer.
I figure I wrote a thousand or so Summit Up columns between my first days as a reporter in 1993 to the last issue I edited Aug. 22, 2012.
When I moved to Summit County in 1991 and got a job bumping chairs at Copper Mountain, all I wanted to do was get a job at the Daily so I could write Summit Up. I got my wish, but a whole lot more: lifelong friends, a thousand memories, a ton of great experience and the chance to provide a valuable service to the community I still think of as home.
The Summit Daily came into being at a crossroads in the newspaper business. In the late 1980s, Selectric typewriters and linotype machines were giving way to rudimentary computers that could do amazing things — like print out headlines in different sizes! You still had to cut up the copy and run it through a wax machine and paste it onto a flat piece of cardboard. And if you wanted something fancy around a photo, like a border, you’d get out a little roll of tape and an X-Acto knife and do it by hand.
My buddy Mark Fox, the Daily’s original photographer, had a tiny dark room and a small halftone camera that could turn a black-and-white print into a pixelated image suitable for use on a web press. When we got a printer that could actually print an entire page without any paste-up required, we proclaimed it a miracle — but someone still had to drive the flats over the pass to Vail where the press was.
This was before the internet. When we first caught wind of the whole internet thing, what most impressed me was the fact that people could e-mail me their letters to the editor and press releases and stuff. Up until then, we spent a hell of a lot of time just typing things we’d received in the mailbox.
The internet provided both a wonderful new way to get news out and a devastating blow to newspapers everywhere when some guy named Craig Newmark decided to give classified ads away for free.
In 1994, we heard rumors that we might get health insurance when the Summit Daily and its sister paper, the Vail Daily, were purchased by Swift Communications. We got health insurance, but the new publisher told us we could no longer drink beer in the newsroom.
Then, Swift purchased and discontinued the rival twice-weekly Summit Sentinel and subsequently moved the Summit Daily into its building. The Sentinel building (now The Peak School) had a halftone camera the size of a Buick, and one whole room was filled with light tables for laying out the paper. One day, a crew came in and cut the whole thing up and hauled it out, along with the Buick.
Like all other businesses in Summit County, we had to do our thing no matter how many tons of snow fell. The trucks made it over the pass with the papers, and the delivery drivers got the paper into the boxes by 6 a.m. or so daily. Well, OK, five days a week to start, and then we added Sunday and, finally, Saturday. That makes it hard to do the math, but roughly speaking, the Daily has delivered about 10,000 issues in its 30 years. For free.
It was, for me, the most meaningful work I’ve ever done. All over the country, newsrooms are shrinking or going dark, and important things aren’t being covered. Summit’s lucky to have the Daily’s team of journalists out there reporting on what’s going on.
As the Daily marks its 30th anniversary Wednesday, Aug. 21, I salute the current staff and all of the other journalists, press folks, drivers, ad sales people and the myriad others who’ve had a hand in cranking this thing out every day.
Now, as never before, we need real news crafted by real journalists. And sometimes you just want to do an easy crossword puzzle.
Alex Miller was editor of the Summit Daily from 1996 to 2000 and 2008 to 2012. He lives in Highlands Ranch, where he works as an editor of corporate communications for a tech company and runs the OnStage Colorado theater website in his spare time.
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