Hey, Spike! bids former Summit Daily News publisher Jim Morgan a happy retirement
March 16, 2018
With semi-retirement now a reality, longtime newspaperman Jim Morgan's western expedition has drawn to a close with his return to the East Coast and Virginia.
Hired by Swift Communications to head the Summit Daily News, Jim and wife Becky came out west to continue his professional journalism career and to pursue his love for fly-fishing and bird hunting.
He caught and released some great fish, bagged plenty of birds with his faithful retrievers and garnered the Colorado Press Association's Newspaper Person of the Year in 2014.
It's been a successful western sojourn for the Morgans.
Their aging parents' health concerns pushed up his semi-retirement timeline by six months. He'll continue working on projects for Swift News' Colorado Mountain News Media's (CMNM) properties for 18 months.
Vail-based Swift COO and President Bob Brown hired Jim in 2003 to be general manager of the Summit Daily News, where Jim's leadership brought stability and quality in an era of challenges to the print industry nationwide.
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CMNM, Swift's largest operating unit, is presently comprised of the five daily newspapers, all of which have companion weekly and magazine products in Aspen, Glenwood Springs, Steamboat Springs, Summit County and Vail.
Up in northwest Colorado, where Craig is a more traditional market in comparison to the visitor resort markets, there is a twice weekly. And up in Grand County, CMNM publishes the SkyHi News twice a week.
Before moving to Colorado to continue newspapering, Jim was a managing partner in Virginia, overseeing a group of seven community newspapers.
"Thinking about what next, we wanted it to be somewhere that provided not just professional opportunity, but a place where Becky and I would be excited to call home," he recalls.
The Morgans visited Colorado a number of times when Becky's brother, Bill Davis, was a professor at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. He's now retired.
"One of my closest friends, Jim Elsberry, was publishing Swift's newspaper in Greeley (Tribune) and we visited them often and I'd been here to fish probably a dozen times through the years — and, of course, to ski," says Jim. "As we weighed options, Colorado was the easy choice, especially with Swift having an opportunity that was a good mutual fit."
"Summit was a great place to begin my time with Swift. Mike Bennett and those who preceded had done a good job in building a solid foundation. There was terrific talent on the team — folks like Jim Pokrandt, David Mercier, Karen Wray and so many others," he notes.
"And the laid-back lifestyle was perfect," he adds. "For a guy who can count the number of suits and sports jackets in their closet on one hand, but needs both hands to count the number of waders, it was a great fit."
The title of assistant general manager for CMNM was added to Jim's duties, while remaining publisher in Summit. That change added the recently purchased Grand County papers and the existing Vail operations to his management portfolio.
At the end of 2009, Jim was promoted to general manager for all of the Colorado High Country operations, so he handed off the Summit publisher role to Matt Sandberg.
Matt was later promoted to director of marketing and innovation at Swift and replaced in Frisco by publisher Meg Boyer.
Moving up the Swift ladder brought a relocation from Summit to the Vail Valley for Jim and Becky.
"In 2010, we moved to Eagle Ranch, which is about 25 minutes west of Vail, but much more central to all the operations," he explains. "That was important because I spent about 50 percent of my time in the different markets."
With Jim's departure, Samantha "Sam" Johnston, publisher at the Aspen Times, and Meg Boyer, the publisher in Summit, were given additional responsibilities and named associate GMs for what are now designated as CMNM East and CMNM West.
Across those operations there are more than 300 employees and contractors.
"At the beginning of the year, most of my day-to-day duties were shifted to them and Bob Brown has taken on some of the oversight for Vail as he lives there," Jim says. "Bill Walker, who oversees the production facility in Gypsum, also took on some additional duties."
"A quick point to make is that our individual operations each have strong management teams. My role is to work with those managers, be it publishers, ad directors, editors, to ensure our operations are successful in meeting their obligations to the communities they serve and to the company. What I don't do is tell them how to run their operations," he says.
Here's Jim's management philosophy, which he terms "simple:"
1. Hire really smart people.
2. Give them the tools they need to succeed.
3. Encourage and challenge them to be better than they realize they can be themselves.
4. Get out of their way and allow them to do great things.
Jim says he'll miss Colorado's fishing, hunting and skiing, but most of all it will be the people:
"The friends and colleagues we'll leave behind. Of the communities where I've edited or published or managed newspapers, we've lived the longest in Colorado. In 14 years you form deep friendships. As the move east has approached we've had a number of tearful moments with those friends. They'll remain friends, of course, but it'll be different. When you're 1,700 miles away you can't text someone that you're mixing a batch of martinis and to come over to watch a sunset."
Returning to Virginia, where they will call the community of Daleville home, Jim and Becky will rejoin their families. He has a twin brother and she has a twin sister. The Morgans have two daughters and four grandchildren.
Miles F. Porter IV, nicknamed "Spike," a Coloradan since 1949, is an Army veteran, former hardrock miner, graduate of Adams State College and a local since 1982. An award-winning investigative reporter, he and wife Mary E. Staby owned newspapers here for 20 years. Email your social info to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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