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2/28/2013 Still Alive and Kickiní

The Tribune joined its brethren from the fourth estate this past weekend at the annual convention in Denver of the Colorado Press Association. The event was celebratory for many reasons, not the least of which was the fact that it was the 135th annual gathering of Colorado’s newspaper folk. (Though that first conclave in 1878 had a rather rough start: a special excursion train was arranged from Denver to Central City primarily for the purpose of some heavy drinking but the train de-railed on the trip up. All survived.)

First the good news: The Tribune was honored in the competition category of “Best Editorial Special Section” for our special edition published last July commemorating the 125th anniversary of the incorporation of the town of Westcliffe. We’re honored to add this to our wall-full of awards for advertising, best stories, best photographs, best editorials, general excellence and others received in recent years.

Now the better news: despite rumors to the contrary, Colorado’s newspapers are alive and kicking. Just a few years ago, the newspaper industry was declared to be on life-support or a relic not much different than the wagon wheel industry. There were some elements of truth to those perceptions: circulation at big city dailies dropped dramatically (and many closed shop, including Colorado’s first newspaper, the Rocky Mountain News); newsrooms faced massive layoffs; the public hadn’t the time nor inclination to pick up and read a newspaper as had been done for generations past. And of course those foisting this dinosaur legacy hailed the internet as the provider of all the news anybody needs.

Truth be told, daily newspapers adjusted fairly to this new dynamic. And for smaller communities, like ours, there’s really no other outlet to learn about town board actions, school news, club activities or what’s on sale this week at the grocery store. Community papers retain incredibly strong “household penetration” and despite the economic decline experienced the last few years (this week’s rather skinny edition an example of that) community newspapers have tightened their belts, weathered the storm and are facing the future with optimism, new opportunities, and a fighting spirit.

There may no longer be fateful excursion trains to Central City, but the annual press convention helps put this crazy newspaper business into a fresh and proper perspective. We’ll drink to that.