Selling out

On my way back home from my twice-a-year pilgrimage to Steamboat Springs, I encountered a sign somewhere between the small Western Slope outposts of Bond and McCoy: “Freedom isn’t Free.”

The message itself is hardly novel – cliche some may argue. However, as with any cliche, it’s worth repeating because of the strong implication it has – one that come Monday morning still resounded in my head.

As I returned to work, I opened my e-mails to find a few letters from readers decrying an ad we ran from the developers of River Trails Ranch. I can’t say the letters were a surprise. When we made the decision to run the ad – one that was not entered into lightly – we knew there would be dissension. We knew that some folks who view us as the champions of open space, free thinking, anti-development and idealism would see it as an affront. Sell-outs they would call us, or worse. We cringed at the thought. However, we cringed even more at the sight of our seemingly endless stack of bills. And, after weighing the pros and cons, we decided to run the ad.

You see, much like the aforementioned hackneyed quote, free papers aren’t necessarily free. There’s the weekly four-digit print bill, rent, utilities and payroll – something that Will Sands and I, as owners/editors/publishers/writers/receptionists/delivery schleps, hope to someday be a part of. True, we may be alive after a year in the business, but it is not without losing a good deal of blood, so to speak. In other words, we are like other fledgling business owners and we have mortgages to pay and hungry little mouths to feed.

Furthermore, not running the ad would create a quandary of another sort: Where to draw the line. If we refuse one developer’s ad, should be refuse them all? And what about the local ski resorts and ski areas, who are frequent contributors to these pages. Sure they sell recreation, which we like, but they also are not without their share of controversy, from ski area expansion to ambitious real estate developments. That, of course, cascades into real estate brokering, which facilitates the buying and selling of such developments, not to mention mortgage brokers, who supply the money. And if we include mortgage brokers, why not banks? But why stop here? Perhaps we should shun the car dealers, who, it can be argued, indirectly contribute to global warming by selling automobiles. And then there’s the pizza guys who contribute to the landfill problem with the production of cardboard boxes and the coffee shops who do likewise with paper cups.

OK, so you can see where I’m going with this purely hypothetical argument. If we begin to exclude everyone based on some ideal or another, sure, we’ll be on high moral ground, the only problem is, we’ll be financially marooned there.

The second point of all this hyperbole is to enlighten people to the fact that we are not funded by anything other than advertising. There is no Knight; there is no Ridder. Just a few working fools, some drained savings accounts and a couple of maxed-out platinum cards. Although we would love to be in the business of rejecting ads not to our liking, it is not a possibility at this juncture in our short and checkered history.

To their credit, those who wrote did admit they understood this situation. “Pass around the hat at the coffeehouse,” one proposed as a solution. A noble idea for sure, but it would have to be a very large hat to hold all the loose change if the typical coffee house patron is anything like myself.

Perhaps a better solution is for people to take their hard-earned money and spend it on themselves – provided they do so with our advertisers. That way, they’re supporting businesses that, in turn, support us.

For those who feel cheated by the inability to express their views with advertising, we offer another avenue--the humble pen. Advertising in our paper may cost money, but writing a letter to the editor does not. Just like an ad, you can say anything you want (barring personal attacks) and, no matter how asinine, radical or inflammatory, we’ll print it. So whether you detest River Trails Ranch, this editorial or just want to vent over New Mexico drivers or the rising cost of a 12-pack, allow these pages to be your forum. All you’ve got to do is get it to us in a reasonably legible format (hell, it can even be scrawled on a cocktail napkin for all we care), and we’ll make sure it gets into the hot little hands of 5,000 of your fellow citizens. And best of all, it’s 100 percent, unequivocally, absolutely, positively free of charge – thanks of course to the support of our advertisers.

How’s that for free thinking?

-Missy Votel




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