Brent Boyer: Transparency and availability are ‘powerful tools’
March 4, 2011
Steamboat Springs — Two people showed up to the Steamboat Pilot & Today's inaugural Coffee and a Newspaper gathering Feb. 2. It wasn't a total failure — the guests shared some interesting ideas, and there was lots of leftover coffee for the newspaper staff to enjoy.
The second go at Coffee and a Newspaper was Wednesday morning, and from a numerical perspective, it was a resounding success. We had a 300 percent increase in community attendance. That's right, eight readers took time out of their mornings to stop by our office and chat with me, General Manager Scott Stanford, Advertising Director Meg Boyer, Circulation Director Steve Balgenorth and Online Development Manager Tyler Jacobs.
The real significance, however, was in the diverse and interesting interaction we had with our guests.
Tracy Barnett, manager of Mainstreet Steamboat Springs, was here at 7 a.m. sharp to pitch an idea about regular business-related columns from her organization.
Marsha Daughenbaugh, local rancher and executive director of the Community Agriculture Alliance, stopped by just to chat and see what Coffee and a Newspaper was all about. It's always good to visit with Marsha and hear about what's happening in the ranching community.
Hank from Hot Stuff Hearth & Home and a Scottish couple who have lived in Steamboat full time for the past three years after vacationing here annually for the previous 20 years, came in simply to meet us and get a tour of the building and printing press facility.
Steamboat resident Christian Karch came in to tell us about hydrocephalus, a lifelong neurological condition in which a buildup of fluid inside the skull leads to serious swelling and other conditions, potentially including seizures and even death. Christian's 6-year-old daughter has hydrocephalus, and he's become a passionate advocate for hydrocephalus research fundraising.
Karch and his wife, on behalf of the Hydrocephalus Association, have organized a 3K snowshoe walk and a 5K snowshoe race March 12 at the Steamboat Ski Touring Center. Look for a story about hydrocephalus and the upcoming fundraiser soon in the Steamboat Today.
The morning ended with a visit from longtime Steamboat resident Irene Nelson, who said she appreciates what the paper provides for the community but also wishes we would have reported more extensively on the design and approval process for the new downtown bus shelters. Irene also urged us to look into the city's upcoming sewer line upgrade in Old Town and whether it would be an appropriate time for the city to bury the existing above-ground utilities to coincide with the sewer work.
I genuinely enjoyed the visits with readers Wednesday. I left our community room that morning not only with a few good story ideas, but with a sense that Coffee and a Newspaper could grow into a popular, once-a-month gathering that tears down any perceived walls between the newspaper and the community we serve.
Tracy Barnett reaffirmed that notion in an e-mail she sent me later in the day.
"I like the opportunity the Coffee and a Newspaper offered this morning," Tracy wrote. "I think you are onto something here. Transparency and availability are powerful tools."
Our next Coffee and a Newspaper is from 7 to 9 a.m. April 6. I hope to see you then.
Brent Boyer is the editor of the Steamboat Pilot & Today. He can be reached at 970-871-4221 and bboyer@SteamboatToday.com