Paper Trail

The Colorado Daily has been on a long, strange trip for over a century. Is the journey ending or starting anew?

"Please let me introduce myself. I'm Randy Miller, owner of the Colorado Daily..."

So began a letter, headlined "Dear Reader," that appeared on the front page of the March 5 Daily, a newspaper in its 109th year of serving the residents of Boulder -- and while Miller sustained a friendly tone throughout, he also made space for some horn-blowing. He stated with pride that the Daily, whose circulation is estimated at 23,000, "is the only independently owned daily newspaper on the Front Range," noted that it's "believed to be the oldest free-distribution newspaper in the United States," and claimed that it "has the highest readership in Boulder" -- a supposition calculated to nettle folks at the Boulder Daily Camera, the Daily's best-heeled competitor. Furthermore, he put a benign spin on the paper's reputation as "the official voice of the Republic of Boulder," declaring that those who agree with the statement "recognize that we're a lifestyle publication, one that fits with Boulder and increasingly with more and more people."

However, Miller left out many memorable elements of the Daily saga. He failed to mention that the paper has a history of progressivism and edginess that in the spring of 1970 inspired officials at the University of Colorado, where the Daily was born, to sever all ties to it. He decided not to recap its years as a not-for-profit publication, or its early-'80s transformation into an employee-owned operation dedicated to rattling the power structure by any journalistic means necessary. He didn't sketch out how the Daily's financial profile went from stable at the dawn of the '90s to struggling by the decade's end, and he skipped the tale of former finance director Mark Breese, whose alleged embezzlement of somewhere between $250,000 and $1 million preceded the Daily's bankruptcy and ensuing sale.

Randy Miller is the new owner of the Colorado Daily.
Susan Goldstein
Randy Miller is the new owner of the Colorado Daily.
The cover of 1984's anti-Reagan issue.
The cover of 1984's anti-Reagan issue.

Finally, he chose not to address the sadness or apprehension felt by readers and former Daily employees over his acquisition of the paper, and for a very good reason: He says he has no knowledge of such reactions whatsoever. "Every person I've met, whether they've been a community person or an advertiser, has told me, 'We're so happy you bought the Daily,'" says Miller, whose resumé documents nearly thirty years of mainstream newspapering experience, most recently with Iowa-based Lee Enterprises. "All the comments I've gotten have been tremendously supportive."

At the same time, Miller concedes that he knew absolutely nothing about the Daily's reputation for muckraking before late last year, when he learned the publication was on the block. And he prefers to talk about its selling points -- among them, a loyal readership that includes more young people than is common for most newspapers -- rather than politics. For him, the purchase was an opportunity to settle in Colorado, a state he loves, not a way to stick it to the Man.

Nearly two months into his tenure, Miller hasn't turned the Daily upside down. There haven't been major shifts in content, and most editorial employees on staff prior to his arrival are still there, with one big exception. On April 13, Pam White, the first female editor in the Daily's history (she served from 1998 until early March, when Miller took the editor title himself and named her managing editor) tendered her resignation. Some of her reasons for leaving had nothing to do with Miller's arrival: She plans to finish a novel she's been working on since 1994, she wants to explore new journalistic territory (she just took a job at the Rocky Mountain News), and she admits to a degree of burnout when it comes to certain annual Boulder events. "There's only so many times you can cover the Conference on World Affairs without encountering some boredom," she says. But she also believes that the Daily she's known and loved may be slouching toward oblivion. As she puts it, "I think Randy is going to take the paper in a direction I didn't want to go."

She's not the only one with such trepidations. White says she's received numerous calls from members of Boulder's progressive community urging her to stay at the Daily and fight against alterations. And alterations there will be: In his front-page letter, Miller wrote, "There's no question you'll see some changes evolve at the paper."

This prospect leaves White with mixed emotions. "I'm glad the Daily's still here," she says. "I'm glad it didn't have to shut its doors, and I'm glad we found a buyer who didn't want to shut it down and sell it off -- who wanted to keep the paper running. But I was also a strong believer in the employee-owned nature of the paper, and it's been a hard thing to stand on this threshold and see that this paper I had loved for all my adult life was going to change in a way that's irreversible. I felt like somebody I loved was dying, and there was nothing I could do about it."

In the beginning, the Daily was The Silver and Gold, a publication about as radical as a politician in favor of flag and family. A mission statement printed in its first issue, September 13, 1892, revealed that it was "named for the colors of the State University" and endeavored to "represent the best interests of the institution in all its departments" to a student body of approximately 250.

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