Longtime mountain reporter Bob Berwyn has seen his name in headlines almost as much as in bylines in recent weeks. After criticizing the ski industry in the Summit Daily News for hyping a snowstorm on the Front Range when the weather was clear in the high country, Berwyn got an angry call from Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz; he was fired from the paper soon thereafter.
The Denver Post's Susan Greene wrote about it over the weekend, then the New York Times covered it this week. After the jump, the Frisco-based Berwyn tells On the Edge what he thinks of all the hubbub.
On the Edge: So your name has been in the news quite a bit lately, Bob.
Berwyn: It has. It kind of blew up beyond what I ever thought it would. I certainly didn't go looking for attention.
It sounds like you were the first person to be fired for criticizing someone for exaggerating the weather.
That could be. The Summit Daily News says that's not the case, but based on what happened to me, I feel that it is. One thing that's been misreported is that I took the resorts to task for misreporting day-to-day snow measurements. I didn't talk about that at all. I wrote a column on November 19 about the upslope storm in mid-October that hit Denver and the Front Range pretty hard but we didn't get any snow up here in the mountains. I tried to explain how the weather forms in Colorado...and then advocated for transparency and honesty in reporting the weather and the snow.
What happened next?
Rob Katz called me the same day and we had a conversation in which he expressed his displeasure and said that the column called into question "our ability to work with you." I don't know if he meant me specifically or the paper, but that was the gist of it.
What have you been up to since you were fired?
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I launched a blog, the Summit County Citizens Voice, the day I was fired. I thought it would be a good thing for my sanity for one, and second, to continue reporting. I've got a lot of experience reporting up here and there are a lot of readers who appreciate reporting on the Forest Service, forest health, water issues and the ski industry. I feel an obligation to keep doing that.
I'm going to pursue a non-profit model. I'm looking at the High Country News and the Colorado Independent, and a few others that are community-supported, grassroots online media services. It's an experiment in some ways.
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Beyond getting fired and the controversy, how has the season treated you so far?
We're all waiting for good snow. I got in a few good days at A-Basin, but it's still wait-and-see mode up here.
Anything else, Bob?
I feel the Summit Daily News has gotten tarred over the whole incident. I don't feel good about that. I really respect my fellow reporters, editors and photographers. My firing was a management decision, and it shouldn't reflect on the other people who work there.