Veteran journalists take over Bulletin

Routon becomes interim publisher, Ferguson editor; reader input sought to help shape plans

Is there a need for residents of Manitou Springs and its surrounding areas to continue having their own community newspaper, which has existed in some form for 130-plus years? If so, what do residents want to read about in their Pikes Peak Bulletin? What are its strengths and weaknesses? What is its potential?

The answers to these and other questions will be the focus of an upcoming  “listening tour” to be conducted by the Manitou Springs Exploratory Newspaper Committee LLC, a recently created company that purchased an option to acquire the Bulletin from its current owners, Bruce Schlabaugh and Dennis Ingmire.

“Our listening tour’s mission is to collect information, opinions, suggestions and general comments from a wide variety of sources, including local residents, business owners, civic organizations, social groups, educators and students … anyone who wants to offer input,” said Ralph Routon, who will serve as chair of the Exploratory Newspaper Committee and interim publisher of the Bulletin.

Larry Ferguson, whose roots as a journalist in Manitou go back to the Pikes Peak Journal, has taken the helm as editor at the Bulletin. Ferguson has lived in Manitou for decades.

Routon, also a multi-decade Manitou resident and prominent journalist, has most recently served as editor and columnist for the Colorado Springs Business Journal (since 2012) and the Colorado Springs Independent (since 2007). He has won numerous state and regional awards, and the Business Journal took the 2013 editorial sweepstakes award as best in its class statewide from the Colorado Press Association. He also spent 24 years as sports editor and columnist at The Colorado Springs Gazette-Telegraph (now the Gazette), from 1977 to 2001.

“We’re excited to have this opportunity to build on the long newspaper tradition in Manitou Springs,” Routon said. “And a major part of that is having Larry Ferguson as the Bulletin’s editor. Larry has spent much of his career covering the people and the communities of Manitou and Ute Pass, telling their stories and following the issues that are important to the area.”

Ferguson said he believes “his job is to serve the community by providing intensely local news and information, most of which can’t be found anywhere else.”

Don Bouchard, the Bulletin’s production manager for more than a decade, will stay in the same capacity with the new company. Former Bulletin news editor Anthony Welch has left the Bulletin for a job with a newspaper in Socorro, N.M.

During this transitional period, the Bulletin will contract with the Colorado Springs Independent and the Colorado Springs Business Journal to provide logistical support including printing, billing, circulation, advertising and other back-office functions.

“Small community newspapers such as the Bulletin are vital for a community to keep its citizens informed and its elected and appointed officials accountable. Yet publishing a viable newspaper is very difficult in these challenging times,” said another two-decade Manitou resident John Weiss, chair of the CSBJ and publisher of the Independent.  “Our hope is that the Indy and the Business Journal can provide needed non-editorial support, especially during the transition period.”

What do residents want to read about in their Pikes Peak Bulletin?

Among the many areas being examined and evaluated by the exploratory committee are the newspaper’s viability and sustainability, along with possible ways to make it more effective in serving Manitou Springs in the future.

Because the views and opinions of residents and readers are essential to that evaluation, the Bulletin is asking for readers’ input via emails, letters to the editor, telephone calls, visits to the office and comments to the staff.

The Pikes Peak Bulletin was founded in December 2001 by Schlabaugh and Ingmire, in big part to fill the void created by the closing of the weekly Pikes Peak Journal in October of that year. The Journal had been published continually under a variety of names and a succession of owners dating to 1882, making it one of the oldest newspapers in Colorado.

Doing business as Pikes Peak Publishing Company, Schlabaugh and Ingmire launched the Bulletin to an appreciative audience of readers accustomed to weekly delivery of a newspaper to their homes.

That continuity, however, has once again been threatened due in part to the nationwide economic recession and hardships inflicted on the Manitou Springs business community by the Waldo Canyon fire in 2012 and subsequent flooding in 2013.

“We are grateful to Bruce Schlabaugh and Dennis Ingmire for maintaining the continuity of a weekly newspaper for Manitou and its neighboring communities, even through the economic challenges they encountered,” Routon said.