Thirty-three years and counting. What began as a simple newsletter for property owners in the Baca grew into one of the most widely read newspapers in the San Luis Valley. For 33 years, The Crestone Eagle has exemplified the meaning of community journalism. That’s because it has largely been written by you, the readers.
Kizzen Laki, the Eagle editor and publisher for much of her adult life, along with her wife Janet Woodman, have kept the enterprise moving forward for more than three decades, finding the writers and readers to sustain this community newspaper. As of September 1 when Crestone Eagle Community Media (CECM), a 501(c)3 nonprofit, will purchase the paper, Kizzen and Janet will pass that torch to a new team who are eager to carry on the best traditions of the Eagle, while at the same time expanding the reach and the depth of the paper’s coverage.
In an era when many local papers have disappeared due to dwindling audiences and revenues, sustaining the Eagle will be a formidable challenge. The Eagle, however, enjoys great community support, as indicated by the many contributors to its successful capital campaign in December of 2021. In its efforts to transition the Eagle into a nonprofit news organization CECM has had support from Saguache County Commissioners, the Colorado Media Lab, and Colorado College, whose journalism students will periodically join the Eagle staff as interns.
John Waters, a seasoned journalist, was recently hired as the Eagle’s new editor. Waters edited and published the Big Bend Gazette, a monthly newspaper that covered a remote and very rural region of West Texas, for eighteen years. After working alongside the current staff for several months beginning later this summer, he will take on all the editorial responsibilities.
Waters is no stranger to the San Luis Valley. After buying land outside of Fort Garland, he’s been visiting the region since 2011. Following the sale of their newspaper, John and his wife, Marlys Hersey, became full time residents of the valley. They have been enjoying the mountains and hot springs, the hiking and the biking, and learning about and experiencing the different communities here. Marlys has been working as a psychotherapist and is a licensed professional counselor. She is finishing a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling through Adams State University. John has been working as the editor of the Alamosa Courier.
While the editor’s position at the Eagle will be a new adventure for Waters, his previous experiences, especially the years he spent publishing the Big Bend Gazette, have prepared him well. “Because the Gazette was a monthly, I was afforded the luxury of writing in-depth features and investigative articles,” Waters said. “For years, I have been struck by the similarities between the Eagle and The Gazette—in both the depth and community focus.”
Jennifer Eytcheson, currently the Eagle’s Advertising Manager, will be taking on the role of General Manager, which includes oversight of operations, systems and technology, employee relations, production, intern program management, and special projects to increase readership, news reach and revenue.
She and John will work together with the CECM Board to ensure the new Eagle’s success and expansion. “There are so many new ideas to explore,” Eytcheson said, “but we know the importance of the foundation that Kizzen and Janet have laid for us and want to respect and honor that.”
Jennifer will be a great asset to have on the business side of things. She was a corporate trainer and instructional designer for over 20 years prior to arriving in Crestone. Jennifer grew up in San Antonio, TX and went to school at Texas State University in San Marcos, TX, studying English Literature. She lived in Los Angeles for 12 years then moved back to what she calls “the cool part of Texas”, Austin, for 10 years. She thought it very important to travel around the world to be immersed in different cultures and backpacked across Europe and Mexico. She finds nature very soothing and loves to go hiking and camping. She does yoga & meditation most mornings to keep centered. “I’ve done the corporate thing and learned a lot from it. I know I’d rather be at the Eagle putting my skills to work for an amazing community paper.” She is grateful for the last four years, working alongside Kizzen and crew. “The Eagle is my happy place, and I’m so excited to see what we can accomplish moving forward!”