During his first week as editor of The Park Record in January 1987, Andy Bernhard learned what it was like to offend a reader who happened to be a prominent member of the community.
Then-editor Teri Orr wrote a critical column about the outfits the Park City High School cheerleaders wore as they entertained the crowd.
“After the column was published, I got a call from Jack Dozier, who was the high school principal at the time, and this guy ripped my face off,” Bernhard said with a laugh. “It was a pretty cold introduction to the realities of publishing a community newspaper in a well-educated, very noisy town.”
Bernhard will carry this and other memories of his 35 years at The Park Record when he retires as publisher and hands over to Valerie Spung, the newspaper’s longtime advertising director, who will take on the additional role. editor on September 30.
“I’m retiring from The Park Record, but I don’t know if I’m necessarily retiring,” he said. “I’m going to take a little time, let the cobwebs fly away, and take it one day at a time. I have no other job. Life is short and it’s time to move on.
Bernhard deserved this break. During his 35 years in office, he led the award-winning newspaper through peaceful and stormy waters, including the 2002 Winter Olympics, the acquisition of Park City Mountain Resort by Vail Resorts, a series of changes ownership and the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“From my perspective, the Olympics were some of our best hours in terms of generating revenue and delivering great content, even though it was right after 9/11, and everyone was pretty worried about what was going to happen,” Bernhard said. “We posted three times a week during this period and released many special sections.”
The ownership changes were a mix of calm and fast waters in and of themselves, according to Bernhard.
During his time as publisher, The Park Record was owned by Diversified Suburban Newspapers, which was run by Dean Singleton and Bernhard’s brother, Peter Bernhard, MediaNews Group, which owned The Salt Lake Tribune, Digital First Media and Swift Communications.
Ownership of Park Record changed again in 2022, when Swift sold its local media and publishing business to West Virginia-based Ogden Newspapers.
Throughout these changes, Bernhard worked with editors Orr, Sena Flanders, Nan Chalat Noaker and Bubba Brown.
“They helped maintain the newspaper’s continuity and stability in the community,” he said.
Noaker, editor of The Park Record from 1996 to 2016, said Bernhard understands the importance of journalism and the delicate balance it takes to run The Park Record as a business.
She fondly remembers the debates she had with Bernhard about the editorials she wanted to write for each edition.
“It was this wonderful joust between me as a publisher wanting to shake the cages and question authority, and him as a publisher not wanting to alienate the business world because that would hurt his bottom line,” she said.
These arguments would typically have Noaker on one side arguing the case for whatever cause it was at the time, and Bernhard on the other side, teasing her about being a “bleeding-heart liberal,” a- she declared.
“We fought, but it was with great respect, and it seemed to me that we were always able to find a way to make mutually agreeable decisions,” she said.
Brown, the 2017-2022 editor, reflected on Bernhard’s example of leadership, which came to a head at the onset of COVID-19.
“It was a pretty tough time for everyone in the newsroom, but Andy provided that consistent leadership and made sure we were committed to serving the community the best we could,” Brown said. “With all the financial uncertainty and advertisers pulling out of the paper, Andy was always candid in explaining the way forward.”
The pandemic has proven to be one of Bernhard’s biggest challenges.
“We had to fire a lot of people and shut down the rhythm of the sport for a while,” he said. ” It was hard. In fact, staffing issues are one of the hardest things I’ve had to deal with.
As Bernhard steered with confidence, he also felt the pressure his job could put on friendships, especially since the newspaper has a duty to report something that isn’t always complimentary to a friend or to the business of a friend. a friend, said Bernhard.
“It’s stressful knowing that you have to write a story that will negatively affect your relationships,” he said. “And there were a lot of them.”
Bernhard knew very little about The Park Record and publishing in general when he arrived in Park City.
“I had only been in the newspaper industry for just under two years,” he said. “I was selling advertisements and working for my brother Peter at the time who ran Green Sheet Newspapers at Murray Printing.”
Although Bernhard learned a great deal from his brother, he cites the fifth edition of Herbert Lee Williams’ 1978 book “Newspaper Organization and Management” as a useful source of teaching.
Bernhard borrowed the book from the library and still hasn’t returned it.
“I think it was planned for 1987,” he laughed.
Bernhard also learned about The Park Record’s role in the community by personally meeting residents and visiting local businesses.
“When I got here, there were a lot of characters, you know, interesting people,” he said. “I think the reason I felt so comfortable here was because it was a run down ski resort. And that seemed to suit me well.
One of the things Bernhard is most proud of is The Park Record’s opinion pages, which feature letters to the editor, guest op-eds, and the paper’s own op-eds.
“The letters and opinions are anyone’s interpretations, and the community knows they can voice their opinions on these pages without us changing what they mean,” he said.
Bernhard will miss working with his staff and has enjoyed seeing former employees find successful careers after they leave.
These former employees include Dave Fields, who is now president and general manager of Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort, and Josh Chin, deputy bureau chief of the Wall Street Journal, based in Taipei, Taiwan.
“To some degree I understand that the amount of money we’re able to afford doesn’t often lead to longevity, but I’m also very proud that some people come for four to six years and are able to put together a very strong portfolio,” he said.
Bernhard is also grateful to longtime employees like Jay Hamburger, who pounded the Park City beat for 25 years, and columnists Orr and Tom Clyde.
“We’ve been very lucky with these writers, who I think are the most important in my mind as leaders here in the community,” he said.
Hamburger praised Bernhard’s leadership skills.
“Andy has been successful in consistently attracting bright and talented staff to an industry notorious for turnover,” Hamburger said. “Former members of the newsroom, some who have gone on to metropolitan or national publications and others who have worked their way into a wide range of industries outside of journalism, have taken with them important lessons that are taught in community newspapers like The Park Record.”
Another longtime employee Bernhard appreciates is Valerie Spung, The Park Record’s publicity director, who will take on the role of editor.
“Val has been my partner in running this place, and I’ve been so lucky to have someone so dedicated to the business side of this publication,” he said.
Spung, whom Bernhard hired in 1998, said he always embraced progress and increased the number of magazines and specials published under The Park Record brand.
“When I started, we had the Real Estate Weekly and some special sections,” she said. “Today we have The Park Record newspaper, 22 magazines, three special sections, parkrecord.com and a cross-platform digital division.”
Spung said she was ready for her new duty as an editor.
“I don’t think I can replace him, and I don’t want to either, but I take this very seriously,” she said. “Andy and I have worked together for so long, so I understand what I’m getting into.”
Bernhard said he was honored to lead The Park Record at a time when Park City experienced unprecedented growth into a vibrant, well-educated community.
“The Park Record has a life of its own, and it’s my best intention to leave it in the best possible condition for the next steward,” he said. “The Park Record is part of the fabric of the community, and it will continue to be that vibrant and important part.”