Park Record publisher poised to retire

Andy Bernhard has led the paper for 35 years

After 35 years as publisher of The Park Record, Andy Bernhard will retire on Sept 30.
Photo by Andy Bernhard

During his first week as publisher 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.

The editor at the time, Teri Orr, wrote a column critical of the outfits that the Park City High School cheerleaders wore as they entertained the crowd.

“After the column ran, I got a call from Jack Dozier, who was the principal of the high school at the time, and that guy tore my face off,” Bernhard said with a laugh. “It was a fairly cold introduction to the realities of publishing a community newspaper in a town that was well educated and very vocal.”

Bernhard will take that memory and others from his 35 years at The Park Record when he retires as publisher and hands the wheel over to Valerie Spung, the newspaper’s longtime advertising director, who will take on the additional role of publisher on Sept. 30.

I think the reason why I felt so comfortable here was because it was a beat-up ski town…” Andy Bernhard, Park Record publisher

“I’m retiring from The Park Record, but I don’t know that I’m necessarily retiring,” he said. “I’m going to take some time off, let the cobwebs blow away and take it a day at a time. I don’t have another job. Life is short and it’s time to move on.”

Bernhard has earned that break. During his 35-year tenure, he has steered the award-winning newspaper through peaceful and stormy waters, including the 2002 Winter Olympics, Vail Resorts’ acquisition of Park City Mountain Resort, a string of ownership changes and the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“From my perspective, the Olympics were some of our finest hours in terms of generating revenue and providing exceptional content, although it was right after 9/11, and everyone was pretty apprehensive of what was going to happen,” Bernhard said. “We published three times a week during that period and put out a lot of special sections.”

The ownership changes were a mix of calm and rapid waters in and of themselves, according to Bernhard.

During his time as publisher, The Park Record has been 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.

The Park Record’s ownership changed once again in 2022, when Swift sold its local media and publishing businesses to the West Virginia-based Ogden Newspapers.

Throughout those changes, Bernhard has worked with editors Orr, Sena Flanders, Nan Chalat Noaker and Bubba Brown.

“They have helped maintain the continuity and stability of the paper in the community,” he said. 

Noaker, The Park Record’s editor from 1996 to 2017, 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 and Bernhard had about editorials she wanted to write for each edition.

“It was this wonderful jousting between me as the editor wanting to rattle cages and question authority, and him as the publisher not wanting to alienate the business community, because that would hurt his bottom line,” she said.

These arguments would usually have Noaker on one side pleading the case for whatever the cause was at the time, and Bernhard on the other side, teasing her about being a “bleeding-heart liberal,” she said.

“We fought, but it was with great respect, and it seemed to me we were always able to find a way to make mutually acceptable decisions,” she said.

Brown, the editor from 2017 to 2022, looked to Bernhard’s example of leadership, which came to a head during the onset of COVID-19.

“It was a pretty tough time for everyone in the newsroom, but Andy provided that steady 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 upfront explaining the path moving forward.”

The pandemic proved to be one of Bernhard’s biggest challenges.

“We had to lay off a lot of people, and shut down the sports beat for a while,” he said. “That was difficult. In fact, personnel issues is one of the hardest things I’ve had to deal with.”

While Bernhard led with confidence, he also felt the strain 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 a friend’s business, Bernhard said.

“It’s stressful when you know you have to write a story that will adversely affect your relationships,” he said. “And there was a lot of that.”

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 a little under two years,” he said. “I was selling ads, and was working for my brother Peter at the time who was running Green Sheet Newspapers at Murray Printing.”

While Bernhard learned many things from his brother, he cites the fifth edition of Herbert Lee Williams’ 1978 book, “Newspaper Organization and Management,” as a helpful source of instruction.

Bernhard checked out the book from the library, and still hasn’t returned it.

“I think it was due in 1987,” he said with a laugh.

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 lots of characters, you know, interesting people,” he said. “I think the reason why I felt so comfortable here was because it was a beat-up ski town. And that just seemed to fit me well.”

One of the things Bernhard is most proud of is The Park Record’s opinion pages, home to letters to the editor, guest editorials and the newspaper’s own editorials.

“Letters and opinions are anyone’s interpretations, and the community knows that they can voice their opinions on these pages without us changing what they want to say,” he said.

Bernhard will miss working with his staff, and has enjoyed seeing former employees find successful careers after they have left.

Some of those former employees include Dave Fields, who is now Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort’s president and general manager, and Josh Chin, Wall Street Journal’s deputy bureau chief, stationed in Taipei, Taiwan.

“To a certain degree I understand the amount of money we are able to pay doesn’t often lead to longevity, but I am also really proud of the fact that some people come in for four to six years and are able to put together a very strong portfolio,” he said.

Bernhard is also grateful for long-term employees like Jay Hamburger, who has pounded the pavement of 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 prominent in my mind as leaders here in the community,” he said.

Hamburger praised Bernhard’s leadership skills.

“Andy was able to consistently attract a bright, talented staff in an industry that is notorious for turnover,” Hamburger said. “Former members of the newsroom, some headed to metro or national publications and others finding their way into a wide range of industries outside of journalism, took with them important lessons that are taught at community newspapers like The Park Record.”​

Another longtime employee Bernhard appreciates is Valerie Spung, The Park Record’s advertising director, who will take on the mantle of publisher.

“Val has been my partner in running this place, and I’ve been very lucky to have somebody as dedicated to the business side of this publication,” he said. 

Spung, whom Bernhard hired in 1998, said he has always embraced progress, and expanded the number of magazines and special sections that are 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, and a digital multi-platform division.”

Spung said she is ready for her new duty as publisher.

“I don’t think I can replace him, nor do I want to, but I take this very seriously,” she said. “Andy and I have worked together for so long, so I have a good understanding of what I’m stepping into.”

Bernhard said he is honored to have run The Park Record during a time when Park City has experienced unprecedented growth in a dynamic and well-educated community.

“The Park Record has a life of its own, and it’s my best intention to leave it in as good as possible condition as I can 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 element.”

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