City impacted by media

Oct 262003
Authors: Jesse McLain

Eagle has not been the same since Kobe Bryant and the attention

he brought with him.

“There is definitely a sense of being uncomfortable in Eagle

that wasn’t there before,” said Ron Neville, general manager of

Arrowhead Property Management Co., Inc. “We went down to the Eagle

County Fair and there were media people walking around with

cameras. Every time you turn on the TV it’s in your face.”

Although Eagle has experienced visitors from Vail’s tourism

industry, its 3,500 citizens could not have prepared for the trial

that put the spotlight on this town.

Bryant, 25, is facing trial in Eagle for allegedly raping a

mountain resort employee in June.

“[Eagle is] small-town America, most everyone knows everyone,

middle to upper-middle class,” Neville said. “I don’t think Eagle

is as used to the tourism as Vail is. Eagle is where everyone who

works here lives.”

Because the Bryant case has occurred during Eagle’s slow season,

some say media may offer some financial benefits to the town.

“Financially this couldn’t have happened at a better time. The

big debate now is: Is any publicity good publicity?” Neville said.

“If a movie star comes here it’s usually because they don’t want to

have their picture taken.”

However some say complications may occur if upcoming trial dates

run consecutively with Vail’s busiest time for tourism.

“The tourists and the media won’t mix, it’ll impact the touring

industry- it’ll overrun,” Neville said. “(The media) are staying in

town and not leaving.”

Seth Reynolds, a 20-year-old Eagle native, can’t remember his

hometown ever being the subject of this kind of attention.

“Not that I can recall in my lifetime, and I don’t think people

from Eagle like it, its annoying having reporters everywhere,”

Reynolds said. “They set up all kinds of stages, interviews in the

middle of the street.”

The family of the accuser even put out a notice in a local Eagle

newspaper asking citizens to avoid the media.

“I know a lot of people in town don’t really talk to the media

anymore because the victim’s family asked them not to give

interviews anymore,” Reynolds said.

Every citizen notices the media and the Bryant case to a

different degree in Eagle.

Bob Zimmerman, who has lived in Eagle since the fall of 1971 and

is beginning his 33rd year teaching science at the county’s single

high school, says that Eagle is used to celebrities and isn’t the

small town that it was 20 years ago.

“We’re on I-70, celebrities come through here frequently. We

have our own businesses, we’re our own town,” Zimmerman said.

“Yeah, there are a lot of families that have been here for a long

time, but I used to know every student and it’s not that way


Zimmerman doesn’t feel overwhelmed by the media; he simply

avoids them when they’re in town.

“What most locals do when it’s busy like that, locals say, ‘OK,

we won’t go out this week,” Zimmerman said. “I don’t think locals

are feeling pushed out.”

Zimmerman’s students have had widespread reactions to all the


“I’m sure some of the kids got a kick out of seeing their faces

on national television, but unless it was today’s news I never

really hear people talking about it,” Zimmerman said. “Some kids

from the neighborhood she lived in have talked about people just

walking around knocking on doors. They’re digging to find things

that don’t exist.”

Some in Eagle may not take the media’s portrayal of this town to

be as accurate as the rest of the nation may assume.

“A lot of people get a laugh out of (media coverage), we’re just

like ‘who did you talk to?'” Zimmerman said. “They have stuff on

there that is so ridiculous.”

As for Eagle High School, where the accuser graduated over a

year ago, the administration will not tolerate any media


“The administration made it clear that if they’re even in the

parking lot we were going to jump all over them,” Zimmerman


One thing that most in Eagle seem to agree on is that the hype

will be short-lived.

“The longer they stay, the more they’ll fade into the

background,” Neville said. “I personally think in a year or two

it’ll be forgotten.”






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