Gates COLab Newsroom

The Gates COLab Newsroom at Rocky Mountain Public Media is a state-of-the-art working space for sharing ideas and resources among journalists participating in COLab. It is one of the state’s largest newsrooms, and its tenant partners share a commitment to support an informed and engaged civil society for all Colorado residents.

The primary tenants included 10 of COLab’s founding partners: The Associated Press, Chalkbeat Colorado, Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition, The Colorado Independent, Colorado Media Project, Colorado Press Association, The Colorado Sun, KGNU Community Radio, Open Media Foundation and Rocky Mountain Public Media.

This new-era newsroom is designed to support not only its regular tenants, but also the more than 150 local journalists from COLab partners, representing print, broadcast and digital, large and small, from across Colorado.

The idea for COLab began as a co-working space for Colorado’s public-service media outlets, as Rocky Mountain Public Media was designing its new Buell Public Media Center. At a time when most commercial news outlets nationwide were shrinking due to the rapidly deteriorating advertising-driven business model, nonprofit news outlets were growing — but often small and underresourced. RMPM staff and board members saw the opportunity to create an incubation space where mission-aligned media organizations could share ideas, resources and even staff to create efficiencies and innovate to better serve the public.

Meanwhile, a group of community members led by University of Denver and Gates Family Foundation had launched the Colorado Media Project (CMP) to engage more non-journalists in charting a sustainable future for trustworthy local news that strengthens our democracy. With strategic planning support from CMP, the founding tenant partners developed a mission, vision, and goals for working together. They also set their sights on collaborating with newsrooms across the state.

The tenants agreed that COLab needed staff and a governing structure to support newsroom collaboration, increase community engagement, and stimulate business innovation to increase sustainability. So CMP and the Colorado Press Association each made two-year commitments to underwrite COLab staff and programming. The Colorado Independent also converted its 501(c)(3) nonprofit designation to serve as a new, independent, statewide journalism coalition, media resource hub, and ideas lab: the Colorado News Collaborative.

Then in April 2020, six months before the Gates COLab Newsroom at Rocky Mountain Public Media opened its doors, the global COVID-19 pandemic struck. Like all Coloradans, journalists across the state found themselves at home, isolated from work colleagues, family, and friends. In this moment, the Colorado News Collaborative became unbound by geography and physical space. The partners sprung to action, launching the first major statewide project, COVID Diaries, which lifted the voices and stories of Coloradans from all walks of life and corners of the state. Meeting weekly via Zoom, COLab quickly grew from a partnership of 13 founding organizations to an active, statewide coalition of journalists from 100 news outlets of all sizes, geographies, delivery formats, and business models by November 2020.

Today, while the civic news organizations colocated in the Gates COLab Newsroom at Rocky Mountain Public Media may change over time, the Colorado News Collaborative partners, staff, and community-led governing board provide a center of gravity for all Colorado residents to actively participate in navigating a new, more inclusive, more sustainable future for local journalism in the digital age.