We’re writing to introduce you to our new boss, the Colorado News Collaborative’s (COLab) Executive Director Laura Frank.
Laura is a Denver native and award-winning journalist who spent 20 years reporting for newspapers, radio and public television around the country, specializing in investigative reporting and data analysis. We’ve known her since she reported for the late, great Rocky Mountain News. After it closed, she went on to pioneer collaborative journalism in Colorado as the founder of I-News, the nonprofit investigative outlet that merged with Rocky Mountain Public Media in 2013, the first such merger in the nation. She led the journalism team there for seven years.
In her new role, Laura is leading more than 20 newsrooms in collaborative reporting through COLab, the non-profit that The Colorado Independent, the Colorado Media Project and the Colorado Press Association have joined together to form over the last several months. COLab’s mission is to support journalism excellence throughout Colorado at a time of massive hits to our industry. Laura’s job partly entails managing the two of us in our new roles helping newsrooms cover stories they don’t have the resources to cover alone, and covering wide swaths of the state where there is no local news source reporting important stories. She also is managing a team of engagement and business specialists, creating opportunities for journalism and sustainability training for news outlets statewide, fostering COLab’s growing number of community partnerships and launching a statewide grassroots movement to nurture Colorado’s media landscape just as conservationists seek to preserve our natural landscape.
It’s a big job, and we’re thrilled to be working with her. In the same dogged way she pursued stories as a journalist, she’s now pursuing ways to pay for news coverage, distribute it as widely as possible and engage Coloradans in their communities’ most important issues.
“Now my job isn’t just about getting my story out. It’s about getting everyone’s stories out there. That’s what I love about COLab, and that is a gift to me,” she says.
Some of you might remember the 2009 documentary “Final Edition: The End of a Newspaper” about the Rocky’s closing. Laura was featured throughout talking about the importance of local news and journalists’ mission holding power to account. There is a moment at the very end, after the credits, that says a lot about her. It’s when she was asked if there was anything else she wanted to add as the paper shuttered.
“I guess I would just like to say to our sources, to our readers, thanks. And I’m sorry,” she said tearfully.
Laura – one reporter in the Rocky’s newsroom of some 200 journalists – certainly had nothing to apologize for when it came to the business practices of the paper’s owner, E.W. Scripps, nor traditional newspapers’ failing business model. Still, she felt her calling as a journalist and the depth of her service to the public so powerfully that she apologized it was ending, nevertheless.
Eleven years later, she says there are two ways to look at the state of the news business. One is “Oh, no, everything is falling apart. What are we going to do?” The other is “What can we build from this? What can we do together that we can’t do alone? How can we make it better than before so that all these news organizations throughout the state – big and small, nonprofit and for-profit, radio, TV, newspapers and digital – are working together and the strength and effectiveness of that system are even greater and no single company or funder can come and pull the rug out from underneath it?”
It is easy to be nostalgic about the old days when our newsrooms were flush with resources. But, as Laura sees it, “it was still a weak system, as evidenced by its failure.”
“We certainly haven’t yet figured out how to raise those kinds of resources yet,” she acknowledges. “But it feels so exciting to be working on the longer-term viability of news and looking for solutions.”
Please help us welcome Laura – who is also in charge of fundraising – with a contribution in support of our work and COLab’s work more generally. Thank you, as always, for caring about news excellence in Colorado.
This note went to our email subscribers on August 21. Want to stay in the loop on our news collaborations and other work? Sign up here.