We are excited to announce COLab will be partnering with Colorado Press Association and Colorado Media Project on a series of media-industry-led working groups that aim to tackle some of the most pressing challenges facing our industry — from growing our digital products to building pathways for a more diverse generation of journalists and more.
The announcement below from CMP details each of the topics and how you can get involved.
Join Us to Explore Five Wicked Problems
Today, Colorado Media Project is excited to announce $360,000 in new commitments to ecosystem partners who are dedicated to helping our state’s local newsrooms explore and pilot innovative solutions to wicked problems that they are facing right now, in communities across the state. And we invite you to join us.
In 2023 the Colorado Press Association and the Colorado News Collaborative, with support from Colorado Media Project and other partners, will host a series of cross-sector working groups and pilot projects designed to address core pain points, starting with:
Digital Strategies/CMS Conversions for Reach and Revenue: According to a 2022 statewide survey commissioned by CMP, 79 percent of Colorado residents consume information daily on a mobile phone, compared to 10 percent who use print and 24 percent who use radio. Yet very few independent Colorado newsrooms (those not owned by hedge funds or national chains) have adopted sophisticated digital strategies to ensure that their high-quality content reaches Colorado audiences online, and many have not upgraded their websites or invested in new digital products in years. This working group will convene newsrooms that are planning to move to new, modern, WordPress-based websites and content management (CMS) platforms in 2023 – and provide sustainability benchmarking and digital readiness analysis, cohort and technical support, and small implementation grants for 5-6 newsrooms to explore what’s possible in terms of managed services, content collaboration, revenue development, and possibly even membership bundling when affiliated newsrooms share compatible tech platforms. Share your plans and apply to join the cohort here.
The Future of Printing: Particularly in rural, mountain and suburban areas, community newspapers remain the primary source for original local news – and print advertising remains the bread-and-butter revenue source for most of these outlets. Yet huge rises in printing and delivery costs and shrinking options for affordable printing are impacting Colorado newsrooms and their ability to serve communities. This working group will continue exploring what options exist, and recommend possible solutions based on the current market and learning from other states. Share your experience and learn more here.
Citizen Observers / Earn Your Press Pass: In an effort to increase civic engagement and the public’s role in public accountability, participants in this working group will help shape two complementary initiatives: In the Colorado Citizen Observers pilot project (CCOPP), the League of Women Voters – in partnership with Open Media Foundation, City Bureau’s Documenters program, CSU’s Center for Public Deliberation, and other partners – is preparing to pilot a program in Larimer County to train residents to document and share notes from public meetings. In addition, CPA is partnering with Earn Your Press Pass to offer complimentary use of a robust, web-based program that newsrooms can use to train residents how to become community reporters. Learn more, weigh in and join the working group here.
Ethnic Media Advertising Network: Newsrooms that serve Colorado’s communities of color and non-English-speaking residents are uniquely trusted and best-positioned to provide civic news, local information, and opportunities to the state’s too-often marginalized residents. Yet among all community newsrooms, these local businesses often experience the most significant constraints in terms of revenue and sustainability. This working group will convene BIPOC-led newsrooms to develop an advertising coalition – including shared collateral and revenue agreements – and provide assistance to attract more reliable financial support from Colorado businesses, community groups, and public agencies. Share your priorities and join the cohort here.
Workforce Pathways for Inclusive, Sustainable Newsrooms: To serve the modern information needs of Colorado’s diverse communities, local newsrooms need editorial and business leaders with a wide range of skill sets, perspectives, and life experiences. What formal and informal training and pathways are available for young and entrepreneurial Coloradans, as this mission-critical industry continues to evolve? This is a huge, overarching issue for Colorado media; so in 2023 we’ve selected “Designing Equitable Internships” as the focus for this working group. Newsrooms that are planning to host paid internships this summer are invited to join us, to share best practices and get guidance from experts, and to develop and pilot a sustainable fellowship model that offers cohort support and mentorship for interns of color and with diverse backgrounds. Share your plans and join the working group here.
Newsrooms, journalists, and community members have guided the priorities for these 2023 working groups via surveys, focus groups, one-on-one conversations, and grant applications.
How do I participate, and what is the time commitment?
There are a number of ways to join us:
— Join the Colorado Press Association for a virtual Lunch and Learn on Tuesday, March 28th, from 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. (register here). Each working group lead will provide a brief introduction to their work, and answer any questions from the community. COLab partners can also learn more on the COLab weekly call, Thursday, March 30, 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
— Share your insights and priorities via a quick-poll. Each working group has its own five-minute survey, linked above. This is a quick way to weigh in and help shape the working group and its priorities. If you have additional questions, you can reach out to the project lead to learn more.
— Join a working group to share your knowledge and ideas, and gain cohort support. Via each survey, you can flag your interest in joining regular meetings and be among a small group of industry leaders committed to steering each working group. Note: Please select only the working group/s that deal with issues you’re most interested in tackling, this year (2023) specifically.
This work is iIndustry- led, with CPA, COLab, and CMP convening industry leaders in each working group under the Next Generation Sector Partnerships model, which the Colorado Workforce Development Council (CWDC) launched in Colorado in 2005 and has been growing since to foster industry-driven alignment across economic development, workforce development, and education. As higher education, community-based organizations, and philanthropy increasingly play new roles in new models for local civic news, the working groups also will incorporate elements of collective impact to articulate a common agenda, shared goals and measurements. And we will utilize design thinking processes to understand pain points and systemic gaps, and to develop and test innovative solutions through pilot projects.
CMP is a philanthropic initiative housed at Rose Community Foundation that pools support from local and national sources to support the state’s rapidly changing local news ecosystem. We work closely with partners to catalyze innovations that surface new and sustainable approaches to address local news and civic information gaps, and create a healthier, more inclusive, collaborative, and resilient local news ecosystem.
New commitments from CMP’s Innovation and Sustainability fund that support 2023 working groups and pilot projects include:
Colorado Press Association: $75,000 to support working group leadership and convening, sustainability benchmarking, digital strategy and technical support for CMS conversions. (In January, CPA received a $25,000 grant from CMP’s Advancing Equity fund for development of ethnic media ad kit and revenue strategy.)
Colorado News Collaborative: $150,000 from CMP to support sustainability benchmarking, digital strategy and technical support for CMS conversions, and cohort support for CMP’s Advancing Equity grantees participating in the equitable internships working group and the Ethnic Media Exchange.
Colorado News Conservancy: $50,000 to support Colorado Community Media’s network of 24 newsrooms in exploring efficiencies in printing and delivery that can reduce costs and create learning for other papers in Colorado, and to complete a digital transformation of the newspapers to build their long term sustainability and share relevant learning in real time with other ecosystem and newsroom partners in Colorado. CNC recently received an additional $60,000 for this work directly from Gates Family Foundation.
Public Media Company: $25,000 from CMP to support 20 stations in the Rocky Mountain Community Radio coalition as they develop digital strategies and products that increase their capacity to reach online audiences in rural and mountain communities, with support from RMCR staff.
$60,000 from CMP to support up to six newsrooms in the Digital Strategies working group with small implementation grants to help them adopt new, modern, WordPress-based CMS platforms and digital strategies and participate in a cohort to share learning and explore opportunities for sharing content, product development, ad sales, and membership. If you are a newsroom planning a CMS conversion in 2023 and would like to be considered for this grant, please fill out the form here.
Additional leadership and support for this work includes:
Colorado Workforce Development Council (CWDC): CPA’s leadership of the working groups is made possible thanks to a three-year grant to CPA by the CWDC awarded in late 2022. The Regional Sector Staffing Grant is supported by federal award number SLFRF0126 to the State of Colorado by the U.S. Department of Treasury. This includes funding appropriated to the CWDC through Colorado House Bill 21-1264.
COLab’s leadership of the working groups is made possible thanks to a grant and technical support from the Microsoft Journalism Initiative.
League of Women Voters: A cross-sector group of partners in Larimer County is working to develop a scalable model for Citizen Observers to create a new, independent public record by training and paying residents to attend meetings and publish the results, supported by a $50,000 grant from Gates Family Foundation.
Open Media Foundation: A $25,000 grant from CMP’s Advancing Equity fund (announced in January) supports Career Engine, a service for newsrooms that supports recruitment and placement of diverse candidates in newsrooms across the state.