Inside the News: How $1 Million Is Flowing To ‘Strengthen and Advance Equity’ in Colorado News

  • Corey Hutchins is a journalism instructor at Colorado College and a contributor to Columbia Journalism Review, The Washington Post, and other news outlets. This column is produced with support from the Colorado Media Project, and is distributed statewide via the Colorado News Collaborative.

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Colorado Media Project, which underwrites this column, announced this week how nearly $1 million will flow to journalism projects at more than two dozen newsrooms and organizations statewide.

The cash injection will infuse nonprofit and for-profit news orgs, a university, a labor union, journalism advocates, and more. Print, radio, TV, and digital outlets will benefit.

This philanthropic funding, $957,150 in total, will help “strengthen and advance equity in Colorado news,” CMP said in a statement. Support will go to bolster efforts around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) at outlets large and small and will aid Colorado newsrooms, journalists, and media entrepreneurs “in launching new projects and strengthening existing efforts to serve communities across the state.”

The initiative comes at a time when some news organizations across the country are reckoning with a legacy of harm they’ve caused certain communities with their past coverage, and are pledging to do better.

On that front, $15,000 will go to Colorado Community Media to fund “a historical look” at The Golden Transcript newspaper’s “coverage of the Black Panther party, and its impact on the local community.” (Coverage in the Transcript around the late 1960s and early ‘70s was … not good, CCM Publisher Linda Shapley said in an interview.)

This particular project comes after News Voices: Colorado’s Black working group last year published five recommendations for Colorado news outlets, including naming and acknowledging “how local-news coverage and media institutions have negatively impacted Black Colorado communities.” Shapley, who was a member of the Latinx Voices working group last year, expects the money will go toward research, paying to retrieve archives, and printing costs to publish a report across other CCM papers when it comes out, among other expenses. “The staff is very accepting of it,” she says, and the paper hopes to finish the project by the fall.

Another grant of $120,000 will fund a managing editor or reporter position at Rocky Mountain Community Media over three years. The goal is to “expand thematic story collaboration, partnerships and distribution for this network of 19 mostly-rural or mountain community radio stations, who collectively reach more than 415,000 unique listeners per week.”

In Colorado’s largest city, Denver VOICE, a newspaper serving people experiencing homelessness, will get $11,950 so it can produce an internal analysis of coverage gaps. Money will also go toward stipends for contributors to cover those gaps, a survey of contributors to identify perspectives, “and an organizational style guide focused on equity, sourcing and framing” of coverage.

In the state’s Four Corners region, KSJD community radio and KSUT tribal radio will get $135,000 over three years to support “Voices from the Edge of the Colorado Plateau,” a collaborative project “with a new full-time Indigenous affairs reporter position and community engagement efforts to expand both stations’ efforts to amplify diverse voices and perspectives in rural Southwestern Colorado.”

El Comercio de Colorado is getting $135,000 over three years to support “Spanish-language coverage of a newly created congressional district in Northern Colorado.” The funding will also support a social media manager “to strengthen digital distribution of this bi-weekly newspaper serving Latino Coloradans on the Front Range.”

In Pueblo, $25,000 will support the launch of Community Story Bureaus at CSU Pueblo, including development of a DEI Advisory Board, recruitment of a DEI student leader, and a “development of plan for leveraging University faculty and resources to support students and citizen journalists in covering issues germane to Pueblo residents.”

Colorado News Collaborative, a.k.a. COLab, will get $25,000 to survey the diversity of Colorado newsrooms, and another $25,000 to “explore solutions for meeting information needs of Spanish speakers in the Roaring Fork Valley.”

Here’s more from CMP about these grants:

These awards also kick off Colorado Media Project’s second three-year commitment as a community-informed, multi-funder coalition dedicated to supporting innovations that make the state’s local media ecosystem more sustainable, collaborative, inclusive, and accountable to the public it serves. Collectively, CMP funders have pledged at least $3.35 million over the next three years to support local communities’ civic news and information needs.

The latest funding effort will also benefit Denver Urban Spectrum, Entérate Latino, and Southeast Express. Open Media Foundation, Mile High Asian Media, Public News Service, Rocky Mountain Public Media, and KOTO community radio are also getting grants for projects. So is KGNU, Afrik Digest, Fresh Water News, Sentinel ColoradoDenver North Star/G.E.S. Gazette, Hablemos Hoy, Keto Multicultural Community Radio, and FactorX LLC. (You can see the projects the money is funding specifically for each of these entities here.)

Colorado’s flagship newspaper is also benefiting from a grant, though not directly. Readers of this newsletter might recall when journalists at The Denver Post said last spring they weren’t allowed to publish a letter to readers in their newspaper about DEI efforts they were undertaking in their newsroom. So they published it through their labor union, the Denver Newspaper Guild, instead.

From that letter:

For months, we worked with local management to craft a letter, which management then sent to corporate lawyers and human resources personnel. But the board of Alden Global Capital, the hedge fund that owns this newspaper, earlier this month rejected the release of the letter. They did not approve of language admitting the harms The Denver Post — like many other local newspapers — has caused marginalized communities.

As part of this $1 million in new funding in Colorado, the Denver Newspaper Guild will get $10,000 to for “externally-led DEI training for local journalists and news leaders” at The Denver Post. “I’m so grateful for the strong local journalism community we have here,” Denver Post reporter Elizabeth Hernandez said about the grant on social media.

A competitive pool of 30 applications applied for these Community News Network grants, CMP said in a statement, and they represented “small nonprofit and/or locally-owned civic newsrooms that serve Colorado residents who — because of language, race or ethnicity, and/or geography — are not adequately served by other news outlets in the state.”

Funding for this initiative came from The Colorado Health Foundation, The Colorado Trust, Democracy Fund, Gates Family Foundation, and Rose Community Foundation.

WaPo identified an ‘obscure media mogul’ in Colorado propping up Steve Bannon

A titan in Denver running a conservative media operation? No, not the one you’re thinking. From Isaac Stanley-Becker in The Washington Post:

Two years after being cast out of the White House, Stephen K. Bannon spoke from a steep, dusty hill outside El Paso, asking for donations. The former investment banker and Hollywood producer wanted cash in 2019 for his latest quest, to privately build President Donald Trump’s stalled border wall. Not many news outlets were paying attention — except for one focusing on his every word.

It wasn’t Fox News or Newsmax. It wasn’t even Breitbart News, the far-right website Bannononce led, using it to help remake the GOP and elect Trump. The coverage came from an upstart network run by a little-known media mogul in Colorado, a felon with a record of unpaid taxes and a family history marked by tragedy and violence. The mogul, Robert J. Sigg, found news value in Bannon’s mission to the desert, which ultimately resulted in fraud charges.

Sigg? Wasn’t on my radar. He apparently “built his media business on weather news and outdoor sports” and when Bannon started his own prolific podcast, The War Room, Sigg, 57, who “owns a a hilltop home overlooking Denver,” took over distribution of it through a network called Real America’s Voice. (I recall once hearing Craig Silverman say Bannon mentioned Denver a lot on The War Room podcast as if there were some connection.)

Sure enough, “In a studio outside Denver, next door to a youth prison, 15 or 20 people put Real America’s Voice on air. Many are in their 20s or 30s and earn about $30,000 per year, said current and former employees, market incentives toward more and more extreme content,” Stanley-Becker reported.

Atleast one Colorado newspaper is publishing press releases under the byline of Real America’s Voice on its website.

Read the whole Washington Post story at the link above.

Colorado is among the best for media literacy

According to one recent study, anyway.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel:

The group Media Literacy Now released its first report on media literacy among younger people in 2020. That report showed that there was a national lack of resources in schools to help students grasp a more thorough understanding of the media sources they consume as they move into adulthood in an increasingly polarized world with an increasingly polarized media environment. In 2021, most states did nothing to combat this lack of media literacy. Colorado, however, was among the few exceptions.

Colorado doesn’t require media literacy in schools, unlike Illinois. But last year, the state legislature passed, and Gov. Jared Polis signed, a bill requiring the Department of Education to create and keep an “online resource bank” that contains materials that can help teachers with classroom media literacy instruction.

More from the Sentinel:

Media Literacy Now’s latest report ranks Colorado behind Illinois as the second-best state in the U.S. for tackling media illiteracy in students, largely because of the new law.

“It’s been a really good model for how this can happen,” Media Literacy Now founder Erin McNiell told the Sentinel. “We’re hoping to see states actually require schools to teach media literacy, but that’s easier in some states than others, but putting that into policy, having the legislators say that media literacy is such an important part of education… sometimes, it’s just a matter of redirecting our resources.”

The kids are all right

Typically, high school news teams report on “sports, student difference-makers and school happenings,” reported Denver7 this week. “But this year, Monarch has a very different and difficult assignment.”

That’s the high school in Louisville very close to where a wind-whipped December grassfire torched nearly 1,000 homes as the most destructive wildfire in Colorado history.

Students in the high-school journalism program at Monarch are tackling coverage of its aftermath. “We want to be somewhere that the students at Monarch can turn to if they need information, you know, what’s going on where they can go for help,” senior Ethan Hendricks told Denver7.

From the TV station:

If any student journalism program is up to the challenge of reporting on the most catastrophic wildfire in Colorado history, it’s Monarch High, or what they call MOHI Media and Journalism, where they’ve won multiple awards in student media.

“With my journalism program, those students are doing real services for their community,” Ben Reed, the journalism adviser for MOHI Media and Journalism, told the station. “And so, it’s important for them to be able to make sure that what they’re putting out there is accurate, it’s truthful and reflective of the needs of the students around them.”

Elsewhere in Colorado, KVNF community radio’s Gavin Dahl interviewed Travis Cantonwine, editor in chief of the Delta High School newspaper The Paw Print.

The editor said about 20 students are involved in the paper this semester who do weekly updates on the paper’s website. “We also are trying to encourage a lot more broadcasting and podcasting,” Cantonwine said.

The KVNF episode includes multiple podcasts produced by the student paper.

Colorado journalism job roundup

At the Colorado Springs Indy, the independently owned alternative weekly serving Colorado’s second largest city, “we believe truth matters — and it always matters,” says editor and publisher Amy Gillentine.

“If you believe it too, and have two-three years’ experience covering local government, education, arts and entertainment, as well as the wacky side-stories that only alternative papers cover — apply today” for a reporter position, she adds. More from Gillentine:

The Indy is an award-winning paper with nearly 30 years in the local market. We speak truth to power, and we cover those stories other outlets won’t. We’re not ‘if it bleeds, it leads’ and this is an opportunity for both long-form investigative journalism, feature stories and more. We are hyper-local and we believe that journalism’s role in the community is to serve as watchdog, to produce solutions-based articles and to provide a voice to those without a platform. We believe that everyone should be heard, everyone has a role in the community.

Applicants should have knowledge of Incopy, TownNews, and the ability to write two to three stories a week. Salary range is $38,000 to $43,000, depending on experience. Send resumes to:

Meanwhile, Boulder Reporting Lab is looking for a full-time climate and environment reporter ($50k to $60k).

The Steamboat Pilot & Today needs “a strong reporter to cover a variety of beats, including public safety, nonprofits and city government” ($37k-$43k).

Westword is looking for a news editor ($55k to $75k).

Find more recently announced Colorado media jobs here.

More Colorado media odds & ends

👀 🗞 A proposed new law in Colorado would require “all state departments to spend at least 50% of the money they spend on advertising … through local newspapers” and create “an income tax credit for supporting local newspapers.”

📈 Axios Denver is expanding. The two-person team is looking for a third reporter. (I’m told they were working on a listing as of Friday.)

 The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel added a black border around that front-page ad this Sunday that made the lead item in last week’s newsletter. In other updates, the founder of Custer County’s new “paper of record” says “we’re not journalists, we’re partisans. And we make no bones about it. We don’t pretend to be journalists. But it’s working for us.”

📰 The Earth spins. Day turns to night. And somewhere a small local newspaper editor in Colorado scraps the comics section, readers freak out, and the editor reinstates it.

💭 Another Colorado journalist, this time for The Associated Press, weighed in on the term Latinx in news writing. “I’ve spoken to lots of Latinos who use the term Latinx. They tend to be young liberal activists,” he said in part. “Do you know how many times they’ve chastized me for using Latino or Hispanic, or AP for using those terms? Zero.”

💨 A news manager quit The Pueblo Chieftainsaying he “can no longer work for @Gannett and take the brunt of its decisions made outside of Pueblo that impact the paper and its community. I’ve enjoyed my time as a journalist, and look forward to what is next.”

📣 Colorado data journalist Sandra Fish has a rant about about political TV contracts the FCC requires stations to post. “In the last couple of years, the ability to find these contracts on the @FCC public files site is severely diminished,” she said.

🐦 When Colorado Gov. Jared Polis shared an item on social media this week, The Denver Post’s Alex Burness pointed out, “This looks like a news article he’s sharing but it’s literally just a Polis admin press release that the Longmont outlet decided to publish.” (That would be The Longmont Leader, but legacy newspapers do it, too.)

⚰️ The News Station, the news outlet profiled two years by this newsletter, “was quietly defunded at the end of 2021,” says its former managing editor Matt Laslo. The outlet had backing from the cannabis industry and a former Colorado journalist.

🦊 After the conservative Fox TV channel “published an article about the school’s decision to participate in Black Lives Matter at School’s Week of Action,” which “spread to other conservative blogs,” a man “upset over critical race theory lied to enter Centennial Elementary before shouting racial and misogynist diatribes aimed at staff,” Kyle Clark reported for 9News.

🆕 Journalist Chris Outcalt, based on the Western Slope, is joining The Colorado Sun where he’ll cover water issues. “Thrilled to have an opportunity to cover one of the most important issues in Colorado,” he said.

📱 Police in Colorado accused teens of a crime after allegedly connecting them to the scene “through their Google searches,” placing them at a suspected arson “through their Snapchat location data” and also “read their messages to learn the arson was a case of misdirected revenge in a drug trafficking scheme.” (KDVR’s Lanie Lee Cook reports: “It took months before a break in the case, with the community fearful it was a targeted hate crime against the Senegalese immigrants who lost their lives.”)

💨 Journalist Susan Gonzalez says she’s leaving Colorado in part “because I can’t take on any more debt and I want to commence the next part of adulthood with some sort of savings and safety nets.”

♨️ “A reporting job has become an economically irrational choice for more potential journalists, disproportionately weeding out the less passionate among them,” reported Joshua Benton in Harvard’s Nieman Lab. Out of 293 new jobs advertised on, “a whopping 155 of them include the word ‘passion,’ ‘passions,’ or ‘passionate’ somewhere in the ad copy,” he found. Some of them are in Colorado.

🆕 Emma Athena is the new senior editor of Boulder Weekly.

💨 Colorado Public Radio’s Claire Cleveland joins the Great Resignation after two-and-a-half years at the outlet. She called her time there amazing, but said “it’s also been an incredibly challenging few years, both professionally and personally. I, like so many people, have experienced so many forms of loss and it’s become very apparent that I need to step back and focus on me.” She’s not moving to another job yet. “The plan is to take a big ‘ole break in February to get some personal projects done and give my brain a much needed chance to recover.”

🎙 History Colorado’s Lost Highways podcast “presents tall, and surprisingly frank, tales from our state’s past,” The Denver Post reported.

🔎 The Marshall Project this week launched TESTIFY, an investigation exploring the lopsided outcomes in an Ohio county court system “including why 75% of incarcerated people convicted in Cuyahoga County are Black.” Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Wesley Lowery, whose hometown is Cleveland, is a contributor to it. Lowery is currently teaching “The History and Future of American News” at Colorado College.

I’m Corey Hutchins, interim director of Colorado College’s Journalism Institute, the Colorado-based contributor for Columbia Journalism Review’s United States Project, and a journalist for multiple news outlets. The Colorado Media Project, where I write case studies, is underwriting this column, and my “Inside the News” column appears at COLab, both of which I sometimes write about here. Follow me on Twitter or subscribe to this weekly newsletter here, or e-mail me at CoreyHutchins [at] gmail [dot] com.