Inside the News: Crestone Eagle Newspaper Transitions to a Nonprofit in Rural Colorado

  • 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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In 2019, The Salt Lake Tribune made big news when it became the first large metro newspaper to convert to a community-supported nonprofit ownership model.

Since then, the Utah paper has laid out a playbook for others to emulate as the traditional advertising-based business model for newspapers continues to crumble. In Colorado, one newspaper has taken a cue — though on a much smaller scale. After more than three decades in operation, The Crestone Eagle, a monthly print paper in rural Saguache County, is set to transition to a nonprofit at the beginning of September.

As the paper’s longtime leader, Kizzen Laki, was looking to retire, a group of locals banded together to form a group called Crestone Eagle Community Media (CECM), raised money, rallied the community, and wrangled support to sustain the paper as an independent news organization.

Laki was a former Crestone mayor who also sat on the town council while serving as the local newspaper’s editor and publisher. This month, the Eagle welcomed John Waters as its next editor and is preparing for a “new era” as a nonprofit newsroom.

From a recent column by CECM member Peter Anderson:

In an era when many local papers have disappeared due to dwindling audiences and revenues, sustaining the Eagle will be a formidable challenge. The Eagle, however, enjoys great community support, as indicated by the many contributors to its successful capital campaign in December of 2021. In its efforts to transition the Eagle into a nonprofit news organization CECM has had support from Saguache County Commissioners, the Colorado Media [Project], and Colorado College, whose journalism students will periodically join the Eagle staff as interns.

Nonprofit status will allow the Eagle to solicit funding from grants and donations to beef up its website, enhance its coverage, and become more financially sustainable, the paper reported in a December 2019 edition announcing its plans.

As it transitions, Jennifer Eytcheson, currently the Eagle’s advertising manager, will become the paper’s general manager where she’ll oversee operations, production, HR, intern program management, and “special projects to increase readership, news reach and revenue,” the paper reported.

In December, the Eagle was one of two dozen local news outlets in Colorado to take part in the Colorado Media Project’s #NewsCOneeds year-end matching grant challenge. That “gave us an opportunity to reach out to our small community and tell the story of this big shift in the paper’s foundation,” Eytcheson said about the fundraising campaign.

Colorado College’s Journalism Institute has been a partner along the way.

For a class called “The Future and Sustainability of Local News,” students in the fall traveled to Crestone and stayed at the college’s Baca campus nearby. While there, they met with Eagle staff along with members of the CECM group and other area journalists, read archives of older area newspapers at the local museum, interviewed residents about where they get their local news and information, and spoke with a county public official about the efficacy of a potential sales tax grant to support local journalism.

The experience also led to a new CC internship program.

Marge Hoglin, a former journalist and entrepreneur who helped lead the transition on behalf of Crestone Eagle Community Media, told this column last year how the Eagle’s circulation area near the Great Sand Dunes National Park has been changing. Economic development projects are in the works, she said, and money is coming into the region that has a diverse population. Growth is going to happen, she added, but the area could use some more robust news coverage.

“There are so many new ideas to explore,” Eytcheson said in the latest Eagle column about the paper’s succession plan. Read the whole thing at the link above.

Advancing Equity in Local News: 2022 Grantee Convening

This just in from Colorado Media Project, which underwrites this column:

Whether you’re a Colorado journalist, a student or faculty member, a librarian or teacher, an advocate or business leader, a funder or community member or civic leader – we invite you to join us for a unique convening designed to inspire your sense of what’s possible for the future [of] our local civic news and engagement in our democracy.

Register here.


To learn, share, reflect and grow together. The primary goal of this convening is for CMP grantees from across Colorado to lift up what they’re doing to advance equity in local news, to share what they’re learning, to wrestle with big questions they’re encountering, and to draw out new ideas for next steps. Every session is designed to be enlightening, thought-provoking, and inspiring – with a diverse mix of perspective and voices, including local journalists, national experts, community members and funders.

This convening is being designed for in-person attendance, though we will be streaming a handful of sessions live and recording some sessions.

Find the schedule here. Organizers say they are “thrilled to be sharing a venue and collaborating with the Colorado Press Association’s Annual Conference” that runs from Sept. 15 to 17. “More detailed session information will be forthcoming,” they said in an announcement. The event will be at the Lowry Conference Center at 1061 Akron Way, Building 697, in Denver.

Ms. Mayhem needs your help

A Colorado publication dedicated to inclusive coverage is suspending operations as it seeks sustainable funding.

When Madison Lauterbach graduated from Metro State University in Denver in 2019, she had a plan. “I wanted to create a publication focused on telling stories and news about the parts of Denver I care most about,” she recently wrote.

A year later she founded Ms. Mayhem with a group of friends, and self-funded it. The site launched during a summer of uprisings over Black lives, which she described as baptism-by-fire. From a recent column.

As much as we’ve educated our audience on the wide range of subjects we’ve covered—pelvic floor therapysobriety during the pandemichow to file taxes as a sex worker—we’ve learned just as much. Over the last two years, we as journalists have been afforded the opportunity to cover topics brand new to us. We’ve developed new skills, knowledge and awareness of the impact of our words. …

We’ve published stories that have impacted the daily lives of Coloradans in many ways: bringing attention to a broken system, boosting the profile of independent artists, highlighting important health issues or explaining ballot measures. We had reporters on the ground in Washington, D.C. for the insurrection and the inauguration. Two of our stories from 2021 won the Colorado chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists Top of the Rockies awards. The Casting Forward team spent a year on an ambitious video project and organized a successful premiere event.

But, like plenty of local news startups in Colorado’s fractured media environment, Ms. Mayhem has struggled to sustain itself financially without institutional support. More from the column:

[D]espite how much we’ve impacted the community, we’ve faced some revenue issues since we launched. I have self-funded this venture from the beginning, hoping that down the road we’d find advertisers, paid content opportunities or a reliable group of Patreon members. As firm believers in free access to the stories we’ve published, we refused to put up a paywall. But we are now staring down the barrel of significant financial loss that I can no longer justify. Unfortunately, the Ms. Mayhem team and I have come to the decision to suspend publication temporarily until we can find a dependable source of income. Our last stories will be published no later than July 31. 

Lauterbach says she would like to continue the site if they can secure funding. “We’d also like to expand our community-based reporting to other parts of Colorado, and perhaps even other cities,” she wrote. “And if given the resources, expanding our video and photo work and breaking into podcasting would be our first priority.”

More here. Anyone interested in supporting the outlet or who has ideas can reach out to mlauterbach [at] msmayhem [dot] com.

Collaborative journalism update: ‘Chasing Progress’

Colorado has become a model for statewide collaborative journalism.

News organizations here are forging partnerships among disparate formerly competing outlets with an understanding that they are stronger together during a time of late-capitalist local news decline. Other states, from Oklahoma to New Mexico, Ohio, and elsewhere are building out local news collaborations.

The latest project, fostered by the Colorado News Collaborative, is Chasing Progress. The multi-newsroom initiative seeks to examine the “socio-economic and health equity among Black and Latino Coloradans over the last decade.” Each installment is also available in Spanish.

The project “traces back to I-News/RMPBS’ Losing Ground, which in 2013 tracked equity gaps in poverty levels, homeownership rates, educational attainment and median family income among Black, Latino and white Coloradans from 1960-2010,” COLab reports. “The name, ‘Losing Ground,’ announced its findings.” Chasing Progress examines what succeeded it, “a period that saw a historically long economic expansion sandwiched by the upheavals of the Great Recession and the COVID-19 pandemic. The ongoing series looks not only at what happened, but why and how and what comes next.”

From COLab’s Tina Griego in a recent newsletter:

No single newsroom in these tight-budget, staff-starved days could devote enough time and resources to a project of Chasing Progress’ breadth and depth. But together, and with the added brainpower and experience of community members, we can. We each take one piece of the greater whole. We learn together. We push one another. This is the promise of collaboration. It is the joy of collaboration.

Griego recently talked about the project with Chandra Thomas Whitfield on Colorado Public Radio’s statewide program Colorado Matters. Listen to the whole conversation here.

RMPBS journalist Dana Knowles shared her story of addiction and recovery

More and more, journalists are opening up about their personal lives with their audiences.

Some newsroom managers might embrace an opportunity for the personal experiences of their journalists to inform their reporting, and some (more unreconstructed ones) might see such experiences as a conflict. Rocky Mountain PBS has publicly stated it’s a newsroom that adheres to the former orthodoxy.

This week, RMPBS multimedia journalist Dana Knowles told her personal story of addiction and recovery in a first-person video and essay.

“Another reason I’m not anonymous anymore,” she said, “is because I want all the introverts, dreamers, sensitives, people with depression, anxiety, addiction, eating disorders or any other mental health issue to hear me and see me, so that they can hear and see themselves and not be afraid to ask for help.”

More Colorado media odds & ends

🤖 “Coloradans recognize the threat of Big Tech’s stranglehold over the news and media space and are united in their desire to curb Big Tech’s outsized power and influence,” political analyst Douglas Schoen wrote this week in a guest column in The Aspen Times that relied on a recent Schoen Cooperman Research poll.

💨 Ana Campbell is leaving as editor of Denverite and moving to Texas to be closer to family, she said. There, she’ll be “the first-ever audience editor for The Texas Newsroom,” a collaboration among Texas public radio stations.

😬 Denver Post sportswriter Kyle Newman apologized for what he called “an extremely poor choice of words” after he deleted a tweet in which he’d opined about batters who celebrate after a home run. (You can find it yourself if you’re curious enough.) A fellow Post reporter publicly called him out for it.

⚖️ Faith Miller is leaving Colorado Newsline to go to law school at the University of Denver.

🗳 Heidi Ganahl, the Republican candidate for governor in Colorado, chose as her running mate Danny Moore, who The Gazette reported once called CNN “the ‘Chineses [sic] News Network’ and [accused] them of … ‘lying to the American people and endangering the lives of American’s [sic] and those of the world.’ He further claimed, ‘They know it, but they are lying to you anyway.’” The Denver Post reported he also once “claimed that 9News ‘staged’ a deadly interaction between a security guard and a conservative protester by goading the protester.” Here’s how Ganahl’s pick played in the headlines.

🗞 Pat Ferrucci, a professor in the journalism department at the University of Colorado in Boulder, published a new study with others that “reveals a path to revenue growth for weekly and rural newspapers.”

📰 The Denver Post is accepting applications for the paper’s fall 2022 part-time paid news reporting internship. “Apply through Handshake or via email,” an editor says. “Deadline to apply is Aug. 31.”

🏛 Jordan Lucero, an incoming senior at Pueblo West High School, “learned from some of the biggest names in media at the 2022 Washington Journalism and Media Conference at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia,” The Pueblo Chieftain reported.

🧪 “A Colorado Springs man who argued the state’s law against manufacturing controlled substances is unconstitutional because it infringes on the protected ‘speech’ of chemists ran into resistance last week from the Court of Appeals,” Michael Karlik reported. “Because chemistry is not intended to convey a message, it is not legally speech, a three-judge appellate panel concluded.”

💳 Denver Post reporter Conrad Swanson responded to a potential reader who was turned off by the newspaper’s paywall on an important story about the Colorado River drying up. Swanson said he is a “big proponent” of micropayments so audiences can read single stories. (Simon Owens has laid out the reasons why news companies resist that.)

🚔 “Denver police officers interviewed both Weldehiwet and Alexander in the hospital, but told neither Weldehiwet nor Alexander that police had shot them. They said they didn’t realize who had shot them until they read news reports the next day,” was one heck of a line in a Denver Post story this week.

📍 Bookmark this: “Reimagining the public square: What’s happening in Colorado’s information ecosystem right now.”

📕 Tim Miller, a Littleton, Colorado native who became a national Republican political consultant before ditching the party, spoke Thursday about his recent book “Why We Did It: A Travelogue From the Republican Road to Hell,” at the Tattered Cover in Denver. 9News anchor Kyle Clark interviewed him. Teague Bohlen interviewed Miller for Westword.

📰 Messan Mawugbe, a corporate communication consultant based overseas who is currently visiting the country and living in Castle Rock, analyzed Colorado news coverage to get a sense of how local media presents children. He published his findings in Modern Ghana. He says he largely looked at headlines because of paywall issues and he hopes his findings are a starting point that might spark a discussion among journalists and advocates for children in Colorado.

📢 Mike Lindell, an election-conspiracist pillow salesman, told Colorado Newsline Editor Quentin Young if he wrote a story, “I will be calling out your name nationally, every minute of every day of my show … And you will be known as the worst journalist this country has ever seen. Do I make myself clear?” (Young wrote the story.)

⚙️Denverite is hiring “someone to direct news coverage and steward long-term vision and mission in our modern, fast-paced and entrepreneurial newsroom.” They will pay between $71,900 and $95,800.

🍄 Denver journalist Chris Walker might have the coolest title in Colorado media right now as a Ferriss – UC Berkeley “Psychedelic Journalism fellow.” The program supported his new City Cast Denver podcast Ballot Trip. (Want a similar title? Apply here by July 31.)

I’m Corey Hutchins, interim director of Colorado College’s Journalism Institute. For nearly a decade I’ve reported on the U.S. local media scene for Columbia Journalism Review, and I’ve been a journalist for longer at multiple news organizations. 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.