Inside the News: ‘Deliberative Journalism’ Week in 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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‘A community effort’

In recent years, Colorado has become a clear leader in a movement toward more robust local news collaboration. Perhaps nowhere does there exist a more cohesive network of local newsrooms fostering serious partnerships and cooperation.

Now, another movement in local journalism is taking root — this time in the northern part of our state. Behold, “deliberative journalism.”

The Northern Colorado Deliberative Journalism Project is an effort between the Gannett-owned Coloradoan newspaper in Fort Collins and an academic program at Colorado State University called the Center for Public Deliberation. (Supporting the initiative is the American Press Institute, a national organization that seeks to help sustain local news.)

So what is deliberative journalismColoradoan Editor Eric Larsen described it in a November column, in part, asa “particular form of journalism focused on helping communities engage their shared problems more effectively.”

After a few months of gathering input and feedback, the team behind this project has announced some updates and upcoming events. Call it Deliberative Journalism Week in Colorado.

🗓 Calendar of next week’s events

  • This Sunday, March 20, the Coloradoan will relaunch its opinion offerings. “An inclusive, locally focused forum for the sharing of ideas is a critical component of the Northern Colorado Deliberative Journalism Project, and the Coloradoan is excited to play its part in building it,” Larsen wrote. (In 2019, the paper scrapped its Opinion section to save money; the paper heard many were disappointed by the decision.) In a recent column, Larsen told readers how they can participate in a new opinion forum called Coloradoan Conversations, and he has also published some guidelines.
  • On March 21, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Zoom: “How to Tackle Wicked Problems in Local Communities: Exploring the Potential of Deliberative Journalism,” presented by Martín Carcasson who founded and directs CSU’s Center for Public Deliberation. Following his presentation, a panel of journalists and educators will talk about it. The panel includes Larsen, COLab director Laura FrankBoulder Weekly editor Emma Athena, and CSU journalism professor Michael Humphrey. (RSVP for the virtual event here.)
  • Later in the week, on March 23March 24, and March 26, you can participate in Zoom sessions to learn about and offer feedback on a guide developed by the Center for Public Deliberation “based on initial surveys and discussions at the fall meetings hosted by the Deliberative Journalism Project, and recent research on local journalism.” (Register for any of these Zooms here.)

💻 Join the Monday meeting

Each Monday at 2 p.m., those involved with the Deliberative Journalism Project get together for a weekly check-in over Zoom. On April 4, they plan to open it to the public. If you’d like to attend, register here.

They’ll record the meeting, so RSVP and then note you can’t attend, and they’ll send you a link later. Also, they plan to open meetings to the public quarterly after April 4.

Since launching, Carcasson wrote in a recent update, the team has also been zeroing in on concerns about “how to react to growing misinformation, as well as how claims of misinformation can be used to simply dismiss points of view.” So they’ve set up a panel discussion to hash it out.

  • Also on the near horizon is a panel that will include CSU political scientist Dominic Stecula, journalism professor David WolfgangColoradoan content strategist Rebecca Powell, and others. (Look out for a registration form here.)

Meanwhile, as some community members seek to better understand how journalism works, the Coloradoan is developing a Journalism 101 series that will “educate community members of the people and processes behind the scenes at the Coloradoan.” 

⚙️ More workgroups

This Deliberative Journalism Project in Northern Colorado is still in its early stages. Those behind it are in the process of forming workgroups around specific topics.

Carcasson says he is forming one on “the concept of deliberative journalism itself, as well as other innovative projects connecting local journalism and democracy.” That group will involve working journalists and journalism educators who will meet monthly with “deliberation practitioners and facilitators to explore connections in their work and develop new tools.”

If, like me, you’re interested in getting involved in a workgroup, contact Carcasson at mcarcas[at]colostate[dot]edu. Maybe you have an idea of your own. Follow the project on Twitter here.

While this particular Deliberative Journalism Project is local to Northern Colorado, Carcasson says bringing together local universities, local newsrooms, and local communities might be something others elsewhere could replicate if they’re interested in bolstering local information ecosystems.

“I think we do want to be a model,” he said, adding, “it has to be a community effort.”

How a handful of Boulder journalists see their role

Last week, a city councilman in Boulder turned the tables on his local media by offering an assessment of the local news landscape and interviewing print-and-digital-news journalists about their roles.

Bob Yates, who calls himself a once “frustrated journalist” who was editor of his college newspaper, wrote the item as part of a widely distributed newsletter he pens for constituents. “Here in Boulder, we are blessed with four major publications, ranging from the 131-year-old Daily Camera, to the four-month-old Boulder Reporting Lab, with weekly reporting from each the Boulder Beat and the Boulder Weekly,” he wrote. Here are some quotes from it:

  • “Anything extremely controversial is hard to cover,” said Boulder Reporting Lab Founder Stacy Feldman. “Our business model is based on our ability to appeal broadly. We will have the greatest impact if we can reach a lot of people. We don’t want to write in a way that will turn off the community.”
  • “The old days of journalism are gone,” said Boulder Beat’s Shay Castle. “It’s now a collaborative process. The community has to be part of journalism. Journalism is like democracy, it’s going to happen with or without you. It’s going to be a hell of a lot better if you participate. We’re peers and we need you. All I ask is that people help me and hold me accountable.”
  • “If daily papers offer the who, what, when, and where, we offer the how and the why … context is what we offer,” said Boulder Weekly Editor Caitlin Rockett. “I think alt-weeklies provide a really intriguing way to look at the world.”
  • Without the Camera’s opinion pages, Editor Julie Vossler-Henderson said, “I think that there would be a lot of lost discussion.”

Speaking of Boulder and opinions…

The Boulder Beat news site and newsletter launched an opinion section this week.

Called BBOP (pronounced bee-bop), “Opinions + Perspectives will feature weekly op-eds from the BBOP Panel, as well as guest opinions and letters to the editor from community members,” Boulder Beat Founder and Publisher Shay Castle wrote in an announcement. “All content will be peer-edited and fact-checked by members of the Panel.”

Co-founders of the panel include local clean-energy consultant Jane Hummer, lawyer Doug Hamilton, and Ted Rockwell, former chair of the Boulder Chamber Board of Directors. (Notable: The three used to serve on the Camera’s community editorial advisory board.)

More from Castle:

“Like democracy, good journalism takes work. It takes a community. It takes constant questioning and continued engagement to get everyone at the table actively participating in the conversation.”

“Modern social media allows more people than ever to comment on the news,” Castle wrote in a statement. “But readers still want trusted sources for both news and opinion to challenge one-sided narratives and inform the community on key issues.”

Sign up | Office Hours: How does your local news site stack up?

A few times a year as part of a journalism class activity on media fluency I’ll ask students in my classes at Colorado College to evaluate a handful of online links to local news sources to see how they might determine their legitimacy.

Would you trust something you read on this site? I might ask. Would you share a link to an item from it on social media? Text it to a friend or family member? Or do you worry it might not be a legit publication?

Sometimes, afterward, I find I might have to explain: Actually, that’s the hometown newspaper serving [Town X] and it’s a member of the Colorado Press Association. It’s one of only a few newspapers in the area — and people do rely on it for independent, nonpartisan, trusted local news.

I’ll notice some raised eyebrows or a skeptical cringe as students peruse its website.

That’s not too surprising. As I’ve been working on this project to map traditional and nontraditional local news sources in Colorado, I’ve come across plenty of local news websites that lack basic identifying information about who runs them, owns them, reports for them, or edits them — or even how to contact someone in the newsroom. (All of these are things a news site should easily provide to readers.)

As part of my work for Colorado Media Project, I’m offering five Colorado news sites a free, confidential evaluation this month — including easy-to-implement recommendations for how to make sure your outlet’s website is up to snuff. If you’d like a chance at a free evaluation for your Colorado news organization and one-on-one training over Zoom, fill out this form below. 

Register for these upcoming Colorado journalism conferences

APRIL 8 and 9: The SPJ Colorado Pro Chapter is hosting “Face to Face: Local Journalism in a Virtual World,” a hybrid conference for the western region. Sign up here. (Students get in free.) Location: Auraria Higher Education Campus at 800 Curtis Street in Denver.

  • Panels include: Mental health in journalism, solutions journalism, and a resume workshop, and more. I’ll be on a panel called “social media reporting + shameless self-promotion.”

Click here for the full schedule.

🔎 THIS SUMMER: From Investigative Reporters and Editors, which is putting on this year’s IRE conference in Denver:

“Join us for IRE22 June 23-26! Register now to attend in Denver or attend online to take part in our annual investigative journalism conference.

Up your journalist professional development game by registering at the links above.

More Colorado media odds & ends

🎸 The music video for the song “A fragile thing” by the band Blankslate, offered as a submission for NPR’s Tiny Desk concert series, takes place entirely in the offices of Colorado Community Media.

💨 “I figured I’d have to be dragged out of the newsroom kicking and screaming when the time came to hang up my microphone,” said Colorado Public Radio host Jo Ann Allen. “But to my pleasant surprise, I am looking forward to spending my time not having to pay close attention to the news every day.”

📺 Longtime KDVR news anchor Deborah Takahara in Denver is leaving the station to work in a communications role at the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

🔦 “Through our journalism, we help shine a light on government, are a voice for the voiceless and look out for everyday Colorado taxpayers,” said the CEO of The Gazette’s owner. “We celebrate the city’s growth, successes and expansion and chronicle the triumphs and setbacks of our neighbors.”

✍️ “I’ve been a journalist for a long time. Trust me when I tell you how important yet dangerous it is in my profession to become immersed in what we write about,” wrote Sentinel Colorado Editor Dave Perry.

🎥 A “youth film festival showcases the power of local media,” wrote Kate Perdoni for Rocky Mountain PBS.

🏈 “The Gazette erroneously published a story saying the Denver Broncos had signed linebacker Chandler Jones. We regret the error,” was something The Denver Gazette had to tell readers via email and on its website Tuesday.

🎯 “Pay attention when authoritarians target journalists, here and abroad,” wrote Craig Silverman in a column for The Colorado Sun.

🍼 KRCC Morning Edition Host Abigail Beckman, who had a daughter during the pandemic, wrote an essay about “her isolated pregnancy and her fierce attempts to protect her new baby from the virus.”

🧐 “I can’t wait for Kyle’s ovulating take on the news,” said a former Denver MSM videographer and photographer about 9News anchor Kyle Clark.

🗣 Colorado Mesa University and Jewish Colorado have “teamed up to bring author, podcaster, writer and award-winning journalist Bari Weiss to campus.”

🌦 Reporter Thy Anh Vo has left The Colorado Sun. “I’ve learned so much here and worked with such excellent, funny, kind and thoughtful people,” she said. “I’m stepping away from journalism for a bit but will still be in Colorado.” Vo follows the recent departure of Daniel Ducassi who started there last year.

📺 Denver KDVR anchor Alex Rose said in a social media statement this week that his TV station is “the biggest news team in Colorado” with the “most newsroom employees, and probably the biggest on air team.” (Send me any refutations if you have them.)

📰 “Imagine if other towns, cities, counties and state departments follow the lead of the Town of Estes Park and move the bulk of public notices to their websites,” wrote Colorado Press Association CEO Tim Regan-Porter in a guest column in the Estes Park Trail-Gazette. “Citizens, journalists, researchers, lawyers defending clients, businesses looking for information and many others would be forced to visit dozens, if not hundreds, of different websites to find the information they need.”

🧪 Colorado journalists are still testing positive for COVID-19. “I’ve felt better but I’m also thankful that I’m double vaxxed and boosted,” The Denver Post’s Conrad Swanson told his audience this week.

🔀 The Daily Poster is changing its name to THE LEVER and is moving over to Denver (by way of Hollywood) journalist David Sirota explained what it means for readers.

📢 What’s at stake in a former city council candidate’s First Amendment lawsuit? “The implications go beyond Boulder politics,” writes John Herrick for The Boulder Reporting Lab.

📲 The Saturday Fort Collins Coloradoan newspaper edition goes digital-only starting tomorrow, March 19, along with the Pueblo Chieftain as part of a broader change at its parent company Gannett. The paper’s editor told readers on Thursday what to expect.

🗞 The Pueblo Star Journal launched its inaugural print edition a day before the Gannett-owned Pueblo Chieftain stopped publishing a print Saturday edition.

💬 The editor and publisher of the Indy alt-weekly in Colorado, who testified in favor of the local news bill last week, told readers in a column: “Testifying before legislative bodies isn’t something that journalists do often because of our responsibility to truth and objectivity.”

🤦‍♂️ Some “higher ups” in the Boulder Daily Camera newspaper’s parent company “thought it would be a great idea to experiment pushing more national content to our social media,” one of the paper’s reporters told his audience this week. “Because I know you all follow and subscribe to your local newspaper for gossip about the British royal family.”

🚁 Condé Nast Traveler must have a helicopter.

📖 “I realized that the voluminous public reporting on the case did not square with my own reporting in the community,” says a book author who wrote about Denver.

🎥 A new documentary, “The Colorado Problem: A River in the Red,” dives into the Colorado River’s “100-year past to examine the pivotal present moment for this water source and the civilization built upon it.”

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 newsletter, and my “Inside the News” column appears at COLab, both of which I sometimes write about here. Follow me on Twitter, reply or subscribe to this weekly newsletter here, or e-mail me at CoreyHutchins [at] gmail [dot] com.