Colorado News Collaborative this week unveiled what it calls a first-of-its-kind online guide that will “help newsrooms find diverse sources” while also helping community members connect with local reporters.
“We want news that’s more inclusive, we want news that’s more equitable, we want news that involves community,” said COLab journalist and coach Tina Griego. “This is a tool.”
The announcement Thursday evening at the Buell Public Media Center in downtown Denver kicked off an opening reception for the Colorado Press Association’s annual convention, which runs through Saturday.
Here’s more from the COLab page that houses Amplify Colorado:
Local newsrooms long have known that they need to improve their coverage of communities of color and other groups who have been historically left out of stories or who have been depicted in stereotypes, without complexity and nuance. …
Amplify Colorado is a publicly accessible directory of experts from communities of color and other diverse communities that newsrooms need to better serve, including, but not limited to, women, youth, elders, LGTBQ+, Coloradans with disabilities, rural residents, veterans, immigrants and refugees. Amplify also includes reporters’ and editors’ contact information so community members can more easily find them.
The impetus for this new statewide Colorado source guide grew out of a series of working groups in Colorado in recent years that included “Black Voices,” “Latinx Voices,” “AANHPI Voices,” “Indigenous communities,” and journalists and community members that identify as part of those communities.
“Across the board with every group — as you might expect — there was this call for news coverage that was both deeper and broader, reflecting the range of experience and expertise that lies within diverse communities of all kids,” Griego said.
She urged Coloradans to upload their information to the database to help form connections that will lead to richer, more nuanced and inclusive news coverage.
“While on the community-member side of things we are looking for folks from diverse communities — underrepresented communities — on the journalist side of things it’s a free for all,” she added. “So if you’re a working journalist in Colorado — we simply don’t have enough journalists of color — and so we encourage all journalists to put their information here.”
Find the new tool here.
New data about who owns local news in Colorado
This week, Colorado Media Project, which underwrites this newsletter, published a new paper titled “Reimagining Colorado’s Public Square.” It asks this question: “What does a healthy local news & information ecosystem look like in 2028 — and how do we get there?”
One part of the paper comes with some new data about news ownership in Colorado. David Coppini at the University of Denver and I handled the research (but mostly it was David).
Here are some findings:
- “Ownership: 150 Colorado newspapers are currently under local ownership, collectively accounting for 56 percent of local newspaper circulation statewide.”
- “Closures: At least 52 newspapers have closed since 2004 — including 19 since the last time CMP reported this data in 2019.”
- “Rural Service: 25 Colorado counties have only one newspaper producing original, local news; 88 percent of these counties are considered non-metro, and 48 are classified as completely rural.”
Colorado Media Project also visualized data that Coppini and fellow DU journalism professor Kareem El Damanhoury analyzed, showing what kinds of outlets produced the share of local and original stories on a given day when they looked:
Read the entire Colorado Media Project paper — it contains a plethora more than just this data — here.
Media lawsuit: 9NEWS vs. Red Rocks
Three months after a summer hailstorm pelted concertgoers at the iconic outdoor Red Rocks venue, a Denver TV journalist is fighting for answers — in court.
Steve Staeger, a reporter for 9NEWS, filed a lawsuit last week, arguing that city officials in Denver are improperly withholding text messages and other documents after he asked for them under our state’s open-records laws.
Jeff Roberts at the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition has the scoop:
The city denied the requests, claiming that “text messages are not records made, maintained, or kept by the City and are not subject to disclosure” under CORA. “Therefore, nothing will be produced in response to your request.”
But the Denver District Court lawsuit, prepared by media and First Amendment lawyer Steve Zansberg, notes that CORA defines a “public record” to mean any “writings” — including digitally stored data — that are “made, maintained or kept” by any political subdivision of the state “for use in the exercise of functions required or authorized by law or administrative rule.”
“The actual location of a writing — in a ‘personal filing cabinet’ at the home of a public employee, in a hand-written diary or journal kept in a locked nightstand drawer at home, or a ‘private’ repository of electronic communications — is irrelevant to the question whether the document in question is a public record,” the lawsuit argues.
Colorado journalist Chris Walker thanked Staeger and 9NEWS for “finally bringing a lawsuit to establish in court that government employees’ text messages are subject to CORA.”
Colorado in 2028: What was top of mind for action during a media summit
On Thursday at the Curtis Hotel in downtown Denver, organizers of a Colorado Media Project summit asked nearly 150 attendees a set of questions.
One of them was what the assembled journalists, funders, media advocates, and community members believe are the most important elements for a healthy Colorado news and information ecosystem five years from now.
During the summit, here were some themes that emerged:
- A need to address headwinds including artificial intelligence, polarization, an aging population, lack of relevance with young people, and trust (especially among nonwhite people).
- Inclusive journalism centered on community and building genuine relationships.
- Diversified and transparent funding.
- Collaboration and sharing (content and backend services).
An appetite for efforts to encourage widespread news literacy and media fluency over the next five years also emerged as a theme of the day. Building a strong and broad-based coalition for public policy that supports a healthier ecosystem for local news and information also led to robust conversation. (I attended and spoke at the event.)
Christine Schmidt of the Democracy Fund, who was also there, offered some of her own takeaways in the Local Fix newsletter today:
Though we came from a range of perspectives at our tables, we all cared about building local journalism that was part of the community, adaptable to new opportunities and challenges (AI, anybody?), and sustainable — financially and beyond.
She also highlighted two speakers at the event:
“In five years, I want to see more solid and authentic relationships between journalists and young people” — Tiya Trent, a community activist, organizer, and program manager at Project VOYCE (Voices of Youth Creating Equity). She explained how the organization was founded in 2006 by students coming together to address the closure of their high school, a traditionally underserved, high minority, high free/reduced lunch, inner city public school in Denver. Trent was part of the Black Voices Working Group, made up of Black leaders, storytellers, journalists, funders, and community members who developed recommendations on improving relationships between Black residents and media across the state.
“Those with the least institutional power are the experts in identifying solutions for themselves and their families” — Olga Gonzalez, executive director of Cultivando, a nonprofit that serves the Latino community in Adams County, CO through community leadership to advance health equity. She encouraged people in the room to learn from the promotora model, where trusted members of Hispanic/Latinx communities work with partners to connect people to resources and share verified information, such as about COVID vaccines or support in situations of domestic violence. Promotoras are one form of information providers outside of journalists that are important to the local news ecosystem. Cultivando took a similar approach with its air quality monitoring in Colorado after hearing concerns from neighbors.
Colorado Media Project expects to publish information about what the organization learned during the day-long event, so keep an eye out for that.
Denver TV news anchor Kyle Clark: ‘It’s OK to be pro-democracy’
“Our determination as journalists to be unbiased is endangering American democracy.”
That’s how KUSA 9NEWS anchor Kyle Clark began a Thursday speech he gave at the Colorado Media Project summit. “Journalists,” he said, “should not be impartial about whether America’s form of government — and a free media itself — survive.”
Here were some other nuggets from his five-minute flash talk:
- “We can do this without abandoning our core principles. But we need to be honest with each other — and our community — that the rise of authoritarianism and political violence isn’t just politics as usual. And I think local journalists are best positioned to break through the polarization and defend American democracy. It begins with acknowledging the stakes – and relentlessly covering the extremism and authoritarianism taking root at the local level.”
- “This is uncomfortable work. It brings accusations of bias. It brings threats of violence against journalists and their families. But it is essential work. And local journalists are in the best position to paint a picture of rising extremism and authoritarianism in our communities. From militias connected to political leaders to efforts to delegitimize elections to the spread of disinformation.”
- “We also should acknowledge that sitting this one out — letting some other journalist or some other news outlet cover threats to American democracy — isn’t impartiality or editorial discretion — it’s a decision to enable those threats to democracy,” he said. “It would be as if a local TV station decided not to cover a wildfire racing toward homes and people. It’s OK to be anti-wildfire. And it’s OK to be pro-democracy.”
“The future of local broadcast journalism, my corner of the business, will be determined by whether we can meet the moment,” he said toward the end.
Clark concluded: “Our role five years from now will be determined by how useful we are to our community — doing accountability journalism during this critical era — a time when they need us to rise beyond fear of criticism, and our addiction to car crashes, to cover what really matters: Whether American democracy, and a free media with it, will survive.”
❓ Editor’s note: I’m genuinely curious if every working journalist in Colorado believes they could stand up and say publicly what Kyle said without running afoul of management. If you agree with what he said, but don’t think you could say it, I’d like to hear from you.
More Colorado media odds & ends
👀 Colorado Newsline’s Chase Woodruff wonders if a Denver Gazette news writer’s communications firm has “ongoing business relationships with realtors,” and asks this question: “Does news-side coverage of real estate issues by someone paid by the real estate industry for decades not require a disclosure?”
📰 “In addition to running the day-to-day operations of our newspaper, founder and managing editor Kevin Mahmalji serves on numerous boards including Fremont Center for the Arts,” the Florence Reporter newspaper proudly mentioned on LinkedIn.
👊 The Denver Post newsroom labor union ratified a two-year contract, according to Denver Newspaper Guild Administrative Officer Tony Mulligan. Guild members will get a 3% pay increase beginning Sunday, “and another three percent increase one year later,” he said. The win for unionized journalists comes after seven years without an across-the-board raise.
📲 TV NewsCheck spoke with Julie Baker, a reporter for FOX21 in Colorado Springs about how she “goes niche” for wins on TikTok and Instagram. “The majority of our viewers like it,” she said. “They think it’s a breath of fresh air. Some people don’t like it. Some people want that more traditional, rigid approach. And that is OK.”
🤦♂️ In the next-level nonsense department this week, Weld County’s Sheriff’s Office has “mandated that anybody seeking public records from the agency must get a form notarized in order to obtain documents — a move a free speech expert called an unprecedented and unlawful burden,” Sam Tabachnik reported for the Denver Post
🥊 “I’ve never heard anybody say anything bad about the Colorado Sun. I’d punch them if they did,” former prosecutor Craig Silverman, who writes a column for the Sun, said on his podcast.
💵 “Durango native and nationally renowned political strategist Mike Stratton is trying to encourage more Durango School District 9-R students to consider journalism for a career by developing a scholarship,” Tyler Brown reported for the Durango Herald. “Stratton is a product of Colorado State University’s journalism program and has worked for both President Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. The current goal is to offer two $5,000 scholarships to 9-R students starting next school year.”
🎂 Colorado Springs TV journalist Brian Sherrod celebrated seven years in local journalism. “It truly flies by when you are having fun,” he said. “Four stations, four cities, three anchoring opportunities and I’m not even 30 yet.”
🇷🇺 “They always come at 6 a.m. During the first nine months of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, I spent every morning waiting for the police to arrive,” Marina Sedneva, a Russian journalist in exile, writes for the Colorado Sun. Elsewhere in the column, she writes: “American journalists face some of the same problems as Russians: pressure from their audience, trust issues, burnout because of intense work. But here, in the United States, journalists can still do their job mostly without the fear of being arrested for their work or being murdered because of it.”
⛷ Thomas Gounley of BusinessDen reports that the buyer of Echo Mountain Ski Area is the person who “sued Denver7 for defamation over its reporting; a judge threw out the case last month.”
🗑 A Colorado newspaper recently had to trash its entire print run because of a single word in a story that could have led to trouble, according to a source with knowledge of it who gestured to a drink in hand while requesting anonymity. “The lead sentence as I recall,” was the sticking point; they decided to “do the right thing” despite the cost.
🏛 During a keynote speech at the Colorado Press Association convention this week, American Press Institute Director Michael Bolton said “government policy and support” must be part of the mix for sustaining healthy local news organizations.
🤣 See you in the funny pages: Two Colorado newspapers owned by the nation’s largest newspaper chain, Gannett, announced changes to their comics sections. “This unified lineup of 17 daily comic strips and 23 in the full-color Sunday edition is an increase for Fort Collins readers … You’ll find some old favorites and new funnies. And, if you’re a devout comics reader, you might miss some strips that will fall off our pages,” wrote Fort Collins Coloradoan Editor Eric Larsen. The “daily comics will have one fewer strip than we’ve featured in recent years (going from 12 strips to 11 on weekdays,) but the Sunday comics will have one more (going from 11 strips to 12,) wrote Pueblo Chieftain Editor Zach Hillstrom.
🔙 “When I would get frustrated at the (reporter) job … I would think, ‘I could be working at City Market and make more money, and it wouldn’t be this much of a hassle … Now that I have worked at City Market … I have realized … this is the work that I’m supposed to be doing,” reporter Max R. Smith wrote in a column about his return to the Chaffee County Times.
🌪 “There are some big changes coming soon for the First Alert Weather team,”CBS Colorado announced in a staff report last week. The TV news weather team shakeups affect Lauren Whitney, Dave Aguilera, and Alex Lehnert.
⚙️ High Country News is hiring an Indigenous Affairs Editor “to help guide the magazine’s journalism and produce stories that are important to Indigenous communities and tribal nations across the Western United States.” ($72,493–$80,548.)
🤑 “I’m a capitalist,” said Colorado Sun Founder and Editor Larry Ryckman on a recent podcast. “There’s nothing wrong with making money.”
⬆️ Telemundo Colorado, also known as KDEN Denver, “has promoted Stephanie Rodriguez to multimedia journalist for the station’s consumer investigative unit, Telemundo Colorado Responde,” TV NewsCheck reported. “Telemundo Colorado Responde is a consumer unit that is exclusively dedicated to helping local viewers get answers to consumer problems.”
➡️ The News Access and Literacy Task Force of the League of Women Voters of Colorado is hosting a Zoom public meeting titled “No local news: The crisis facing democracy — Insights from journalists covering Colorado.” (Sept. 27, at 5:30 p.m. Sign up here.)
👮🦜 Speaking on a panel at Friday’s Colorado Press Association convention, Colorado Democratic Rep. Elisabeth Epps said journalists often “get it so wrong” — specifically calling out some outlets that take the word of police as fact when reporting simply because it came from law enforcement.
💰 Bucket List Community Cafe has received a “$20,000 sustainability boost from LION Publishers,” publisher Vicky Collins said. “The money comes from the Knight Foundation and Google News Initiative,” she said. “We are so excited that our community journalism is being recognized.”
🤪 “I’m well aware that anywhere I go and at any time 24/7 I am the publisher of the Montrose Daily Press and Delta County Independent,” Dennis Anderson wrote in a column. “When I misbehave, that’s what people see and associate me with. Boebert can’t excuse that away.”
💨 The Southeast Colorado magazine New Legends will “shutter after nearly 10 years of sharing region’s history,” the Chronicle-News in Trinidad reported.
🤖 For one part of this newsletter, I allowed ChatGPT to suggest edits to a sentence, and then consulted editors from the Associated Press, the Denver Post, and Colorado Community Media to decide which was better. Two of three chose ChatGPT’s suggestion over what I had originally written.
I’m Corey Hutchins, co-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. Colorado Media Project 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.