Black journalists are ready to say 'what Colorado newsrooms can do to better listen'

Your news behind the news in Colorado this week

‘Five recommendations’

Over the past year, “Black residents and Black journalists in Colorado have been talking about what Colorado newsrooms can do to better listen to, inform, and work with the state’s Black communities.”

That’s from a pair of recent announcements from nonprofit organizations involved in a working group that later this month will make public what they’ve learned.

From a registration page for the upcoming Zoom event:

Join News Voices: Colorado, Colorado Media Project and Colorado News Collaborative (COLab) on Tuesday, Sept 21 from 5:30-7:30pm to hear from Black Voices working group members and other collaborators about our newly released Black Voices report. You’ll learn about 5 recommendations created by Black Voices, and hear about in-depth action steps communities, newsrooms and funders can collectively take to improve access to news and information that serves Black communities.

News Voices: Colorado is managed by Diamond Hardiman who last fall wrote about a “window of opportunity for Coloradans to conceive a new path forward for journalism.” Since then she has worked to help chart that path. Hardiman and her group have hosted events like “Reporting on Resistance: 2020 Uprisings” and worked with partners in news and community organizations to explore how “power, relationship building and community trust can help build the future of journalism.”

At the beginning of this year, News Voices: Colorado convened a working group that counted Black leaders, reporters and journalists among its ranks. Their goal was to “identify best practices, practical supports and structural changes that can help local newsrooms repair harm by centering the stories, experiences and news and information needs of Black Coloradans.”

Now, after months or organizing, News Voices: Colorado and others will lay out what they learned and offer recommendations.

More from the Zoom registration announcement:

Panelists, Ammiee Brown, Diamond Hardiman, Gloria Neal and Tiya Trent will discuss how and why the Black Voices Working group came to its five recommendations, and also the detailed steps newsrooms, communities and philanthropy can take to put them into immediate action. Participants will have the opportunity to join breakout groups to provide input and explore how Colorado can follow the lead of Black communities to transform news media.

If you want to participate, register for their Sept. 21 virtual event, which will take place from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. over Zoom. If you register now, you’ll get a copy next week of a new publication where their recommendations will appear.

You can learn more about News Voices: Colorado at the beginning of the video below, which was a Zoom discussion Hardiman hosted earlier this year with Joseph Torres and dozens of Colorado journalists about a legacy of media harm and efforts to acknowledge and repair it. 

🌿 This week’s newsletter is proudly supported in part by Grasslands, Denver’s Indigenous-owned PR, marketing, and ad agency that is thankful for the tireless work reporters do to bring our communities the stories that matter. Founded by veteran Denver Post journalist Ricardo Baca, Grasslands — the recipient of a 2020 Denver Business Journal Small Business Award — is a Journalism-Minded Agency™ working with brands in highly regulated industries, including cannabis, technology, and real estate. Operating from its new offices in Denver’s Art District on Santa Fe, the firm’s 20-person team of communications professionals is focused on a single mission: “We tell stories, build brands and amplify value.” Email to see how Grasslands can supercharge your brand’s marketing program (and read some of our cannabis journalist Q&As here).  🌿

The Colorado Sun turns 3 — and doubles its staff

Wake me up in three years.

That’s what I thought when 10 journalists voluntarily left The Denver Post to form a new for-profit local news site with backing from a cryptocurrency-and-blockchain company. If I wasn’t writing “layoff” headlines about The Colorado Sun by then, I thought, I’d say the outlet was a success. (Call me jaded, but I had Denverite on the brain.)

A year later things were looking good at The Sun. A year after that, even better. Now, three years after launching, the site’s staff has doubled to 21, and the outlet has around 14,000 paying members, which according to a recent audit makes up about 80% of its revenue. Around 170,000 people or organizations subscribe to its various newsletters.

This week, in its role as a public benefit corporation, The Sun published the results of an independent review of its operations conducted by the Media Enterprise Design Lab at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Some excerpts from that report:

Starting this year, new hires outnumber owners. This growth has presented opportunities to diversify the newsroom’s perspectives. Among the original founders, a majority of them is white, and a majority is between the ages of 35 and 50. Some of the Sun’s recent hires include individuals who are Asian-American, bilingual, or LGBTQ+. The Sun has made important progress in diversifying its hiring, while its leaders recognize they face ongoing challenges if they are to attract a range of voices that represents the diversity of the state. For instance, greater Latinx representation in the newsroom seems essential to cover communities that account for a significant portion of the state population.


Sun reporters have made particular efforts to introduce themselves to members of communities that tend to receive little coverage in the media. When reporting on rural areas, the Sun provides context and big-picture analysis so that readers from across the state can understand how the effects of rural issues might connect to their own communities. All coverage by the Sun aims to use accessible language and provide context and explanations for terms and concepts that may not be in the average reader's vocabulary. Journalists at the Sun seek to ensure that their readers know why they should care about what they are reading.

The 13-page report concludes:

The Sun has made impressive progress in its mission of providing a social benefit to the public of Colorado. The Colorado Sun is a credible, comprehensive news source that strives to include the diverse range of voices and interests throughout the state while also working to strengthen other media through collaboration. It is also pioneering new and potentially replicable models, such as a democratic newsroom, journalist ownership, and an acquisition supported through impact investment. Its rapid growth poses challenging questions about how to maintain its values and mission as operations expand. But at a time when high-road journalism has largely been contracting, this is a good problem to have.

Read what The Sun had to say about itself after three years of success here.

A Southern Colorado newspaper publisher-slash-mayoral advisor retires

The publisher and general manager of The Cañon City Daily Record newspaper will retire at the beginning of the month.

An announcement in the newspaper lauded plenty of other things Karl Wurzbach was involved in while publishing the local newspaper. Among them:

Wurzbach has worked in the newspaper and media industry for 40 years with nine of those in Cañon City.  During his time in the community, he served on various boards and committees. Most notably, Wurzbach served on the Cañon City Chamber of Commerce board of directors for seven years — three as board president.  Wurzbach also co-chaired the Royal Gorge Whitewater Festival during the 2018-2019 events and served on various mayoral advisory committees.

Now he’s dipping out to Florida.

Taking over this small 115-year-old paper in the Alden Global Capital hedge-fund constellation of Colorado newspapers will be Michael Alcala, though he won’t carry the title of publisher. Instead, according to an announcement, he’ll be the general manager and editor.

Hopefully this role means the general manager who is also the editor won’t be looking for a seat on the local Chamber board or vying for a gig advising the mayor’s office while, you know, editing the local newspaper.

Al Manzi, CEO of Prairie Mountain Media, which runs 15 of the Alden Global papers in Colorado, dropped an interesting nugget in the Daily Record announcement about Alcala. “His work has led to Cañon City having one of the most visited websites in all of Prairie Mountain Media, frequently generating more traffic than seven-day papers in much larger communities,” Manzi said.

Wonder which ones!

The music has stopped at The Denver Post

Nearly three weeks after we learned several Denver Post reporters were playing musical chairs with their respective beats, the music has ceased.

In public statements by some of the reporters, and in a brief item at the paper’s blog The Spot, we now have a better idea about where they’ve found themselves sitting. At least one reporter has left the paper amid the scramble.

“Hey folks, I've got some personal/professional news,” said reporter Conrad Swanson this week. “As of today I'm no longer covering Denver City Hall. I'm covering the environment now.” He called it “a bittersweet transition” but a positive one. “The burnout from the last two years is real,” he said, “and a little fresh air will do me good.”

Elizabeth Hernandez said she’ll be less focused on higher education these days and “more focused on covering stories impacting millennials [and] younger readers.”

Joe Rubino, who is taking over for Swanson at City Hall after covering real estate, tech, and consumer news, started his first day in the new beat the day after Labor Day.

“After three years on the beat, I am no longer covering health,” said Jessica Seaman who is now covering K-12 education. “I am not fully off of COVID coverage. My focus will be transitioning to COVID’s impact on children and teens,” she added. “I have a lot to learn about the ed beat so please -- especially Colorado students and parents -- send story ideas and tips.”

In this newsletter’s initial coverage of the ‘ole switcheroo, I’d noted how longtime environmental reporter Bruce Finley was told he’d be shuffled over to the education beat, and federal politics reporter Justin Wingerter would hop to a beat covering business. But that second move didn’t happen; when the music stopped, someone bounced out of the game.

From The Spot:

We’d also like to extend our gratitude to Justin Wingerter, whom you’ve read in this newsletter and all over The Denver Post for two and a half years. He’s decided to move on, and we wish him tons of luck and time to breathe. With his departure, the entirety of The Post’s politics team will be taking over coverage of the state’s congressional delegation, federal entities and redistricting.

I’d held off on saying where a majority of reporters were headed in part because I imagined they’d announce it themselves when the time was right and also because I wondered if all the proposed changes would stick. (As we now know, one didn’t.) Reporters told me when the major announcement from the paper’s top editor came down it caught reporters off guard.

A Greenwood Village educator calls for ‘a la carte’ paywalled news

Writing in The Villager this week, Michael P. Mazenko, a school administrator in Arapahoe County, had some words for subscription-based news sources.

“In an age of struggle for print journalism, newspapers have tried to survive by implementing paywalls for access to their digital content — and they’re doing it all wrong,” he said boldly at the start.

In the piece, he ran down the local and national newspapers and magazines he subscribes to, and offered a lament I’ve heard before from readers who wish they could pay particular outlets for one-off stories.

From the column:

Sometimes a friend posts or emails an article I would like to read, such as a column from Peggy Noonan or Jason Gay in the Wall Street Journal, or a feature story from James Hamblin of The Atlantic. And while I really want to read the article and might be willing to pay for it, that doesn’t mean I want or need a $200 yearly subscription to a publication I don’t read daily. It seems odd that I could walk across the street and purchase a paper copy of the entire newspaper for $2.00, but can’t have the same convenience digitally. I can buy a print magazine for $5.00, but I can’t access a couple digital articles for the same price. That said, I’d be happy to pay $.50 – $2.00 for single articles, or a package of ten. 

“In order to better serve consumers, print journalism organizations should offer a la carte options for readers to access single articles or small blocks of content for the price of a daily paper,” he wrote, “rather than a yearly subscription fee.”

I’d be interested if any local news outlets are experimenting with this and what they’re learning from it if so.

Did the West make the newspapers — or did newspapers make the West?

That’s a question Rocky Mountain PBS and Mancos Common Press might answer when they present “Colorado Experience: Press of the West.”

From an announcement:

In this special virtual event, dive into how the rare Cranston Press shaped the growth of The Town of Mancos, and how community efforts led to its restoration. Viewers will see clips from Colorado Experience: Press of the West, and will also hear an exclusive take on a Season 9 COEx documentary that is in production now in Southwest Colorado.

The event takes place Wednesday, Sept. 15th from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Mountain Time.

It’s free, but you have to register. You can do so here.

More Colorado media odds & ends

👀 A “new nonprofit news organization serving Boulder” that has “secured two years of launch funding” is looking for a managing editor. (Pay range is $65,000 to $75,000.)

💉 Jason Salzman of The Colorado Times Recorder called into “The Steffan Tubbs Show” to ask why the KNUS radio host, who was hospitalized with COVID-19, won’t recommend his listeners get vaccinated. (It was a “sleazy” move, Tubbs said. “He has a platform and can save lives,” Salzman argued.)

⚙️ As part of the Cañon City Daily Record’s staff shakeup, Carie Canterbury, “who has been with the Daily Record since 2008, has been promoted to city editor.”

📺 As CJR this week asked, “Why won’t TV news say ‘climate change’?,” a Colorado reporter wondered if there’s “a formal policy at Denver news stations prohibiting climate change from being mentioned in weather reporting.”

⛔ The Colorado Supreme Court “on Tuesday denied a petition by the Daily Camera to hear its lawsuit against the University of Colorado on whether candidates interviewed during the 2019 search for system president were finalists whose names are required to be made public,” the Camera reported.

⛔ “A judge Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit brought against a state agency by 9NEWS and The Colorado Sun, ruling that a statute prohibits the disclosure of aggregate child-abuse hotline statistics sought by the news organizations for certain state-licensed residential facilities,” the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition reported. “This is just shocking,” said Sun editor Dana Coffield. “We literally were only asking for the number of police calls to each facility. Not for details about which kid.”

🌐 “We simply cannot … allow opinions and emotions to outweigh the truth, to outweigh the science,” the director of Jefferson County Public Health told a local TV station about goons harassing people at vaccine sites. “I think this is a series of isolated events, and these events are occurring because there are so many lies continuing to circulate on social media.”

🗞️ The Gannett-owned Coloradoan in Fort Collins and The Pueblo Chieftain didn’t print newspapers on Labor Day. “So with PC’s current state, and PULP out, when is this Pueblo news crisis taken seriously?” asked John Rodriguez.

🗽 The New York-based Town Square Media, a “community-focused digital media, digital marketing solutions and radio company focused outside the Top 50 markets in the U.S.,” operates in two Colorado areas: Fort Collins and Grand Junction.

😬 What do you call this print mishap in The Gunnison Country Times? A double scoop?

🔗 LastWordOnSports, a site with a tagline “Sports news, analysis, opinions, and rumors,says its podcast “Holding The High Line” has “partnered up with the Denver Post to sustainably grow soccer journalism in Colorado.”

📼 The Ouray County Plaindeaer newspaper is urging its county officials to release a recording of a meeting during which they made a decision behind closed doors.

📻 Vic Vela’s award-winning podcast “Back from Broken,” an interview series “about what it takes to recover from the biggest challenge of your life,” will return for a third season, he announced.

💰 Grasslands held an Underground Music Showcase Founders Party and “donated to our friends at the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition.”

🎸 The Gazette in Colorado Springs profiled Denver music writer G. Brown, a “pioneer in the industry.”

🦅 “When we as a society have fundamentally different views about what is true and what is not, democracy becomes very hard to maintain,” a University of Colorado Boulder media professor told a Massachusetts newspaper.

🎙️ KVNF’s Gavin Dahl interviewed author Julian Rubinstein about his book The Holly and talked about some of the “searing critiques of certain media outlets and certain reporters” in the book. (The author dishes at 24:40 minutes in.)

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 newsletter, and my “Inside the News” column appears at COLab, both of which I sometimes write about here. (If you would like to join CMP and Grasslands in underwriting this newsletter, hit me up.) Follow me on Twitter, reply or subscribe to this weekly newsletter here, or e-mail me at CoreyHutchins [at] gmail [dot] com.