How $360k will flow to 'advance equity and inclusion' in Colorado local news
The news behind the news in Colorado
Colorado Media Project, which underwrites this newsletter, announced this week how more than $360,000 will flow to journalism projects at more than two dozen newsrooms and organizations across the state.
The cash injection will infuse nonprofit and for-profit newsrooms, two universities, newspapers, broadcasters, and digital outlets.
All told, the philanthropic funding is set to help “support Colorado newsrooms, journalists, and media entrepreneurs in launching new projects and strengthening existing efforts to build a more inclusive local news ecosystem that reflects and serves Colorado’s diverse communities,” CMP said in a statement. In one case, the money will help relaunch La Cucuracha, a historic Pueblo newspaper covering the Chicano movement and issues.
The initiative comes at a time when some news organizations across the country continue to work on making sure they are inclusive in coverage, reckoning with a legacy of harm they’ve caused certain communities with past coverage, or otherwise pledging to do better.
This is the third year of CMP’s Advancing Equity in Local News grant program, which has so far supported 46 projects with $629,790 of funding since 2022.
Recipients of Colorado Media Project’s 2024 Advancing Equity in Local News grantees will address three overarching priorities identified by community members and journalists of color through the Voices Initiative, led by Colorado News Collaborative with support from Colorado Media Project since 2020:
Support internal efforts to strengthen diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in Colorado newsrooms;
Strengthen connections and build trust between Colorado newsrooms and the diverse communities they serve; and/or
Support more diverse and inclusive civic news leadership, entrepreneurship, ownership and narratives.
Details about specific community needs and recommendations can be found in the four reports published by the Voices Initiative Working Groups:
The Colorado Association of Black Journalists will receive $20,000 for “capacity-building activities for Black journalists, including training and mentorship for students and youth journalists, and continuing education from national experts.”
In the San Luis Valley, $23,000 will go to the nonprofit Crestone Eagle for “deepening its service to the San Luis Valley’s rural, agriculturalist, Indigenous and Spanish-speaking communities through DEI training for CECM staff, hiring community writers, and content-sharing and mentorship with Indigenous and Latinx-led newsrooms.”
The relatively new Florence Reporter newspaper will benefit from $5,000 to support its civic engagement activities, “including four community forums focused on the 2024 election, a ‘Your Vote Matters’ column, and a local Candidate Scorecard.”
A grant of $15,000 will support KUNC’s “Reflecting Colorado” photo desk, “establishing a space for BIPOC, women, and LGBTQ+ photojournalists in Colorado to design, develop, and lead projects for publication by KUNC and distribution across the state via AP StoryShare.”
KETO FM will get $5,000 to help bolster its “coverage, representation, and support of Colorado’s Ethiopian, Pan-African and immigrant communities.”
Mile High Asian Media will get $20,000 for “support in providing journalism and storytelling training to AANHPI students, connecting students with AANHPI journalists as mentors, and publishing student work in AANHPI and mainstream media outlets.”
Those are just a handful of the 27 new grants.
See what the rest of the money will support and where it will go here. Colorado Media Project said in a statement that grantees were selected from a “competitive pool of 44 applicants.”
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Crime is decreasing in Colorado. Why do people think it’s increasing? ‘Media plays a big role’
Denver’s 9NEWS anchor Kyle Clark has been doing local TV news differently since he launched his nightly news program “Next” in 2016.
In those eight years, he has not shied away from talking about what he feels is often wrong with his choice of profession.
During a public talk this fall, for instance, he thanked a media organization for inviting “a local commercial television news journalist” to participate in a conversation about the future of local news. “Often, it seems, the expectation is that the serious journalism will be done by print journalists or reporters from niche publications serving a more premium audience; that local TV news reporters will cover car crashes and cat fashion shows and regurgitate the serious reporting done first elsewhere.”
Furthermore, he added, “I have a difficult time defending our historical record in that regard. But I know we can do more to increase civic participation and awareness. And some of us are doing it.”
This week on his “Next” show, Clark and fellow journalist Steve Staeger might have departed from some of their typical local TV news brethren when they broadcast a story about crime.
“Colorado’s rates of violent crime and property crime are dropping, while Coloradans have the perception that crime is getting worse,” Clark said on air. “Some of that is because there are groups with a vested interest in scaring people — either for political gain or, in the case of the TV news, to keep people watching out of fear.”
Clark then let Staeger take over for a segment about the split between a perception of crime and the reality.
“Crime rates across Colorado fell last year,” Staeger said in the broadcast. “State crime data shows violent crime was the lowest it’s been in the last three years. The murder rate in the state the lowest in the last four. Yet polls have shown crime continues to be a big concern for people statewide.”
Why? Here’s one reason from crime analyst Jeff Asher in the 9NEWS story:
Among the common issues driving the divide between perception and the actual data, Asher said the media plays a big role – noting an old phrase about the media not covering planes that land.
“You really only come into contact with stories about crime when they happen,” he said. “I don't think you guys are doing many stories of hey, there were no auto thefts yesterday, or there wasn't a murder yesterday.”
Social media also drives the problem. Asher noted apps like Nextdoor often don’t provide the needed context that thousands of packages delivered to doorsteps aren’t stolen – while video of porch pirates makes the rounds.
“If you're only getting the information about incidents when they occur, it makes it very difficult for you if you don't have data in front of you or easily accessible data to be able to contextualize all of those incidents in a more coherent narrative,” he said.
During the fall campaign season, journalist Chase Woodruff of Colorado Newsline wrote a story headlined “Rising crime rhetoric persists in Colorado. Data tells a different story.”
In it, he wrote about the media angle:
Decades of research has linked media coverage of crime with distorted public perceptions of crime trends and risks. In annual surveys conducted between 2001 and 2019, a majority of Americans consistently told Gallup pollsters they believed national crime rates had risen over the previous year, even as data showed those rates falling to their lowest levels in a half-century. Consumption of local TV news, especially, is associated with “significantly elevated perceptions of risk and fear of crime,” studies have found.
Since its launch in 2020, the Denver Gazette, one of several Colorado-based news outlets owned by Republican megadonor Phil Anschutz’s Clarity Media Group, has positioned itself as the most aggressive chronicler of Colorado’s “crime tsunami.” Nonstop news coverage of violence, drugs and homelessness is accompanied by commentary denouncing, in the words of one recent editorial, the state’s “abundance of gullible, weak-willed, soft-on-crime elected leaders.”
… And as recently as last week, a headline on a Gazette news story described Boulder municipal leaders mulling less punitive policing strategies “amid rising crime,” a characterization that Boulder Police Department data shows is no longer true.
Earlier in 2023, Woodruff had pointed out how a story at the CBS station in Denver contained a “major factual error about the state’s crime rate” that was “shared widely by Republican leaders, police officials and other political figures” while voters in Colorado’s two largest cities were filling out their ballots.
At the end of his 9NEWS broadcast this week, Staeger cautioned people: “Before you think something — check the trends, look at the data for yourself.” Kudos to them for providing it.
Denver’s news scene examined in new book ‘What Works in Community News’
A new book by journalist Ellen Clegg and journalism professor Dan Kennedy, both hailing from Massachusetts, takes a look at Denver’s local news scene.
Published by Beacon Press, the book is “What Works in Community News: Media startups, news deserts, and the future of the Fourth Estate.” The book contains nine chapters, each devoted to a local or regional independent news outlet with context about the broader local media environment. For Denver, Kennedy focused on the Colorado Sun.
Here are some nuggets from the 20-page chapter:
About Publisher Linda Shapley at Colorado Community Media and its roughly two dozen Denver-area newspapers: “In a business whose upper ranks remain dominated by white men, Shapley also said she hoped to use her position as a visible Latina leader to encourage more diversity in journalism. ‘I’m very cognizant of the fact that there aren’t enough journalists of color and that there are communities that aren’t getting heard,’ she said. ‘Obviously that conversation has really started to grow in volume. And I’ve really tried to be somebody who’s listening to that and trying to figure out what I can do.”
About Colorado Public Radio: “With a newsroom of sixty five, based just a short distance from the state capitol, it may also be the largest in Colorado, though executive editor Kevin Dale — yet another alumnus from the Post — said that one or two of the city’s television stations might be bigger.”
About the Denver Gazette: “The editor, Vince Bzdek, who had previously worked at both The Denver Post and The Washington Post, wouldn’t share with us much in the way of metrics, though he did say that the combined newsroom of the two Gazette papers and the Anschutz-owned Colorado Politics, a website with a weekly print edition, was around ninety full-timers.”
About Gazette owner Phil Anschutz’s pulse: “‘We’re one of the few places that are really expanding, and we’re trying to take advantage of local ownership,’ [Bzdek] said. ‘Our owner is invested in Denver.’ The owner is also in his eighties, and Bzdek said he didn’t know what succession plans might be in place, but he noted that Anschutz’s son, Christian, was on the editorial board.”
Former Denver Post owner Dean Singleton on the Denver Post: “As a reader of the newspaper, I still admire a lot of the good journalism they do. It’s just not nearly as broad as it used to be.”
About the Sun’s focus: “We asked Larry Ryckman why the Sun’s small staff put so much effort into reporting on stories in the rural parts of the state rather than doubling down on accountability journalism in Denver. He replied that calling the site the Colorado Sun rather than the Denver Sun was a deliberate choice. ‘The need was so great elsewhere around the state,’ he said. ‘We’ve got some counties that have one newspaper. I actually think Denver’s fairly lucky.’” Editor Dana Coffield told the authors the Sun has “been able to provide quality journalism to some of the smallest outlets in the state. … I like being able to contribute to a healthy ecosystem for smaller newspapers, since I came from that heritage.”
About the Sun in the state and national context: “Though the Colorado media scene may be richer and more complex than outsiders might appreciate, the Colorado Sun remains the state’s shining example of how journalists can fight back against corporate downsizing while serving the public interest. In just a few years, the Sun had established itself as a crucial part of the journalistic landscape in Colorado. At a moment when the idea that every city and every region needs a dominant news source of record has given way to a more complex reality, the Sun was a key player amid a host of players in keeping Coloradans informed.”
The authors keep up with more news on this front at their site WhatWorks.
Davis and Carcasson: Reimagining the ‘public square’ in Colorado
This week, Melissa Milios Davis and Martín Carcasson issued a public call for Coloradans to join the state’s community newsrooms “to reclaim and reimagine the way we engage in civil discourse.”
Davis directs the Colorado Media Project, which underwrites this newsletter, and Carcasson founded and directs the Colorado State University Center for Public Deliberation. Together, they published a Jan. 28 joint column in the Colorado Sun.
From the column:
Against the headwinds of divisive national rhetoric, increasing polarization of local communities, digital overwhelm and social isolation — we believe it’s time for pragmatic, solutions-focused Coloradans to reclaim the public square from political pundits and conflict entrepreneurs. As the new documentary “Join or Die” puts it, building “community connections could hold the answers to our democracy’s present crisis.”
What’s more, we believe that local newsrooms, libraries, schools, community and civic groups all have unique and important roles to play in helping local communities reimagine and rebuild Colorado’s public square — both online and in person. These local “bridging” institutions have a natural advantage in countering polarization and division. By intentionally creating spaces where diverse groups of local people can engage with one another as people — not as algorithm-curated voting blocs — genuine conversations about common challenges can spark empathy, understanding and solutions.
The column also recaps takeaways from when a group of 130 journalists, nonprofit leaders, community members, public policy staffers, philanthropic and business leaders “gathered in Denver for the half-day 2023 Colorado Media Project Summit to reimagine the public square, asking: What does a healthy local news and information ecosystem look like? How might better conversations with neighbors help mend the fabric of our communities?”
Read the entire column at the link above.
What happened when I asked ChatGPT to create an image for this newsletter
Last week, after this newsletter hit your inbox, I was thinking about what image to use for the published version’s lead item about KKTV complying with a police request to delete a video the TV station published.
Substack allows me to use their stock images, but I thought about trying something new. I gave DALL-E, the image creating tool for the paid version of ChatGPT, this prompt: “Create an image of a police officer standing over the desk of a TV reporter politely asking a question.”
Here’s what it generated moments later (this is a screen shot of the headline and cutline with the AI image in the middle):
I was curious what my audience thought given the role AI will no doubt play in our newsrooms of the future. Responses were mixed. Here is a representative sample:
“In my opinion, AI generated anything has no place in ‘real news’. I don't place any value on AI generated content, nor would I ever pay for it.”
“I think it’s great. Disclosure is important, but this seems like art that wasn’t going to get created without AI anyway.”
“I was scrolling and stopped because I thought the image was a video game lol.”
“I think it’s fine for things like this. Not much different from news orgs’ template photos for crime or sports or whatever - and more eye catching. As for the story, the station’s decision is indefensible.”
“It’s really nailed the issue of lack of the diversity in the media - why are all her colleagues old white men?
“I’ve read about racial bias built into AI and this is a good illustration of that. Literally.”
“Having made-up material mixed in with the factual reporting undermines the reporting. Just run a photo of the police station or TV station, or a news van, or whatever, if you need some kind of visual. AI art is fine to accompany an opinion piece about a general social issue, or a zero-stakes summer fashion feature, but for news this is extremely off-putting. That wasn’t the police officer. That wasn’t the TV station boss. That wasn’t the newsroom. And art is really your lead element in a story, possibly after the headline. You’re leading with fiction.”
“It feels so fake. And I don't think that’s good.”
“I really like you giving us all a chance to reflect on the use and I'm not convinced it is harmful particularly if the net effect of using it is more people being exposed to your work. Thought-provoking either way.”
For what it’s worth, I’ve since replaced the image with an original photo I took of the KKTV building. Next week or so I hope to have something more about the extent to which Colorado newsrooms are using AI. I have questions out to major outlets so we’ll see who responds and how.
More Colorado media odds & ends
𐃆 Sentinel Colorado will “spearhead a first-generation college student news lab this summer, bringing about a dozen budding journalists into a month-long, multimedia ‘Sentinel Story Sprint.’”
🏆 Denver Mayor Mike Johnston presented Julie Vossler-Henderson, an editor at the Denver Post, and Kyle Clark, the anchor of ‘Next’ on 9NEWS in Denver, with a Minoru Yasui Community Volunteer Award.
☀️ Stretching the definition of “newspaper,” Newsweek called the Colorado Sun digital site “a Denver-based newspaper and one of the biggest in the state” in an item headlined “Lauren Boebert Mocked in Home State Newspaper After Republican Debate.” (Columnist Mike Littwin wrote the piece.)
📻 KUNC is looking to hire a Mountain West News Bureau Reporter. The public radio station for northern Colorado will pay $55,000 to $63,000.
💰 Colorado-based newsletter Money for Artists is “for the painters, poets, DJs, blue collars, filmmakers, teachers, dancers, actors, adjuncts, musicians, journalists, oldheads, stylists, illustrators, waiters, ceramicists, massage therapists, sketchbook addicts, and everyone else who never quite figured out how to get started investing, and now worries that it’s too late.”
⚖️ A judge will decide “whether disciplinary records about the former police chief of Elizabeth are “personnel files” exempt from disclosure under the Colorado Open Records Act,” Jeff Roberts writes for the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition.
📍 “We more than doubled the number of news organizations in our Project Oasis database,” wrote Samantha Matsumoto for LION. “Here’s what we learned.” (I was the Colorado and Utah ambassador for the project.) “In particular, we were able to add a large number of publications based in the Mid-Atlantic region of New Jersey, New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania, as well as in Colorado and Missouri,” she added. “Submissions from those six states made up a whopping 35 percent of all the organizations added to Project Oasis. That speaks, in part, to the hard work of the ambassadors in those regions and the deep networks they have.”
🎥 The Ira A. Lipman Center for Journalism and Civil and Human Rights and the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma at Columbia University are hosting a Feb. 12 screening of “The Holly” in New York City. “The screening will be followed by a conversation with film director Julian Rubinstein, activist Terrance Roberts, and CBS Assistant Professor of International Journalism Nina Alvarez.”
🍽 Springs magazine talked with independent Substacker food journalist Matthew Schniper “about his career, restaurant reviews, the state of the local dining scene and some standout places to eat and drink in Colorado Springs.”
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. (If you’d like to underwrite or sponsor this newsletter hit me up.) Follow me on Threads, reply or subscribe to this weekly newsletter here, or e-mail me at CoreyHutchins [at] gmail [dot] com.