The Colorado Sun launched in 2018 with the goal of putting local news back into the control of dedicated, talented local journalists. Now four years into this journey, we are pleased to report on another successful year.
With the help of readers and supporters from across the state, The Sun continues to pioneer an innovative ownership and business model that is also delivering on what we promised: producing some of the best news coverage in the state. As you will see in this report, our membership is growing, our stories are making an impact and we are making strategic investments to enhance our ability to continue both trends.
We produce this annual report as part of a commitment to transparency for the community we serve. The report is published every year around the anniversary of our website launch, in September 2018. So this report covers the period between Sept. 1, 2021, and Aug. 31, 2022.
About our business structure
The Colorado Sun is a 100% journalist-owned public benefit corporation. Under Colorado law, that means we are a for-profit corporation “that is intended to produce a public benefit or public benefits and to operate in a responsible and sustainable manner.” We didn’t have to do this. Instead The Sun became a public benefit corporation to show we care more about community than about turning fat profits.
We receive no special tax breaks or other financial incentives as a public benefit corporation. But we do have to be extra-transparent with the community we serve. This document is one example of how we are happy to comply with that: State law requires us to produce an annual report detailing the value we have brought to the community over the prior year.
Our public benefit
In The Colorado Sun’s fourth year of existence, our benefit to the public remained strong.
During the 2021-22 period, we are proud to report that we:
- Grew to a staff of 25 people, allowing us to further expand our reporting across all of Colorado while also making important business investments to sustain us into the future.
- Published more than 2,000 news articles on ColoradoSun.com. This included more than 1,400 articles written by Colorado Sun staffers or freelancers — meaning that an astonishing 67% of news coverage at The Colorado Sun can’t be found anywhere else.
- Published more than 2,800 total posts on ColoradoSun.com. This includes more than 600 opinion pieces written by Colorado leaders, everyday Coloradans and regular columnists. It also includes more than 140 pieces from our groundbreaking SunLit series, which gives attention to Colorado authors and the work they do.
- Had more than 20.5 million pageviews and more than 9.4 million visitors. Both numbers are more than three times what they were in our first year of existence.
- Seamlessly managed a site redesign and a transition to a new customer-relations contractor, both of which will help us make ColoradoSun.com a more vibrant and pleasant user experience for our readers, while also giving us new tools to better grow our business.
- Had our work published in newspapers across the state as part of partnerships with dozens of newsrooms throughout Colorado. Our work also has been distributed nationally through our membership in The Associated Press
- Produced more than 250 episodes of The Daily Sun-Up, a five-days-a-week podcast providing news and insight from Colorado Sun journalists.
- Grew overall email newsletter subscriptions to more than 200,000, including more than 106,000 for our flagship daily newsletter, The Sunriser, and more than 30,000 for reporter Tamara Chuang’s essential weekly business and employment newsletter What’s Working. We saw strong growth for our premium newsletters, as well, especially for Colorado Sunday, a digital Sunday magazine that launched at this time last year.
- Hosted 15 virtual forums drawing tens of thousands of audience members to learn about topics ranging from housing to transportation, education to politics.
- Continued reporter Erica Breunlin’s Rise and Shine Journalism Workshop, giving more than a dozen more Colorado students the opportunity to learn about journalism and inspiring the next generation of journalists for the state.
- Won 28 awards, more than any other Colorado news organization in our category, at the multi-state Top of the Rockies journalism contest. The Sun competed in the “extra-large newsroom” category despite having far fewer staff members than most others in the category. The haul included nine first-place awards.
- Saw legislation passed to improve the child residential treatment system in response to devastating reporting by Sun reporter Jennifer Brown and 9News.
- Cheered the recognition that reporter Kevin Simpson received when he was awarded the Author Advocate Award by the Colorado Authors League for his work on SunLit and to promote local authors.
- Had our work read and cited by experts across the country trying to understand the issues affecting Colorado and the West. In one example, a story by reporters Michael Booth and Thy Vo on water rights speculation was cited in an article in the Northwestern University Law Review.
- Continued in our dogged determination to save and protect local news, both in our own work and in our stewardship of the 24 community newspapers in the Colorado Community Media family, which The Sun jointly owns along with the National Trust for Local News.
- Earned the support of more than 17,000 paying members from all across the state.
An independent assessment
It’s one thing for us to gush about our accomplishments. But state law for public benefit corporations requires us to go further. We must evaluate ourselves against an independent, third-party standard to see how we measure up in both providing a public benefit and addressing our shortcomings.
The law allows us to do this analysis ourselves. But, as a show of our commitment to transparency and service, we have gone above and beyond.
The Sun has for years had a partnership with the University of Colorado’s Media Enterprise Design Lab, which studies media ownership and governance, to evaluate us based on their measurements for what makes a successful, ethical news organization — no preconditions attached. We are the only news organization in the country that we know of that subjects ourselves to such an intensive — and public — independent review.
We thank Libby O’Neall and the rest of the team at CU for their work on this review. A copy of the report can also be found on the Media Enterprise Design Lab’s website.
After starting as a group of 10 frustrated journalists determined not to let local news die in Colorado, it is incredible to see how far we have come as a news organization and what we have accomplished. But none of this would be possible without the support of passionate Coloradans who have fought with us to keep their communities together and their news local.
From all of us at The Colorado Sun, a very sincere and grateful thank you. ‘Til next year.
A special thank you
The Sun would like to extend a special thank you to our business members, who have provided extra support to help us continue our mission of serving Colorado.
For additional information about business memberships, contact: Sylvia Harmon, Director of Sales | firstname.lastname@example.org | 720.593.1044