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Opinion

Ryckman: Why I’m optimistic about local journalism in Colorado

A note from Colorado Sun Editor Larry Ryckman

These are exciting times for those who care about local journalism in Colorado.

Sure, there has been a lot of concern about the cutbacks in legacy newsrooms and soul-searching about whether to continue giving money to hedge-fund owners who line their pockets while laying off journalists.

But something else is happening in Colorado, and that should be good news for all of us.

There has been an awakening among a growing number of people — a realization that a free and independent press is a vital part of our democracy and, as more than one person has said recently, it’s part of Colorado’s infrastructure that is every bit as important as the roads that connect us, the museums and art galleries that inspire us and the libraries that inform us.

I realize this sounds self-serving coming from the editor of The Colorado Sun. But this is much bigger than any one news source, including us.

Colorado Sun staffers on Sept. 10, 2018, the day the news website launched. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

Earlier this year, the Colorado Media Project was created to try to figure out “how best to shore up the future of local news in Colorado.” The group includes academics, students, journalists, civic leaders and others.

It gathered this week at the University of Denver to issue its final report, which speaks about why journalism should matter in our state.

“With our state’s population expected to increase by more than 40 percent by 2040, it is vital that Coloradans have access to reliable, trustworthy news and information about the issues most critical to the future of our state: public education, natural resources, health and economic equity, growth and development, transportation, arts and culture, and more,” the report says.

“Local news outlets play a unique role, helping to populate our public squares with daily coverage, in-depth investigations, analysis, and in the best cases, they shed light on solutions. Especially as news platforms and formats continue to evolve, our ability to participate effectively in a democratic society — and to combat the spread of misinformation — is inextricably tied to the health, trustworthiness, and accessibility of our local sources of news and information.”

MORE: A welcome letter from Editor Larry Ryckman

The report, informed by interviews with more than 2,000 Coloradans over the course of four months and replete with expert analysis, offers guidance to journalists on how to serve readers. But it is also a clarion call to the community to take action: Now is the time to step up and support great local journalism wherever you can find it. Reliable news matters, today more than ever. Subscribe, donate, contribute.

I urge you to read the report.

Colorado Sun Editor Larry Ryckman. (Kathryn Scott, Special to The Colorado Sun)

I heard a similar message when I spoke recently to the Colorado Forum, a group of business and civic leaders that aims to “create an informed, objective voice on critical public policy issues facing the state.” Some told their fellow members that it is time for philanthropists to recognize that the clock is ticking, that it is time to step up to support local journalism in Colorado.

I also have been hearing that from friends, neighbors and others in the community. They’re worried about losing an important resource, and they want to know how they can help.

I’m an optimist.

Anyone who starts a new business — and a news business at that! — has to be. When I look around today, I see an amazing journalism laboratory that is evolving in Denver, and that is encouraging for Denver and for the state.

There’s The Denver Post, the Colorado Independent, Westword, Denverite, Chalkbeat and, of course, The Colorado Sun. There are many others as well, including those doing important work in television and radio. We have different funding models, different areas of interest and different philosophies, but we’re all trying to fill news needs in our own ways.

Rather than competition, I see amazing choices that benefit us all.

Gone are the zero-sum days when Denver was a two-newspaper town, and the Rocky Mountain News’ loss was The Post’s gain. Of course I’m proud of the strong journalism that we have shared with you in our first two weeks here at The Sun, and I’ve been thrilled to see the tremendous response from readers who have welcomed our deep coverage of the state.

Colorado Sun reporter John Ingold types at a desk in the Modworks coworking space on July 9, 2018. Modworks is serving as The Sun’s newsroom and office space. (Eric Lubbers, The Colorado Sun)

But I’m also glad to have the opportunity to read the good work being done elsewhere, and I know there are plenty of other important stories that need telling and still too few journalists to tell them.

I still subscribe to The Post and other news sites, I have contributed money to Denverite and Colorado Public Radio, and I am cheering on colleagues who are doing important work for our great state. I wouldn’t presume to tell you how or where to spend your time or your dollars, but I do hope you’ll agree with the sentiments expressed by the Colorado Media Project.

“The current crisis in Colorado’s media landscape is ongoing, but it presents some exciting opportunities for news audiences, journalists, entrepreneurs, innovators, and people interested in supporting them in thoughtful and productive ways,” its report concludes. “We look forward to continuing this work, and invite you to join us in building a stronger, more sustainable local news ecosystem for Colorado.”

I guess I’m not the only optimist.

Larry Ryckman is the editor of The Colorado Sun. You can reach him at larry@coloradosun.com

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