“We hope Coloradans will remember this newspaper fondly from generation to generation, a reminder of Denver’s history — the ambitions, foibles and virtues of its settlers and those who followed. We are confident that you will build on their dreams and find new ways to tell your story.”
— From the final edition of The Rocky Mountain News, Feb. 27, 2009
Much has been lost in the 10 years since the Rocky Mountain News printed its final edition on Feb. 27, 2009.
The city, state and region lost a vibrant, independent voice — a watchdog that sought to hold government, schools and the powerful accountable. A storyteller that educated and informed us. A fierce competitor that kept others on their toes.
Former Rocky Editor and Publisher John Temple recently spoke to Westword about those final days, and I would encourage you to read the piece.
There is much to mourn in the passing of a newspaper, and in the slow death of others. Not long ago, Denver itself had nearly 600 journalists between the Rocky and The Denver Post. Today, the Post has fewer than 70 journalists. Newspaper staffs elsewhere around the state have been slashed, too.
That’s not just a loss for those journalists. Many of them have gone on to find other jobs and other careers, and they’re doing just fine. Some have had a tougher time.
But it’s definitely been a loss for the rest of us. We’ll never know the important stories that haven’t been told.
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There is cause for hope and optimism, however. Others have stepped in to try to fill the gaps that have been left in the media landscape in Colorado. Westword and Denverite write about what it means to live and play in the capital city. The Colorado Independent and Colorado Politics approach the statehouse from different directions. Chalkbeat does a terrific job of covering urban education issues, including the recent Denver teachers’ strike. There are others, of course, including hyper-local publications that focus on neighborhoods, such as The Front Porch in Stapleton and Park Hill. I am also cheering on former colleagues at Colorado Public Radio, who are building an impressive news operation there.
Across the state, I marvel at the depth of coverage being delivered from small-town publications like the Durango Herald, the Aspen Times and others. The High Country News takes on issues of incredible importance across the West from its perch in Paonia.
And, of course, I’m proud of the work that we’ve been doing in the past five months of online publication at The Colorado Sun. We have assembled a team of some of the state’s most experienced and talented journalists, and we set out to tell meaningful stories that others aren’t telling — or can’t — in ways that help readers understand what it means to be a Coloradan.
A few of the topics covered by The Colorado Sun since our launch:
- Jennifer Brown on the suicide of a high school senior that rocked a fatigued community
- Breaking down the costs behind fighting wildfires in Colorado
- Gentrification in Denver, a project with CU’s News Corps
- The recurring risk of wildfire at Black Forest
- Jason Blevins’ “Survivors” series
- Obituaries for two of Colorado’s oldest trees
- Investigating homeschooling regulations
- Grand Junction’s rising stock with young Coloradans
At our launch, I promised that we would do more than cover breaking news — we would break news and go deep. And we have delivered on that promise time after time. We now have a staff of 11 full-time journalists, three part-timers and dozens of freelancers spread across the state. And we have ambitious plans to grow this year. The Colorado Sun is local, journalist-owned and reader-supported. We recently became a public-benefit corporation, meaning that our mission to serve our state and you, our readers, is codified and our accountability to you is required.
Readers have responded on a scale that I could not have imagined last summer, and we continue to grow our Sun community every day through online memberships and newsletter subscriptions. We have had more than 1 million unique visitors to our site — and that’s been great to see — but what’s really thrilling to me and the rest of the Sun staff is that our stories have resonated so deeply with Coloradans. A typical online reader spends about 30 to 45 seconds reading news stories, but Sun readers are spending an average of about four minutes on our deep-dive stories.
I believe that reflects a highly engaged group of readers who are eager — hungry, even — for the kind of quality journalism that we produce.
By the way, I want to be clear here: Other journalists in Colorado are also doing good work, often under difficult conditions and under owners that care more about the bottom line than they do about quality. I have great admiration for friends and colleagues still fighting the good fight, and I support good local journalism wherever I can find it.
But there is no doubt that huge gaps have been left in the past 10 years since the Rocky went away. You can acknowledge the good work still being done, even while mourning the drop in quantity and quality of local news coverage. Colorado needs and deserves more than it has been getting.
How can you help? Support good local journalism. Share the important stories. Subscribe. Donate. Tell your friends, family and colleagues.
I appreciate all of you who have made reading The Colorado Sun part of your day. I hope you will consider becoming a member, if you haven’t already done so, or that you will sign up for our free Sunriser newsletter and our politics newsletter, The Unaffiliated.
A free, independent and strong press is too important to be left in the hands of those who put profits ahead of the community good. We’re still feeling the effects of the Rocky’s absentee owner deciding it was no longer worth it to serve our state.
The stakes are too high for all of us. The stories are too important. Let’s work together so that we can look back in 10 years and marvel at the progress we have made.
Larry Ryckman is Editor of The Colorado Sun. Follow him on Twitter at @larryryckman
This reporting is made possible by our members. You can directly support independent watchdog journalism in Colorado for as little as $5 a month. Start here: coloradosun.com/join
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