One year ago, a group of us stood before cameras and fellow journalists at Denver’s Civic Center park and announced that we had become something that none of us had intended: entrepreneurs and business owners.
We were announcing the creation of The Colorado Sun. We created The Sun because we felt we had to, that Colorado needs and deserves the kind of in-depth journalism we can produce. We put together a team that features some of the state’s most experienced journalists and set a straightforward goal: quality, home-grown journalism that treats readers with respect.
From the Western Slope to up and down the Front Range and across the mountains and plains, Colorado has seen a sharp decline in the number of journalists in the past 10 years. That has been far more than bad news for journalists; it has been terrible news for our communities. Study after study implies that cities and towns suffer when there are fewer watchdogs holding government and the powerful accountable and we can all plainly see how coverage has declined in many areas.
We didn’t create The Colorado Sun — still 100 percent owned by its founding journalists — as a rebuke to our colleagues at other news organizations. They’re working hard under difficult conditions and often doing terrific work.
In fact, we regularly highlight their best journalism — along with our own — in our free Sunriser newsletter three times a week. If you haven’t already, you can sign up for the Sunriser and other newsletters at coloradosun.com/newsletters.
But we can all agree that there are tremendous gaps in coverage that have emerged and desperately need filling. Colorado needs more journalism. We set out to fill some of those gaps, not to chase the same stories that others are pursuing.
In just our first three months, we produced award-winning journalism that was recognized around the state and across the West. Among the highlights:
- Coloradans generate 9.6 pounds of trash per person, per day. Where does it all go?
- “He seemed to have it all”: Arapahoe High School senior’s suicide rattles emotionally fatigued, frightened community
- How the “outdoor voter” has emerged as a potentially potent political force in Colorado
- Jared Polis Promise Tracker: A look at the progress on his 2018 campaign pledges
- The opioid crisis is breaking hearts in Colorado — and that’s forcing doctors to make tough choices
- We went to a flat-Earth convention and found a lesson about the future of post-truth life
On that June day of our announcement, we asked for help from Coloradans and those who want to support quality journalism, and we were blown away by the generosity of those who contributed to our Kickstarter fundraising campaign, those who have sent us donations and the thousands who have become paying members.
We started out by asking Coloradans what kind of coverage they want to see. We asked you about our business model. And we’re still interested in hearing your thoughts and suggestions. You can send news tips to email@example.com and you can always reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We have learned so much in the past year. It’s not easy to start up a small business, and it pays to have smart and loyal supporters who can share their experience and guidance. Our friends at the Colorado Media Project, the University of Colorado, the University of Denver and the Boston Consulting Group have been among those helping us get off to a great start.
I also want to thank our newsletter sponsors and media partners across the state, who are sharing our stories with their own readers from Grand Junction to Greeley, from Aspen to Aurora, from Montrose and Ouray to Durango, Steamboat, Fort Collins and elsewhere. We want to ensure that as many Coloradans as possible have access to our journalism.
About our business plan: It’s also pretty straightforward. There is still no paywall, but we ask readers to consider contributing at least $5 a month to help us do this important work. As the guy who writes the checks for 11-full-time journalists and dozens of freelancers, I can tell you it’s not cheap to travel around the state, obtain public records and do the legwork involved in this kind of journalism. We also produce two premium newsletters, the Unaffiliated and the Outsider — which serve those seeking more in-depth politics and outdoors news. Members who contribute $20 a month or more have access to those. Again, you can sign up at coloradosun.com/newsletters.
Most of all, we have been thrilled at the response from so many Coloradans. More than 26,000 people are receiving our newsletters — and their ranks keep growing every day. The number of people who actually open them — you know who you are! — is twice the industry average. More than 5,400 Coloradans have already become paying Sun members, and we hope we’re well on our way to hitting 10,000 by the end of the year. Thanks to all of you! You can become a member at coloradosun.com/join.
I recognize that some might be a little tired of hearing us urge you to become members — it’s our equivalent of the CPR pledge drive — but that’s another lesson we have learned in the past year: It never hurts to ask for help, particularly for something important. Becoming a newsletter subscriber, becoming a paying Sun member — even just sharing our stories (and this note!) with friends, family members and colleagues — helps us build an even stronger news organization to serve our state. And it’s not all about The Sun. In fact, please support any journalists doing good work in our state. We need them all.
The Colorado Sun is now a Public Benefit Corporation, which means we are legally recognized and bound by the state as existing to serve the public interest. We will mark our first anniversary of publishing news in September, so you’ll be hearing more from us, including an annual report that details how we have benefited the public.
It’s hard to grasp how quickly the past year has flown past, but we’re all excited and proud to produce the journalism that we promised you on that morning last June.
Thanks again for making it all possible, Colorado.
Larry Ryckman is Editor of The Colorado Sun.