The pandemic upended life in so many ways for so many of us. And that was true for The Sun, too. It threw challenges at our business, our coverage and our personal lives, but we’re wrapping up the year stronger than ever.
The Sun saw spectacular growth this year and is poised for even more expansion in 2021. We doubled the number of members in our Sun community this year, and we now have more than 100,000 subscribers to our various newsletters. We are incredibly grateful for the support so many of you have shown since we first launched, and we’re determined to continue demonstrating that gratitude every day by producing the quality, non-partisan news coverage we all need and deserve.
The Sun is a public benefit corporation, and we are owned by the same 10 Colorado journalists who founded The Sun in 2018. Our aim was to put community ahead of profit and “to produce high-quality, in-depth journalism that helps readers understand Colorado and their place in it, and to assure that this work is readily accessible to all potential readers in all parts of the state of Colorado.”
We seek to deliver on that promise every day. This annual report is a great opportunity to reflect on the stories we’ve told, the progress we’ve made and the challenges that we have faced.
The coronavirus pandemic, of course, dominated every aspect of 2020, and it forced us to recalibrate our coverage plans and lean hard into the public service of keeping Coloradans informed. We told the stories of some of those we lost, and The Sun highlighted the plight of those in assisted living facilities. We shared dozens of voices of Sun readers who wrote about their pandemic experiences in our ongoing Write On series. Tamara Chuang has been keeping readers informed about the state’s employment woes in her weekly What’s Working newsletter (you can sign up here; it’s free).
We covered the 2020 legislative session, the pause caused by the pandemic and its delayed ending in summer. Recently, we told you all about the special session that Gov. Jared Polis convened to bring coronavirus relief to thousands of Coloradans. We found creative ways to cover political campaigns unlike anyone has seen before and the sustained strategies behind them.
When a historic wildfire season blackened hundreds of thousands of acres, we told you not only what happened; we explained how those fires exploded so quickly and how firefighters and residents responded.
As it did for many, the pandemic forced changes big and small at The Sun. Our team has mostly worked remotely since March, and the pandemic impacted the business side of The Sun in ways no one could have anticipated. We kicked off the year with a couple of large public events and had plans for several more throughout the year. We were able to pivot to virtual events, but sponsorship revenue largely dried up for The Sun, just as advertising did for traditional news organizations.
The Sun was among the nearly 110,000 Colorado businesses that received a Paycheck Protection Program loan this year, and that provided the bridge we needed to continue growing our membership base. We not only kept our staff intact, we recently added a new reporter, Thy Vo, who joined us this month, and Lucy Haggard, who joined us a few months ago. The Sun now has 14 fulltime staffers and dozens of freelance journalists who help us provide statewide coverage.
Here’s a quick look at how we:
- Published more than 2,000 news articles, including more than 1,200 original pieces by our staff and 800 news articles by a network of correspondents across the state
- Saw our work published in newspapers and broadcast on radio across the state as part of partnerships with more than two dozen newsrooms and also saw our work distributed nationally through our membership in The Associated Press
- Earned the support of more than 11,000 paying members, as well as more than 100,000 people who have signed up to receive a newsletter
- Had more than 25 million page views from more than 12 million unique visitors
- Introduced readers to local authors by publishing 52 book excerpts — and an equal number of author interviews — as part of our SunLit collaboration with Colorado Humanities
- Shared 160 personal stories, poems and even one song by Coloradans who wrote about their pandemic experiences in our Write On, Colorado series
- Won 10 first-place awards in the Colorado Press Association journalism contest, including the prestigious Public Service award. The Sun also hauled away 28 awards in the four-state Top of the Rockies journalism contest, including 14 first-place wins and the Public Service Award. We also earned one award in the highly competitive Best of the West competition
I’m proud of how The Sun staff and its members responded to an incredibly challenging year. We pulled together to keep our state vibrant and informed. And we have big plans for growth in 2021.
Thanks again to all of you who have become Sun members. Your financial support helps us do this important work and ensures that Coloradans have access to a trusted, independent source of news. If you haven’t yet joined and are in a position to help, please consider becoming a member for as little as $5 a month.
Here’s wishing you a happy and healthy 2021. Thanks again, Colorado.
Larry Ryckman is Editor and co-founder of The Colorado Sun