Three years ago this week, we launched The Colorado Sun as a hope and a promise. We aimed to build The Sun into a trusted news source for Colorado, to tell important stories, hold the powerful accountable and celebrate those who make this such a great place to live, work and play.
Three years later, I’m still filled with hope, and I believe we have delivered on the promises we made. And you don’t have to take my word alone for that. Today, we are publishing the results of an independent audit of The Sun by the Media Enterprise Design Lab at the University of Colorado Boulder. You can read the full report here, but here is an excerpt:
“The Sun has made impressive progress in its mission of providing a social benefit to the public of Colorado. The Colorado Sun is a credible, comprehensive news source that strives to include a diverse range of voices and interests throughout the state while also working to strengthen other media through collaboration. It is also pioneering new and potentially replicable models, such as a democratic newsroom, journalist ownership, and an acquisition supported through impact investment.”
My fellow Sun founders and I are Colorado journalists who formed The Sun as a public benefit corporation in 2018 and promised to work hard to produce the quality, in-depth and nonpartisan journalism our state needs and deserves. Journalism, we believe, is a vital part of our democratic infrastructure, and it’s too important to be left in the hands of out-of-state owners more interested in double-digit quarterly profits than in civic good. Our state, our very society, has been left poorer for the stories that were not told as legacy newspapers have laid off staff, closed their doors or scaled back news coverage.
We started off with 10 full-time journalists, a host of amazing freelancers and ambitions to cover our entire state. Today, thanks to support from thousands of Coloradans, The Sun has 21 staff members (see our staff list here), with plans to add two more reporters this month. We have about 170,000 subscribers to our various newsletters, and 14,000 people have become paying members of the Sun community who help fund our important work.
The financial support of our members, sponsors and benefactors has allowed The Sun to produce impactful, award-winning journalism every day. Among some of the many examples from the past year:
- Wild horse roundup in northwest Colorado begins as BLM tries to gather 733 mustangs
- The deadly consequences when kids run away from Colorado residential treatment centers. This was the first part of an investigation series we produced in collaboration with 9News. See the full package of Running Out of Options stories here.
- What’s Working, a free weekly column on jobs, work and pandemic unemployment in Colorado
- Colorado wanted to make it easier for people with disabilities to vote. Then came coronavirus.
- Colorado air pollution control managers ordered staff to falsify data and approve permits “at all costs,” whistleblowers say
- Answers to readers’ questions on the coronavirus vaccine, masks and the delta variant in Colorado
Earlier this year, our public service mission took us in a surprising direction. The Sun, along with our partners at the National Trust for Local News, became owners of Colorado Community Media, which covers two dozen Denver-area communities. Although The Sun had no plans to get back into the print business, we were eager to step forward to ensure that these community newspapers — some of them among the oldest publications in Colorado — remain in local hands and continue serving their communities with the hyper-local coverage that has distinguished them for decades. We are thrilled to work with the amazing team at CCM and help them continue to thrive and grow.
By the way, The Sun was featured prominently in a documentary released this year by Boulder filmmaker Brian Malone about the crisis many newspapers are facing. “News Matters” can be streamed for free — via your library card — on Kanopy here.
We’re proud of the work we have accomplished with the help of so many Coloradans, and we’re humbled by the faith and trust so many of you have placed in us every day.
The Washington Post reminds readers daily that “democracy dies in darkness.” I will add that it also flourishes in sunlight. Thanks again, Colorado, for joining our Sun community and helping us shine light on important people, places and issues across our incredible state.
Sun Editor & Co-founder