Nearly five years has passed since the editorial page rebellion at the Denver Post changed the Colorado media landscape. That editorial section served as both tribute and alarm bell. A copy of it, and the column I contributed, hang framed in my study as a constant reminder — the important work of journalism continues to teeter on a precipice.
I may not have remembered the anniversary if it had not been for two excellent reporters departing the Denver press corps over the past few weeks.
First, Ed Sealover, the award-winning journalist synonymous with the Denver Business Journal, left after 28 years of reporting (14 with DBJ) to accept a role with the Colorado Chamber of Commerce. It is a savvy move by Chamber CEO Loren Furman and will surely be a boon for their comms team. But it is a sad loss for Denverites who relied on Sealover’s in-depth investigative style.
Second, Westword’s Conor McCormick-Cavanagh announced that he would be imminently uprooting for upstate New York where his partner will begin her medical residency. I cannot fault him; the world needs good doctors. But Denver needs good journalists, and his stories regularly highlighted otherwise untold stories in captivating ways. Some of those will now go untold.
That I am writing about journalists from other publications should speak volumes about the state of journalism and newsrooms.
It is not all bad news, though. In the immediate aftermath of the Denver Post Rebellion, editorial page editor Chuck Plunkett ended up taking over as head of the CU News Corps and helping inspire a new generation of journalists. Plunkett should have won a Pulitzer for that editorial page — something legendary newspaperman Marty Baron seemed to agree with — but has instead settled for saving the future.
Here in Denver, that means reporters like Alex Edwards have taken up the slack for writers departing from the scene. A protégé of Plunkett’s, his tireless reporting in Denver has helped to push reporters from more established publications like the Denver Post and Colorado Sun.
Similarly, Megan Schrader slid into the Denver Post’s editorial page editor’s seat vacated by Plunkett. She edited many of my columns when I wrote there and has maintained the high standards Plunkett left behind. I am a better writer because of her.
Beyond the people, the publications have changed dramatically. Maybe no example is more prominent than the Colorado Sun itself. Founded by journalists in the aftermath of the Denver Post Rebellion, it has shown that local journalism can survive and thrive even without a paywall.
The Sun’s dedication to in-depth investigation and stories often overlooked has found an audience large enough to help it grow and partner with local newsrooms across the state and country. Just a few days ago it announced a new alliance with digital newsrooms across the country.
The Sun has also kept Colorado abreast of the changing media seas through the tireless efforts of Corey Hutchins who publishes a weekly newsletter tracking local media developments across the state (sign up here). He publishes an annual review in The Sun with analysis of trends and potential ramifications. The sheer volume of information crammed into that article lays out exactly how news is and will be delivered to Coloradans every day.
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If I could sum it up better than Kyle Clark, I would. But there is a reason he is the state’s most prominent reporter. In an hourlong recorded conversation with Jon Caldara (whose column also appeared in the Denver Post Rebellion section), Clark had this to say:
“Competition strengthens everybody. And more journalists is better than fewer journalists because journalists are watchers. If we are doing our jobs correctly, we are a check against power … And more of us doing that whether they work for 9News or whether they work for The Sun or whether they work for Denverite or whether they work for a radio station … means there’s more people watching and hopefully doing accountability journalism and not access journalism.”
The whole discussion is worth watching, but that stood out. That is what we wrote about five years ago and that is what every journalist in Denver keeps working to do every day now.
Mario Nicolais is an attorney and columnist who writes on law enforcement, the legal system, health care and public policy. Follow him on Twitter: @MarioNicolaiEsq.
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