From our editor…
One year ago, 10 of Colorado’s most experienced journalists set out to create a news site that produces the kind of excellent journalism that our state needs and deserves. We developed a straightforward plan: Treat readers with respect and ask for their support. Now, we want to take this opportunity to thank readers and supporters for making all of this possible and to provide you with this, our first annual report.
Incorporating as a public benefit corporation, we declared our dedication 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 believe we have delivered on that promise, and we have been incredibly gratified by the response from thousands of Coloradans who have become paying members of The Sun community and from the thousands of others who have subscribed to our newsletters. That support helps us produce photos and stories, by our staff and an amazing array of freelance journalists, that shed light on the people, places and issues that matter across our state.
We look forward to many more years of serving the people of Colorado.
What it means to be a public benefit corporation…
Under Colorado law, a public benefit corporation is a for-profit corporation “that is intended to produce a public benefit or public benefits and to operate in a responsible and sustainable manner.” Put more simply, it’s a company that cares as much or more about serving its community as it does about making money.
As a public benefit corporation, we receive no special tax breaks or other perks. It’s just about doing the right thing. And that includes being transparent with our community.
State law requires us to produce this annual report detailing the value we have brought to the community. It also requires us to conduct an assessment of how we’re doing against an independent standard. (More on that later.)
Our public benefit…
After our first year, we are proud to report that we have:
- Published more than 1,600 news articles, including more than 970 produced by our staff and an additional 180 pieces produced by a statewide network of correspondents. (All numbers presented here are current as of Sept. 1, 2019, so they may differ slightly from figures published elsewhere in this report or in our first anniversary magazine.)
- Told stories from every corner of the state — including more than 450 from locations other than Front Range.
- Had our work published in newspapers across the state as part of partnerships with more than 12 newsrooms. Our work also has been distributed nationally through our membership in The Associated Press.
- Published more than 400 opinion pieces and editorial cartoons offering perspective on Colorado issues and how life is lived in our state.
- Earned the support of nearly 6,000 paying members, as well as nearly 40,000 newsletter subscribers.
- Had more than 6.2 million pageviews from 2.7 million unique visitors, with each new month bringing our journalism to more Coloradans.
- Produced two major projects to help make government more transparent — our Polis Promise Tracker, which keeps tabs on whether the governor is living up to his campaign promises, and our Capitol Sunlight project, which educates readers on how to follow legislation at the state Capitol and how to get involved themselves.
- Had one of our stories quoted in a Colorado Supreme Court decision to explain concisely how the state’s famously complicated Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights works.
- Worked with journalism students at the University of Colorado to produce a project on the impacts of gentrification in Colorado.
- Given prominence to local authors by publishing more than 50 book excerpts, each with an author interview, as part of our SunLit collaboration with Colorado Humanities. Also helped sponsor that organization’s Colorado Book Awards.
- Won 16 awards in the Society of Professional Journalists’ regional Top of the Rockies competition and two awards in the 14-state Best of the West competition.
- Created a detailed ethics policy, based on input from our readers, that helps ensure our reporting is independent and free from outside influence.
- Hosted a forum at the University of Denver with the governor and top legislative leaders to allow readers to hear directly from policy makers about the just-completed legislative session.
- Participated in multiple panel and roundtable discussions about how to build sustainability for local news organizations and been deeply involved with the Colorado Media Project to work on solutions that all local newsrooms can use.
- Built a newsroom that is 100% owned and operated by local journalists.
- Helped launch Civil’s First Fleet of newsrooms, the beginning of what is now a global network of independent news organizations all working to build a sustainable future for journalism.
- Hosted international journalists from Costa Rica and Russia in an exchange designed to foster greater understanding of the challenges and various approaches to journalism worldwide.
An independent assessment …
For each annual report that we do, state law also requires us to evaluate ourselves against an independent, third-party standard. In other words, this report can’t just be an excuse for us to pat ourselves on the back. We have to hold ourselves accountable to a measurement of what it means to benefit the community.
While the standard has to be independent, the law allows us to do the actual measuring ourselves. But we are committed to asking hard questions of ourselves in order to improve as an organization and provide transparency to our readers, so we have done one better. We asked the folks at CU’s Media Enterprise Design Lab, which studies media ownership and governance, to evaluate us based on their measurements for what makes a successful, ethical news organization — no preconditions attached.
We chose this option for one big reason: It provides us with a standard that is specifically tailored to our work as journalists and was developed by people who have spent countless hours thinking about how to make journalism a more transparent and ethical business.What follows is their unedited report. We thank CU professor Nathan Schneider and research fellow Laura Daley for their time in evaluating us, and we look forward to working on the issues they have identified. A copy of this report can also be found on the Media Enterprise Design Lab’s website. Daley also wrote a blog post that is available here explaining more about how she and Schneider conducted the evaluation.
In conclusion …
It’s amazing to see how far we have come in this first year, building a newsroom and an audience from scratch. But we owe all of that progress to the support we have received from our readers. We cannot express enough our appreciation to everyone who has made The Colorado Sun possible, and we promise that we will have even more exciting accomplishments in the service of our state to share with you next year.
From all of us at The Colorado Sun, a heartfelt and grateful thank you.