Introduction …

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 2021 public benefit …

After our third year, we are proud to report that we have:

  • Published more than 3,300 news articles this past year from every corner of the state, including more than 1,300 produced by our staff and an additional 150 pieces produced by a statewide network of correspondents. (Numbers are current as of Sept. 8, 2021)
  • Ensured that two dozen community newspapers, some of them among the oldest in Colorado, remained in local hands. The Sun earlier this year became co-owners of Colorado Community Media, in partnership with the National Trust for Local News
  • Launched The Daily Sun-Up podcast in response to community requests
  • Created new newsletters, including the free What’s Working, which looks at the economic hardship created during the pandemic, and Remapping Colorado, which follows the redistricting process as new congressional and state representative boundaries are drawn
  • (Stay tuned for the launch of new Sun newsletters this month!)
  • Had our work published in newspapers across the state as part of partnerships with dozens of newsrooms throughout Colorado. Our work also has been distributed nationally through our membership in The Associated Press
  • Published more than 800 opinion pieces and editorial cartoons this past year offering perspective on Colorado issues and how life is lived in our state
  • Earned the support of about 14,000 paying members, as well as about 170,000 newsletter subscribers
  • Received more than 24 million pageviews from 11.7 million unique visitors in the past year, with each new month bringing our journalism to more Coloradans
  • Seen readers spend an average of more than 3 minutes on each story
  • Grown our full-time staff from 10 in 2018 to 21 today, and two additional reporters will join our Sun team later this month. Our newsroom is still 100% owned and operated by local journalists
  • Worked with Colorado colleagues via COLab to produce impactful stories before the election and during the pandemic
  • Gave prominence to local authors by publishing about 150 book excerpts since our launch, each with an author interview, as part of our SunLit collaboration with Colorado Humanities. Also helped sponsor that organization’s Colorado Book Awards
  • Won multiple awards in the Society of Professional Journalists’ regional Top of the Rockies competition and the Colorado Press Association competition
  • Hosted multiple forums, both in person and virtually, with the governor, top legislative and congressional leaders, health professionals and others to allow readers to hear directly from policy makers and medical professionals
  • Participated in the nationwide effort to build sustainability for local news organizations and been deeply involved with COLab and the Colorado Media Project to work on solutions that all local newsrooms can use
  • Hosted and mentored international journalists from Costa Rica, Russia, Brazil and Colombia over the past three years in exchanges designed to foster greater understanding of the challenges and various approaches to journalism worldwide

A third-party perspective …

For each annual report that we do, we’re required 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 Libby O’Neall 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

Click the image to view at or click here to download a PDF of the report.

In conclusion …

We are thrilled and proud to see how far we’ve come in our first three years, building a newsroom and an audience from scratch and shining light on important issues throughout our state. 

We owe all of that progress to the support we have received from our readers, sponsors and benefactors. 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.

Read other annual reports