Ex-Denver Post reporter launches news startup backed by Business Insider founder

Larry Johnson

A local news startup plans to launch in Denver backed by the founder of Business Insider

About a week ago Dave Burdick left his job as deputy features editor of The Denver Post to launch a journalism startup in Denver. Plans for it are still being hashed out. He didn’t yet have a name for the outlet when I caught up with him about it this week as he was setting up meetings and working on the logistics of office space and healthcare. He told me the investors for the project founded Business Insider.

“We’re going to be local. We’re going to be smart,” Burdick says about the startup. “We’re going to hire journalists to do journalism. Some people who are just starting out in their careers. Some who aren’t.”

A Colorado native, Burdick comes from a journalist background, and he’s married to a journalist, too. His father was editor of The Rocky Mountain News, and publisher of The Colorado Springs Gazette. His mom was features editor of The Boulder Daily Camera — a job Dave held nearly three decades later.

As for how the news startup is going to look, Burdick says: “I’m optimistic and I really like putting people in positions where they can succeed, so I’m looking for people who are optimistic, a little adventurous, and who want to be successful.” He is responsive on Twitter, or you can find him on Facebook.

Headline of the week from The Pueblo Chieftain. Yeeeee-ouch. 

You know how The Onion likes to use “area man” as a subject for local parody news stories? “Area Man Consults Internet Whenever Possible,” “Area Man Only One With Problems,” “Area Man Makes it Through Day.” You get the idea. The Onion even published a book about the chronicles of Area Man throughout the satirical newspaper’s history.

Anyway, a real newspaper here in Colorado, The Pueblo Chieftain, channeled The Onion for a headline about a candidate for national political office this week: “Local Man Confident of U.S. Senate Chances.”

(Oof. In fairness, though, that’s still a better headline for this particular candidate than this one.)

The Colorado Springs Gazette trolled Douglas Bruce on its front page— twice!

Some of us who have written about Colorado’s anti-tax folk hero Douglas Bruce know he really doesn’t like seeing his name published as Doug. Bruce is the the architect of the state’s controversial 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) amendment that, among other things, requires governments to get permission from voters before raising taxes. His colorful antics — from kicking a news photographer on the day he was sworn in as a lawmaker to acting as his own attorney on tax evasion charges — have made him a patron and a pariah in certain corners of Colorado. A landlord in Colorado Springs, he’s been a staple subject for local media throughout the years. As he’s headed back to the slammer for violating his parole, The Gazette ran a Sunday package about his life and times.

And. In big block letters on the front page, his local newspaper (wait for it) called him Doug. Which he is just going to love when he eventually sees a copy. Meanwhile, the headline and a photo illustration of Bruce in an orange jumpsuit behind a criminal lineup board was juxtaposed with another headline right above it, telegraphed for anyone happy to see Bruce back behind bars. “Happy Easter!” it read.

And what else was on the Sunday front pages across Colorado?

It was gun permits, gun rights groups, shale-gas and more on the front pages of local Colorado newspapers this Easter Sunday.

The Colorado Springs Gazette fronted its big, big Bruce package. The Longmont Times-Call ran a story about the city council weighing a $580,000 river study. The Greeley Tribune ran a Bloomberg News piece about the Colorado-based gun-rights group Rocky Mountain Gun OwnersThe Grand Junction Daily Sentinel had a piece about Exxon Mobil quietly moving away from oil-shale business. The Pueblo Chieftain ran a localized piece about concealed handgun permits being in high demand. Steamboat Today had a cover story about the city potentially asking voters to create a new parks and recreation district.The Loveland Reporter-Herald carried a story about Larimer County buying a family’s farm to preserve it, along with a water sharing agreement. The Denver Post fronted a big Easter sermon piece. Vail Daily had skiing conditions. The Fort Collins Coloradoan had a big pull-out about how much a local university and county entities rely on prison laborThe Boulder Daily Camera carried pieces about unrealized fears of homeless housing, and CU-Boulder focusing on faculty diversity. The Durango Herald published a piece about how the Gold King Mine spill has become a wealth of info for local students.

Speaking of Easter Sunday… The Post kept it churchy for the second year in a row

In 2014, Jim Romensko pointed out how The Denver Post had that year put cannabis-related content all over its front page on Easter Sunday, but had nothing on A1 about the mainstream religious holiday having to do with Jesus, re-incarnation, and bunnies. The next year, the Post’s front page was all about Easter sermons. And this year, too. I’m personally still waiting for the Colorado Easter Sunday headline: “He Has Resin.”

Three’s a trend: This Colorado journalist is officially on the poop beat

In January, Karen Antonacci, a reporter for The Longmont Times-Call and The Boulder Daily Camera, authored a piece about a $41 million overhaul of a local wastewater treatment plant that would cost the city less to “haul away more compact, drier mixtures” than spending more to “haul away heavy liquid slurry mixtures.” (Read: poop.)

Then, in mid March, Antonacci found herself reporting on a local apartment complex that’s pursuing a program to use DNA to identify residents who aren’t picking up their pet’s land mines around the property. Her lede for the story: “Longmont’s Ironhorse Apartments have adopted a high-tech way to deter doggie doo-doo duty dereliction.”

Now, this week, Antonacci’s byline graces a story about local hotel developers hoping piped-in scents and filters will mask a foul wastewater stench.

On Twitter, the reporter made light of her newfound beat: “When I got into journalism I don’t think I envisioned writing about poop quite this often.”

And she doesn’t even cover the Statehouse!

Now for some news on the local media front from CJR’s United States Project

My colleague Trudy Lieberman, who focuses on healthcare coverage, writes about why “surprise medical bills” are an important Statehouse story. Tony Biasotti reports on what The San Francisco Chronicle hopes to accomplish with its first feature documentary. CJR’s press freedom correspondent Jonathan Peters explains how two court rulings involving universities breathe new life into the right to know. Heidi Gaiser tells us why a weekly tabloid owned by Maury Povich might have “the best newsroom in Montana.” Jackie Spinner reports how Chicago’s City Bureau is building a collaborative community newsroom with partnerships and young reporters. And I followed up with a Montana reporter who was once on the verge of leaving journalism and has now started his own online news nonprofit.

The Fort Collins Coloradoan is connecting oral storytelling and journalism

If you like newsletters like these, you should think about subscribing to The Local Fix, written by smart East Coast media watchers Molly de Aguiar and Josh Stearns who focus on big ideas for local newsrooms. This week they highlighted something the Coloradoan is doing, and I’m re-publishing that section here:

This week, we turn to the Coloradan’s Storytellers Project, which is “dedicated to the idea that oral storytelling and journalism have the same goals: serving and reflecting a community while fostering empathy.” The Coloradan has now hosted three of these events, inviting community members to share first-person stories around a particular theme, most recently “home.” This event, on the heels of the Coloradan staff dedicating a day to meeting with people in coffee shops around Fort Collins, reinforces the paper’s commitment to deepening relationships in the community, which in turn builds trust and civic participation. It also gives the paper opportunities to meet new people, hear feedback and get new story ideas. The Storytellers Project is a Gannett initiative, originally launched in Arizona and now includes nine cities in the US with 65 events planned for 2016. We would love to hear from Gannett staff and community members alike about how these in-person events are shaping coverage of their communities.

And I’d like to hear how that’s happening in Fort Collins if anyone knows.

How one Colorado reporter used open records laws for journalistic impact over her career

Reporter Pam Zubeck of the alt-weekly Colorado Springs Independent quotes Colorado’s preeminent media lawyer Steve Zansberg this week saying the Colorado Open Records Act, or CORA, is “like a fishing license.”

Zubeck continues:

In an era when newspapers are struggling, and local investigative reporting is endangered by shrinking budgets and talent pools (some major universities have chosen to dismantle their journalism departments), a fishing license is more important to the public’s right to know than ever.

Having worked 38 years for newspapers in three states, I can testify that without a license, reporters would never reel in the giant shark, or even a few shrimp. That’s because records always tell a story — especially important when nobody wants to talk or they’re afraid to talk.

The reporter rounds up some of her favorite and impactful work, most of it in Colorado, where using open records laws helped her tell important stories. They range from follow-the-money reporting on secret bank accounts to police use-of-force settlements.

Last thing. Writing about the big U.S. Senate race in Colorado? Feel free to use this.

How many candidates are running for the U.S. Senate in Colorado this year? Officially so far the count is at 14. Who are they and why is this race so huge/important/nationally significant? I went through all the candidates who have filed with the FEC for an explainer piece about the race for The Colorado Independent this week including interviews with nearly every candidate.

So, which F-bomb-dropping Republican wants to revert back to 1700s-era trade policy? Which candidate calls herself a “former slave from Communist China?” Who decided to run for national office this year on the Boiling Frog Party’s platform? (Seriously.) And is incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet really vulnerable? I explored all those questions and more in the piece.

If you’re a reporter or editor, feel free to re-publish portions of the item if you want for free, but with credit to The Colorado Independent and a link.

*This roundup appears a little differently as a published version of a weekly e-mailed newsletter about Colorado local news and media. If you’d like to add your e-mail address for the unabridged versions, please subscribe HERE

[Photo credit: Larry Johnson via Creative Commons on Flickr]