What a year. So much upheaval. So much soul-searching about who we are as a nation. So much fear wondering if this is who we’re becoming, fractured, strangers to each other.
It’d be easy to despair. But, as we look back on 2016, we’re struck by the many moments in which Coloradans didn’t. Instead, they stood up, linked arms, and demanded to be heard.
We saw acts of defiance.
In January, Denverites commandeered the Martin Luther King Day Marade from Mayor Michael Hancock during their hunger strike over sheriff’s deputies’ killing of yet another mentally ill homeless man. In the fall, residents of Denver’s Elyria-Swansea neighborhoods rose up against an I-70 expansion they say will further tear apart their community. And earlier this month, a small group of Coloradans tried upending the Electoral College to keep Donald Trump from becoming president. Their effort, doomed as it may have been, captured the country’s imagination.
We saw acts of solidarity.
A broad coalition in Douglas County rallied behind high school sophomore Grace Davis last winter after school board members tried strong-arming her out of organizing student protests against their conservative reforms in the flailing district. “I stand with Grace,” read T-shirts worn even by district teachers for whom, without a union, it was a risky wardrobe choice. Grace’s supporters gave the school board hell.
In March, scores of Coloradans who’d never caucused – let alone, in many cases, even voted – lined up for a chance to pick a presidential nominee. Turnout in some Democratic caucus sites was so high that voting had to take place in parking lots. We watched a 20-something Sanders supporter wrap his coat around the shoulders of a 70-something Clintonite at one chilly caucus site. At another, we saw a Clintonite feed the parking meter of the Sanders voter ahead of him in line. Never have we seen so many Coloradans so eager to raise their hands and be counted, nor witnessed such a strong sense of community in the process.
Community roots the work of Tina Griego, who chronicles the places that bind Coloradans together and what happens when landscapes shift. After moving back from Richmond in July, she wrote an exquisitely rendered account of what it’s like to be priced out of a city she used to call home. This week, she writes about Denver’s plans to redevelop Sun Valley, the city’s poorest neighborhood, and the fears and hopes of the people who live there.
While 2016 stood out for its cacophony of shrill voices, it was the soft ones that most moved us. We fell in love with a fourth-grader named Jade who spent her 10th birthday trying to persuade lawmakers to let her birth certificate – and those of all transgender Coloradans – reflect her gender identity. We were proud to be in the courtroom when, 29 years after Clarence Moses-EL was convicted for a rape he didn’t commit, a jury finally exonerated him. Clarence, 61, had spent nearly half his life behind bars professing his innocence. Sometimes, he says, it takes crazy long for folks to really hear you.
There has been much self-examination among the news media in the wake of the election. We know that all too often, phones and keyboards keep reporters so far removed from their subjects that news feels disembodied, even alien to readers. That disconnect widens with story after story about press releases, polls and propaganda rather than people. These days, gutted by budget cuts and demands for higher profits, too many news outlets curate stories more than investigate. They grab sound bites from both sides of an issue and label it as news. Shallowness often replaces fairness and balance. Getting the story first trumps getting the story right.
The Independent strives to do things differently. We show up live and in person, and make a point of knowing the people we cover and the communities in which they live. We hear out our subjects as long as it takes so that, once we’re back at our keyboards writing, their voices resonate in our heads. For us, reporting is personal. The best reporting is about more than politics and data sets. It illuminates what’s human about us and tells us more about who we are as communities, cities, and a state.
In this era of “fake news” – and, far more pervasive, inadequate reporting – it’s more important than ever to support real news gathering. Helping to underwrite independent journalism, nonprofit journalism, journalism about real people, practiced by real journalists and funded by real readers, not hedge funds, has become, in its own way, an act of defiance, solidarity and hope.
The Indy is on a roll. Our readership doubled in 2016, and so did our impact. If you read us, please help fund our small but mighty nonprofit newsroom with a year-end, tax-deductible contribution by clicking here. If you’ve backed our work in the past, please double your support so we can hit 2017 running.
This will be a news year like none other. We urgently need to grow our staff to watchdog power at all levels, report the stories – so many stories – that need to be told, and amplify voices that might otherwise go unheard.
Thanks for your help, readership and friendship. We wish you all a happy new year.
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