A letter from our publisher

Dear readers,

This is the first of my columns as publisher of The Colorado Independent, and I’d like to introduce myself.

I have lived in Colorado for most of the past thirty years. I’ve raised a family here in Denver, and traveled all over the state in my work in nonprofits and philanthropy — A+ Denver, the Women’s Foundation of Colorado, and Rocky Mountain PBS, most recently — and as the mother of athletic children, now grown. I love Colorado and embrace its contradictions. We are newcomers and natives, we love the mountains but hate the traffic. We wonder why anyone would live anywhere else, but then lament the rising cost of rent and the long lines at the DMV. We are a genuinely purple state trying to reconcile many conflicting points of view.

I am a news junkie from way back, and appreciated when Denver had two newspapers competing for readers, for breaking news, and for a diversity of viewpoints. I remember critical stories by reporters like Mark Obmascik (yes, I go back that far) Lynn Bartels, and Jeff Roberts that informed voters, turned elections, and shaped our political and public affairs debates.

This is the impact that The Colorado Independent seeks to make with the news our small but mighty team of reporters and editors produces. It is my role and privilege to work to build them a strong, sustainable organization that supports this critical civic function.

Denver author Helen Thorpe penned a thoughtful guest column for us on June 28 about the news media’s role in last month’s primary election for governor. “Most of the vectors by which we once learned who to cast a vote for were so disrupted that the defining characteristic of this election was the scarcity of data,” she wrote. But Helen also lauded The Independent for the depth and seriousness of our coverage of the race and our eight profiles of the primary candidates, which drew record-high readership. More recently, she wrote, “The Independent’s coverage of the primaries was a bright shining example of excellence in the otherwise dark landscape that local news coverage has become in Colorado. The Indy’s health and sustainability is vital to the well-being of the state.”

We agree that there are all too few news outlets covering this election cycle. That’s why we‘ve devoted much of our resources lately to covering the governor’s race, looking at the influences of special interests and dark money, and explaining who the candidates are, what they stand for, and how their records stack up against their campaign promises. You can count on us for that caliber of explanatory and investigative reporting through the November election and beyond, after whomever wins takes office.

I also encourage you to read our emerging competition. Denverite is carving its own local niche as a news source about life in our capital city. And The Colorado Sun will launch later this summer staffed by a team of former Denver Post journalists. We can lament the withering of beloved institutions like The Post – and I do – but we need also to embrace the good news of what is happening right here, right now as innovative new news sources pop up in a state that sorely needs them.

We are fundamentally different from the other outlets in that we’re a nonprofit and are accountable to no one but our readers, the communities we cover, and the sources who entrust us with their stories. We work hard to be worthy of that trust. If you like what you read on The Colorado Independent, I urge you to consider making a tax-deductible donation to help us carry on a tradition of watchdog journalism in Colorado. We can only grow our coverage if we can grow in financial support – and we are counting on readers like you.

During this, my first week as publisher, I’d also like to ask you to email five friends and ask them to sign up – for free – for The Independent’s email list. Your recommendation as an existing reader will be more powerful than any amount of promotion and advertising from us. Send it to your mom, your colleague, your neighbor, your friend from high school. And ask them, too, to be “news evangelists” for The Colorado Independent.

I’ll be writing occasional columns talking about our impact, about the role of media in this state, and other topics. They won’t all be requests for help, I hope. But I know that you share our commitment to our state and to the vital role that news plays in our civic fabric, so I am asking for that help now.

See you here soon. And, if you have ideas or comments, please write me at publisher@coloradoindependent.com.

Laurie Hirschfeld Zeller
The Colorado Independent

A lifelong news addict, Laurie has held management positions with the National Civic League, the Bell Policy Center, and the bi-partisan statewide ballot campaign, Yes on Referenda C and D. She has served as executive director of two Denver-based nonprofits as well as vice president for community initiatives and investment for the Women’s Foundation of Colorado. Most recently a consultant for nonprofits and foundations, she built a national education initiative for Rocky Mountain PBS. In joining The Independent, Laurie decided to stop complaining about the state of the news industry and start building it instead.