It’s time for The Indy to do things differently.
If the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us anything, it is that now is the moment for collaboration. It is the time for everyone, including journalists and news organizations, to boost each other’s strengths and have each other’s backs because doing so is not just good for each other, it is a greater good. And because the alternative leaves us weaker.
Even before the coronavirus pandemic and the economic crash it has triggered, Colorado’s newsrooms were in trouble. The number of working reporters in our state dropped 44% from 2010-18. More reporters are now being laid off and furloughed as ad revenues crater at most newspapers. At least half of our 64 counties, most of them rural, are left with only a single source of original local news, or none at all. This has turned wide swaths of our state into news deserts, allowing power to go unchecked and leaving the experiences of vulnerable communities untold and unheard by policy-makers and voters. None of these trends would be acceptable under normal circumstances. But a lack of information at a time like this is dire.
We want to help fill those gaps, and so we are preparing to embark on a new adventure with a new mission. We are excited to be joining forces with the Colorado Press Association, Colorado Media Project and newsrooms across the state in an unprecedented collaborative movement to strengthen local journalism. The Colorado News Collaborative – or COLab for short – will work to conserve and nurture Colorado’s media landscape with the same fervor that many Coloradans work to conserve and nurture our physical landscape. After all, as the Media Project puts it, “Local news is a public good.”
In mid-May, you’ll start seeing more reporting by the two of us. We’ll spend the spring and summer on a series of stories about and from Colorado’s vast news deserts, looking especially at mental health, economic equity- and civil rights issues tied to the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ll be doing more of the in-depth stories our readers love and, along the way, helping other news organizations do more of it, too. You’ll also see some of the best journalism from throughout the state as we feature more from our COLab partners on our website. By late fall, our work will have its own landing page on a new COLab site and will be published in outlets statewide. We will be partnering with news outlets and communities that may otherwise not have the capacity to produce stories of statewide impact – think of “Through the Cracks,” our collaboration with the Rio Blanco Herald Times – both learning from and teaching each other.
We’d be lying if we didn’t say this transition will be bittersweet. Susan took over The Indy in 2013 and grew it to a news site that has drawn hundreds of thousands of readers a year. Our team was always small, but also always mighty, punching above our weight to bring you unflinching reporting, journalism with a spine and a soul. But, as Susan says, Colorado doesn’t really need another news website competing with other outlets right now. It needs the reporting — high-quality, incisive stories grounded in people and place. We both have the desire and, through this new alliance, the opportunity to do that job in service of all Colorado news outlets, not just our own.
We know you probably have a lot of questions and we have more to say about what exactly is going to change with our team and when. But for now, call this a heads-up. It’s a hand extended at the start of an innovative movement to keep up with these extraordinary times, to draw power through collaboration and to produce the quality of news that Coloradans deserve. We ask for your patience as we transform, for your continued readership and financial support, and for your encouragement in a time when it is harder – and also more necessary – than ever for journalists to keep practicing our craft.
Thank you, as always, for having our backs.