What news collaboration looks – and smells – like

The pressroom at the Alamosa Valley Courier Friday night as it printed our collaboration on a protest-related shooting. (Photo by Stephen Jiron)
The pressroom at the Alamosa Valley Courier Friday night as it printed our collaboration on a protest-related shooting. (Photo by Stephen Jiron)

Dear readers,

It had been too long since I smelled a newspaper.

By that, I don’t mean the thing tossed on our front stoops each morning. I mean the building with pressrooms and loud gizmos that somehow transform 6-foot rolls of paper and 4,000-lb tanks of ink into pages of words and images that can be turned and folded and spilled on with coffee.

Most of us who came of age in print journalism know the scent I’m referring to. It’s sweet and sooty and oily all at once. It imbued not just the pressrooms of the newspapers we worked for, but also our newsrooms down the hall. The deadlines of the good people running the presses determined our own deadlines, chop chop. And so the scent of a newspaper, even 22 years later, is still for me one of teamwork and collaboration.

It hit me in mid-June when I showed up at the Valley Courier in Alamosa, one of an increasingly few newspapers still printed where it’s written. Publisher Keith Cerny greeted me (and graciously put on a face mask for what looked like it may have been the first time). He didn’t want to talk about the story I had come to help him report. Instead, he took me straight to the back of the building to show off his pressroom. In it was an aqua green, 6-unit Goss Community offset printing press built in the ‘70s. The now-94-year-old Courier bought it used in the ‘90s for its then-new building in South Alamosa. That press, along with the people who operate it and produce what it prints have kept Alamosans informed for decades now. Well, at least since 1994, when a local woman killed her boyfriend and ate him and the Courier’s headline read “Woman Has Friend For Dinner.”

As I write this Friday night, I am proud that the Courier’s press is printing a story Keith and I have been collaborating on for two weeks. “Triggered” is about a June 4 protest during which a man drove his pickup into a crowd of protesters and one of them shot him in the head. “Their June 4 run-in lasted five seconds, less than an average yawn. That’s all it took for one of Colorado’s sleepy protests to become its most violent,” our story reads.

Keith suggested I not use a picture of him in camo for this newsletter. He and I have pretty much nothing in common except for the most important things in our business: A shared belief in diligent, let-the-chips-fall-where-they-may reporting, and a shared faith that informing people is the best we can do for our communities.

Times are tough for journalism, especially for small local papers like the Courier. So tough that none of us can afford not to collaborate. That’s why The Indy joined with the Colorado Press Association and Colorado Media Project to form the nonprofit Colorado News Collaborative (COLab).

Our transition to that new nonprofit is moving along faster than anticipated and you’ll be seeing changes as a result. The Saturday news digest email and our site will highlight our work with partner newsrooms, our reporting from news deserts and the stories behind the story. Our work also will appear in partner outlets like the Courier and in newspapers and news sites across the state.

Tina and I are committed to training and learning from our partners as we work with them. Our hope is that collaborations like “Triggered” and other projects at COLab will cover news that otherwise wouldn’t be reported in-depth, help news outlets reach more readers, inform more Coloradans, and foster a new generation of journalists with ink in their blood.

Please support our new mission. Thank you.


This note went to our email subscribers on June 26. Want to stay in the loop on our news collaborations and other work? Sign up here.

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Susan Greene is a reporter, editor and coach for the Colorado News Collaborative (COLab). She was editor and executive director of The Colorado Independent before it merged with COLab and a longtime reporter and metro columnist at The Denver Post. She was selected as a 2020-2021 Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Journalism Fellow, and is the inaugural recipient of the Benjamin von Sternenfels Rosenthal Grant for Mental Health Investigative Journalism.