Colorado Public Radio-Denverite Marriage: 1+1=3

Above: Denverite Founder and Editor Dave Burdick and staff members in the Denverite newsroom. Photo courtesy of Denverite.

By Alan Gottlieb 

Today’s news that Denverite, a beloved three-year-old digital news organization, is becoming part of Colorado Public Radio — which has been acting on big plans to expand its news staff — injects a new spirit of optimism into the local news conversation in Colorado. Denverite will continue publishing under its own brand and all of its editorial staff will be retained, while the move deepens CPR’s coverage of Denver’s growth and development, arts and culture, government and politics, and events.

At the Colorado Media Project, we are pleased to have helped organize philanthropic support from the Gates Family Foundation and the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation toward transition and operating support that helps make the deal possible.

“We see this as a chance to bring a unique, homegrown newsroom into mission-aligned local ownership, while also increasing CPR’s digital and reporting capacities — enabling both newsrooms to engage more Coloradans with high-quality local journalism,” CMP Executive Committee Member Melissa Davis, also a VP at Gates, said in today’s news release. The business proposition marries stability with innovation, and it’s not untested — NPR stations in Los Angeles, New York City, and Washington D.C. have recently acquired city-focused digital startups to strengthen their coverage and reach new readers in those major metros.

“The Colorado Media Project is dedicated to the sustainability of local news organizations to serve all Coloradans,” said CMP acting director Nancy Watzman. “We’re looking forward to working with CPR and Denverite through this transition and beyond. CMP’s support for local news does not stop with this deal: we’re working with a whole range of Colorado news organizations to help strengthen local news in our state. When community comes together, just wait to see what we can do.”

We talked to Kevin Dale, CPR’s executive editor, and Dave Burdick, Denverite’s founder and editor, about what this change means for both organizations, their loyal listeners and readers, and Colorado’s local news ecosystem. Responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Colorado Media Project: You’re both in the business of explaining the day’s news and events to readers and listeners. What does it all mean for CPR and Denverite?

Kevin Dale: Having Denverite join CPR fits nicely into our plans for expansion. We’re able to get the services of really strong journalists already steeped in their beats and who have a loyal audience. To start from scratch developing these beats would have been much harder. We want Denverite to keep doing its thing. It has a strong voice that really resonates with its audience and the residents of Denver.  

Dave Burdick: Being a member-supported organization has been really central to our identity, and has propelled us forward in terms of our reporting, our relationships with the community, the way we approach our jobs. Now we are becoming part of the biggest and best member-supported news organization in the state. That’s incredibly exciting to me. We will now have additional editorial firepower. When you have the opportunity to bounce your ideas off of 40-plus dedicated, talented journalists, who come at things from different perspectives, you are going to get better at what you do. 

CMP: What does this coming together say about the state of local journalism in Colorado? 

Dale: To survive in today's world, a news organization needs infrastructure, as well as departments focused on where revenue comes from and how to grow audience and build on technology. That’s what CPR can immediately bring to Denverite. They are focused on content. They are a lean, mean company with just one person focused on revenue. We have an entire development department, HR department, administrative department. That kind of back-end infrastructure is critical to success.  

Burdick: I am incredibly optimistic about the future of local journalism, as long as local journalists are willing to do a better job showing their work, and explaining how they’re doing what they’re doing. On the flip side, journalists need to listen to the communities they’re reporting on, understand those communities, and understand that they, as journalists, have giant, glaring blind spots — and need to do the work to resolve those blind spots. This deal is really validating of the work our journalists have been doing in this community. 

CMP: What big new things are going to emerge from this deal? 

Dale: Dave and I, and all of CPR, are committed to growing arts coverage. It is a big part of what we want to do as part of this merger. You could argue that no area of coverage has taken a harder hit over the past decade than arts coverage. This is a chance for us to step in and begin to fill that void. 

Burdick: At Denverite, we have wanted to expand our arts coverage for a while, and now we are going to be able to do that. The loss of arts coverage is something I’ve paid close attention to and have been saddened by, as a former arts journalist. It has been a huge bummer. The arts are part of what makes a city what it is. 

CMP: Denverite journalists are known for their city ways, bike-commuting to work, etc. Are they now going to have to work out of your offices in Centennial?

Dale: No. They are journalists who live in Denver and cover Denver. It doesn’t make sense for them to work out of Centennial. We have a bit of space in downtown Denver and we will figure out how to make that work.

CMP: The two of you worked together in the past at The Denver Post. On a more personal note, what will it be like to be working together again?

Dale: I hired Dave and brought him to the Post features department. I can’t wait to work with him again. As long I have known him, Dave has been a digital news visionary. He has proved that with Denverite. He is laser-focused on audience and producing content that resonates with his audience. 

Burdick: I am thrilled to be working with Kevin again. I have known him and admired him for years. And that extends to the entire CPR newsroom. When we became a member-supported organization last year, several people in the CPR newsroom became members. I was so touched that I got in my car, bought donuts, and drove them down to the CPR newsroom in Centennial to thank them. We like them a lot, on a personal level and a professional level.