The Colorado Sun celebrates its first anniversary with quality journalism and thanks to its community

by Larry Ryckman

Crossposted on Medium.

We’re fast approaching our first anniversary at The Colorado Sun, and we’ve all learned a lot in the past year.

Ten of us left The Denver Post in 2018 amid endless rounds of layoffs and cutbacks, and we set out to create a digital news site dedicated to quality journalism that would help fill the gaps left by the loss of hundreds of journalists across our state in recent years.

None of us set out to be small business owners, but we did it because it was important and needed to be done. As I have often said, this is not a crisis for journalists. It’s a crisis for communities and — I’m really stepping onto my soapbox here — for our very democracy. Communities suffer when journalism withers and goes away, government deserves a watchdog whether it wants one or not, and citizens need access to reliable information from independent, nonpartisan news sources today more than ever. Journalists help provide the glue that holds communities together: Spotlighting good people, exposing wrongdoers and holding the powerful accountable.

So, as we approach our anniversary on Sept. 10, there is a lot to celebrate. We have produced award-winning journalism. We have helped drive the news agenda at the state Capitol. And we are on solid financial footing, with a growing number of readers, members, and supporters of The Sun community.

None of us set out to be small business owners, but we did it because it was important and needed to be done. As I have often said, this is not a crisis for journalists. It’s a crisis for communities and — I’m really stepping onto my soapbox here — for our very democracy.

Before even launching The Sun, we quickly learned an important lesson: Producing quality journalism is not enough. We watched too many others who went before us struggle as they sought to create news organizations in Colorado and around the country. It’s equally important to ensure that you have a solid business plan and do something that journalists are usually terrible at doing: Ask for help.

In our case, we were very fortunate to have friends new and old step forward with help, money and guidance.

First, the folks at Civil and Old Town Media generously offered The Colorado Sun a substantial grant to get us up on our feet and make our case to the people of Colorado. In return, they asked for nothing more than for us to go out and do great journalism. They have helped us at every step along the way as we envisioned and launched a new company.

We were also incredibly lucky to create The Sun as the Colorado Media Project was being formed for largely the same reasons — we all recognized that we were witnessing the growth of news deserts and concluded that urgent action was needed. JB Holston, dean of the engineering and computer science school at the University of Denver and one of the key forces behind the CMP, has been a patient mentor and champion of The Sun since the very beginning. The amazing team at the Boston Consulting Group swooped in and helped us sharpen and develop our business model, based in part on market research it conducted on behalf of the CMP. Many others have helped as well.

One of the main themes of the CMP has been that news organizations are stronger when they work together, and we have embraced that philosophy with great enthusiasm at The Colorado Sun. We have knitted together a network of news partners across the state, and we share our stories and photos with them daily. Our journalism regularly appears on front pages from Grand Junction to Greeley, from Aspen to Aurora, Durango to Telluride, Steamboat and elsewhere. We’re now going on KUNC every week to share Sun stories with public radio listeners statewide.

And, soon, The Colorado Sun and nearly 15 other partners across the state will be publishing a joint news project that would have been unthinkable in the old, zero-sum days of cutthroat competition. It’s an exciting venture that vividly demonstrates the power of working together. We’re hoping it will be a model for other statewide projects heading into 2020, and we would love to bring other news organizations aboard going forward.

The Colorado Sun is all about creating community — among our readers and with fellow journalists. We’re thrilled with the progress that we have made in our first year, and we’re excited about the prospects for our second year as we continue to grow and seek even greater cooperation and collaboration.

Now here’s the part where I ask for help. Please join with us and help ensure that independent, quality journalism can grow and thrive in Colorado. Yes, please support The Colorado Sun, but also support quality local journalism wherever you can find it. Do it because our communities need journalism. Do it because you want to be well informed about the people, places and politics of our state. Do it because it needs to be done.

It turns out that asking for help isn’t so hard after all.

Larry Ryckman is Editor and Co-Founder of The Colorado Sun