Journalists Brainstorm Ideas to Rally Community Support

  • Hold open office hours.

  • Solicit public donations to buy ad space for a nonprofit.

  • Be more intentional about the stories we tell and the communities we cover.

These were just some of the ideas that came out of a workshop last week, “Engaging Your Community to Sustain Local Journalism,” hosted at the 2019 Convention of the Colorado Press Association. Now in its 141st year, CPA’s annual meeting gathers journalists from all over the state, rallying around the belief that Colorado’s many great local newsrooms are stronger together and, to quote the conference’s theme, “Better by Association.”

CMP Executive Committee Member Melissa Milios Davis, Vice President for Gates Family Foundation, set the stage with a keynote address that encouraged local journalists to develop a “membership mindset” — embracing local communities as integral not only to their reporting process but also to their business models.

In the workshop, we asked local news professionals a set of thought-provoking questions about their current efforts and activities for cultivating community support for the mission of journalism. Conversations were facilitated by Nancy Watzman, Colorado Media Project (CMP) director; Lori Bergen, founding dean of the College of Media, Communication and Information at the University of Colorado - Boulder; Laura Frank, vice president for journalism, Rocky Mountain Public Media; Amanda Mountain, president and CEO, Rocky Mountain Public Media; and Lynn Walsh, Trusting News project.

From there, we brainstormed strategies for strengthening those community ties, thus increasing philanthropic and grassroots revenue potential. Among the many great ideas discussed, three key themes emerged:

  • Transparency: How can we better engage the community in our journalism? Ideas included forming community press councils or editorial boards, hosting office hours or open coffees, and soliciting suggestions for stories through polling or other mechanisms. One journalist pledged to start publicizing the community events he plans to attend, so people know they can have a conversation with him there.

  • Diversity: One attendee noted that her newsroom was not sufficiently representative of Colorado’s diversity, and that they can and must do better. She and the staff should not just follow inclusive hiring practices, she said, but also be intentional about the stories and communities they cover.

  • Philanthropy: Our conversation coalesced around a shared desire to give back to the broader community and to engage more civic leaders in the mission of local journalism. One interesting idea was to form a coalition of businesses to underwrite an advertisement for a local non-profit. Another business leader said he was seeking “stepping stones” to consider ways that local philanthropic support might help strengthen or sustain the journalism produced by his newsroom.

We look forward to hearing more about these ideas as they’re put into action. If you participated in the workshop and have follow-up questions or thoughts, we encourage you to reach out to our team (

Melissa Milios Davis of the Gates Family Foundation delivers the keynote address at the Colorado Press Association Convention.

Melissa Milios Davis of the Gates Family Foundation delivers the keynote address at the Colorado Press Association Convention.

Also at the CPA convention, Melissa Davis, vice president for informed communities for the Gates Family Foundation, kicked things off Friday morning with a keynote address, sharing how her own journalism background helped inspire her current local news advocacy work with CMP.

Governor Jared Polis also addressed the convention, and later that afternoon he signed into law House Bill 19-1119, mandating a statewide standard for open records on internal affairs investigations into police departments and sheriff's departments.

For upcoming opportunities to collaborate with CMP, visit our recently-refreshed Events page. Next up, Colorado journalists are encouraged to join us tonight at Spangalang Brewery in the Five Points neighborhood for FIRST DRAFT, our monthly social event series. As always for those that pre-register online, the first draft is on us!