Amid Regional Newspaper Layoffs, Colorado Journalists Start Something New

Jul 23, 2018

The Pew Research Center is reporting that more than a third of large newspapers laid off staff in the last year or so, including in our region.

When The Denver Post laid off about a third of its newsroom earlier this year, senior editor for news Larry Ryckman left to start something new, The Colorado Sun.

“We saw the writing on the wall,” he says of staff who chose to leave. He blames the current ownership, a hedge fund called Alden Global Capital for the cutbacks at the Post.

“These guys live in New York. They don’t care about Colorado, they certainly don’t care about The Denver Post. What they care about are double-digit profits,” he says. “It’s just terrible, and it’s the same trend in place after place. It is corporate owners who have lost touch with their communities.”

Alternatively, The Colorado Sun is owned by the journalists who founded it.

“We are 100 percent journalist-owned at this point and we know this state, we live in this state and we care about this state,” says Ryckman.

The news outlet’s initial funding comes from a group called the Civil Media Company, plus an additional $160,000 that it crowdsourced on Kickstarter.

Ryckman says the goal for the site is to be funded by reader donations, and for most of the content to remain free. Instead of having a corporate publisher, the publication will house its content on thousands of computers across the world on a platform run by the Civil Media Company.

(For those who are interested, the platform is based on blockchain technology. There’s an entire podcast about how it could change journalism here).

“We’ve seen in some other cities where publishers got into a beef with their newsrooms and they deleted all of the archives. All of their stories, all of their journalism, was just deleted because a publisher decided to pull the plug on a server somewhere,” says Ryckman.

Newspapers across our region cut staff in the last year, including Utah’s Salt Lake Tribune, Wyoming’s Casper Star-Tribune and Montana’s Billings Gazette.

“The community suffers when journalists are cut,” says Ryckman. “We just will never know the stories that aren’t being told, and that’s a loss for all of us.

Eric Lubbers, who left the Denver Post to become The Colorado Sun’s chief technical officer, says the group is taking a new tack by establishing themselves as a statewide publication.

“Statewide is kind of a murky area to be in because people tend to identify themselves as being from their town and then from America. They don’t necessarily think of themselves as Coloradans or Montanans or Utahns in quite the same way,” says Lubbers. “We’re hoping that if we can come up with a model that really works for us here in Colorado, maybe it can be something that can be replicated around the country.”

The Colorado Sun is set to launch sometime around Labor Day.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, Yellowstone Public Radio in Montana, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.