One in five residents of the Roaring Fork Valley — a central Colorado mountain region that includes communities from Aspen, Basalt and Carbondale, to Glenwood Springs, New Castle and Silt — identifies as Latino or Hispanic. Latinos make up an even higher share of the population in Eagle and Garfield counties. In one Eagle county community, Dotsero, 70% of residents identify as such.
About 15 English news outlets serve the area as well as a couple of Spanish-first media organizations. Some of the English outlets have been trying to find ways to better connect with their Spanish-speaking and reading audience. But information gaps for Spanish speakers persist in an area that has among the state’s highest level of English language learners in schools.
From behind his mic at local Spanish-language radio station, La Tricolor, Samuel Bernal saw an urgent need to fill these gaps and knit together this patchwork “where good content can get lost.”
His search for a solution, I’m happy to say, has found like-minded company.
In an unprecedented collaboration, four newsrooms, one investigative news organization, and three radio stations are coming together to find ways to better serve Spanish-speaking readers and listeners from Aspen to Rifle to Eagle.
The Sopris Sun, Aspen Daily News, The Aspen Times, Glenwood Springs Post Independent, Aspen Journalism, KPVW La Tricolor 107.1, KDNK Community Radio and Aspen Public Radio make up this Roaring Fork Valley dream team. COLab is helping to guide the new partnership and will be bringing these outlets together with community organizations and residents to find out what’s needed, where and how.
And the news just gets better. Our fledgling dream team has received a much-needed boost. Colorado Media Project — a financial supporter and partner of COLab — announced this collaboration has been awarded a $25,000 grant to explore, with community members, ways to get Spanish speakers of the valley the information they need.
The Advancing Equity in Local News grant comes from a pool of nearly $300,000 to support 19 different newsroom projects across the state. All in some way seek to strengthen newsrooms’ internal diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, connections with communities and more diverse and inclusive news leadership, entrepreneurship and ownership.
“(This) says to me that we are lucky to have journalists that share the passion and the mission of informing our communities as best as possible,” Bernal said. Funders and newsrooms share the dream of responding to communities’ needs and desire for local news, he said, “because at the end of the day, a better-informed community is a community with more resources and prosperity.”
Bernal’s sense of urgency is present in communities throughout the state. The lack of critical information equity, particularly among Colorado’s Spanish-speaking communities, was a central theme of last year’s Latinx Voices working group’s conversations. Its report and recommendations for change, ‘Think Big. Act Now.’ A Call to Action from Latinx Coloradans for Equitable and Just Local News, calls for Spanish speakers and immigrants to be included in story planning, coverage, outreach and engagement. The group also called for a variety of media, languages and formats to fill information gaps in the Latino community.
The Roaring Fork Valley collaboration seeks to do just that. It is also an extension of the clear momentum from media organizations who want to better serve bilingual and Spanish speakers.
Earlier this month, for example, Aspen Daily News announced a partnership with Carbondale’s Sopris Sun to produce a more expansive version of el Sol del Valle — a Spanish-language weekly section of the bilingual nonprofit newspaper. The expanded section will include more of the week’s biggest stories from both publications in Spanish.
“I think (we) have realized we can do a lot more for the community if we work together,” Sopris Sun’s Executive Director Todd Chamberlin told me in an email. “I know there are a lot of organizations for-profit/non-profit chasing after the same money and audience and I believe the only way for something to be ultimately successful is for us to all work together and utilize each of our strengths.”
The promise of this work is a testament to what newsrooms, community stakeholders and funders can do when they come together. And it’s also testament to COLab’s mission to serve as a hub for collaboration, an incubator for ideas and a champion of the belief that we can bring better news to all Coloradans.
Thank you for making our work possible. I am excited to support the incredible work of the news partners in this valley.
Community Engagement Director
This post was sent as a letter to our email subscribers on Thursday, February 3, 2022. Join our email list to learn more about COLab and the work we are doing.