A longtime reporter who covered the legislature for The Denver Business Journal has turned in his press pass and joined the ranks of those he once covered — taking a position as a vice president of the Colorado Chamber of Commerce.
As far as headlines go, that might be kind of ‘Dog Bites Man.’ ‘Airplanes Took Off Today.’
But, wait, there’s more.
From Tuesday’s announcement, emphasis mine:
The Colorado Chamber of Commerce today announced the hiring of Ed Sealover as vice president of strategic initiatives and editor of The Sum & Substance, a new chamber-owned online publication that will cover Colorado’s legislative and political news related to the business community.
So there’s somewhat of a local media twist to this development.
The move reflects a natural progression in the journalist-to-public-relations lifecycle and the way special-interest groups, industries, brands, politicians, and even governments might create their own media arms to convey a more tightly controlled public message while cutting out a sometimes-meddlesome middleman in the form of the traditional press. (Even if the ones doing the work might not see it that way.)
For example, in 2019, when the Regional Transportation District’s public relations boss announced an “RTD newsroom” to “put out their own stories,” it led to a mini-debate among journalists and PR folks here about propaganda versus government agencies providing their own information in a diminished local news landscape.
Sealover is not the first legislative reporter to cross over into industry and launch a newsy kind of publication dedicated to a special interest.
In 2015, longtime legislative reporter Lynn Bartels left The Denver Post as its Capitol reporter to work for the Republican secretary of state. There, she started a blog and wrote what one observer described as “some of the same types of stories that you saw her write at The Post and, before that, at the Rocky Mountain News.” (But with some obvious constraints.)
In 2018, Peter Marcus bolted a job as the statehouse reporter for Colorado Politics to do PR for a cannabis company. There, he created The News Station where he could continue to do some writing from behind industry lines and with a clear point of view.
As they say, three’s a trend.
For his part, Sealover, 49, who has two grade-school-aged kids, says he doesn’t plan to approach The Sum & Substance part of the job much differently than he did at the DBJ, but he’ll be writing for a specific, perhaps more wonky, audience. Interestingly, he didn’t seem to think he’d have many constraints, such as writing about legislation that the Chamber opposes. He said his status as a vice president will also put him in a position to suggest initiatives that can help the business community.
“That’s what’s exciting to me about this role … stepping up from just maybe the community stenographer to somebody who can really help affect things more directly in this community,” he said over the phone Wednesday. (I spoke with him more about how he would approach the Sum & Substance part of the job for the purposes of this media newsletter.)
“I will still be in the Capitol, but I will not consider myself part of the press,” he said. “I understand that somebody who works for a business advocacy group is not part of the press corps. So I gave up my desk, I gave up my press pass.”
A day after his first day starting a new career he was still adapting to a new identity following 28 years as a journalist. He corrected himself after saying “we” in regard to journalists, and described what he’ll be doing beyond his role as a vice president of initiatives as something of a hybrid form of communication.
“I am going to do my best to cover this like an independent journalist, but I am not a journalist,” he said. “And I accept that that is now a part of my past.”
With that comes more money. He declined to say how much, but said it’s a significant increase.
Black journalists at 9NEWS have ‘tough conversations’ about work life
This week, six Black journalists at KUSA 9NEWS in Denver filmed a segment for 9News+ where they talked about what it’s like being Black in the newsroom.
“They had tough conversations about tokenism and limited representation,” said 9NEWS Meteorologist Chris Bianchi at the beginning. “They also shared laughs about code switching and hair care — things many Black people in most industries can relate to, and things those of us who are not Black may not even know are happening.”
The series began with Meteorologist Laurann Robinson talking about a positive experience she once had at the station when she saw an image on the 9NEWS Instagram of two Black women holding hands for something like Best Friends Day.
“The underlying issue of what really made me upset at the fact that that made me happy is that we’re never featured as human beings,” she said. She added that she never sees an image of, say, a Black dad and child for Father’s Day. “Everything is white. The default has to be white,” she said. “And then if it’s not, then you have to add ‘Black’ in front of it.”
You should watch the entire 16-minute show, but here are some takeaways:
- Robinson said she doesn’t even apply to stations that already have a Black meteorologist because “that box has already been checked.”
- “9 is OK with just having one Black reporter,” Morning Reporter Darius Johnson said. “I’m on mornings, I don’t care if the viewers don’t see this one Black reporter at 4 and 5 or 6, or at 9 and 10. At least, hey, we can say at 9 and 10 … ‘We got Alex on the desk,’ or ‘We got Laurann doing weather.’ So it’s just enough — we got one — we’re checking the box.”
- Alexandra Lewis said as the only Black person on the news team at night she feels she not only has to look at stories she produces herself but also those of colleagues and say “that language was problematic” or “this made me feel a type of way.” She said she feels like she has to be a gatekeeper, and the pressure is high.
- “I also think that there’s almost no regard for the experience that people of color may go through,” Johnson said at one point. “Like, you can’t understand what it’s like to walk in our shoes. And I think that’s where a lot of the disconnect comes, and I think that’s where a lot of the feelings from the people of color at 9 feel: that we aren’t valued or we aren’t appreciated or we aren’t listened to. Because no one can really understand us or tries to understand us.”
The group talked about much more than that, so click the link above or watch below:
NOTE: As I was getting ready to send this newsletter out Friday morning, I saw that CBS News Colorado also convened a roundtable of its Black journalists and broadcast the conversation on Thursday. I hope to have a separate item on that for next week’s newsletter.
A new ‘Trusted Sources’ documentary trailer is out
Colorado has played a pivotal role in three recent journalism or news-adjacent documentaries.
Last year’s “News Matters,” by Colorado filmmaker Brian Malone, focused plenty on Colorado. Rick Goldsmith told this newsletter that “much of the action takes place in Colorado” in his forthcoming “Stripped for Parts” documentary about U.S. journalism at a crossroads. Meanwhile, “The Social Dilemma,” a 2020 dystopian doc about how corporations have broken the promise of a utopian digital-age future, was a Colorado-based production.
We’re soon set to add another to the list. Filmmaker Don Colacino of Erie, Colorado, is at work on “Trusted Sources,” a documentary he calls a “solutions-focused film about the reliability of news.”
As he continues filming and wrangling support for the project, a new trailer is out. The film “shows the ethics of journalism and how news is produced,” a narrator says in it.
You might see some familiar faces if you watch:
Colorado Media Project offers the ‘view from Colorado’
Colorado Media Project, which underwrites this newsletter, this week produced a report about its efforts in Colorado in hopes others might want to support its work or seek to replicate it elsewhere.
The report comes as media-thinkers from across the country this week descend on Miami for the Knight Foundation’s annual Media Forum.
From CMP item, titled “The View from CO: Join Us as We Reimagine the Public Square”:
Why would other funders and innovative partners want to join our efforts here in flyover country (aside from the mountains and rivers)? Well, we’d argue that, dollar-for-dollar, by taking this approach Colorado has been quietly standing up some of the most ambitious initiatives, civic news organizations, and ecosystem supports in the nation. That makes fertile ground for continued learning and investment.
You should read the whole thing, but I thought this part was worth highlighting:
None of what’s happened in Colorado has been accidental, but it has been organic. While the news industry in Colorado has experienced ups and downs for decades, nearly five years ago CMP was started with a kernel of an idea — that the future of local news was not a problem for journalists alone to solve, but one for the community itself had to own.
Since then we have kept our finger on the pulse of what Colorado residents want from local news — and who they trust — via three statewide surveys (in 2018, 2019 and 2022), convened a blue-ribbon panel to identify local and state-level policy solutions to the crisis facing local civic news, worked with COLab and the Colorado Press Association to understand the realities and needs of modern journalists and newsrooms, and worked with Colorado College, University of Denver, COLab, Hearken to map and track where Coloradans get local news — and who’s behind it.
Members of CMP’s Executive Committee have made multi-year commitments to CMP, and have developed a theory of change that guides our collective grantmaking and investments. This year, we’ve allocated more than $1.3 million to provide direct grants to newsrooms and initiatives across the state, via funding pools dedicated to each of our three-year priorities: Advancing Equity in Local News, the Watchdog Fund for Accountability Journalism, and the Community News Innovation and Sustainability Fund.
CMP says it “hopes to provide a new model ourselves, so that other place-based and national funders can learn both from us, and alongside us.”
Sky-Hi News gets a new (and cold) editor
A Swift Communications-branded newspaper owned by Ogden Newspapers of West Virginia has a new leader at the helm.
“Readers, I would like to introduce myself as the new editor of Sky-Hi News and the absolute coldest person in Grand County,” wrote Tara Alatorre in a note to readers this week.
More from the column:
Well, you can take the lady out of the newsroom, but you can’t take the newsroom out of the lady. After taking a year-long sabbatical with my partner and living abroad, we were ready to set down roots and become a part of a community. Even more so, I was ready to be in journalism again.
As a journalist, Alatorre says she spent her career in Arizona, covering “sustainability topics and rural ranching communities dealing with extreme drought, urban sprawl and wildfires” and despite the “obvious stark contrasts between the saguaros of Arizona and the aspens of Colorado, Grand County feels very familiar to me.”
Colorado Sun joins national local news alliance
This week, a group of pioneering local news outlets formed what they are calling the Alliance for Sustainable Local News.
“We’re a group of fast-growing, digital-only local news organizations, working hard to replace the flagging daily newspapers in our communities,” the group said in an announcement. “What unites us is our mission-driven reason for publishing, the scale of our enterprises sufficient to become primary news sources in our community and our aim to create sustainable and growing local news institutions, based largely on earned revenue, not philanthropy.”
Among the half-dozen inaugural members are The Colorado Sun, Baltimore Banner, Block Club Chicago, Daily Memphian, Long Beach Post, and Lookout Local/Lookout Santa Cruz.
Larry Ryckman, editor and president of the Sun, is a founding member of the alliance.
“The Colorado Sun is excited to join with our ASLN colleagues across the country as we strive to build and grow vibrant, sustainable news organizations that our communities need and deserve,” Ryckman said in a statement. “This is a group of doers. We’re already learning from each other, and this new alliance will accelerate those initiatives.”
Together, the alliance said it plans to “share best practices to propel our growth and to advocate for the faster growth of local news replacements across North America.”
More Colorado media odds & ends
🏛 Colorado College student Amelia Allen is covering the Colorado Springs April 4 municipal election for a Substack newsletter called the CC City Election Reporting Project for her senior capstone. Read the first installments here, here, and here.
⚖️ A First Amendment case heading to the U.S. Supreme Court out of Colorado got The New York Times treatment from Adam Liptak.
✍️ “Ethical journalism, however you define it, is an indispensable element of a free society,” wrote former KOA radio talk host and Denver Post/Rocky Mountain News opinion columnist Mike Rosen in Complete Colorado.
🎂 Axios Denver celebrated its second birthday this week. Here’s what’s in store for year three.
📺 TV NewsCheck, which closely tracks the broadcast industry, reported how local TV stations around the country, *including about a program in Colorado, are turning to Solutions Journalism and earning accolades from viewers. (*The TV station that reported on the Colorado program is in Texas.)
💨 Reporter Conor McCormick-Cavanagh is leaving Westword. “My fiancée Farah is doing her internal medicine residency in upstate New York, so I’ll be moving there in a few days,” he said. “I’ll work remotely with Westword through at least the 1st round of the mayor’s race.”
🥸 Following publication of a book and documentary, a journalist in Denver has entered “a little-known protection unit of the state that was created in 2008 to protect victims of domestic violence, then expanded to shield others whose lives are threatened,” wrote Patty Calhoun this week for Westword.
📺 “The two television studios are separated by a wall with a sliding-glass door. In one, Colorado-based meteorologists track snowstorms, hurricanes and day-to-day conditions around-the-clock for viewers of WeatherNation, a channel airing forecasts on smart TVs and streaming devices,” reported Scott Dance in The Washington Post. “The other broadcasts shows on the conservative network Real America’s Voice, one of few remaining news platforms where false election fraud claims and other conspiracies get airtime. It airs Stephen K. Bannon’s show ‘War Room’ even after YouTube, Spotify and other platforms withdrew access for the former adviser to President Donald Trump.”
📈 “While it is not in our nature to make essential news less affordable, we’ve come to the point where we must raise our subscription prices,” Colorado Community Media Publisher Linda Shapley told readers this week, adding, “effective March 1, the price of a subscription to any of our paid publications and for our all-access digital will be $85 per year and $65 per year for readers over 65 years of age. Those prices take effect with your next renewal.”
🏗 “The National Trust for Local News helped a chain of weeklies avoid being sold to a hedge fund in Colorado,” wrote Steve Waldman in NiemanReports in a story headlined “Legacy Media Needs to Be Transformed, Not Discarded.”
🏆 See which Colorado journalists and publications won awards from the Associated Press Sports Editors this week.
I’m Corey Hutchins, co-director of Colorado College’s Journalism Institute. For nearly a decade I’ve reported on the U.S. local media scene for Columbia Journalism Review, and I’ve been a journalist for longer at multiple news organizations. Colorado Media Project is underwriting this newsletter, and my “Inside the News” column appears at COLab, both of which I sometimes write about here. Follow me on Twitter, reply or subscribe to this weekly newsletter here, or e-mail me at CoreyHutchins [at] gmail [dot] com.