Inside the News: Another Colorado Newspaper Reporter Quits to Launch a Local News Site

  • Corey Hutchins is a journalism instructor at Colorado College and a contributor to Columbia Journalism Review, The Washington Post, and other news outlets. This column is produced with support from the Colorado Media Project, and is distributed statewide via the Colorado News Collaborative.

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Dylan Anderson has become the latest local journalism entrepreneur in Colorado to leave a shrinking newspaper only to launch a digital newsletter and website in the backyard of his former employer.

The Yampa Valley Bugle, billed as a “locally owned, nonprofit, online community news resource covering the communities of Routt County,” promises “accessible, accountable and community-centered” journalism that will “tell the stories, explain the issues and inform the people of the Yampa Valley.”

Anderson, 28, left the Steamboat Pilot & Today last week after moving to Colorado from Minnesota in 2020 to work as a reporter for the newspaper. He said over the phone on Thursday that he had become disillusioned with the paper since its 2021 sale to Ogden Newspapers of West Virginia, which led to turnover and retrenchment, and what he described as a difficulty in taking on larger, more in-depth reporting projects.

“I love the Pilot and the people there who make it work,” he wrote this week in an introduction to The Yampa Valley Bugle. “I also disagree with some of the decisions that have been made. I have decided I can do better. April 22nd was my last day at the paper.”

Anderson joins a cadre of one-person new media pioneers in Colorado who have defected from a legacy print newspaper to stake out a digital local news claim on their own. The Bugle follows the launch of The Gadfly in Greeley, Boulder BeatThe NoCo Optimist in Northern Colorado, and Colorado Switchblade in Estes Park.

Earlier this year, when former Greeley Tribune employee Trenton Sperry launched The Greeley Gadfly as a for-profit endeavor, he told this newsletter he would offer content to his former paper if they wished to republish it. The move reflected a broader ethos toward more collaboration among local journalists in Colorado.

Anderson says he’s unsure management at The Steamboat Pilot would want to promote his work for The Bugle. And he’s not sure it’s the best idea to offer it as he tries to build his own local brand.

But, “my goal is not to take down the newspaper — it’s not to steal their readers or anything like that — it’s really just to offer more for people to consume,” he said. “If we get to a point where the Pilot and I are collaborating on stuff, that would be awesome.”

Like some others working to scale a local news startup, Anderson benefits from a separate stable income stream. He landed a remote job with flexible hours doing content marketing for a Florida-based company that he said pays “quite a bit” more than his former newspaper job.

He would like to see the Yampa Valley Bugle, which is already breaking news and populating its slick site and twice-a-week newsletter with reporting, eventually turn into something secure enough to do full time. He has racked up roughly 350 subscribers to start and is encouraged by hearing from people in the valley’s large nonprofit sector who might be willing to advertise or provide underwriting. (During COVID, when the Pilot began accepting donations — like other for-profit newspapers in Colorado the paper wasn’t used to doing so — it brought in enough revenue from the community to support a reporter’s salary.)

“My goal is really just to raise the quality of journalism overall being done here in Steamboat and Routt County,” Anderson said. “It’s going to take some time for what I’ve started to be sustainable and be able to kind of cover everything, but I’m hoping to get there.”

As for the media landscape in Routt County, Anderson says there’s the Pilot, Steamboat Radio, and the Valley Voice magazine. (Steamboat Radio noted The Bugle’s launch on air Tuesday.) So he sees some gaps he believes he can fill.

He’s not alone.

Lisa Schlichtman, who ran the Steamboat Pilot newsroom for eight years, says that for decades the community supported the paper, which has operated without much competition. But, like plenty of newspapers across the state and nation, the Pilot has not been immune to challenges facing the industry.

“When I became editor in July 2013, I had a news team of 15 people,” she told me. “When I left in November 2021, we had seven and a half people. I share that because it shows there is room for another news source in the Yampa Valley. There is a thirst in the community for more in-depth reporting on issues, and so I think that’s where Dylan can step in and fill a void.”

Schlichtman says she believes competition will be good for journalism in Northwest Colorado. “I want Dylan to succeed and I also want the Pilot to thrive,” she says. “They are a dedicated and talented crew and work extremely hard to serve their readers.”

As for Anderson, he says the few years he has spent in the area have grabbed him.

“There’s this thing up here that they call the Yampa Valley Curse — where you move here for a season and then you stay forever,” Anderson said. “And maybe I got it. I really love living in Steamboat — I think it’s a really cool community — and I think that The Bugle is my attempt to try to make journalism sustainable for myself and for this community.”

🍾 It’s Colorado journalism awards season

Colorado has a lot of seasons. Mud season. Rattlesnake season. False spring. This past week was Colorado journalism awards season.

Last Saturday, news organizations across the state and their scribes found out how they fared in this year’s Society of Professional Journalists Top of the Rockies Excellence in Journalism Contest, which covers Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Wyoming. 

A full spreadsheet listing all the winners is at the link above.

Individual awards from the Colorado Professional Chapter of SPJ included a First Amendment award, which went to Mark Silverstein of the ACLU, and the Keeper of the Flame Award, which went to Marianne Goodland of Colorado Politics and Linda Kotsaftis, formerly of Rocky Mountain PBS. The organization’s 2023 Journalist of the Year award went to The Denver Gazette’s Carol McKinley. I was humbled to win the Colorado SPJ’s Educator of the Year award when a former student, Esteban Candelaria, who now reports at the Albuquerque Journal, unexpectedly presented it to me at the ceremony at The Slate in Denver.

This year’s contest “had more than 1,750 entries from more than 100 news media outlets and freelancers, a 12% increase over the number of entries in 2022,” the organization wrote in a statement. “The entries were judged by journalists in Illinois and Ohio.”

Meanwhile, across town at the Ritz in Denver, more than 400 TV and radio broadcasters learned how they stacked up during the Colorado Broadcasters Awards of Excellence gala.

9NEWS anchor Kyle Clark won the Harry Hoth Public Service Award. Gary Buchanan of Three Eagles Communications of Colorado took home the Rex Howell Broadcaster of the Year Award.

“This year, the CBA received 894 entries (511 from radio, 383 from television),” the CBA wrote in a statement. “168 volunteer broadcasters from around the country were assembled into panels to judge all 894 entries.”

Denver Urban Spectrum is launching a BIPOC podcast network

The newspaper in Denver that is focused on “spreading the news about people of color” has launched a podcast network to “share the voice of BIPOC Coloradoans through critical conversations on social justice, politics, lifestyle, and more.”

Hosted by Brittany Winkfield, the Expanding the Narrative Network, or ETN, which launches this week, calls itself “the first network specifically built to showcase BIPOC podcasters in Colorado.”

From the announcement:

ETN Network is being designed as an innovative digital newsroom, with episodic content available across several major streaming platforms in the form of audio podcasts. While the mainstream media narrowly focuses on problems in the Black community, the new network’s growing team of established and new podcasters focuses on actionable information to improve the health, wealth, and outcomes of BIPOC communities.

“We believe that by joining forces with local podcast creators and providing a platform to amplify these experiences in one place, we can shape how we understand and address systemic issues of race, justice, and equity,” Winkfield, who is Denver Urban Spectrum’s associate publisher and the podcast network’s manager, said in a statement.

She added: “Our voices are powerful. We have the ability to share stories, create conversations, and uplift the voices that have been suppressed. Most podcasts fail due to lack of promotion and engagement. Having a monetization plan is also important for the longevity of any podcast. That is where the ETN Network comes in to develop a strong marketing strategy to reach targeted audiences.”

Defamation case against Denver 9NEWS anchor dropped

The Fox TV channel settling a lawsuit brought by Colorado-based Dominion Voting Systems wasn’t the only Colorado-linked defamation court action for a judge to set aside recently.

From Shelly Bradbury of The Denver Post:

A Colorado man who marched to the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 and then sued 9News’ Kyle Clark for defamation over subsequent news coverage settled the lawsuit days before the case had been set to be argued before the Colorado Court of Appeals, according to court records.

“We are pleased with the outcome of this frivolous defamation lawsuit and the plaintiff’s decision to drop his appeal and pay court-awarded attorney’s fees,” Clark’s First Amendment attorney, Steve Zansberg, told the Post.

9NEWS, Denver’s NBC affiliate, reported on the case with reporter Marshall Zelinger saying a judge had dismissed the Colorado man’s suit against Clark and the station’s parent company, but the man had appealed. Just before it went to court, the plaintiff “dropped his court challenge and agreed to pay attorney fees.”

Bucket List Community Café formed an advisory team

The growing online community journalism site in Denver with an off-kilter name this week announced it is “welcoming six members to its newly created advisory team.”

From the announcement:

“This is a very exciting development for Bucket List Community Cafe, and we are proud to have the support of these prestigious partners in the areas of journalism, business, social justice, DEI and philanthropy,” said publisher Vicky Collins.

“With their guidance, media, and business experience we expect to move forward with our goals of building community by sharing our stories, and partnering to scale so other cities can benefit from Bucket List Community Café’s neighborly, positive, solution-oriented community journalism and mentorship brand. We are grateful our advisors are joining us as we grow in the vibrant startup ecosystem that is reinventing community journalism.”     

The team includes Heidi Barker, Amazon’s director of global DEI inclusive experiences, radio vet Lisa Blum Nigro, ABC News freelance field producer Kathy Neustadt, TV news vets Kerry Sanders and Gary Shapiro, and Tiya Ashantia Trent, program director of Denver’s Project Voyce.

Bucket List Community Café is the brainchild of TV news producer Vicky Collins.

“She imagined that when she was ready for a change, her next act would be owning a coffee shop/bookstore/art gallery,” she says on the site. “This was on her bucket list. She decided to create a community site online and called it Bucket List Community Café.”

Gazette opinion editor doesn’t want to capitalize ‘Black’ when writing about race

The Colorado Springs Gazette’s editorial page editor, Wayne Laugesen, offered a recent style direction to writers, according to Erik Maulbetsch of The Colorado Times Recorder.

“To all who handle Gazette editorial content: Please do not uppercase “black,” regardless of AP style,” it read. (AP stands for Associated Press, which sets the style guidelines many news organizations follow for consistency.)

Laugesen spoke with Maulbetsch about his decision. The opinion page editor said he feels it “looks weird when you’re writing about justice issues and you’re trying to treat all people equally and then in the middle of a sentence, you have Black capitalized and white is lowercase.”

More from the CTR story:

Asked whether the news side of the Gazette outlets would also be adopting this policy, Laugesen directed me to executive editor Vince Bzdek, saying they’d had an initial conversation on the issue but hadn’t officially made a decision. Reached via email, Bzdek declined to comment. However, a search of recent Colorado Politics news articles found multiple examples of Black being capitalized. 

It also appears as though some opinion editors or staff may have missed their boss’ memo, as at least two opinion pieces, as well as one actual editorial, all published after April 11, capitalize Black.   

Laugesen said in the story that he would either want to capitalize both Black and white or not capitalize either.

In 2020, during a national racial reckoning following the police killing of George Floyd, the AP announced it would advise newsrooms to capitalize Black but not white. (“The National Association of Black Journalists and some Black scholars have said white should be capitalized, too,” the AP reported.)

“White doesn’t represent a shared culture and history in the way Black does,” The New York Times stated when explaining its own decision.

In Colorado, some of the larger news outlets representing different mediums in the past month that have capitalized Black but not white when writing about race include Colorado Public Radio, The Denver Post, 9NEWS, The Colorado Sun, Rocky Mountain PBS, and Westword.

More Colorado media odds & ends

📰 Media coverage of Colorado’s Indigenous communities “has perpetuated harmful stereotypes and has other shortcomings when covering Indigenous populations, according to a new report from the Colorado News Collaborative,” KUNC reported.

📡 KGNU Community Radio is “one of the most unlikely success stories in Colorado media,” Michael Roberts reported for Westword in a profile of the station as it celebrates 45 years of broadcasting with a new building on 14th Street in downtown Boulder.

🗞 “If there is one underlying motivation among every journalist that’s ever worked here, or at newspapers like ours across the country, it’s the demand for truth and justice,” wrote Sentinel Colorado’s editorial board this week.

➡️ Wesley Lowery, who last year taught a Colorado College course about journalistic objectivity, this week explained in depth for Columbia Journalism Review that the “so-called ‘war on objectivity’ has been about the corruption of the term itself and its misapplication.”

🔎 “The Colorado Legislature is a pretty polarized place, but if there is one area where you can count on bipartisanship at the Capitol, it’s aversion to transparency,” wrote Colorado Newsline Editor Quentin Young in a column this week. He rounded up the fate of recent legislation and lamented “a dismaying streak of anti-transparency at the Colorado Capitol.”

🗣 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press broke down “oral arguments in Counterman v. Colorado, a ‘true threats’ case before the U.S. Supreme Court” with free speech implications.

🆕 Amber Carlson will be the new city reporter for The Boulder Daily Camera starting next month.

🐂 KUNC reporter Lucas Brady Woods slurped down a state senator’s Rocky Mountain oysters — they are … bull testicles — at an event outside the Capitol on Thursday and reported that he found them “delicious.”

🌎 A Telluride-based media company that boasts 10 writers and an editor and covers news about science and nature, including “a page for almost every living species on the planet,” owes $5 million for the domain name Earth dot com and is filing for bankruptcy, Justin Wingerter reported for BusinessDen.

♼ Veteran reporter Bob Mook has rejoined Denver Business Journal as a senior reporter, the news org announced this week, saying he has “an extensive background in business reporting from his previous 13 years at the DBJ.”

🏗 Colorado Sun Founder and Editor Larry Ryckman said he is “thrilled to join colleagues around the country” in an “effort to help build and grow new models to support statewide journalism efforts.”

💨 Luis de Leon is leaving 9NEWS in Denver. “I know this is the right move for me right now, but I’ll always be thankful for time as a journalist,” he said. Meanwhile, investigative reporter Dan Beedie is leaving KRDO in the Springs to become a communications manager at the steel producer Evraz.

⚖️ The “legitimate press has nothing to fear” from the Dominion-Fox settlement over stolen election election lies, wrote Colorado First Amendment attorney Steve Zansberg in a Denver Post opinion piece. What Fox did “was indefensible under the legal regime that protects everyone else,” he wrote.

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.