Inside the News: What Colorado Newsrooms are Paying Journalists in 2022

  • 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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A year ago, this newsletter reported how Coloradans were, for the first time, learning what our state’s newsrooms were paying for jobs in journalism. (That published post remains this newsletter’s fourth most-read of the year.)

This new transparency was the result of a state law that requires Colorado employers to publish salary ranges with their job postings.

“If we’re talking about a journalist in Colorado who could be employed by a Colorado publication or a national publication, the pay has to be posted for a job in Colorado,” Scott Moss, the director of Colorado’s Division of Labor Standards & Statistics, told me last year.

Still, the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act was relatively new, and not every newsroom was saying what they were willing to pay journalists — despite the possibility of a $10,000 fine per posting and additional financial penalties if a company doesn’t shape up. The state agency in charge of enforcing the new law was working with companies as employers adjusted to the new regulations.

A year later, I thought it might be useful to see how the market is looking for journalism jobs in Colorado. As I understand it, some newsrooms are having trouble filling positions these days, which is not something I was hearing just a few years ago.

Below is an idea of local newsroom wage offerings across the state based on job listings from the site JournalismJobsAndrew Hudson’s Jobs List, Indeed, or elsewhere within the past month or so. I’ve ranked them from the highest-paying to the lowest, starting with editor, news director, and anchor positions and followed by reporting jobs.

KUSA 9News, owned by Tegna, listed a job for an anchor/reporter and said it would pay $85,000 to $105,000. The Denver Gazette, owned by a billionaire, says it is looking for a digital director it will pay $80,000 to $90,000. CBS Denver will pay a news anchor/multi-media journalist $80,000 to $85,000. The Boulder Reporting Lab digital news site, backed by a Google News initiative, is hiring an editor it will pay $60,000 to $80,000. KKTV in the Springs will pay a morning news anchor $60,000 to $75,000. The Boulder Daily Camera, financially controlled the Alden Global Capital hedge fund, wants a night deputy city editor and is willing to pay $50,000 to $53,000. KRDO-TV in the Springs will pay a newscast director $36,300 to $45,900.

Law360, an online newswire “for business lawyers that covers major litigation, transactions, and regulatory issues,” is looking for a reporter to cover “developments in the federal and state courts in Denver” and will pay $68,000 to $78,461. A “multi-skilled journalist” can earn $65,000 to $70,000 at Denver’s CBS affiliate.

BusinessDen is willing to pay a reporter $60,000 to $70,000 to cover commercial real estate, though it doesn’t list a pay scale in a separate posting for a general assignment reporter. Colorado Public Radio wants an arts and culture reporter who would earn $26.70 to $33.40 per hour. KRDO had a listing for an investigative reporter it would pay $46,000 to $48,000.

Summit Daily News, owned by Ogden Newspapers of West Virginia, will pay a crime and safety reporter $24 to $26 an hour, a reporter $22 to $24, and will offer a copy editor/reporter $20 to $22.

The Boulder Daily Camera needs a higher education reporter and is willing to pay $21 per hour. Ballantine Communications, which owns The Durango Herald and The Journal in Cortez, needs a reporter and is offering $37,000 to $44,000. A job as the night breaking news reporter for the Alden-controlled Longmont Times-Call will net a jobseeker $17 to $18 per hour. The similarly-owned Hometown weekly is looking for a reporter it will pay the same. KOAA-TV in the Springs is offering $16.23 to $19.71 an hour for a multimedia journalist.

A year after the new law, some companies still aren’t publishing salary ranges, though they seem fewer than last year and tend to be smaller businesses that might not be familiar with the law.

In an interview this week, Moss, the labor department head, said his agency had fined fewer than 10 companies for noncompliance and more than 90% of them fall in line when contacted about potential violations. “We investigate complaints we’re given,” he said.

“It’s becoming understood that job postings have the pay,” he said about employment positions in Colorado. “We’re not far from the day when even if people haven’t heard of this specific law it’ll seem weird if a job doesn’t have the pay, and it’ll be assumed and understood that it is illegal.” He added: “If you’re the last employer that’s not posting pay, it’s going to seem off.”

Denver’s PBS12 viewers feel ‘alienated by sharply divisive news’

Kristen Blessman, the general manager of Denver’s PBS12, has been out and about checking the pulse of viewers lately.

From a recent write-up about what she heard, housed at the PBS mothership:

PBS12 in Denver, Colo., also heard loud and clear from viewers that they feel increasingly alienated by sharply divisive news. One way to simultaneously confront this hurdle and realize PBS12’s public service mission would be to reconnect with communities in personal ways “that present an issue through the lens of individuals affected and demonstrate solutions and ways for our local community to get engaged,” said Blessman.

So, what to do about it? Blessman looked into a partnership with Axios Denver since she appreciated their “quick storytelling model.”

More from PBS:

Blessman notes that the Axios and PBS12 collaboration is well-placed to satisfy the contemporary appetite for “short, video storytelling.” The program airs in under three minutes and features a broad array of topics, such as COVID booster rollout challengesmigrants being sent to Colorado, and the police chief stepping down.

Axios, according to Blessman, was a good fit because the news organization “simply reports the facts” in a non-polarizing format that aligns closely with PBS Editorial Standards and Practices. … The program’s three journalist hosts rotate on a weekly basis as part of an effort to establish each of them as knowledgeable members of the local community and to foster deeper community connections through reporting.

Read the whole thing at the link above.

Regional ADL, Jewish leaders respond to Gazette editorial

This week, Sentinel Colorado Editor Dave Perry said he did not have it on his Bingo card that “a Colorado newspaper would take the official position that Hitler and the Nazi Party should be identified as ‘socialists.’”

My suspicion, though, is that if he had to guess which Colorado newspaper might do such a thing, he might have pointed to The Colorado Springs Gazette. Owned by the conservative Denver billionaire Phil Anschutz, the Gazette has a Trump-endorsing editorial board and a news-side editor who has been marketing the company’s three Colorado publications as different than what he views as a left-leaning gaggle of Denver-based news organizations.

This week, the Gazette’s editorial board published a house editorial under the headline “State board is right; Hitler was a socialist.” (You can Google it if you want to read it. Colorado Politics and The Denver Gazette also published it.) The editorial defended a Republican member of the state board of education for igniting what it called “outrage among academics who portray Hitler as a right-wing maniac.”

The editorial came in response to a Chalkbeat Colorado story by Erica Meltzer about how “one Colorado Republican shaped what students will learn about the Holocaust.” (Meltzer, a bureau chief who covers education, responded to the editorial with a thread on social media. “Using the Holocaust to score political points does not do justice to the victims, who were real human beings, as real as you or I,” she said. “They deserve better, and our students deserve better.”)

The Anti-Defamation League of the Mountain States issued a statement, calling the editorial “appalling & unacceptable” and saying “Colorado readers deserve better.” Others in the Jewish community sent a letter to the editor saying the editorial “unnecessarily politicizes Holocaust and genocide education.” The state board of ed’s chairwoman also submitted a letter, saying, “To be clear, the proposed revisions to the Colorado Academic Standards for social studies do not assert that Hitler was a socialist.”

Former Denver Post political reporter Alex Burness, now at Bolts magazine, said while it’s always frustrating when opinion-page content undermines a paper’s reporters and news sections, “one could understand staff quitting the paper” over this particular editorial.

So far, I haven’t seen anything public from reporters or editors on the news side of the publications who likely hope people differentiate their work from that of their opinion-side colleagues. (I don’t see everything, so if I missed something, I’ll update this post online.)

The governor weighs in on (of all things) a sports-on-TV carriage dispute

The background: “The Comcast-Altitude TV carriage dispute, blacking out local Nuggets and Avalanche games on the state’s largest cable provider, probably will consume a fourth consecutive season,” The Denver Gazette reported earlier this month.

Flashback: What’s going on with our two “orphan counties” where Colorado residents in La Plata and Montezuma get their “local” TV news beamed in from New Mexico?

Denver weather caster bolts for a job in retail

Michael Roberts of Denver’s alternative weekly newspaper Westword has for years been tracking the comings and goings of local TV news personalities. Some have left for real estate gigs, others to do their own independent things.

This week, Roberts noted the departure of Chris Spears at Denver’s CBS affiliate. From Westword:

Last month, Spears signed off at CBS4 Denver for the last time, leaving the station to devote himself full-time to Outside the Box, a store at 5760 Olde Wadsworth Boulevard in Arvada devoted to décor for the home and garden that he owns with partner Dorn Nienaber. And he couldn’t be more pleased. As he wrote in a Facebook post about his new life shared yesterday, October 25, “I wake up happy and go to bed happy…EVERY SINGLE DAY!” Spears is among a rapidly growing number of local on-air TV personalities who’ve left their gigs, and often the profession, over recent years.

Roberts reported that this latest decision by Spears to leave what he called a “dream job” wasn’t easy.

Prosecutors subpoenaed a Westword reporter in the YouTube live-streamer obstruction case

Speaking of Michael Roberts, the Westword journalist noted in a story this week that he was “among those who received a subpoena to testify” at the recently concluded trial involving Dean Schiller, the man who live-streamed a mass shooting at the Boulder King Soopers last year that left 10 dead.

Here’s what Roberts had to say about it:

DA’s office investigator Michael Bihrle sent an email with the document late in the afternoon on Friday, October 21, and didn’t immediately reply to a response from an attorney representing Westword, who contended that the subpoena violated the Colorado press shield law. However, the subpoena was never formally served.

Roberts wrote that he assumes prosecutors wanted him to discuss some of his previous interviews with Schiller since he had reported on him before.

Schiller was on trial this week after prosecutors charged him with obstruction. From Colorado Public Radio’s Lacretia Wimbley and The Associated Press:

He was charged with a misdemeanor count after police said he ignored 60 commands to move farther away from the store for nearly two hours as he recorded the incident live from his Youtube account, an affidavit states. Prosecutors argued Thursday that he was a distraction from police efforts to save lives and secure the crime scene.  Schiller — an independent journalist — learned sometime after the shooting that his friend Denny Stong, who worked at the store, was one of the 10 people killed. 

Jurors sided with Schiller. And the verdict might not have been his only win.

Last year, this newsletter reported: “no doubt questions will arise about whether Schiller is or is not a journalist like he said he was during his hours of broadcast … He seemed to even anticipate it. ‘Who says I’m not a journalist?’ he asked at one point during his hours-long, adrenalin-fueled run as he racked up the views.”

In a story about his court victory this week, Colleen Slevin of The Associated Press described him in her lede as an “independent, part-time journalist.” So there you go.

ICYMI: Colorado News Mapping Project launched

Last week’s newsletter highlighted the launch of the Colorado News Mapping Project, an initiative of the Colorado College Journalism Institute, University of Denver, Colorado Media Project, COLab, and others.

The project “seeks to help Coloradans find and learn more about existing sources of local news and information,” and the narrative I wrote to go along with it explains how in Colorado, “non-traditional sources with varying missions, frequency, quality, and ownership are producing relevant regional news and information for audiences large and small — and on different platforms.”

The Democracy Fund’s Local Fix newsletter spotlighted it this week, saying, “An important step in strengthening your local news ecosystem is by understanding it and learning more about what’s already out there.”

“Very useful and informative,” said Michael Bolden, CEO & executive director of the American Press Institute. JB Holston, dean of the Ritchie School at DU, called the project a “remarkable map of Coloradan’s news sources” with a narrative that “paints a compelling picture of where folks go to find out what’s up when their traditional local news source disappears.” David Clinch, the head of global partnerships at Mather Economics, called it an “excellent initiative.”

Others, however, have raised questions about whether someone could look at the map and assume Colorado has a healthy local news ecosystem because it includes so many nontraditional sources that do not practice accountability reporting or follow strict journalistic standards. One Colorado journalist wondered specifically about that assumption since Democratic Gov. Jared Polis has said he would get rid of a state law that requires certain public notices be published in print newspapers.

Check out the map for yourself at the link in the lede and help us fill in the gaps or update information that appears on it.

More Colorado media odds & ends

↗️ Cameron Nutting, the regional publisher and chief revenue officer of Ogden Newspapers, the West Virginia company that took over a string of Colorado newspapers from Swift earlier this year, has been elected president of America’s Newspapers, which represents the newspaper industry. (Chris Reen, president and CEO of Clarity Media Group, which publishes the Colorado Springs Gazette, Colorado Politics, and The Denver Gazette, earned an award from the group.)

⚙️ The Denver North Star and G.E.S. Gazette are “looking for more entry-level reporters to come write for us on a freelance basis,” says its editor Eric Heinz.

🛑 Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Brian Boatright last year “insisted the commission investigating allegations of judicial misconduct issue a subpoena for any information in order to prevent the media – and by extension the public – from getting access to details about [a] scandal inquiry,” according to emails obtained by The Denver Gazette for a story by David Migoya.

🦅 Crestone Eagle Community Media is looking for a “part-time advertising accounts coordinator to manage the newspaper’s current advertising accounts and relationships, as well as look for new advertising and sponsorship opportunities.”

🗞 Arn Menconi’s next act: The 2016 Green Party candidate for U.S. Senate who has been a climate activist is covering climate issues for The Aspen Times with a bio that describes him in stories as “a Carbondale resident” or “former Eagle County commissioner … a resident of Carbondale and a climate reporter.”

🎸 Indie rock band Blankslate, featuring Colorado Community Media journalist Rylee Dunn, earned a writeup in Westword in anticipation of their album Summer on a Salt Flat.

💪 Writing in Complete Colorado, Ari Armstrong said: “Being unbiased does not mean pretending to be a moron or assuming that one’s readers are morons.”

📈 The Gazette has hiked its subscription ratesaying “The costs of producing content, printing, packaging and delivery all have increased significantly over the last several years.”

🏒 Bennett Durando, the new beat writer covering Colorado’s NHL team, tackled a “quintessential sports journalism quandary” this week: “Should ‘the Avalanche’ be treated as singular or plural?” The Post, the author reports, has always opted for the former, “but if there’s enough support for a change, I may or may not wield the gavel.” How’s that for early impact?

👂 “I have only been working for this paper for a few months now,” a teen intern at The Mountain-Ear wrote in a staff bio this week. “I am not sure what my vision for the future is except that I hope to write more articles about the events in the canyon.”

💵 “It’s time for Alden Global Capital to send its lawyer to the table with some money. We’ve gone six years without an across-the-board pay increase. The Denver Post newsroom works too hard to be treated this way,” reporter Noelle Phillips said 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. The Colorado Media Project, where I write case studies, 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.