Inside the News: What Colorado Newsrooms Are Paying Journalists in 2023

  • 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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Two years ago, this newsletter reported how Coloradans were, for the first time, learning what our state’s newsrooms were paying for jobs in journalism.

The new transparency came as 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, said at the time.

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.

Last fall around this time, this newsletter checked in again to gauge the salary ranges that news organizations across Colorado were offering.

A year later, it’s time to once again see how the market is looking. And since Colorado is a relatively rare state where newsrooms have to publicly say what they’re willing to pay, it might be useful for those in other states if they want to know what’s what out here — with all the relevant caveats.

Below is an idea of local newsroom wage offerings across Colorado based on job listings from the site JournalismJobs, Andrew Hudson’s Jobs List, or elsewhere within the past month or so.

The Aspen Times, owned by Ogden Newspapers of West Virginia, had a listing for an editor it would pay $110,000 to $120,000. The local KKTV station in Colorado Springs, owned by Gray Television, posted a listing on its site for a news director and put the salary range between $95,000 and $120,000.

High Country News said it would pay an indigenous affairs editor $72,493 to $80,548 for a remote working role with benefits. The Denver Post, financially controlled by the Alden Global Capital hedge fund, had a recent listing that said it was willing to pay $72,000 for a deputy director of photography.

The billionaire-owned Gazette newspaper posted a listing for a deputy editor in Denver it would pay $65,000 to $75,000. Entravision shows a listing for a “TV News Anchor / Producer Univision Denver” it would pay up to $68,000.

The Lever, an “award-winning reader-supported investigative news outlet dedicated to following the money and holding the powerful accountable” founded by Denver journalist David Sirota, is looking for a reporter it will pay $50,000 to $65,000.

Boulder Weekly, an independent paper, will pay an editor $55,000 to $60,000. (The posting on JournalismJobs didn’t list the pay scale; I had to ask.) The Gazette is looking for a legislative reporter in Denver it will pay $50,000 to $60,000.

In radio land, the public radio station KSUT in the Four Corners region has a listing for a news director for $50,000. KGNU community radio in Boulder is looking for a news director it will pay $45,000 to $49,000. iHeartMedia has a listing for a traffic reporter and producer it will pay $17.29 to $19.02 an hour.

KKTV has a listing on its site for a meteorologist it will pay $40,000 to $60,000, and will pay a weekend anchor $45,000 to $50,000, and a news producer $38,000 to $40,000. The family-owned Sentinel newspaper in Grand Junction posted a job for a healthcare reporter it would pay $40,000 to $45,000.

The progressive nonprofit Colorado Times Recorder digital news site’s editor says he will pay a freelancer $250 for stories running between 500 and 1,000 words, and more for longer pieces.

The Steamboat Pilot newspaper, owned by Ogden Newspapers of West Virginia, said it would pay a reporter $20 to $24 an hour to cover “public safety, education and county government beats along with general assignment stories.”

Now, for some comparisons…

For what it’s worth, a listing for a deputy press secretary whose job would be to “ensure the Governor, Lt. Governor, and First Gentleman are prepared for all speaking and media engagements” offered $50,000 to $65,000.

A senior social media specialist for Citywide Banks could pull down around $84,000 to $109,000. An assistant director of executive social media & communications for the University of Colorado could earn up to $77,000.

A community engagement officer for Gilpin County could bring home up to $84,000, while a communications coordinator for the Jefferson County schools could make about the same.

A private investigations firm in Denver run by former reporter is looking for someone to work 10 to 20 hours per week “mainly for attorneys” and will pay $23 to $27 per hour. The listing calls it a “great opportunity to do in-depth investigative work on major cases, some of which are in the media.”

And while the job title alone of “Marijuana and Natural Medicine Communications Manager” for the State of Colorado might be priceless, those who apply could earn between $68,100 and $87,228, according to a listing for that position.

Why Colorado Newsline is ‘demoting’ horse-race election coverage

Quentin Young, editor of the nonprofit Colorado Newsline digital site that’s part of a growing network of state-based outlets under the umbrella of States Newsroom, promises to do election coverage differently this season. Also, better.

“Election news coverage should provide community members with reliable information that helps them understand their choices as participants in a democracy,” he wrote in a column this week. “Journalists succeed or fail in living up [to] that purpose based on their own choices, which they should be transparent about.”

That means the site will be “demoting” the kind of horse-race coverage that often fills the news holes and airwaves of unimaginative news outlets that might lack the will, time, resources, or expertise to cover elections in a way that matters for voters.

“Low-value election coverage,” Young wrote, “clings to the question of who’s going to win. The business of highlighting polls, dollars and endorsements — often called ‘horse race’ coverage — is central to election reporting in many newsrooms across the country. It’s easy to do, it’s always been done, and it often gets attention.”

But here’s what Young promises readers will get from Newsline this election season:

Coverage that serves the community well focuses on what’s important not to politicians but to the people. It discusses policy not according to official messaging but to impact. It shows not only who could win but what it would mean.

Young’s column also came with some (rare in this business) self-reflection of Newsline’s own previous political coverage. He noted that while one story he’d assigned about Lauren Boebert “had some inherent reader appeal” it “did little to help democracy thrive in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District.”

New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen, a prominent proponent of a “citizens agenda” approach to politics and election coverage, took notice of Newsline’s announcement.

“A small but important step in American journalism was taken today in Denver,” he said on social media Thursday. “Colorado Newsline will, I predict, still be standing tomorrow.”

Rosen, whose shorthand for better reporting is “not the odds, but the stakes,” offered some of his own advice for what newsrooms can do once they decide to send horse-race coverage to the glue factory.

While Young acknowledged that Newsline doesn’t want to “banish horse race reporting outright,” in general, he said, “we want our election coverage to show readers “not the odds, but the stakes.”

Cheers to that.

Denver7’s Anne Trujillo: ‘I wish I could say that news stations were diverse enough’

Next month, after nearly 40 years in the local TV news business, Denver7’s Anne Trujillo will retire.

The Emmy-award winning journalist, whose station has called her “Denver’s longest-serving continuous evening news anchor,” spoke with La Voz Colorado’s Ernest Gurulé for a profile last week.

Here’s an excerpt:

Over the years, the landscape in television news has changed. Today, instead of having a bevy of White men in suits and ties covering The White House, Congress, world affairs, informing about institutions that have daily impact on our lives, there are women and people of color filling those roles. Newsrooms are well represented by the mosaic that is our country. But, said Trujillo, that’s only a start.

“I wish I could say that news stations were diverse enough,” she said. While not entirely absent, the places where decisions are made, where new direction is charted, in management, there isn’t nearly enough diversity, Trujillo said. “When you’re making decision that affect the whole community, you can’t leave 30 percent out of the process.”

Read the whole thing here.

Colorado journalism students to track how elected officials are handling climate change

Beth Potter at the University of Colorado Boulder is one of 19 academics in 18 states chosen this week as a “Statehouse Faculty Champion.”

The designation comes from the Center for Community News at the University of Vermont.

“The honor, which comes with a $1,000 award, is a priority program in our efforts to help build a sustainable future for local news around the country,” the Center stated in an announcement.

“This cross-university partnership would recruit students across Colorado to report on how elected officials handle climate change issues,” reads a blurb in the announcement.

Stay tuned for more about the program. And if you’re involved in a higher-ed journalism program in Colorado and think your students might benefit from this kind of work, get in touch with Beth.

CBS Colorado ‘has gone statewide’ in its newsgathering

Around this time last year, CBS Colorado was announcing “big changes” at the Denver-based station.

That change-up, which the station described in publicity material as “one of the biggest shifts in local television news reporting,” was a move to more hyperlocal coverage and a creation of “neighborhood newsrooms.”

Now, the station is earning ink from a broadcast trade publication for going wide — and for a strategy that moves away from the kind of press-release re-writes and pack-journalism event coverage that can be typical of feed-the-beast local TV news.

From writer Michael Malone at Broadcasting + Cable:

KCNC Denver, known as CBS News Colorado, has a fresh approach to covering news in the market. The CBS-owned station has gone statewide in its newsgathering, rather than focusing solely on the Denver metro as it had been for decades. That includes the rebranding of CBS4 Denver to CBS News Colorado earlier this year and introduction of the tagline “Covering Colorado First.” 

The piece also explored the process for how those neighborhood newsrooms are shaking out:

Another piece of the station’s branding is “Your Reporter,” which features reporters embedded in a certain community — living there, or at least nearby, and interacting with newsmakers, building up sources and packaging stories from their corner of the state. A reporter might be embedded in Boulder & Foothills or Adams County or Northern Colorado, among other regions across the state. 

Some more nuggets from the item, emphasis mine:

  • “CBS News Colorado isn’t about to require reporters to move to a different corner of the state, but if a reporter covering Northern Colorado were to depart, their replacement would inhabit that region.”
  • “Reporter Dillon Thomas, who is based in Northern Colorado, said he used to be at the station daily, but it’s more like monthly since the Your Reporter campaign began. ‘I can run a studio from my car,’ he said. ‘I have a power inverter, my camera gear, editing gear, drones, etc., all in the back of my car at any given time.’”
  • “Part of the community journalism initiative is the 70/30 strategy that [News Director Kristin] Strain is pushing — 70% of a reporter’s work should be enterprise stuff and 30% generated by the press releases and news events that most everyone covers.

“Ratings have elevated since KCNC widened its coverage aperture,” Malone reported. “In September, the station saw 6% year-to-year growth in total viewers at 6 a.m., a 31% gain at 5 p.m., 27% at 6 p.m., and 26% at 6:30. The 25-54 demo saw similar lifts.”

‘Angry looks’ and a camera lens lick: The Boeberts meet the press at divorce court

We’ll see next year if Colorado voters have had enough of the antics of its young member of Congress who hails from the Western Slope. The latest Lauren Boebert headlines came from her appearance at divorce court in Grand Junction.

There, the MAGA Republican and her husband officially dissolved their marriage of 17 years.

The court hearing was, of course, a media circus after the viral-video news of Lauren Boebert getting kicked out of a performance of Beetlejuice and the ensuing drama that followed.

Nancy Lofholm’s news story in the Colorado Sun captured some of the media angle of the court hearing. Some excerpts:

  • “The Boeberts had entered the courtroom separately — Lauren Boebert striding in with the baby and giving the small gathering of reporters and photographers angry looks. Jayson Boebert walked in about 10 minutes later, scowling in a pair of dark sunglasses.”
  • “They left the courtroom together with a sheriff’s deputy escorting them. They left in the same black SUV with the grandson in a backseat baby carrier after Jayson Boebert accosted a Daily Mail reporter who was shouting questions at Lauren Boebert. Jayson Boebert marched up to the reporter who was using his phone to record video and stuck his tongue on the lens on his phone.”
  • “If not for a September date night seen around the world, the Boeberts’ divorce might have happened with a modicum of fanfare. But this one attracted the London-based Daily Mail, which flew a reporter and photographer from Los Angeles to cover the proceedings. Business Insider also had a team at the hearing.”

Read the whole thing here.

More Colorado media odds & ends

🐺 This newsletter rarely takes a week off, but logistics and broadband service might complicate that next week. Apologies in advance if that’s the case.

📍 Do you run an independent online news outlet in Colorado or Utah? Fill out this form to get it on LION Publisher’s new national mapProject Oasis is a national initiative that seeks to track the growing digital, local, independent media landscape in the U.S. and Canada

🚠 Ripples from the news that former Aspen Times editor Andrew Travers is suing the paper that fired him, emanated throughout the week. Aspen Daily News columnist Lorenzo Semple weighed in hoping for a trial that could include “a big local spectacle with national media coverage, a satellite truck, a food truck and the entire cast of characters taking the stand.” Daily News columnist Roger Marolt published his own email correspondence with Times editors from when he was a columnist there, telling readers, “here is what went down behind the scenes.” (A lawyer for Ogden emailed me over the weekend, saying, “Unfortunately, we cannot comment on any pending litigation, but we do deny the allegations that have been made against us.”)

🏆 Meanwhile, the Colorado Association of Libraries this week announced it has given Andrew Travers the Julie J. Boucher Community Honor Roll Award for promoting intellectual freedom.

👀 During the recent Colorado Press Association convention, the organization’s CEO Tim Regan-Porter said the press advocacy group plans to lobby for “state funding for reporters” in the upcoming legislative session. It’s “still early in that process,” he said.

📰 Staff of the Southern Ute Drum newspaper won “a total of 10 awards during the Colorado Press Association’s 145th Annual Convention,” the paper announced, including nine awards “for individual pieces in both editorial journalism and photography as well as the ‘Excellence in Photo & Design’ sweepstakes award.”

⚖️ The Nevada Supreme Court “has moved to protect slain Las Vegas Review-Journal investigative reporter Jeff German’s personal devices” in an order released last week that “calls for a third-party team to search his journalistic materials as part of the investigation into his murder,” the Las Vegas Review-Journareported. Colorado-based media attorney Ashley Kissinger, who is handling the case, said, “I’m very excited about this win.”

📺 Jeremy Jojola of 9NEWS wore a special bolo tie on air this week for Indigenous Peoples Day that he described as a Knifewing deity made with coral, turquoise, and shell by an artisan in 1960s New Mexico. “I’ll be wearing more of them, including several from Zuni Pueblo,” he said on social media.

✍️ It’s “kind of cool, in a way, to be referred to as a ‘creator,’” wrote Louis Cannon in the Pagosa Daily Post. “Since the word ‘journalist’ is on the way out, apparently, now that ‘journals’ are getting bought up by hedge funds, and ruined.”

⬆️ Colorado College alum Anya Steinberg shared her journalism journey from being a national NPR College Podcast Contest winner to landing a full-time staff job at NPR.

💨 Writing for Harvard’s Nieman Lab, Laura Entis spoke with five journalists about why they left the business. One of them, Ashley Lose, now lives in Colorado and “edged back into writing, but made the explicit decision not to pursue a career in journalism. Today, Lose is a user experience writer for a learning management company. The job is remote, which gives her the flexibility to spend time with her young son during the day. Just as importantly, it pays an annual salary of $90,000, more than she could envision making as a reporter.”

❤️‍🩹 “I’ve been investigating different societal-level repair processes throughout the world and have been talking to Black media-makers about healing in journalism,” Diamond Hardiman of Free Press, who spent time working in Colorado, wrote this week. “I’ve also been listening to people describe how journalism has negatively impacted their communities — and express their visions for a way toward repair.”

💨 Zack Newman of 9NEWS said this week that “nearly dying on the job a few years ago made me realize that I can’t wait for the distant future to pursue my dreams.” So, he is moving to New Zealand with his partner “after nearly 5 years of producing award-winning and law-changing investigative data journalism in Colorado.”

⬆️ “Brian Porter, publisher of Prairie Mountain Media news operations in Brush, Fort Morgan and Sterling, was named president of the Colorado Press Association during the organization’s annual convention,” Sara Waite reported for the Fort Morgan Times.

📖 “The Ouray Bookshop will close a chapter in its long history at the Beaumont Hotel by the end of the year, after the hotel’s new owners said they would not renew a long-term lease for the business,” Erin McIntyre reported for the Ouray County Plaindealer.

💨 Today, Friday, Oct. 13, was Pat Poblete’s “last day keeping an eye on the good, and not-so-good” for Colorado Politics. “I’m excited to share that I’ll be starting later this month as state politics and issues editor for my hometown paper,” he said, referring to The Arizona Republic.

📢 If you’re a Colorado journalist, don’t forget to add yourself to the new Amplify Colorado directory to help you connect with more diverse sources.

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.