Grant Houston started the weekly Silver World newspaper in Lake City right out of college when he was 23.
For 46 years he has provided a public record for the remote mountain community of fewer than 500 in southwestern Colorado’s Hinsdale County.
But Houston is now 68 and considering retirement — and he’s not sure what to do with the Silver World, which this year took home 19 awards from the Colorado Press Association.
“I don’t even have a price in mind,” he said over the phone this week. “Most important is that it continues.”
Beyond Houston, who serves as editor and publisher, the marginally profitable paper has one other full-time employee and a couple of stringers depending on the season. The pair sells ads, and the paper runs legal and public notices from the local government.
Typical coverage includes news about “who’s visiting who, whose dog has disappeared,” Houston says, “as well as meetings of the county and the town.” The Silver World is known for the obituaries Houston writes since he has spent his whole life in Lake City. A recent hot-button issue has been the proliferation of OHVs, those motorized off-road dune-buggy-type recreational vehicles that tear around trails and open spaces. The population of the area swells during the summer months.
It was big news for the Silver World in 1989 when a group of graduate students dug up the century-old skeletal remains of victims of Al Packer, “the patron saint of Lake City and its antihero” who is also known as the “Colorado Cannibal.”
In 2019, a Colorado Media Project report estimated at least 44 Colorado newspapers are owned by those nearing retirement age or looking to exit the business. A serious question will be what succession planning looks like for many of them, including in Lake City.
Twice in the past year we’ve seen small rural newspapers in Colorado change hands, whether it was a string of weeklies in the Central Mountains region sold to an Arizona company or eight papers in the San Luis Valley offloaded to a millennial Wyoming publisher.
Other newspapers have simply disappeared, including just this year in places like Fountain and on the Eastern Plains. In an analysis for the Colorado Media Project, University of Denver journalism professor David Coppini and I recently identified at least 19 newspapers that closed in Colorado since 2019.
In recent years there has been a concerted effort among some in Colorado to keep local newspapers in local hands.
“What I am skeptical of is selling the paper to someone who doesn’t even know our area,” Houston said about the Silver World. “You’ve got to have a community presence here.”
The paper prints around 1,500 copies each week from a press in Montrose and has a loyal subscriber base of more than 1,000, Houston said. Over the years, he has faced competition from the Internet where advertisers can put ads on Facebook. If people aren’t getting their Lake City news from the paper then they are getting it from social media where Houston says it is “usually fairly skimpy and sometimes inaccurate.”
The Silver World, according to Houston, was the first newspaper in Colorado’s Western Slope.
“But it went out of business in 1938,” he says. “So I restarted it in 1978. The journalism has deep roots here … going back to June of 1875.”
Whatever happens with the storied paper, Houston plans to stay in the area. Maybe he’ll write some books. And he’d be open to writing for the Silver World to some extent if someone else owned and operated it and handled the day to day. While he has mixed emotions about giving it up, he says nearly half a century at the helm might be enough.
Do you or someone you know want to own a newspaper in Lake City, Colorado? Get a hold of Houston at silverw[at]centurytel[dot]net.
Local TV news accounts should say where stories happened when posting on social media
A recent move at Twitter, or X, removed headlines in news stories that individuals and news organizations post on the platform. Doing so now deprives readers of “key context from the publishers about their articles,” The Washington Post reported.
The move makes it increasingly more incumbent upon audiences to be vigilant about what they’re sharing — or believing — when they see a Twitter post linking to an ostensibly credible news source.
As local news organizations that still use Twitter/X seek to build credibility on the platform, one TV station in Colorado Springs might consider a different approach to its current practice.
Out of the four local TV broadcast outlets in Colorado’s second-largest city, I’ve noticed the Gray Television-owned KKTV often posts links and headlines to stories from out of state — without saying in the post where the news originated.
That could give the impression that the news actually happened in the Springs unless a user clicks on the story and read the dateline. The practice is particularly pernicious when it comes to certain kinds of reports since studies have shown local TV news consumption has “significantly elevated perceptions of risk and fear of crime.”
Consider this tweet from earlier in the week, which garnered nearly 3,700 views, and the response to it:
I don’t actually think the person behind the account “MedicinalColorado,” which is sometimes critical of local news coverage, really believes the crime happened in the Springs — but is rather drawing attention to the obvious omission. Click the story and you’ll see the incident happened in Chicago.
In 2015, I wrote for Columbia Journalism Review about local TV news organizations that do this sort of thing on social and couldn’t find anyone willing to defend the practice.
Tony Keith, KKTV’s digital content manager, said over email this week that there isn’t a thought process behind not adding in the location context for faraway stories when posting links about them on social media.
“On the local level, we make it a standard/priority to include a location in the headline, at the very least including the state,” he said. “Sometimes a location is left out, but that is more of a mistake on the local author’s end as I try to address this with each of my employees on a regular basis.”
Keith said the station’s corporate folks push out stories to the websites of their sister stations if they believe such stories would do well nationally or in those markets. He added that KKTV’s Twitter/X account is set up automatically to post stories from the website. That means simply adding the location in the story’s headline might also make it appear in the tweets.
- 💡 Idea for a research study: Show separate groups of Springs residents the Twitter feeds of the four different local TV stations, then evaluate their assumptions about the crime rate in their community.
On social media this week, Frank Mungeam, the chief innovation officer for the Local Media Association, challenged all local newsrooms to ask themselves how they’d fare if they gave themselves the above self-audit about their own social media feeds.
Speaking of Twitter, X, whatever…
In January, as journalists and communications professionals were fleeing Twitter following its purchase by Elon Musk, I polled this newsletter’s audience about how it was affecting media people here in Colorado.
A majority of Colorado journalists who responed said they were waiting to see what happens. Since then, many journalists have signed up for Instagram’s Threads (I’m on there), as well as BlueSky and other platforms.
This week, Colorado Public Radio’s transportation reporter, Nathaniel Minor, said he was “going to wind down” his Twitter account. I thought it might be useful to check in and see how other journalists in Colorado are feeling about the Twitter platform that some call X.
My vote goes for the last option in the poll above.
There was a time when Twitter was extremely useful in helping identify items to report for this newsletter. A couple years ago, the algorithm was so good it would bookmark things I’d missed when I wasn’t on my phone or on the app and make sure I saw them when I logged back in. The algorithm knew what I needed and made sure I wasn’t missing out.
That time is no more. So I pay $8 a month as a business expense solely to use a tool called Tweedeck that simplifies search functions and allows for strategic news curation. And while the user experience on the platform is markedly worse compared to its old self, I catch enough stray information that winds up in this newsletter to make using Twitter/X worthwhile.
If or when that ends, it’ll be easier to call it quits.
Denver DA’s reason for hiding court records: Media might spread ‘misinformation’
The Colorado News Collaborative, aka COLab, has joined with a national organization focused on women to fight a judge’s decision to hide court records.
The case, with court records that involve dating apps, involves a Colorado cardiologist who is accused of drugging and sexually assaulting women.
From Jeff Roberts at the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition:
The Colorado News Collaborative (COLab) and the Washington, D.C.-based Fuller Project are objecting to a Oct. 27 suppression order from Denver District Court Judge Eric Johnson, which includes exhibits admitted into evidence in open court.
Roberts wrote that despite those records being introduced in open court, the office of Denver District Attorney Beth McCann asked a judge to restrict “the entirety” of the case records, citing, among other things, “significant privacy concerns for the victims.”
Here’s the kicker from the write-up by Roberts at CFOIC, emphasis mine:
“Allowing unrestricted access to the Court record would allow the public, especially the media, to provide commentary and speculation on the pending issues and facts that could lead to rampant misinformation by the media,” the DA’s filing says. “Such misinformation could be incredibly traumatizing for the victims in this case.”
Through its First Amendment attorneys, COLab argues it is “vital that the press be able to inform the public and affected industries about this case and help the public understand how our system of justice functions,” Roberts reported. “Access to the Exhibits already presented in open court is essential to the news media’s ability to explain the process and eventual verdict to the public.”
The Fuller Project says it became aware of this case out of Colorado “as a part of a larger investigation on dating app facilitated sexual violence.”
The high costs of living in Colorado is on the news agenda for two big local media outlets
Did you know the average hamburger in Colorado now costs $15? Tamara Chuang explained why in a Colorado Sun story this week.
But a burger isn’t the only expensive thing these days in Colorado. And the Sun wants to understand why. Hence, its new series “High Cost of Colorado.”
“From housing to a night at Red Rocks, from restaurant rice to 14er snacks, from health insurance to water bills, the struggle to afford our state is real,” reporters Jennifer Brown and Michael Booth wrote when introducing it this week. A recent Sun newsletter said the new series “connects reporters with all kinds of Coloradans to talk about their challenges, their fears and, in some remarkable cases, their solutions.”
But the Sun wasn’t the only outlet to announce it will tackle high costs as a beat.
Steve Staeger, who is approaching his 10-year anniversary with 9NEWS in Denver, said this week he will be taking on a new journalistic role as a “consumer investigator.”
In announcing the very local-TV-sounding “Steve on Your Side” broadcast that begins airing this month, he said this: “It isn’t getting any cheaper to live here in Colorado — especially when your paycheck is getting stretched further than it’s ever been.”
In explaining his new beat, Staeger said he has an affinity “for old school TV news brands. I grew up watching Ruth Spencer doing ‘Ruth To The Rescue’ on WDIV in Detroit.”
So as the Sun interrogates Colorado’s rising costs and its impacts, Staeger will take on the scammers and dig “deeper into the issues that hit your wallet — to help you save money.”
More Colorado media odds & ends
💰 Colorado newsrooms have until Nov. 27 to apply for grants to advance equity in their work. A quarter of a million dollars will flow to nonprofit and for-profit Colorado news organizations from the initiative by Colorado Media Project, which underwrites this newsletter. The amount per project typically ranges between $5,000 and $25,000. Don’t sleep on these. Apply here before the deadline.
🏛 Colorado Democratic Gov. Jared Polis declared Nov. 16, 2023, “Anne Trujillo Day” in honor of the Denver7 news anchor’s final day on air after a long career in local journalism. “Your work has contributed to the strength of our communities and told the stories of so many Coloradans who might otherwise have not had a light shined on their successes and real life challenges,” Polis said in a video address.
⚖️ Mark Reaman, editor of the Crested Butte News, is asking the Colorado Supreme Court to reverse a ruling “that shields identities of people who want library books banned or reclassified,” Jeff Roberts of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition reports.
⚙️ Michael Elizabeth Sakas of Colorado Public Radio is the latest journalist to jump from independently covering an industry or government agency to working for it. The climate and environment reporter who produced the podcast Parched about issues with the Colorado River is now the Colorado River Communications Specialist for our state’s department of natural resources. “It was a privilege to help inform Coloradans on a range of climate issues,” the former reporter said.
🆕 Jessica Gibbs is leaving the Denver Gazette to join the Denver Business Journal. “In addition to walking the halls of the Colorado Capitol and the Denver City and County Building, Gibbs will cover transportation.”
📺 9NEWS anchor Kyle Clark, who has said “local journalists are best positioned to break through the polarization and defend American democracy,” interviewed Colorado Democratic Gov. Jared Polis and Utah GOP Gov. Spencer Cox this week, and asked what they thought of Republican Presidential frontrunner Donald Trump’s recent rhetoric about his enemies being “vermin” and how it echoes language used by fascists and dictators.
💧 Big Pivots and Aspen Journalism, two digital new media organizations, are embarking on a five-part series that “examines the intersection of water and urban landscapes in Colorado.” Vail Daily published the first installment. (Another example bolstering last week’s lead item about Colorado’s indie journalists keeping local legacy media in the mix.)
🌤 Megan Montero has joined the weather team at FOX21 TV in Colorado Springs. “This is more than just a homecoming professionally for me,” said the weather caster who has worked in markets from Grand Junction to Denver. “My family has actually been in Colorado Springs and in the southern Colorado area since the ‘70s.”
📲 Randi Smith, a professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences at MSU Denver, “said there have been warnings for several years about the dangers of social media, pointing to the latest advisory issued by the U.S. Surgeon General,” Samantha Spitz reported for KDVR. “I think that the devices and software are very intentionally designed to keep all of us hooked. The use of algorithms, the tracking of our behavior, the infinite scroll,” Smith said in the piece. “All these things prey on our own cognitive shortcomings and can pull us in.”
🗞 Colorado College student Zeke Lloyd, who is involved with the Catalyst student newspaper, opined in the student newspaper this week about why he believes students don’t read the student newspaper. (Spoiler: They’re too busy.)
🏆 The Colorado Office of Film, Television, and Media, a state agency, “has been recognized as one of the finalists for the Makers and Shakers Award for its outstanding Film Commission Initiative of the Year,” it announced. “Held annually at BAFTA (the British Academy of Film and Television Arts), the awards recognize and honor ground-breaking ideas and initiatives from players across the spectrum of the global creative screen industry, including advertising, television, film, animation, and gaming sectors.”
🗣 Marshall Zelinger of 9NEWS reported how people who spewed disgusting antisemitic rants “overtook public comment during a city council meeting in Wheat Ridge” and also how much of the speech is protected under the First Amendment.
📡 DISH Network “is laying off more than 500 Colorado employees by the end of this week” with the company blaming “changing business demands,” Claire Lavezzorio reported for KOAA-TV in the Springs. Kishore Kulkarni, professor of economics at Metropolitan State University Denver, “said it comes down to having more options to stream your favorite TV shows.”
⚔️ Ceyna Dawson and Adelaide Olberding, two students in a recent Introduction to Journalism class I taught, wrote for an assignment a quirky, offbeat piece about the Barony of Dragonsspine, “a local snapshot of a global group, The Society of Creative Anachronism, boasting 30,000 members and 30 kingdoms worldwide.” The Gazette published it this week. It’s an example of what can come out of a break from behind the desk or laptop. They were looking for story ideas and decided to walk downtown and satisfy their own curiosity about what they observed.
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.