“We belong to you, Colorado.”
Larry Ryckman, editor and co-founder of The Colorado Sun said this to readers on Sunday, which marked the fifth anniversary of this journalist-owned, nonpartisan online news outlet based in Denver. Ryckman also announced that The Sun will become a nonprofit.
This is big. It’s good news for readers, as well as The Sun’s 27 employees, up from 10 on the day it went live on Sept. 10, 2018.
Dana Coffield, senior editor and co-founder, wrote in an email: “The transition to nonprofit will come with a restructuring that we hope will help the people who have jumped onto the pirate ship see themselves as future bosses. The way it will be set up will amplify the employee control, which I think is pretty interesting and pretty exciting. The ‘normal’ career progression for journalists has been seriously disrupted in the past decade or so, so maybe this will help restore the idea that one can advance.”
Encouraging news, especially for cub reporters and editors who we’d like to see grow into leaders. The Sun has a low employee turnover rate with no lack of job applicants.
Ryckman shared the secret in the sauce.
“The Colorado Sun is the most collaborative newsroom that I have worked in, and I have worked in many around the world over the past 40-plus years,” he said. “That’s no accident. We deliberately created a company where journalists have a voice and a vote in the mission and governance of The Sun. We encourage group editing of our stories and our newsletters, so that everyone – from the most seasoned, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter to a college intern – has an opportunity to speak up and help make our stories as strong and well-written as they can be.”
The Sun inspires us. Surviving five years alone is notable. Even with talent, experience and street smarts, The Sun’s odds in Vegas would not have been favorable.
In about 20 years time, about 2,500 U.S. newspapers closed – including the Rocky Mountain News in 2009 and The Denver Post handily gutted. We’ll never really know what stories weren’t told in these years, without reporters on beats.
But here came The Sun, shining light in corners and throughout the 104,094 square miles that is Colorado.
Before The Sun launched, we’re imagining its founders gathered around kitchen tables, punching numbers and staking out plans. Conversations resulted in a few simple promises: The Sun will be whatever Colorado needs it to be. Sun journalists will work hard to earn support.
Humility was key to The Sun’s success.
“In addition to competitive pay and benefits, we offer our journalists the opportunity to do the kind of quality work that we all got into this business to produce,” Ryckman said. “We don’t sit around rewriting press releases. We get out in the field whenever possible. We dig, we research, we investigate, we explain. We produce investigative, watchdog, explanatory and long-form narrative journalism.
“We value quality in all things.”
Something else The Sun does – it treats readers with respect, resorting to old gumshoe methods required for deeply reported stories.
Currently, The Sun is a public benefit corporation with public service woven through its work. State law requires the news outlet to produce an annual report detailing the value it brings to the community. With no paywall and its well-vetted stories free to read, that part shouldn’t be difficult. For those who can afford it, the membership has been $10 a month.
As a nonprofit, The Sun can more easily swing open doors to philanthropic donors who value its work. Ideally, more funding will result in more stories.
Hats off to this news outlet’s considerable success and continued bold moves. We look forward to the news The Sun brings in the years to come.