After months of unrest at The Denver Post, a handful of disgruntled employees have cut ties with the newspaper and started a new venture: "The Colorado Sun."
It's a new era in local journalism. If The Denver Post's hedge-fund owners aren't willing or able to give their journalists the tools to succeed, then they'll find a way to do it themselves. A group of former Post reporters and editors have branched out and formed The Colorado Sun, an online publication launched on "blockchain" technology.
Backed by a grant from Civil Media Company, a New York blockchain venture capitalist working to launch 1,000 such blockchain-based media outlets this year, The Colorado Sun exists in direct response to the massive layoffs at the Post, whose staff dwindled from a robust 300 to less than 100 over the course of a couple years. Everything came to a head in April, when the employees revolted against owner Alden Global Capital, using the greatest tool at their disposal -- the Post's editorial page -- to make a public cry for help. But neither their stunning editorial -- nor the reporters' picketing outside Alden's headquarters in New York in May -- made a difference.
So, obviously -- (sadly? excitingly?) -- it's time to move on. The sun is rising on a new day.
According to their website, The Colorado Sun will be an ad-free, digital-only media outlet --
"a community-supported, journalist-owned team focused on investigative, explanatory, and narrative journalism for a state in the midst of a massive evolution. Our goal is to inform, engage and entertain readers from the Western Slope to the Eastern Plains and up and down the Front Range by shining light on the news that matters. The Sun will cover the stories that matter to those who live in our state: in politics, business, the environment to what it means to live a Colorado lifestyle."
It will have "a conventional website whose data will be written permanently into the secure, distributed digital ledger known as the blockchain," The New York Times reported.
While Civil Media has pledged two years' worth of funding, the team at The Sun has also put together a Kickstarter campaign with a goal of raising $75,000 from the Colorado community.
"We were fortunate to find partners interested in creating a new model for local journalism," The Colorado Sun's website explains. "Civil is getting us started with some financial and technical backing, but the news will be sourced, reported, edited, and published right here in Colorado. To learn more about Civil’s public-interest model and see more of the independent newsrooms launching in Civil’s First Fleet, visit joincivil.com."
So what's in it for Civil Media? Well, essentially, The Colorado Sun is an experiment. If it's successful, Civil Media is hoping to take this blockchain system and implement it in markets all over the country. In fact, they are hoping to have 13 newsrooms in full swing within the next couple of weeks.
“It’s a risk. Are we absolutely certain it’s going to work? No. Are we absolutely certain that something needs to be tried, and that it should be pretty different? Yeah. So we’re committed to taking a swing at something that’s pretty radically different and that we obviously believe in,” Civil Media Company CEO Matt Iles told Colorado Public Radio (CPR).
Here's how it will work:
Civil uses virtual tokens (Ethereum blockchain-based tokens) as an ownership stake -- like shares in a company. Even though The Sun will be owned by journalists themselves, readers will be able to purchase tokens to throw their support behind the kinds of topics that are covered. This process should ultimately decentralize ownership, solving the problem that befell the Denver Post. In addition, Civil has specific rules in place so that content cannot be deleted or altered and control of publications can't be under a single person.
Basically, Colorado journalism meets the free market.
“We are not trying to create a mini Denver Post,” co-founding editor Larry Ryckman told The New York Times. “We will break news but we’re not doing breaking news.”
To CPR, staff writer Jason Blevins put it this way:
“We don’t, I don’t see this as wanting to be some, like, ‘we’re going to show them [The Denver Post],’ ‘we’re going to get back at them,’ or ‘we’re angry with them’ as much as this is kind of a defense of journalism and storytelling and doing it the right way.”
In addition to Ryckman and Blevins, the current staff of The Colorado Sun includes reporters John Ingold, Kevin Simpson, Tamara Chuang and Jennifer Brown; editor Dana Coffield, and web developer Eric Lubbers -- all formerly of The Denver Post.
They hope to officially launch the digital publication this summer.
“My hope is that people will see The Colorado Sun as the tip of the iceberg,” Civil Media's Iles said. “I’d like to think that, if your local news organization is struggling, or if you believe that independent journalism is important, but you don’t yet really know what to do about, I’d like you to see how Civil can be home for ideas ... I want newsrooms around the world to see The Colorado Sun as a leader in that regard.”
Watch The Colorado Sun's video here:
What do you think? Will you support The Colorado Sun? We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!