Columbia Journalism Review: On a Thursday evening last month, journalists from The Colorado Sun gathered with hundreds of supporters in a downtown Denver brewery to bask in the glow of a full year in business. A special craft beer on tap that night was named for the Sun, and the crowd of politicos, businesspeople, and the civic-minded set was upbeat about a local-journalism success story.
A little over a year ago, mass layoffs at the Denver Post led to a dramatic editorial rebellion against the paper’s owner, Alden Global Capital. The broadsheet became the poster child for the perils of hedge-fund newspaper ownership. Last summer, 10 journalists defected from the Post to risk launching the Sun when a cryptocurrency and blockchain technology company offered them grant money to do so.
Since then, the Sun has proven itself a compelling and consistent digital outlet that reads sometimes like a daily magazine. Its stories—roughly five per day—cover a mix of deep and sophisticated politics and policy reporting, scoops, features, outdoor writing, culture and literature coverage. It includes accountability initiatives such as the Jared Polis Promise Tracker, which keeps a running tab on the new governor’s campaign pledges now that he’s in office. (There’s also an opinion section populated by contributions from a range of guest writers.) By its own count, the Sun published 970 original, staff-written stories, 180 freelance items, and 400 opinion columns and cartoons in its first year. Those stories generated around 6.2 million pageviews and 2.7 million unique visitors—a vastly smaller number than outlets such as the Post and Denver’s KUSA 9News, which get up to 20 million page views per month.
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