This fall semester, during a Colorado College class called “The Future and Sustainability of Local News,” several students visited Crestone and stayed at the college’s Baca campus.
While there, they met with staff of The Crestone Eagle, read archives of area newspapers at the local museum, interviewed residents about where they get their local news and information, and met with a public official to talk about the efficacy of a potential sales tax grant to support local journalism.
Throughout their intensive course at our liberal arts campus in Colorado Springs, students studied the various causes of a broken business model in the local news industry nationwide that has led to fewer reporters, slimmer coverage, and disappearing local news outlets. (Among the reasons: advertising migrated online to tech companies like Facebook and Google; hedge funds bought newspapers and laid off reporters to maximize profits for shareholders.) Students also studied potential solutions for how to fix these problems, hearing from some innovators in Colorado and across North America who are working on the crisis facing local news.
They also learned this: An analysis from 2019 found owners of at least 44 local news organizations in Colorado are nearing retirement age or could soon leave the business. A key question is whether those publishers will have a sustainable succession plan or simply fold up shop.
While in Crestone, students got an in-person look at what succession planning looks like—at least in Saguache County. They met with the staff of the Eagle and members of the Crestone Eagle Community Media group, a non-profit made up of locals who are looking to acquire and revamp the newspaper. Students also learned the paper, like plenty of others, could use all the help it can get.
In April, two senior students, Sierra Romero and Sabrina Brewer, embarked on a new internship program at CC’s Journalism Institute to learn how the Eagle operates, to help write the articles, and to work on the paper’s digital operation while staying at the Baca campus. Jennifer Eytcheson, the Eagle’s intern program manager for this collaboration, shared the newspaper cycle and operation with the interns, helped them get started setting up interviews for the articles they were writing, set up a tour of the Mountain Mail printing company, and took them onsite to take photos for their articles.
You will see the first of two articles in this month’s issue of the Eagle covering the possible local impacts of the Live Nation Seven Peaks festival in Villa Grove in September. The article to follow will be in the June issue, with an interesting take on the preservation of the Sand Dunes National Park. This was an experiment CECM initiated, both for the paper and our program as we seek to help our students gain working knowledge about the local news business outside of the classroom. We hope you’ll see more of their faces in your community soon, and more of their words on the page of your local paper.