It’s old news that traditional for-profit media is struggling. The latest outlet to debut in Colorado is flipping that model by taking the profits out of the news and relying on philanthropic and reader donations to fund the subscription-, paywall-, and ad-free site. Colorado Newsline is the latest and 17th local outlet for the national nonprofit and nonpartisan States Newsroom, which has been hiring veteran newspaper journalists across the country to run and write for its digital-only local platforms. Helming Colorado’s new publication is Quentin Young, most recently an editor at the Daily Camera who’s worked at Boulder County papers since 2003.
Young will lead a staff of four, including former Westword staff writer Chase Woodruff, former Colorado Sun reporter Moe Clark, and former Colorado Springs Independent reporter Faith Miller. Trish Zornio, a scientist who recently ran for the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination, will be a frequent contributor. The team plans to laser in on politics and policy, keeping a close eye on government at all levels. Since more news is good news, we asked Young to tell us about Colorado Newsline, which just launched July 1, and what types of stories we can expect to read.
5280: How did Colorado Newsline come about?
Quentin Young: I left the Camera the first week of May, and I left because I was approached by the States Newsroom people, and we talked about this project. It just sounded really interesting, and it was an opportunity that I didn’t feel like I could refuse. I was the opinion page editor at the Daily Camera, and I really felt like I thrived on analyzing and considering government policy and actions. The whole idea of holding governments to account for their activities was something that I felt was important and enjoyed doing. States Newsroom offered an opportunity to do that on a bigger scale. And then on top of that, there appeared, at least to the extent I could gauge it, there appeared to be stability and that was really attractive to me, too. States Newsroom supports its outlets, and there appears to be a long-term plan to maintain that support. Having been in the newspaper industry for a while, that was a welcome change.
Why are we seeing so many traditional media journalists—like the former Denver Post journalists who started The Colorado Sun, Denverite, and The Colorado Independent—make these kinds of moves?
It becomes challenging to continue doing the kind of journalism we all believe in—which is not advocacy, not some dark money attempt to influence policy under the guise of journalism, but true journalism where we’re keeping Colorado informed of what government is up to and what’s going on in the community. The old models supporting that kind of journalism are failing, there’s no doubt about that. When I left the Camera, as much as I love that newsroom and miss my colleagues, they’re suffering. I was subject to a pay cut. The immediate cause was the pandemic, but the larger cause was the failure of that business model to withstand economic conditions even in good times. What happened with me, and what I think has happened with other journalists who’ve made similar moves from the legacy outlets, is they’ve decided that they want to ensure the old way of doing journalism by doing it within a different model. That was crucial for me.
With such a small staff, you’re forced to be focused. How will you select the stories you do?
That’s a very good question, and I’m still learning how to do that. The purpose of a States Newsroom outlet, generally speaking, is covering politics and policy, and so we do want to cover the big stories. For example, our launch was the day after the primary election. We wanted to establish that our readers could turn to us to get an idea of what’s going on in the big picture of Colorado politics. Beyond that, we are going to, through trial and error, figure out where the gaps are. One thing I’m sure of is that there are stories that are getting missed that years ago, when there were hundreds more reporters paying attention, would have gotten covered.
What types of stories will Colorado Newsline run that we may not see as much of from other outlets?
One area that Faith Miller and I have talked about is the military presence in Colorado. Something like that stands out as an opportunity for us to really pay attention to and establish a strong record of coverage, where maybe other outlets are not covering it as well as they might have some years ago when the legacy outlets were stronger. Chase Woodruff has a real strong background in the environment, and in particular oil and gas. I think he catches aspects of that beat that will make us shine. Moe Clark has experience in water policy. I think that’s another area where we’re going to make our mark. Water in Colorado is kind of a slow-moving crisis, and with the changing climate in the coming years, water could become something Coloradans suddenly realize they should have paid more attention to.
This may sound snarky, but we have to ask. Your tagline—“Start with the truth”—is that commentary on other media outlets?
I just thought it sounded great! I thought it was a cool tagline! No, it’s not meant as a knock on any other outlets. I have the utmost respect for the newsrooms at the Denver Post and the Colorado Sun. I looked up to those newsrooms, and I still do. And 5280 and CPR and Colorado Politics—there is some great journalism that goes on in Denver. It was, really and truly, just thinking about what we do, as simple as that. And what do you do as a journalist? You start with the truth.