As most Coloradans realize, the depth and breadth of local news has declined dramatically in recent years. About 500 print journalists covered Denver in 2009, before the demise of the Rocky Mountain News and the hollowing of the Denver Post. Today, that number is down to less than 70. Throughout the state, other community papers have faced a similar decline, and many rural and mountain areas have become "local news deserts". At the same time, the state population has grown dramatically, and overall trust in media has taken a hit. The traditional role of the "Fourth Estate" as civic watchdog is evolving, and rapidly-changing technology is dramatically reshaping our public commons and civic dialogue.
As Colorado's media landscape has continued to evolve, the Gates Family Foundation has invested in a wide variety of high-quality local news outlets. We've supported public media for decades, helping to launch the PBSNewsHour on Rocky Mountain PBS back in 1983, and Colorado Public Radio's education desk in 2010. To boost quality coverage of rural issues, we've invested in outlets such as High Country News and KSJD community radio in Cortez. And as we've seen original reporting on specific issues decline in traditional outlets, we've supported start-up, independent, digital-only news outlets such as Chalkbeat (for education) and Streetsblog (for transit and mobility issues).
Underpinning all of the Foundation’s media investments is the belief that informed communities are vital to robust civic engagement that advances the quality of life for all Coloradans. Local news is a key component of healthy, thriving communities – and its absence is harbinger of diminished communities. (Read our recent essay for more on our belief in the importance of investing in quality local news.)
That's why, this summer, the Gates Family Foundation is helping to support the Colorado Media Project -- a project that aims to explore and accelerate scalable, sustainable, civic-minded solutions in Colorado’s digital media landscape.
Gates Family Foundation president Tom Gougeon serves on the project's executive team, and Melissa Davis, Vice President of Strategic Communications for Gates, is leading external communications. If you'd like to learn more, feel free to drop either of us a note.
To learn even more -- and get involved:
- Visit the Colorado Media Project website
- Follow progress on Facebook, Twitter and the CMP blog
- Provide your own ideas, background research, and feedback