Colorado has been a state long enough to see many local newspapers fall by the wayside throughout the decades. None was more beloved and influential than the Rocky Mountain News, which met its tragic demise during the Great Recession just under two months away from its 150th anniversary.
Newspapers in Colorado and around the world are still struggling to stay profitable in a world that has increasingly favored clickbait and free news hosted on the internet in recent years. However, these important Colorado journalistic institutions have managed to weather the digital age and remain vital news sources for state residents.
With its first issue printed in 1892, the Denver Post brings more than a century of local news coverage and journalistic experience to Colorado. First founded as the Evening Post, the paper was originally intended to serve as a propaganda mouthpiece for supporters of Grover Cleveland, who was the Democratic nominee for president that year. Many Coloradans were not fond of Cleveland, who opposed the government’s purchase of silver.
When the mineral went bust in 1893, the nation slumped into a depression, and Denver was hit especially hard. The Evening Post went on hiatus, and was temporarily revived by another political group with similar aims before it was snatched up by a Harry Heye Tammen, a former bartender, curio and souvenir shop proprietor, and Frederick Gilmer Bonfils, a Kansas City real estate and lottery operator. Tammen and Bonfils purchased the Evening Post for a steal at just $12,500.
The following period was not one of ethical integrity for the Post. By cranking out what was called “flamboyant circus journalism,” the paper wasn’t exactly big on truth, but the sensationalist strategy payed off big in terms of readership, and it was soon more popular than the three alternative Denver newspapers combined.
On January 1st, 1901, the paper officially became the Denver Post. Over the next century, the paper changed hands multiple times and its mission and journalistic ethos evolved as a newspaper throughout the decades.
The paper has experienced significant layoffs in recent years, causing some to question whether the publication is still capable of handling the news needs of a city as large and complex as Denver. As Wikipedia points out, before the Rocky Mountain News‘s bankruptcy in 2009, 600 staff members held jobs in Denver between that publication and the Denver Post. After layoffs in 2018, that number dwindled down to around 70.
“The paper’s editorial silence amid the Teapot Dome political scandal, its early tolerance of the Ku Klux Klan and xenophobic treatment of German and Japanese immigrants during wartime marked professional lows,”
said the Denver Post in a 2017 article chronicling its storied legacy. But it also pointed to decisive wins, such as its denouncement of McCarthyism and numerous Pulitzer Prizes.
With multiple Pulitzer Prizes and almost 150 years under its belt, the Gazette is one of the state’s most influential and beloved journalistic institutions.
The paper’s most celebrated stories include a 1990 article about an explosion that occurred in a local home, and a 2014 piece on the mistreatment of wounded combat veterans. But the Gazette’s most well known contribution to society, which came from an ad and not a news story, is one that might surprise you.
In 1955, the paper ran a holiday ad for a local Sears store featuring an illustration of Santa Claus. The ad included a phone number with a message encouraging local children to call Santa, but the wrong number was included. As luck would have it, the number was for the Continental Air Defense Command Operations Center, which was located in Colorado Springs.
After an untold amount of local children called the center asking of Santa’s whereabouts, and the inspiration for the NORAD Tracks Santa program was born, which is still in operation to this day. The paper was sold to Clarity Media in 2012, a subsidiary of the Anschutz Corporation.
Founded in 1977, Westword is an alternative local magazine that covers art, culture, and news in Denver and across Colorado. In addition to being honored with several awards for its investigative reporting and features, Westword made history in 2009 by being the first known publication in the world to hire a medical marijuana critic.
With local music, restaurant, art, and theater reviews, Westword is seen as an influential barometer of Denver’s arts, food, and culture scene. Their “Best of Denver” issue honors influential bands, bars, and personalities, while events like the Westword Music Showcase, Feast, and Artopia highlight notable creatives, taste-makers, and businesses.
The magazine also hosts the Westword Mastermind Awards to recognize and support local figures who are changing the cultural landscape of Denver with cash grants.
The Colorado Sun is a scrappy newcomer to the state’s journalistic scene, and is fueled by a digital only business model and led by ten ambitious former Denver Post employees. Aimed at providing in-depth coverage of news from around the state, the digital paper was launched with funds from blockchain venture capitalists and a Kickstarter campaign.
Unlike traditional newspapers, the Colorado Sun is funded entirely through paid subscriptions. Though it’s still early days for this publication, its tenacity, intrepid business model, and lean staff seems like it’s already paying off. As of August 2020, the paper’s newsletters boasted more than 100,000 subscribers, with 11,000 paying members.
Founded in 1890, this Boulder-based newspaper has gone through multiple name changes over the years, such as the Boulder Camera, the Boulder Daily Camera, the Daily Camera, the Camera, and then the Daily Camera again which is its current moniker. Along with the numerous name changes, ownership of the paper has changed over the years as well.
The Daily Camera provides news coverage of Boulder and the surrounding areas. You’ll find stories in this paper on topics ranging from local gun control legislation to coverage on the Boulder International Film Festival to local ecotourism. As Boulder’s influence and size continues to expand, so does the journalistic role of this award-winning newspaper.
The Daily Sentinel
As western Colorado’s largest newspaper, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel has been in circulation for nearly 130 years. In tandem with its website, the paper offers local, state, and international news coverage. It’s based in downtown Grand Junction.
Ownership of the publication stayed within the same family until 1970 when it was transferred to an employee before being sold to Cox Media nine years later. In 2009, the newspaper was sold to the Kansas-based Seaton Publishing Co. The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel has won various awards throughout the 2000’s for its journalism, photography, and advertisements.
The Pueblo Chieftain
Founded in 1868, the Pueblo Chieftain is one of the state’s oldest and longest running newspapers. Its serves the community of Pueblo and the rest of southern Colorado. From covering the Pueblo Flood of 1921 to the decline of the area’s local steel industry, the paper has been a crucial source of local news for southern Colorado for more than 150 years.
Those are among the state’s most touted news publications. There are dozens others, between small town and county newspapers to magazines such as 5280 and 303 Magazine.