I was popping the buttons off my blue blazer Saturday afternoon during the Colorado Press Association awards ceremony at Coors Field. It wasn’t because of the slider burgers and chicken sticks being served to attendees prior to the awards presentations.
Bottom line, The Villager racked up 13 awards. Villager Creative Marketing Manager Susan Sweeney Lanam and our advertising designer, Tom McTighe, captured five awards; three first place and two second place awards.
Governmental reporter, Freda Miklin, was duly honored with a First Place for best education story, “Cherry Creek Schools Superintendent Announces Retirement.” First place for best editorial special section election “Roundup” analysis, and second place award for best business feature story, “Local Newspapers Matter.” The “Election Roundup” was designed by graphic artist Tom McTighe.
Society reporter Scottie Iverson scored two second place honors with her stories and photos with Tom McTighe’s talents for Best Page Design for “Ms. Senior Colorado” and, “Couple Of The Year.”
Villager columnists scored big with educator Michael Mazenko’s “A La Carte Journalism” winning a first place for “Best Serious Column.”
Rocky Mountain News retired sportswriter, returning to The Villager ranks, scored a First Place for his “Voice of the Bruin” column for best sports column writing.
Publisher Gerri Sweeney and Becky Osterwald scored a second place for best “Legal Advertising Section.”
The Villager scored 16 awards overall, including the new sister newspaper, The Weekly-Register Call in Gilpin County, purchased in 2021. The contest was judged by the Michigan State Press Association.
Preceding the awards ceremony, the Colorado Press Association held their 147th annual convention at the Lowry Conference Center in Aurora. The event featured seminars on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, terminating with a voyage to Coors field for the audio awards ceremony.
Along with newspaper award honors, three professional journalists were selected for the “ Colorado Hall of Fame” honors. This year they honored two departed publishers, Houston Waring who started working at the Littleton Independent for Ed Bemis in 1926 and having a stellar newspaper career. The second honoree was Percy Connaroe who published The Louisville Times, Lafayette News and Erie Review from1965 to 1992. He was named “CPA Newspaper Person of the Year” in 1992.
The third honoree was Patricia Calhoun, who is well-known in the Denver area since co-founding and publishing Westword since 1977.
Calhoun is notable for her writings and long- running successful publication.
What I learned at the seminars is brief; Governor Polis failed to show up for the Legislative luncheon, but was aptly represented by Democrat Senator Majority Leader, Steve Fenberg, from Boulder and Republican Minority Whip, Paul Lundeen, from El Paso County. The session was ably moderated by Linda Shapley, publisher of Colorado Community News. Both high-ranking elected officials were cordial to each other, and they agreed on one central theme, “Politics drives Policy,” and the political party in power, “Rules the Roost.” This is apparently true in Colorado and Washington D.C. That was their bottom-line message.
Another seminar I attended was a presentation on the newspaper located in Aurora that is now ‘The Sentinel,” dropping the Aurora flag several years ago. The panel discussed the current acquisition of The Sentinel to a non-profit publication. The leader of this movement is Joaquin Alvarado, who is guiding the newspaper purchase following the “Green Bay Packer” model in Aurora.
Veteran publisher, Dave Perry, is apparently transferring ownership in the newspaper to the public domain, whereby citizens can buy ownership stock in the non-profit publication. The stock has no value, following the Green Bay model, but gives moral and financial support to the team and in this case the Aurora newspaper. The transfer of ownership and issuance of stock is currently in a legal process of being completed with the closing apparently underway. Members of the panel were Eric Prock, Microsoft Executive; Joaquin Alvarado, founder of Studiotobe, and founding senior vice-president for diversity and innovation at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting; and Laura Frank, who is Executive Director of Colorado News Collaborative. Frank is supportive of the Green Bay Packers model and assisting in the “Green Bay Packers Experiment” transition.
It appears that Colorado newspapers are heading down two paths. The first, free enterprise and private ownership by families and corporations; the second path with newspapers becoming non-profit entities supported by foundations, trusts, and subscribers following a pattern started by public broadcasting decades ago. Staff members apparently can become partial owners of the news operations. This non-profit model is in full swing now with The Colorado Sun, a digital news source that purchased the 28 Colorado Community News publications in August 2021. The future of the printed newspapers could be challenging.
On the free enterprise path, Ogden Newspapers recently purchased dozens of newspapers from Swift Newspapers, located in Colorado that include lead newspapers in Vail, Aspen, Steamboat Springs, and other locations. Ogden is headquartered in Virginia and owns over 60 newspaper publications in numerous states.
Fears expressed by some publishers is that the non-profit donors will only support news operations that favor their funding missions and donor dogmas.
Conversely, free enterprise newspapers only survive from the support of local advertising and subscribers.
While both models provide professional news coverage, newspapers throughout history have been independent of outside influence and financial backing from non-newspaper sources. But, in recent years, both large, and small newspapers have been purchased by investors and Wall Street listings that can, and do, influence news.
Many newspapers, for survival, are moving to non-profit status that may dramatically change newspaper independence and ownership.
Maybe the Broncos should purchase The Denver Post so they can achieve better press coverage.