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Community News Gets Nonprofit Backing In Colorado

A local and national partnership has put a network of 24 weekly or monthly newspapers in Colorado under a nonprofit umbrella.

Colorado Community Media (CCM), an independent, family-owned group of 24 community newspapers and websites plus two shoppers, has been acquired by the newly created Colorado News Conservancy, a public benefit corporation jointly owned and operated by The National Trust for Local News and The Colorado Sun. It is backed by a coalition of local and national impact investors and the nonprofit lender FJC – A Foundation of Philanthropic Funds (FJC).

Supporters of the purchase include the Denver-based Gates Family Foundation, The Colorado Trust, and the American Journalism Project (AJP).

The news publications and websites will continue to be operated under local control. Colorado readers and the news outlets’ own staff members will also be invited to join in as investors in these valuable community assets.

This is the first acquisition for The National Trust for Local News, a nonprofit established to provide funding and advisory services to local news enterprises committed to local ownership. The National Trust for Local News was developed under the Public Media Venture Group, a consortium of public media stations.

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Like many owner-publishers of community weekly newspapers, Jerry and Ann Healey, the owner-publishers of CCM, have dedicated their lives to ensuring the residents of eight counties including and surrounding Denver have the accurate information they need to be informed citizens and engaged members of their communities. Nearing retirement, they turned to the Colorado Media Project (CMP) and the Colorado News Collaborative (COLab) for help finding new owners who would keep CCM news outlets locally controlled.

“We’ve worked hard to preserve the local integrity of these newspapers. They give their communities stories, information and government accountability they can’t get anywhere else — and connect businesses directly with readers,” Jerry Healey said. “This exciting partnership allows Ann and I to step back with a sense of gratitude, knowing these local voices will continue to be heard and that these news sources will not only thrive, but also innovate as they move forward under new local leadership.”

The National Trust for Local News is a new, national nonprofit formed to provide the financing, new ownership structures, and expertise needed for established news organizations to become sustainable and deeply grounded in their communities.

The AJP is committed to a vision in which an independent, resilient, and ubiquitous civic press represents, informs, and engages every member of the diverse public it serves. Founded by pioneers in nonprofit journalism, AJP is a venture philanthropy organization that makes investments in mission-driven nonprofit local news organizations and dynamic entrepreneurs, provides strategic support, and is building a movement to reimagine the future of local news. AJP currently supports 20 newsrooms around the country.

CCM is a profitable, family-owned chain of 22 weekly newspapers, two monthlies, and 23 websites serving the suburban and exurban Denver area – making it the largest remaining locally-owned news organization in the state. CCM newspapers – four which are more than 100 years old with another five over 50 – are very familiar brands with strong roots and 1,400 collective years of deep, locally-focused reporting in their communities. The CCM team of 22 local reporters and editors (among a total staff of 42) are relied upon to disseminate nonpartisan community journalism at the hyperlocal level.

The Colorado News Conservancy is a new public benefit corporation formed to manage the news products purchased from Colorado Community Media. It is jointly owned and operated by The National Trust for Local News and The Colorado Sun.

The Colorado Sun is a journalist-owned, award-winning digital news outlet that strives to cover all of Colorado, bring understanding to important issues, and contribute to a more vibrant, informed and whole Colorado. The Sun, which was founded in 2018, is a public benefit corporation.

Colorado Media Project launched in 2018 to be a catalyst and advocate for innovations that make Colorado’s local news ecosystem more sustainable, collaborative, and accountable to the public it serves. CMP is a grant-funded initiative operating under fiscal sponsorship of Rose Community Foundation.

COLab is a nonprofit that unites journalists from more than 100 news outlets with allies and supporters to strengthen trustworthy, public-interest news statewide. COLab serves as a local media resource hub and ideas lab that benefits all Coloradans by strengthening high-quality local journalism, supporting civic engagement, and ensuring public accountability.

The Colorado Trust is a health equity foundation dedicated to ensuring all Coloradans have the opportunity to thrive. The Trust partners with people and organizations across Colorado that are working to make positive changes in their communities.

FJC – A Foundation of Philanthropic Funds is a boutique public charity that offers a diverse menu of philanthropic services to a range of stakeholders. With over $350 million under management, FJC is primarily a platform for Donor Advised Funds (DAFs), as well as fiscal sponsorships, collective giving accounts, and other philanthropic vehicles that enable nonprofit organizations and their supporters to achieve their missions. A nonprofit lender, FJC originates loans through its Agency Loan Fund, an impact investment vehicle for donor capital.

The Public Media Venture Group is a nonprofit business development consortium of 32 public media organizations committed to furthering the mission and financial vitality of public media. Our focus is on the development and implementation of a range of new service opportunities that leverage the power of the new broadcast platform, NextGen TV. PMVG is led by Marc Hand and a national board that consists of five of the PMVG station managers. PMVG media organizations own and operate 112 public stations with a combined station coverage area reach of over 275 million people.

As we celebrate our 36th year, NPT remains dedicated to supplying breaking news, in-depth reporting, and special issue coverage to help nonprofit executives run their organizations more effectively.