Twenty-four Colorado newspapers will remain under local ownership after it was announced Monday the National Trust for Local News and digital newspaper The Colorado Sun purchased Colorado Community Media.
The exact terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Jerry and Ann Healey have owned CCM for the past 10 years.
“We’ve been looking for a buyer on-and-off for the past 1 1/2 years,” Jerry Healey said in a phone interview Monday. “We did have some serious inquiries, and a couple of offers, but none fit in a way this did for the kind of buyers we were looking for.”
“We were looking for someone who believed in community newspapers and cared about the community, and understood the role community newspapers play,” Ann Healey said. “The new owners are going to take it forward with new vision and new energy.”
It’s the first purchase for the National Trust for Local News, a nonprofit committed to providing “funding and advisory services to local news enterprises committed to local ownership.” The Trust formed a partnership with the Colorado Sun, which will co-own CCM under the new Colorado News Conservancy.
CCM has about 330,000 readers and 44 full-time employees, at least half of whom are journalists, Healey said.
The search for a new publisher begins immediately, and the Healeys aren’t sure what the next chapter is for them.
"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,” Jerry Healey said.
“It’s a great opportunity for these papers,” Ann Healey said. “They will continue to have people at school board and government meetings, protecting the public’s right to know and provide that accountability piece to government.”
“The intent is to make this a pilot project and lead the way for other, similarly run projects around the country,” said Larry Ryckman, Sun editor and co-founder. “There’s a huge need to save local news and keep local news in the hands of locals.”
Ryckman and other Sun founders quit The Denver Post after they saw the way the paper’s hedge-fund owners, Alden Global Capital, cut staff and resources for maximum profitability. They started the digital newspaper in 2018.
“It’s not the journalism that’s failing, it the old business models,” Ryckman said of how the Sun is operating as a public benefit corporation. “We started with 10 employees. We’ve got 15 today, and adding another next month. We’ll be above 20 before the year ends, and we’ve got 130,000 newsletter subscribers. We're doing it for the right reason, to serve the public.”
National Trust CEO and co-founder Elizabeth Hansen Shapiro sees a successful business model with “so many incredible stakeholders” like the Colorado Media Project, Colorado Trust, Gates Family Foundation, the American Journalism Project, FJC (A Foundation of Philanthropic Fund) and the Colorado News Collaborative (COLab).
“These are important anchors who will help us bring in other local investors and stakeholders,” Shapiro said in a phone interview.
“Independent newspaper owners are struggling with what comes next,” she said. “The ‘assets’ of CCM are the people and the relationships they have with readers and the business community. There’s no real collateral, so it’s hard to get a bank loan and financing is incredibly difficult."
Shapiro said the Sun partnership is key.
“They’re not only incredible journalists, they’re also incredible at running a digital business,” Shapiro said. “They’ve built a digital-membership driven newsroom with more success than we’ve seen in other places. They’ve figured something out.”
“This was an incredible experience and accomplishment, but now the work really begins,” Shapiro said. “We’ve got such incredible (newspaper) titles and community resources for people to serve. What we do now is bring others into the tent to ensure broad-based support by readers and the business communities, so they can survive the next 100 years.”
The newspapers, websites, and two shoppers include: Arvada Press; Brighton Standard Blade; Brighton and Ft. Lupton Advertiser; Canyon Courier; Castle Pines News Press; Castle Rock News Press; Centennial Citizen; Clear Creek Courant; Commerce City Sentinel Express; Denver Herald Dispatch; Douglas County News Press; Elbert County News; Englewood Herald; Fort Lupton Press; Golden Transcript; Highlands Ranch Herald; Jeffco Transcript; Life on Capitol Hill; Littleton Independent; Lone Tree Voice; Northglenn/Thornton Sentinel; Parker Chronicle; South Platte Independent; Washington Park Profile; Westminster Window and 285 Hustler.