During the CC class, The Future and Sustainability of Local News, students traveled to Crestone, Colorado, and stayed at the college’s Baca campus. While there, they met with staff of The Crestone Eagle, read archives of area newspapers at the local museum, interviewed residents about where they get their local news and information, and met with a public official to talk about the efficacy of a potential sales tax grant to support local journalism.

Throughout their intensive course, students studied the various causes of a broken business model in the local news industry nationwide that has led to fewer reporters, slimmer coverage, and disappearing local news outlets. (Among the reasons: advertising migrated online to tech companies like Facebook and Google; hedge funds bought newspapers and laid off reporters to maximize profits for shareholders.) Students also studied potential solutions for these problems, hearing from some innovators in Colorado and across North America who are working on the crisis facing local news.

They also learned that owners of at least 44 local news organizations in Colorado are nearing retirement age or could soon leave the business. A key question is whether those publishers will have a sustainable succession plan or simply fold up shop.

From left, Sierra Romero ’22 and Sabrina Brewer ’22. Photo courtesy of Corey Hutchins.

Sierra Romero ’22 and Sabrina Brewer ’22 embarked on a new internship program at CC’s Journalism Institute to learn how The Crestone Eagle operates, to help write the news, and to work on the paper’s digital operation while staying at the Baca campus.

Jennifer Eytcheson, The Eagle’s intern program manager for this collaboration, showed the students how a newspaper’s publishing cycle works, helped them get started with interviews for the articles they were writing, set up a tour of the Mountain Mail printing company, and took them onsite to take photos for their articles. Two of their articles appeared this summer, the first one covering potential local impacts of a Live Nation Seven Peaks festival that expects 20,000 visitors to Villa Grove in September. In the June issue, they published a compelling take on the preservation of the Sand Dunes National Park.

Corey Hutchins, interim director of the Colorado College Journalism Institute, taught the class, and he and Drew Cavin, CC director of field study, organized the new internship program and are working on keeping it sustainable throughout the year with future students.