COLab organizing projects to bring greater access to information for both journalists and citizens
As with many careers right now, the journalism field is struggling under the weight of impending global crisis. Just when local media is more important than ever, many journalists and media outlets are finding themselves in difficult positions, with dwindling resources and financial strains. But Colorado media groups are coming together to make a difference in how local media functions.
In the fall of 2019, ten Colorado media organizations began collaborating to establish the Colorado News Collaborative, or COLab, a collective resource hub for local media. Working under the Colorado Media Project, COLab’s goals include “strengthening high-quality local journalism, supporting civic engagement, and ensuring public accountability.” Collaborators to the project include the Associated Press, The Colorado Independent, and Rocky Mountain PBS.
The creation of COLab strives to offer a greater resource bank for local journalists. Through the Colorado Media Project, organizations involved with COLab have created a COVID-19 Coverage Network in attempts to minimize duplicated information and maximize resources for stories. The Coverage Network utilizes the Associated Press StoryShare, a platform that allows news organizations to republish work from their peers (with credit) to increase access to news for the community.
While the project and office space are not set to completely open until the Fall of 2020, the organization has already begun leading several projects. “Parked,” a long-form media project published in The Colorado Sun, studied Colorado’s mobile home industry. This initial foray into collaborative journalism included journalists and photographers from twelve different newsrooms. According to The Colorado Sun, the goal of the coalition is “to produce a collaborative project that would have been unthinkable in the old days of cutthroat competition.”
In March, COLab launched their first project called Misinformation Watch, an initiative set forth in efforts to minimize “information disorder.” A collaborative project with First Draft News, Misinformation Watch also allows news consumers to report misinformation. Misinformation Watch currently works with over 20 newsrooms across the state, and more are being accepted into the network on a rolling basis. These efforts are in tandem with the group’s #FollowTheMoney collaboration, which grants greater access to public records on campaign financing to local journalists.
The plight of local journalism began well before the COVID-19 crisis. As fast-paced, digital news sources began to flourish, many local, public-interest, or nonprofit media groups began to face financial turmoil. According to the Colorado Media Project, local newsrooms have had to reduce their reporting staff by 44% in the last decade. And as with many other professions, the COVID-19 crisis has further increased the furlough rate. In April alone, 13 members of the Denver Newspaper Guild were furloughed from their positions at The Denver Post. With fewer reporters and resources, the collaborative efforts made by COLab strengthen the remaining community.
COLab is set to start fully operating this upcoming fall. In the meantime, their current work exemplifies the importance of collaboration, especially in times such as these.