The Colorado Sun, a fledgling online news operation that's making its official debut today, September 10, may be deploying an innovative blockchain funding model, but in many respects, its initial offerings are more about the past than the future.
The Sun is largely staffed by former Denver Post reporters and editors who jumped ship amid frustration over layoffs and downsizing by Alden Global Capital, the paper's leech-like hedge fund owner. But the articles that will serve as their introduction to Mile High City readers are steady, solid and traditional — the sort of work these journos would still be doing at the Post if economic realities weren't so ugly.
Those eager to see the Sun after nearly three months of steady teases about its September 10 launch had to wait a while. Even though its newsletter is called "The Sunriser," the site didn't go live until around 9:30 a.m.
Messages on the Sun's Twitter feed suggest that this was part of the plan all along, but even if that's the case, it's still a weird message to send readers on day one. Apparently, you don't have to get up that early in the morning to beat the Sun.
Then again, breaking news isn't the publication's focus. Instead, the scribes are focusing on deeply reported features about politics, the environment and social issues that affect the state as a whole, not just major cities along the Front Range.
The main piece on the bright, well-designed and easy-to-navigate home page is "Colorado’s hot summer of dry ditches and empty reservoirs has left distressed farmers sweating: Will it get worse?," and its headline serves as an example of truth in advertising. Reporters Jason Blevins and Kevin Simpson use the trials and tribulations of Olathe corn farmer John Harold to discuss issues like drought and climate change — matters that also turn up in a separate Simpson item about the impact of wildfires and more on the state's fish population.
Elsewhere, Nancy Lofholm explores homelessness in Durango, Brian Eason looks at the possibility of Colorado's PERA board ditching its adviser after a $1.3 billion mistake, Sandra Fish discusses the importance of tracking money spent on political campaigns such as the gubernatorial race between Jared Polis and Walker Stapleton, and John Ingold notes that the Sun has already claimed its first scalp: A doctor resigned his position with the Colorado Drug Utilization Review Board after the site revealed that he failed to disclose thousands of dollars in perks he received from pharmaceutical firms.
What's missing from this mix? Fun, for one thing.
The closest things to lighthearted fare with September 10 publication dates are a couple of John Frank posts about the Great American Beer Festival. And while Blevins's profile of the Wolf Creek ski area was previously shared by way of the Sunriser (and is now accessible on the site), the earlier efforts tend toward the tone of the Sun's inaugural report by Jennifer Brown, about CSU's role in a federal program to remove the ovaries of wild horses.
This material would seem to appeal mainly to a high-minded audience that loved the Post's most ambitious undertakings and is upset that so few of them show up in print these days.
Still, it's unclear whether there are enough of these folks to keep the Sun shining over the long term. The publication has a large staff whose members made sizable incomes at the Post, and the $160,000 or so raised by a Kickstarter campaign won't last long.
That means the lion's share of the cash to keep the lights on will have to come from subscribers who'll pay fees starting at $5 per month or through Civil, a company that intends to build "the new economy for journalism" with a little help from things like CVL tokens, which are slated to go on sale September 18.
If cryptocurrency is indeed the key to making online news outfits viable, the Sun could be groundbreaking — and since more voices are better than fewer, anyone who understands the importance of journalism should be rooting for the crew.
And even if it doesn't, the people of the Sun are obviously devoted to fighting the good fight.