Face the State reboot to be less wonky, less ideological -- kind of

Last August, Face the State, a news website that came from a conservative point of view, went on hiatus during what founder and frontman Brad Jones described as "restructuring."

Back then, Jones said he hoped this chore would be accomplished in a couple of months, or perhaps by year's end. Instead, it took until last week for Face the State 2.0 to launch. But Jones feels the project is on solid footing, in spite of the well-documented economic challenges with which online news operations must deal.

"Our intent is to do this over the long term," Jones says.

The original Face the State used a for-profit model. Not so the current version, which is funded by the nonprofit Capitol Media Group. As for who's behind it, Jones won't identify the parties in question other than to say "it's all Colorado money" and the person who'd initially backed the project remains on the team.

"The funding we had previously is still part of the mix," he notes, "but now there are some additional folks who we brought into the fold over the past few months."

That this took longer than anticipated wasn't all negative, Jones maintains. "The silver lining of being down for a few months was that we've been able to take a long, hard look at our product -- look at what was working, what wasn't working as well, and what we wanted to do moving forward."

His breakdown?

"We are still going to cast a wide net of possible subjects to cover, focusing on Colorado state and local government and federal issues as they intersect with that. The core is going to be watchdog journalism -- keeping government honest. But while we're still going to do the kind of open-records-request stories we've carved out a niche for ourselves on, we'll probably do a little less policy coverage. Not to say we won't write about those issues, but it will be through the prism of good government and finding unique angles."

As for Face the State's agenda, Jones concedes that "we've still got a worldview, and that worldview influences the types of stories that we want to cover." But he believes his fulltimers prove that the site won't be rigidly ideological.

"We have former Westword writer Jared Jacang Maher -- and nobody's ever accused Westword of being a right-wing rag," he says. "And we have John Schroyer, formerly with the Colorado Statesman and the Colorado Springs Gazette, who did a stint as one of Andrew Romanoff's many press guys."

In addition, former Rocky Mountain News mainstay Peter Blake will be writing a weekly column on a freelance basis -- "and we've also got budget for some other freelance staff as needed," Jones allows.

The idea is to put new content online Monday through Friday, establishing a blend of longer articles and quick-hitting pieces, with a greater emphasis on multimedia efforts that go beyond the site's radio content. Today, for instance, the home page features a video in which Jones and Maher discuss the cost of building the new downtown justice center -- a project that's currently 17 percent over budget. Click here for Maher's main article on the topic and here for a Jones-penned piece focusing on city hall's response.

Also fresh: A brief about a website called and a Blake take on House Bill 1193, which he sees as forcing online retailers to "lean on" and "rat out Colorado consumers."

For Jones and his backers, Face the State's success will be measured by impact -- the number of stories picked up by other outlets, for instance -- on top of page views. And he makes it clear that the site hasn't been conceived as an election-year phenomenon designed to help Republicans retake control of the governor's mansion and the legislature.

"That sort of assumes we're targeting Democrats," he says. "Government needs to be held accountable no matter who's in charge, and let's not forget that Republicans as a party find themselves in the position they're in -- that is, in the minority -- because they lost their way and didn't keep the trust of the voters. Is some of that a question of ideology? Yes. But is some of that a question of mismanagement and getting too comfortable in power? A lot of it is, and that's the aspect we're looking at.

"No matter which party is in power at any particular time, the arc of more government becoming more intrusive in our lives continues unabated. And regardless of where you're at in terms of that being a good thing, I think people on both sides of the aisle can agree that whatever a government sets out to do, it should do it in the best and most efficient way possible. And that's where we're going to find our sweet spot."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts