Sentinel Colorado gets new ownership structure to ensure control and focus remain local

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The copy desk in the newsroom of Sentinel Colorado. Sentinel Colorado is undergoing ownership change to ensure for longtime viability and local control of the 114-year-old newspaper. SENTINEL FILE PHOTO

AURORA | In an effort to move The Sentinel  toward a unique model of local ownership, a consortium of journalism preservationists have created a temporary holding company to take control of the Aurora-focused media company.

“Local journalism needs to be rooted in the community, made by and for people who live there. As someone who was raised in a place that lost its hometown newspaper, I’m committed to providing a bridge for others to stand up for protecting access to a free press,” said ​​Joaquin Alvarado, founder of the consultancy Studiotobe, who is helping shepherd The Sentinel’s transition.

Data from the University of North Carolina published in 2019 found that 1,400 towns and cities across the nation have lost a newspaper over the past 15 years, many of those communities are either rural, low-income or have an aging population. Among that statistic is Alvarado’s hometown paper in Oakland, California. It shuttered in 2016 with no input from the community or journalists at the organization.

“The Sentinel is a critical resource for Aurora, and we’re going to preserve local control and ownership for future generations,” said Alvarado, who has now been involved in several projects aimed at keeping local news as close to the community as possible.

Alvarado founded the Colorado Journalism Investment Group for the purpose of holding the company so that Sentinel Colorado and the community can plan the next steps for the outlet. 

Sentinel Colorado

The holding company evolved from work Alvarado is doing with COLab, the Colorado News Collaborative, said Laura Frank, the organization’s executive director. COLab is a statewide nonprofit focused on helping news outlets become stronger. COLab partners with more than 170 news outlets across Colorado, including The Sentinel. The paper is about to begin its 115th year of publication.

“Journalism leaders and community members in Colorado are finding ways to change the narrative and the trajectory of failing news outlets,” Frank said. “Together, we are making journalism stronger, which makes democracy stronger. I’m thrilled COLab can help support that work.”

The transition highlights a growing movement to save local journalism organizations — namely from being bought up by giant corporations, controlled by profit-driven hedge funds that are known for gutting newspapers in the process of slashing costs — and help them operate in a way that continues to benefit the community. 

Such efforts of community funding have seen success across the country, including in Washington where Microsoft backed an effort to raise $1 million annually for the Yakima Free Press, owned by the Seattle Times, to support and grow the news organization. 

Seattle Times President Alan Fisco is a firm believer in the community funding model after watching it play out in Yakima, where the organization plans to hire four reporters by the end of the year. 

“The sky’s the limit,” he said, highlighting that there are numerous funding models that aren’t strictly reliant on advertising revenue. The Pew Research Center estimated in 2020 that newspapers saw a 25% drop in advertising from the previous year — making it the first year in the organization’s data that circulation revenue was higher than advertising revenue. 

The Sentinel staff will remain intact through the transition, and Dave Perry, who’s been with the organization since 1993, will continue to serve as editor and publisher. The Sentinel’s online daily website, two daily email updates and the weekly print edition will continue to publish throughout the change.

“This is an inspiring change not just for The Sentinel, but for papers and news outlets like ours across the nation,” Perry said. “It allows us to remain focused on the news that matters most to our readers, and at the same time work to find sustainable financial models for us and others. This is a critical opportunity at a critical time for journalism.

PERRY: The Sentinel is changing so we can keep it the same — local and all yours

“What’s not changing is The Sentinel’s commitment to our readers and the region’s advertisers for providing unblinking coverage of the news and features the community expects and needs,” he said.

Now-former Sentinel owner James Gold, who bought the publication in 2011, has launched BlueLena, a national business focused on news operation sustainability. Gold said he wanted to work with COLab to transfer ownership of The Sentinel so that it could be both locally controlled and serve as a “laboratory for best practices” for other Colorado newsrooms.

Details of the transition to a permanent Sentinel ownership structure will be forthcoming over the summer.

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Doug
Doug
2 months ago

I would like to see you set up a “pay for comment”. Poster creates their comment, presses send and pays a quarter to support you ensuring the poster wants to make the comment and is willing to pay to make the comment.

DICK MOORE
2 months ago
Reply to  Doug

Well Doug, aren’t you the entrepreneur. One caveat is that if I pay a quarter then I’d suggest you only have to pay a nickel. Quality versus quantity.

With all the questions you generally ask, I’d suggest a dime per question mark. A period would be free. Exclamation marks and capitalized words would be a dollar each as the poster is trying to make an extreme comment. I could go on.

Tim Huffman
Tim Huffman
2 months ago
Reply to  Doug

Nice. That sounds like free speech. Nice way to get a dialog going. I think the subscriber numbers would have been better if the focus was unbias.

Myles Ahead
Myles Ahead
2 months ago

So, did Mr. Gold just throw up his hands and walk away? It feels like this account is missing some “behind the scenes” detail.

Dean
2 months ago
Reply to  Myles Ahead

Miles- A, it not your imagination. So many pieces this paper attempts to cover is a half-baked product. You read any Westword article Roberts or his people tie inti to go into a fair amount of detail. You can tell he is willing to do his homework, they focus on being accurate. I’ve sent him stuff for a story idea and a week later he has blown me away with all the research he had found to add to the story. Look at any coverage Westword does on a lawsuit, they always attach the pleadings. But that requires a little extra work.
I would like for this paper to get their sh– together. Anyone could see the cracks in the plaster as this paper has been foundering. And the P&L sheet I surmise has not been pleasing to look at. That’s a painful sight to confront an imposing P&L month after month. Depletion of resources can’t be ignored.

DICK MOORE
2 months ago

Will be interesting how this works out. Nothing will change after the transition if Dave Perry stays. His socialist ideas are not good for Aurora or the USA and will not change with a new owner.

Don
Don
2 months ago

“journalism” 😂

G W
G W
2 months ago

I’d like to see some moderate to conservative type folks hired to balance Dave Perry’s very liberal opinions. For a better debate!

vern
vern
2 months ago

Well I love the idea that it stays local. It would be nice if the new bias moves a bit more center from Dave Perry’s woke leftness

James Coleman
1 month ago

Fire dave Perry i will buy a subscription TOMORROW! He is a biased asshole who should be fired! He alone brought hyper partisanship to what os supposed to be a fair arbiter of the news!