It’s no overstatement to say that without a free and responsible press, there would be no democracy.
Democracy is the word we throw around to describe all the self-government that looks out for all of us, equally, even when the people we choose to lead us miss the mark.
The Sentinel is changing this week, primarily because a group of people understand this newspaper’s critical role in preserving a healthy democracy in the community and the region.
The reason why The Sentinel journalists, and journalists around the world, make democracy work is because even the best of people, even under the best of circumstances, are only at their best when they know they’re being watched and judged.
That’s just how people are.
And journalism makes democracy work because the worst of people do the worst possible things while assuming they won’t be found out or held accountable.
The lack of transparency and accountability wielded by a free press is what makes it possible for dictators like Vladimir Putin to lie effortlessly to his citizens to kill Ukrainians and his own soldiers with impunity.
The power of a free press, and the critical need for it, isn’t just an issue of national and international proportions. The lives we all want to live depend on democracy working at the state Capitol, on school boards, city councils, district courts, county jails and at every other level of government and business.
Trusted newspapers like The Sentinel tell you, and everyone, the things you need to know that some people in power want to hide.
Reports, editors and photographers have been diligently doing it here for more than a century.
In the last election, some school board candidates for Cherry Creek Schools tried to conceal the extremist groups supporting them and even their own bizarre and dangerous views on the role of government in education.
The Sentinel has been right there with you and for you when gang violence erupted in the 1980s and police began abusing Black teenagers in a misguided overreaction to addressing gang problems.
The Sentinel has told you when city lawmakers egregiously used their offices for their personal gain.
The Sentinel was there for you as the Aurora theater shooting unfolded, and a platoon of writers, photographers and editors have offered the Aurora region nuance and dedication to the story no one else comes close to.
When other media quickly moved on from the death of Elijah McClain in 2019, The Sentinel continually pressed for information in story after story.
The Sentinel has repeatedly forced even national officials to come clean on the treatment and mistreatment of mostly Latino immigrants held in a detention center in Aurora.
The Sentinel has brought hundreds of thousands of readers stories about an army of high school athletes when they’ve been victorious and crushed by defeat.
Like thousands of newspapers across the nation, The Sentinel has long been the nexus for culture, crime, education, celebration, diversity, governance, horror, equity, weirdness and everything that makes Aurora the unique and amazing place it is.
For almost 20 years, we’ve offered you a close look at the world outside your door, and as members of the Associated Press and other collaborations, a close look at key events around the world. Every. Single. Day.
But like so many newspapers, the internet and social media have disrupted the way we fund our critical role in Aurora.
Paid advertisement, the lifeblood of journalistic media, has been drained away by companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Apple, cable and streaming TV, Yahoo and many, many more. Those ad dollars now support a fraction of the news and journalism newspapers used to create.
That kind of economic pounding has decimated newsrooms across the region and the country, including ours.
All this, compounded by the pandemic, pushed The Sentinel, and so many papers like it, to the brink. More than 1,400 cities and towns like Aurora have seen their news source pushed over the edge in the last 15 years, we write today in a story about The Sentinel’s transformation.
Despite challenges that make me weary even to describe, The Sentinel has continued to turn out the trusted, critical news and features the region needs and deserves. Every. Single. Day.
We’re going to keep doing that, thanks to a growing group of people and organizations that understand the critical role newspapers like The Sentinel and others have. The Colorado News Collaborative, which The Sentinel is part of, and that organization’s consultant, Joaquin Alvarado, a longtime national innovator in journalism, are helping The Sentinel create a new way forward.
What this will look like in the end is being mapped out even as I write this. We’ve created a holding company, The Colorado Journalism Investment Group, to allow our readers, the community, and people who appreciate journalism and the role Aurora and The Sentinel play in the region, an opportunity to create a unique structure to ensure The Sentinel’s long term viability and success.
There will be much more news on this process as it unfolds during the next few months.
Many of you already have played a strategic part in this by generously providing contributions that have allowed us to keep performing our crucial role in the region. I’ve read every note, every message, every “thanks for what you do” that you’ve scribbled on the back of envelopes, on cards and the memo line of every check you’ve sent.
Now, I get to say, “thanks” back, and tell you how your emotional and community support have buoyed us here even more than your needed dollars.
Thanks to this extraordinary effort among you, the Colorado Journalism Investment Group and others, we’ll be here to thank you in writing — today and every day going forward.