Cara DeGette on leaving the Colorado Independent

Categories: Media

cara degette photo.jpg

The Colorado Independent, a progressive online news operation, didn't have much time to bask in the glow of last fall's Democratic victories here and beyond. The November 11 blog "The Colorado Independent is Downsizing But Not Disappearing" noted that six CI staffers had been pink-slipped at the behest of the website's parent organization, Washington, D.C.'s Center for Independent Media. As part of that shuffle, Cara DeGette (pictured), the CI's editor, became a senior writer. As she explained in the November 11 follow-up blog "Cara DeGette on Layoffs at the Colorado Independent," she needed to start generating more copy because there wouldn't be as much coming in from other reporters.

This arrangement didn't last long. On Monday, DeGette took over as managing editor of Law Week Colorado, a newspaper and affiliated website accessible at LawWeekOnline.com that focuses on the legal profession. She admits that she began talking to Don Knox, a former business editor for the Rocky Mountain News and Denver Post whose Circuit Media publishes Law Week Colorado, after the departures and shifts at the Independent. However, she says she didn't decide to jump ship because she feared the CI was about to sink. "I was obviously disappointed after the election, when our staff was cut so drastically at the Colorado Independent," she concedes. "But after two years of doing a startup, I also frankly had my eye toward tackling a new challenge."

DeGette, who came to the Colorado Independent from the similarly named Colorado Springs Independent, a well-regarded alternative weekly, doesn't feel limited by the legal focus of Law Week Colorado, a subscription-based weekly with a circulation of approximately 15,000. "We cover the courts and legal decisions and the legal community in Colorado, and I think that definition is very broad," she says. "I want every lawyer in Colorado reading this newspaper, but I also want everyone who's interested in any aspect of the legal community reading it, too. And I want to step up the court coverage."

This last goal is particularly important. Given cutbacks at assorted media organizations, not to mention the possible disappearance of one of Denver's daily newspapers, DeGette sees a likely drop-off in the number of staffers assigned to report on trials and other legal proceedings -- among the more time-intensive chores in journalism. She hopes Law Week Colorado will be able to fill the gap and grow its audience as a result.

On a personal note, DeGette is pleased that Law Week Colorado is assembled in a more traditional manner than is the Colorado Independent, where most writers worked remotely and communicated via e-mail as opposed to seeing each other face to face. "I really, really like being in a newsroom environment," she allows. "Doing a virtual newsroom is incredibly challenging, and for me, psychically, it's very difficult. I really like being able to sit down and go over somebody's story with them, or ask someone for help if I'm working on a column about something and I can't recall some little detail. I feel like I can produce better stuff in that kind of setting."

As for the Independent, she wishes the remaining staff well. She learned a great deal about the online world during her time there, and she's looking forward to using this knowledge in her new position. But she's excited to be returning to the world of print even as so many of her colleagues are headed in the opposite direction.

"There are a lot of stories out there that need to be covered, but they're getting covered less and less -- and many of them are law-related," she says. "I'm hoping that we'll be able to report in a meaningful way about them."

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