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Colorado Public News gets grant to provide health-care coverage for 14 media outlets

joe mahoney photo from colorado public news cropped.jpg
Photo: Joe Mahoney
Ann Imse envisioned Colorado Public News as a way to fill the reporting gap left by the disappearance of newspapers like the Rocky Mountain News, where she once worked. The problem was trying to get someone to pay for it -- and a year later, Imse, CPN's editor, succeeded, landing a $386,000, three-year grant from the Colorado Trust to do health-care coverage.

How? By essentially creating a network from scratch.

Imse wasn't the only Rocky vet to found news operations intended to prevent the amount and quality of journalism in the state from slipping. But outfits like InDenver Times, which promoted a subscription system, failed to establish an economic model that worked. And even though Colorado Public News established a partnership with KBDI/Channel 12, a public-TV station in Denver, it had difficulty finding the cash to launch in proper fashion.

How to sell CPN to news organizations and nonprofits alike? "We figured out you need an audience to get started," Imse says. "Funders who want to help do something about our shortage of reporting want to get a good bang for their buck."

With that in mind, Imse and her CPN colleagues secured agreements from fourteen Colorado news organizations to use the project's material. The key was KUSA/9News, the state's largest television station. "They bring us such a huge audience," Imse points out, "and they also bring us the technology of mobile, so we'll be able to go on mobile phones as well."

Channel 9's interest gave Colorado Public News instant credibility with other news purveyors, who've come aboard in impressive numbers. At present, CPN's network features the aforementioned TV stations, plus commercial and non-commercial radio outlets (KOA, KGNU, KUNC and KRCC) and a slew of newspapers across the state, ranging from the Colorado Springs Gazette and the Pueblo Chieftain to the Durango Herald, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel and the Boulder Daily Camera.

These news agencies likely signed up in part because CPN promised to provide content at no charge. That put the onus on Imse to find an investor willing to underwrite the operation -- and she soon discovered that organizations were more willing to consider donating for certain types of stories, as opposed to investigative reporting in general. She notes that "most foundations and major donors have a very specific focus."

Like, for instance, the Colorado Trust, which is devoted to ensuring access to health care for all Coloradans. Hence, Colorado Public News will use the Trust's grant for health-care reportage only. But Imse believes the approach CPN is taking in regard to the Trust will work for foundations with other goals. "Now, there's the prospect of getting more grants to do more things -- like hire an education reporter or a science reporter or a government watchdog reporter if we get funding from organizations that have a concern about the lack of reporting on those issues."

At this point, Colorado Public News is developing several stories, and while Imse doesn't know when the first of them will debut, she's thrilled to be moving forward a full year after CPN's beta site went live. Moreover, she feels she's found the secret to sustainability. In her words, "One thing we've learned is that the company you keep makes a big difference."

Look below to read the CPN release about the Colorado Trust grant:

Colorado Public News Selected by The Colorado Trust To Strengthen Healthcare News Coverage in Colorado

Denver, CO -- Colorado Public News, a project of Colorado Public Television (CPT12), today announces that The Colorado Trust is providing Colorado Public News with a major grant to cover the cost of reporting on healthcare for the next three years.

The grant, announced today by The Colorado Trust, amounts to $386,250 over three years with the purpose of strengthening health media coverage in Colorado. Colorado Public News will add a full-time healthcare reporter to its staff and produce in-depth stories about key issues related to access to health. The multi-media reporting will be distributed to a network of 14 news organizations.

"Colorado Public News is delighted to be a part of The Colorado Trust grant effort to help Coloradans obtain information about healthcare issues," said Ann Imse, editor of Colorado Public News. "With diminishing in-depth news coverage, CPN is ideally suited to provide multi-media news reports on healthcare to people across the state, through a new kind of cooperative news operation."

"This grant will let Colorado Public News dig into healthcare problems and solutions, so that citizens can make informed choices, and influence decisions made by officials."

Colorado Public News will use the grant to produce an average of one in-depth story on healthcare per week, in video, audio and text, for use by a network of 14 news media across the state. The partners include: KUSA 9News, the state's largest commercial television station; KUNC public radio for Northern Colorado, KRCC public radio for Southern Colorado, KGNU public radio in Boulder; KOA commercial radio news; The Gazette in Colorado Springs, the Pueblo Chieftain, the Durango Herald, the Grand Junction Sentinel, the Boulder Camera and Greeley Tribune daily newspapers, and the Denver Business Journal. The reports also will be broadcast on Colorado Public Television 12, and on www.coloradopublicnews.org, also reachable through www.cpt12.org/news. Other media are expected to join the network.

"As our state begins to implement the individual provisions of this new federal law, we want to help Coloradans get beyond political rhetoric and really understand what these changes mean to their insurance coverage and to the health care services they need, and what work remains to improve health care." said Ned Calonge, MD, President and CEO of The Colorado Trust.

Colorado Public Television and Colorado Public News are grateful to The Colorado Trust for this opportunity, and to The Colorado Health Foundation, which contributed to the grant.

About Colorado Public News

Sponsored by Colorado Public Television, CPT12, Colorado Public News operates under a non-profit, grant-funded framework to produce in-depth and unbiased, PBS-quality news reporting on issues essential for informed citizens to run a healthy democracy and thriving economy. CPN will uncover information and produce significant stories not being reported elsewhere in Colorado, filling the void left by the recent demise of newspapers and a trend toward ad revenue moving online. CPN stories are distributed on a growing network of television, radio, internet, print and mobile partners around Colorado and has been featured on the LATimes.com, the PBS NewsHour website and the Huffington Post.

With this redefined business model, Colorado Public News is a place for a new kind of collaboration between donors who care about Coloradans and the news media. As the economics of news reporting changes, more news will be uncovered by organizations that are non-profit and financed by donations, large and small. CPN is a place where donors can come together and back high-quality news that will reach a wide audience across the state.

With additional funding, CPN will expand its coverage into new issues and topics. CPN invites major donors and funding organizations to make contact through newsroom@kbdi.org to discuss support for specific areas. Donors and volunteers may also go to www.coloradopublicnews.org and click on Donate to make a credit-card donation or sign up to help.

More from our Media archive: "Investor Kevin Preblud: Only 3,000 subscribers signed up for InDenver Times."


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