Colorado Public Radio is acquiring Denverite, a local news organization started in 2016, from Spirited Media. The site’s journalists will join the growing CPR News staff, though they will continue to focus on Denverite’s strategy of covering Denver for those who live there.
“In a few short years, Denverite has built a passionate audience with a staff of Denver journalists who understand the issues important to residents,” said Kevin Dale, executive editor of CPR News. “We are eager to help that live, and for our two staffs - more than 40 full-time journalists - to work together to provide even stronger coverage online of Colorado’s largest city and to serve CPR’s statewide radio and digital audience.”
Stewart Vanderwilt, CPR’s president and CEO, said Denverite will benefit from the larger organization’s business operations.
“We’re thrilled to have Denverite join the CPR family where it will get the enhanced reach and infrastructure of the CPR network, while still retaining the unique voice and focus its audience knows and loves,” he said in a news release announcing the acquisition.
Denverite began in 2016 when the founders of Business Insider hired Dave Burdick, at the time a deputy features editor at The Denver Post, to start a local news website. Burdick, who will become managing editor of digital operations at CPR News, started with a staff of eight and focused the site on city government, politics, real estate and growth, culture, things to do and neighborhood stories that illustrate life in Denver.
“At Denverite, we've always wanted to be real people in Denver talking to real people in Denver,” Burdick said. “We're at ground-level in Denver's neighborhoods investigating how the city works in ways that directly impact people's lives.”
In March of 2017, Denverite merged into Spirited Media, a company founded by digital news pioneer Jim Brady that had local news websites in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
Brady said he was happy that Denverite is going to “a local brand as iconic as Colorado Public Radio.”
“When we acquired Denverite in 2017, we saw then what CPR sees now: A site that talks with its audience, not at it; a site that earns money by building relationships, not just by building scale; one that makes it clear every day that its journalists don’t just report on Denver, they live in and care deeply about Denver.”
Support to cover operational costs for Denverite came from multi-year philanthropic gifts from the Gates Family Foundation and Bonfils-Stanton Foundation totaling $350,000, as well as a gift from the Ellenoff Family Fund. The support will help CPR sustain Denverite’s newsroom until the expenses can be added to the operational budget. Colorado Media Project, a community-based organization that has been studying and supporting new models for local news, coordinated the gifts.
“Local news is a public good - and business models that reach Coloradans both at scale and deeply in their communities are continuously evolving,” Gates Family Foundation vice president Melissa Davis said in the news release. Davis is also a member of the Colorado Media Project. “We see this as a chance to support a strong statewide public media outlet and a unique, homegrown digital newsroom to learn from each other and engage new audiences with high-quality journalism.”
As part of the evolution, CPR News and Denverite will expand their coverage of arts, entertainment and culture. The groups plan to increase the amount of coverage devoted to the region’s many cultural activities as well as develop a training program that will help expand the number of journalists with arts expertise.
“One could argue that no area of coverage has taken a harder hit by the economic headwinds facing journalism in the state,” Dale said. “With the support we’ve received, we should be able to turn this around. The state has a vibrant cultural life and we want to produce insightful coverage of that scene.”
Gary Steuer, president and CEO of Bonfils-Stanton Foundation said in the news release that “the expanded arts coverage is especially exciting to Bonfils-Stanton Foundation. We are very pleased to support this effort that will help fill the gap in local arts and culture journalism."
In his new role with CPR News, Burdick will have responsibility for all digital content, including supervision of Denverite. Ashley Dean, assistant editor, will take on the role of Denverite editor.
“I have a long history with Dave and I can’t wait to see how our digital offerings evolve,” Dale said. “With the combination of these two staffs, we will be able to cover stories from a variety of angles on a variety of platforms. The audience is at the heart of CPR and Denverite - this should be great for both of us.”
“We're really proud of the work we've done, and with 40-something more dedicated journalists to brainstorm with and bounce ideas off of, Denverite's reporting can only get sharper and more thoughtful,” he said. “Plus, we have a feeling there are a few pretty great Denver-centric story ideas floating around that newsroom that folks haven't had time to get to.”