Colorado Public Radio, the state’s largest public radio organization, has signed a partnership agreement with Colorado College to operate Colorado Springs-based KRCC, representing a major potential boost for work produced by both operations on air, online, and in other products like podcasts and streaming audio.
KRCC’s radio signals reach people in Colorado Springs, Woodland Park, Pueblo and La Junta, Buena Vista, Salida, Westcliffe, Gardner, Villa Grove, Trinidad and Raton, New Mexico. CPR News reaches people across the Front Range, and in Colorado Springs, Pueblo, Grand Junction, mountain communities and elsewhere in the state.
The partnership is a literal signal boost for both CPR and KRCC, said CPR president and CEO Stewart Vanderwilt.
“KRCC and its stations serve the second-largest city and one of the fastest-growing counties in Colorado,” he said. “They also extend into rural areas where the loss of local news has been most dramatic in some cases, and so we see this as an extension of the mission to serve all Coloradans and to be a primary source of news for those Coloradans.”
Under the agreement, KRCC's news department becomes part of the CPR News editorial structure.
Vanderwilt said that means joint daily planning and coordination, but that KRCC journalists would be “focused on stories for and about the communities they serve.”
“Local news is becoming more and more important,” said Colorado College President Jill Tiefenthaler. “To be the public radio station that not only serves the Pikes Peak region in Colorado Springs but also spreads throughout southern Colorado and northern New Mexico really reaches an incredible need and desire for NPR programming and local news, and KRCC at Colorado College has long been filling that need. And this partnership with CPR will give us a chance to deliver even more resources to that audience.”
Tiefenthaler, who announced earlier this week that she would be leaving Colorado College to become CEO of the National Geographic Society, said that this specific deal had been in the works for about a year, but that CC and CPR had talked off and on for years about pooling resources and finding ways to improve the financial stability and sustainability of public radio in the state.
Vanderwilt said the partnership means more news for southern Colorado listeners from additional resources to be based in Colorado Springs, as well as from CPR’s statewide service. In 2018, CPR News hired reporter Dan Boyce to be based in Colorado Springs and cover southern Colorado. His work will continue, while Vanderwilt said the added news team from KRCC will mean a news service that better reflects the state by getting into more areas of Colorado where CPR doesn’t already have as much of a presence.
KRCC, originally founded by CC students in 1951, will continue to be locally hosted, and Tiefenthaler said that all contributions that go to KRCC will support operations and growth there specifically.
“KRCC will remain KRCC and donors can count on the fact that that will strengthen our reporting right here in southern Colorado,” she said.
KRCC and CPR national schedules will eventually be aligned -- possibly meaning changes to both, Vanderwilt said, rather than just to one or the other -- so that listeners along the I-25 corridor will be able to keep listening to programs in progress while they travel. He also said that CPR News daily interview show Colorado Matters will be extended across the KRCC network.
No staffing changes are expected at this time, and Vanderwilt said further details would be worked out over the months ahead.
The partnership will also facilitate the construction of a new Colorado Springs home base for KRCC and elements of CPR News, Rocky Mountain PBS and CC Journalism Institute faculty and staff. The new Public Media Center building at 720 N. Tejon St. in Colorado Springs is expected to be completed in summer 2021.
“We've been looking at that building for a while for KRCC,” Tiefenthaler said. “As we've seen nationally, more and more cities are going to these journalism hubs where different types of media are coming together to strengthen local news and reporting. And then to bring the student component in, given that it is Colorado College, there's this opportunity to create internships and think about future leadership. This alliance with Colorado Public Radio strengthens that original vision.”
The partnership with KRCC follows CPR’s 2019 acquisition of the local news site Denverite.
Colorado Public Radio began broadcasting on KCFR 90.1 FM in 1970, and was originally licensed to the University of Denver. It separated from DU in 1984, becoming a community-licensed station.