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Support a sustainable future for The Sopris Sun

Locations: Columns, Opinion Published

Earlier this month, I was honored to fly to Washington, D.C. and attend the annual conference for the Institute for Nonprofit News. It was my first time at this event. There were hundreds of people in attendance, each representing different nonprofit news organizations throughout the country.

To my surprise, The Sopris Sun was mentioned many times by presenters and in one-on-one discussions with other attendees. People in the industry are fascinated by the many innovations our small, hometown newspaper has implemented over the past few years.

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From being part of a Spanish news collaboration with seven other media organizations, to our Youth Journalism Program, our editorial achievements and the incorporation of original cartoons, fiction and a diverse freelance pool. We have done a lot to trailblaze nonprofit news in rural America, and other communities and publications are paying close attention.

In a time when many local newspapers are folding, industry insiders take note that we are a printed paper (most others are now only online), delivered to over 125 locations throughout six towns and four counties in the Roaring Fork and Crystal River valleys.

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Industry insiders are amazed to learn that our newspaper is distributed for free, that there are no economic barriers for someone to pick up a copy of The Sopris Sun. Free printed newspapers are rare, and we are very fortunate to have five here in the Valley. The Sopris Sun is the only nonprofit, community-driven newspaper, which seeks to complement the other newspapers and provide content and coverage they can’t because of economic barriers or constraints imposed by for-profit publishers.

In those discussions, I proudly tell them we have amazing support from the business community, who provide about 65% of our annual revenue through advertising in The Sopris Sun and our el Sol del Valle insert. However, that percentage has been dropping every year and we, like many other local news media outlets, are searching for a sustainable mix of revenue sources that can keep The Sopris Sun thriving for years to come.

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Each week, it costs us about $10,000 to publish a paper. That expense includes printing and distribution, and paying our amazing staff and our freelance journalists, photographers, cartoonists and other contributors. As executive director, it’s my goal to not only pay a living wage, but a wage that allows our staff and contributors to flourish, and conceivably commit to a future in this place.

The Sopris Sun is also unique in that all our editorial staff were raised here locally, as were many of our contributors. The hope with our Youth Journalism Program is that this tradition of home-grown talent and dedication will continue to serve our community for generations to come.

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I purposefully use the word “serve,” as journalism — a free press — is one of the bedrock services for a functioning democracy. It is a true labor of love and dedication. On an average week, between staff and freelancers, 10 or more hours are spent sitting in on public meetings. These span local towns, county government, the school district and library meetings, in addition to many state and federal public meetings, too. All of this in an effort to keep you informed about what is happening that might affect our communities and, ultimately, you.

Not only is there a cost to do this for the paper, but on an hourly basis, many of our freelancers and editors are making less than they would working for a fast food restaurant. Yet, we are often the only press, and sometimes the only public, at these meetings. For the newspaper to be sustainable long-term, our people need to be paid a livable wage.

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As mentioned previously, each week it costs about $10,000 to publish an edition of The Sopris Sun. With advertising having seasonal fluctuations, our board and staff decided we needed to be innovative in our business model as well. So we looked at the public radio model, and have decided to roll out the Sopris Sun SUNscriber program.

A SUNscriber is a Sopris Sun supporter who gives a monthly donation of any size to help sustain our monthly operations year-round. One of the most difficult problems for any nonprofit newspaper is not having consistent year-round revenue, income that doesn’t fluctuate month-to-month. The SUNscriber model will help power us through some of these hard months. It will also help fill in the gaps when advertising revenue drops or a grant doesn’t come through.

We understand that it is a big ask, but we hope this new program will ensure that The Sopris Sun continues to innovate and provide the coverage you have come to rely on for many years to come.

It is also a critical part of our mission, as a nonprofit, that our coverage remains free and accessible to all, because a vibrant community needs a strong newspaper for government oversight, to educate and combat disinformation, support local businesses and nonprofits, help build bridges and find common ground among community groups and members and as a vital platform to give each community member an opportunity to share their thoughts through letters to the editor.

During this summer fundraising drive our goal is to have 250 SUNscribers by Aug. 31. We currently have 56. Please consider becoming one yourself by logging onto, or sending a monthly check to PO Box 399, Carbondale CO, 81623.

Tags: ##newsmatters #community support #Fundraising #journalists #local news #membership #nonprofit journalism #SUBscribe #sunscriber #SUNscribing #The Sopris Sun
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