By Don Knox, STATE BILL COLORADO
The Colorado Springs Gazette next month will join the list of Colorado newspapers that won’t have a full-time reporter working at Colorado’s Capitol.
The Gazette’s political reporter, Dean Toda, recently departed the newspaper as part of a round of layoffs that cost the jobs of 10 percent of newsroom staffers, Managing Editor Larry Ryckman said. Tom Roeder, who covers the military beat for the newspaper, will take over political reporting duties, but he will do so largely from Colorado Springs.
“We’re focused a lot more on home and not on the statehouse,” Ryckman said. “Our strategy is more focused on how this region is affected by what’s going on at the statehouse.”
The Gazette also doesn’t plan to have a legislative intern as it has in years past, but it will retain its furnished office space at the Capitol, which is provided free of charge by the General Assembly to selected accredited media organizations. Ryckman said the newspaper would use the space, although sparingly.
The Gazette will supplement its political coverage with reports from The Denver Post, with which the Colorado Springs newspaper has a content-sharing agreement, and from the Associated Press, which employs a full-time Capitol reporter, Steven K. Paulson.
In that respect, the Gazette is like a number of other newspapers that have dropped a Capitol presence, including the Fort Collins Coloradoan, the Longmont Times-Call and sister newspaper the Canon City Daily Record, and The Greeley Tribune. The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel didn’t have a legislative reporter for the second half of the 2009 General Assembly, but it recently hired Charles Ashby, who was laid off from The Pueblo Chieftain, to cover the 2010 session. The Chieftain’s 2010 coverage plans weren’t immediately known. Two reporters were affected when the Rocky Mountain News closed Feb. 27, but both reporters were quickly hired by competing news organizations.
Newspapers have dropped Capitol staffing as well as other types of news coverage in the wake of the economic downturn and increased competition for advertising dollars from Internet publishers.
Reporters aren’t the only ones affected. Ryckman disclosed that his job also is being discontinued, effective at year’s end.
“It’s certainly not business as usual. These are unchartered waters,” he said, noting that the Gazette’s parent company, Freedom Communications, likely will emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization owned by its creditors, a consortium of banks.