When the Old Paper Died, a New Community ‘Sun’ Rose

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When the old paper closed, nobody was around to report the land deals and zoning around Carbondale, Colorado. That’s where the Sopris Sun comes in.

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Trina Ortega cares for her baby and edits the Sopris Sun, a new newspaper covering Carbondale, Colorado.

As community journalists worth their salt know, the big stories, the meaningful power plays that change the direction of a community, often emerge in the tedium of planning & zoning commission sessions or through the dry deliberations of other local government panels.

The long meetings often are dreaded by reporters who see evenings slip away while listening to debates on matters that are challenging to make interesting to readers. But it is here where the community most needs alert journalists.

And for a time in Carbondale, Colorado, a mountain community of about 6,000 people, the news on developers and zoning and all manner and variety of issues and events was missing. The town had lost its local paper.

After 34 years of operation the Carbondale Valley Journal ceased publication, leaving this place without its own paper and at the whim of assignment editors in larger cities who would decide whether a story was worth the dispatching of a scribe.

Enter the Sopris Sun, a not-for-profit free weekly that is literally a community newspaper. Started on in mid-February by seven members of the community, the Sun — so named because the town is at the base of the spectacular Mt. Sopris — has volunteer contributors and a paid editor, Trina Ortega, a resident of the city and a one-time copy editor for The Denver Post.

Before the Sun started publication residents worried that zoning and other vital civic issues wouldn’t get the attention they deserved. “I think some residents came forward and said, ‘What’s going on?’” Ortega said in an interview with the Daily Yonder.

Located 170 miles west of Denver and 30 miles from Aspen, Carbondale is in the heart of Colorado’s central Rocky Mountains.

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