When the Columbine Courier newspaper published its last edition just before New Year’s, they found themselves on the wrong side of the old journalism adage: “Report the story, don’t become the …
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When the Columbine Courier newspaper published its last edition just before New Year’s, they found themselves on the wrong side of the old journalism adage: “Report the story, don’t become the story.”
Covering the south Jefferson County region since 1989, the Courier was the sole local source of news for a populous and dynamic region, said Michael Hicks, the paper’s editor.
“My staff and I took great pride in the work we did with the Columbine Courier,” Hicks said. “We’ve heard from a lot of people who are going to miss it.”
The paper was one of four remaining publications of Evergreen Newspapers, alongside the Canyon Courier, which covers the Evergreen area, and the Clear Creek Courant, which covers Clear Creek County. The company’s other publication, the 285 Hustler, publishes classified ads. Another publication, the High Timber Times, was folded into the Canyon Courier in 2016.
The Columbine Courier’s reporter, Deborah Swearingen, and photographer Sara Hertwig will keep their jobs, Hicks said, and will be reassigned to cover Evergreen.
The decision to close the paper came from Evergreen Newspapers’ corporate owners, Landmark Community Newspapers, based in Kentucky, Hicks said. Landmark executives did not respond to requests for comment.
“The paper, which we gave away free, was never particularly profitable,” Hicks said. “It was turning the corner in the last few months, but in the long run it just wasn’t cutting it.”
The paper’s circulation topped at 10,000 copies per issue a few years ago, Hicks said, and at the end had a regular run of about 7,000. Evergreen Newspapers still hopes to do occasional coverage of the South Jeffco area through the Canyon Courier, Hicks said.
Covering the region was thrilling and fulfilling, Swearingen said.
“I’ve gotten to do a bit of everything,” Swearingen said. “Hard news, features, series — there are so many ideas and projects I won’t be able to do. It’s sad to be leaving the area.”
Swearingen recalled one of her favorite projects was a series about women working in male-dominated fields. She profiled a firefighter, a police officer and a deputy working in the Jefferson County Jail. The series won her the News Media Alliance’s “Rising Star” award in 2018.
Hertwig said she’ll always be thankful for being her first job in journalism after college, and hopes her work was meaningful for readers.
“I hope people learned something, that they discovered more about life in their community,” Hertwig said. “I hope people saw our work and felt something.”
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