Prairie Mountain Media’s new editorial team aims to keep journalism local and coverage solid.
The consolidated team has four editors instead of five, with positions and duties adjusted to the team’s goals. The changes were announced in January for five of the company’s 16 publications.
“This is a very strong group of people taking on new or expanded roles. They all have a deep history with us and a deep understanding of their communities,” said Al Manzi, president and chief executive officer of Prairie Mountain Media, a media news company based in Boulder. “We try to use the experience and strengths of the people we employ to develop our reporters and deliver solid news coverage.”
The changes came about when Julie Vossler-Henderson, editor-in-chief of the Boulder Daily Camera, took up an editorial position at the Denver Post last October.
John Vahlenkamp, editor-in-chief of the Longmont Times-Call and the Loveland Reporter-Herald, has taken over Vossler-Henderson’s duties at the Camera. He oversees the day-to-day operations and newsrooms of the three newspapers, plus those of two weekly publications, the Broomfield Enterprise and Colorado Hometown Weekly.
“He is involved in editorial decisions in all of our properties when big decisions need to be made,” said Manzi, a 41-year veteran of newspapers.
Mitchell Byars, breaking news and court reporter at the Daily Camera, and Michael Hicks, editor of the Broomfield Enterprise and Colorado Hometown Weekly, were promoted to deputy city editors of the Daily Camera and Times-Call, plus the two weekly publications, all produced from a single newsroom. Their task includes supervising the daily reporting, alternating editorial duties day and night.
Christy Fantz, formerly editor of the Times-Call and the Daily Camera and editor of the former Colorado Daily, will retain her role as editor-in-chief and add production from the Broomfield Enterprise and Colorado Hometown Weekly to those duties.
“We’ve rearranged – organized – the editing structure to make the best use of the editing resources we have. Julie’s departure opened up this opportunity to restructure our editorial team,” said Vahlenkamp, who has been with Times-Call since 2001 and the Reporter-Herald since 2017 and has 35 years of journalism experience.
Byars, Hicks and Fantz will be responsible for developing the reporters on their staff, assigning coverage, and providing mentoring and editorial support.
“We want to make sure every story is thorough and accurate and help the reporters do their job well, (such as with) ideas for story generation and coverage,” said Vahlenkamp. “We have a solid reporting team that is also committed to what they do. They work very hard and have a positive attitude towards their work. All this makes my job easier.”
Vahlenkamp enlisted an editorial assistant to handle some of the day-to-day work of the editorial office, including handling the agendas, lists, and outlines.
“I think the breadth and diversity of experience these editors bring makes us a stronger team,” said Vahlenkamp, adding that photo editor Matthew Jonas and Loveland Reporter-Herald assistant editors Jackie Hutchins and Pamela Johnson are important members of the editorial team.
Vahlenkamp said his goal is to make the newspapers “the first and best source for local news”.
“Our job is to inform. It’s leading. It’s to hold those in power accountable… and in the communities we serve to celebrate what’s right,” Vahlenkamp said. “We need to report what people are talking about and what’s important to them.”
To achieve that goal, Vahlenkamp and the rest of the editorial team help each other do their best, putting forward different strengths and points of view based on their experience, he said.
“It’s a group of people who are committed to their job, committed to doing a good job, who are willing to step in and help each other,” Vahlenkamp said. “We have had excellent editors. My goal is to make sure we keep that good leadership and solid editing. The other is to make our reporting team the best it can be, to help them do their job better.”
Hicks likes being able to work with reporters all over the newsroom outside of the biweekly papers and help them write their stories. During the day shift, he meets reporters in a morning staff meeting, helps them write their stories, and does editorial work and other duties. On the night shift, he edits local copy and helps the design department proof the front pages and local front pages for the Daily Camera and Times-Call before they are sent to the presses.
“Without local journalism you have a very difficult time. The community doesn’t know what’s going on in their backyard,” said Hicks, a journalist for 33 years and an associate at Prairie Mountain Media since 2021. issues affecting the local community. Without it, you don’t know what’s going on and what could happen.”
Byars, a reporter with the Daily Camera for 12 years, has not yet stepped into his new position, so he expects there will be some learning along the way, he said.
“It helps to set the tone for what we’re doing, what we’re looking for, what we want the coverage to look like,” Byars said of the editorial team. “You can’t start without a base of local journalism. … It’s the way we keep the public informed, how we control those in power.”
Fantz plans to expand arts and entertainment coverage in the Broomfield Enterprise and the Colorado Hometown Weekly.
“I hope to revive them by delving deeper into the art and culture of those cities,” says Fantz, who started the Colorado Daily in 2004 and has been with Prairie Mountain Media for 17 years and a journalist for 23. . “I want to add more art and culture and more diverse voices.”
The newspapers she works for, as well as other local sources of “hyper-local news,” inform readers about local business news and city government, something metro newspapers don’t regularly write about, she said.
“Local journalism is key to keeping tabs on local government,” Fantz said. “It’s a way for people to know what’s happening in their neighborhood and get their voices in the paper.”