‘New’ CSBJ reaches one year and counting

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One year ago this past week, the Colorado Springs Business Journal changed hands. Our company, which assumed the name of Colorado Publishing Co. from the previous owners, brought the city’s established weekly business publication back into local control.

From the start, our readers made it known that they didn’t want to see major changes. Improvements, sure. But not a big shift in philosophy. They wanted “their” Business Journal to continue giving them straightforward, informative coverage of the Colorado Springs-area business community, which was exactly our plan.

For me, having already put in about 30 years at newspapers in this market, it became a chance — and a challenge — to apply lessons learned in other positions.

It also was an opportunity to connect with a specific target audience, those who have the most influence on what happens in our business scene, our governments and our everyday lives.

A year later, to be honest, the biggest feeling is that we’re still a work in progress.

We’re not where we want to be, but we realized from the outset that we couldn’t establish timetables in advance. We had little idea what to expect.

But it’s not as though we’ve been stagnant, either. That became much more clear the other day when I happened to come across a copy of the Business Journal from May 2012, just before the ownership change. I put that paper on a table beside our most recent issues and started to compare.

Suddenly all the cosmetic revisions and other alterations of the past year were obvious. Such as having color on every page. Our readers didn’t say much at the time, and long since have forgotten. But many months ago our printer, Signature Offset, figured out a cost-effective way to guarantee a full-color paper each week. Prior to that, many of CSBJ’s pages were black-and-white. The difference, comparing now, is striking.

But that was just one of many changes. There’s the column and presence of John Hazlehurst, who had been such a popular staple of the Business Journal from 2006-2010 and returned to his familiar page 3 spot immediately on our arrival last June.

There’s the full Q-and-A interview in our weekly Young Professional Connection, which had been just a teaser in print with the full discussion online, and the recent return of “One on One” visits with prominent business leaders. There’s the weekly Focus spread in the middle, which now can handle much more design flexibility and dramatic presentation.

There’s the look of the front page, which we revamped just last month to help us give you a better idea of what to expect inside the paper. There’s the editorial page, with the weekly opinion piece that’s a priority for us, along with guest columns.

Then you see promotions for various events and programs sponsored by CSBJ — the return of this paper’s Best Of Business awards, with a huge reader response of about 2,500 voters in recent weeks; our various breakfasts and lunches, addressing issues important to the business community; the upcoming Golf Bus, with one-day outings this summer to courses in the region; and our sponsoring one of the political forums that helped frame the city election.

Perhaps most importantly, the actual coverage has remained as strong as ever, as evidenced by our full-page ad last week boasting the talented Business Journal staff’s dozens of successes in recent contests at the state and regional levels. Many of those honors came for work done in the past year, but some winning stories were done by the same people before we took over. Nothing wrong with that.

We’ve done our best to take several coverage areas to a higher level, such as health care, banking and finance, higher education and downtown. We’ve also paid more attention to the surrounding area, with stories focusing on Woodland Park, Fountain, Cripple Creek, Green Mountain Falls and more.

If we have a special cause, it has to be making sure never to overlook our city’s young professionals and small businesses. We worked hard to revitalize the CSBJ’s annual Rising Stars program, honoring high achievers in the 21-39 age group, as well as joining with UCCS to stage the first local Ignite! event of informative, snappy presentations, drawing a crowd of 300 people.

It’s not all about events, either. As unveiled last week, we’ve partnered with Engaged Public, a public-policy group in Denver, on a localized version of its Backseat Budgeter. With much help from El Paso County, you now can go to backseatbudgeter.com and take your own stab at deciding line-item revisions in the county’s $113 million budget.

There’s more, but you get the idea. We’ve been busy, and we’ve also come a long way. But, you know, it feels like we’re really just getting started.