New CPA member run by the community of Park Hill
This article was originally published in CPA's quarterly magazine PressNext. Click here to subscribe and have your print copy delivered.
Every newspaper has a unique story, but some newspapers’ stories might be a little more uncommon.
Take, for example, the Colorado Press Association’s newest member, Greater Park Hill News. This monthly publication is produced by the Greater Park Hill Community, a nonprofit neighborhood organization that started in 1961 as the Park Hill Action Committee.
During the Civil Rights Movement, many neighborhoods throughout the country — including some in Denver — experienced what has since been dubbed the “white flight,” — Caucasian city dwellers moving to the suburbs to escape minorities.
In the Denver neighborhood of Park Hill, however, community members organized with the purpose of welcoming everyone, desegregating schools and integrating a racially-diverse population into the neighborhood.
Highlights of those efforts include Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.’s three-day visit to Park Hill in 1964, and the 1969 federal lawsuit to force Denver Public Schools to desegregate a half-dozen Park Hill-area schools, which led to DPS desegregating all of its schools.
“That’s where the idea of having a newspaper delivered by volunteer neighborhood block workers began,” said Cara DeGette, editor of Greater Park Hill News. “It was a way to organize and coordinate the neighborhood to support integration and for community members to get to know their neighbors.”
Half a century later, much has changed in Park Hill, but some things haven’t.
Take a quick drive — or, since it is Park Hill, a bike ride or walk — around the neighborhood, and you’ll see signs of “Immigrants welcome here,” “Hate has no home here,” and “Celebrate diversity” on lawns dotted throughout.
And like the old days, the paper is still bundled and distributed by volunteers. Each month, volunteers walk their section of the neighborhood, leaving the latest edition on their neighbors’ doorsteps.
Amelia Arku, a financial advisor, is new to the neighborhood, having recently moved from Illinois. She attended a community meeting one day to find out what was going on in her new neighborhood, and now she voluntarily delivers the newspaper each month.
“It’s about where I live,” Arku said. “Ongoing events, breweries going in: Things like that I wouldn’t know about if I didn’t get the paper, and (delivering it) is an easy way to volunteer with the community. It’s only a couple hours each month to bundle and deliver, and you get to know your neighbors and give back to your community.”
Jack Farrar has volunteered for the Greater Park Hill Community for 45 years, and now he’s added writing columns and delivering the newspaper to his stints on the board, running the food bank and community garden.
“This is a newspaper that is owned by the community, which is a very special thing for me,” Farrar said. “Park Hill News does a good job of presenting what’s going on in the community and still presenting different points of view. Issues like development, traffic, liquor licenses and other issues; the paper does a good job covering the community so it’s fun to support it. Plus, it’s a great way to meet your neighbors. The (volunteer deliverers) know their neighbors much more than the average resident.”
Greater Park Hill Community has several hundred volunteers, but the primary staff of the newspaper — DeGette, Manager Melissa Davis, Ad Sales Rep. Leif Cedar and Art Director Tommy Kubitsky — are on part-time contracts.
The paper makes enough profit for proceeds to be placed back into the community organization's coffers for projects such as the food pantry, and other events and projects the Greater Park Hill Community sponsors and conducts.
DeGette, who has edited the Greater Park Hill News for three years, is a familiar name to the Colorado news industry. A former president of the Society of Professional Journalists, Colorado Chapter, she has decades of experience in the news business, including as a founder and longtime editor of the Colorado Springs Independent, as well as the ColoradoIndependent.com and Colorado Public News.
“It’s really cool to be covering what I think is a very interesting community and neighborhood,” DeGette said. “I also teach and do freelance, but this newspaper is so much fun to do because it’s such an interesting community to cover.”
Davis, who has also been at the newspaper for three years, has a background in nonprofit volunteer management. This is her first newspaper gig, but as anyone who’s worked with volunteers can tell you, it’s a pretty good gig.
“It’s really easy to get volunteers because people want to get involved with their community,” Davis said. “They love living here and they want to pay it forward, so it’s been pretty easy to get people to say yes.”