This story originally appeared in CSU Magazine.
Keeping community newspapers fresh with Linda Shapley
Publisher of Colorado Community Media nurtures young journalists while keeping local newspapers thriving
Spring 2022 | Emily Wilmsen
A yellow sticky note on Linda Carpio Shapley’s laptop reminds her to “be the leader you needed when you were younger.”
That’s good news for the Colorado State University journalism students she mentors, because her resume reads like a journalist’s dream. Rocky Mountain Collegian. Greeley Tribune. The Denver Post. Colorado Politics. And now publisher of Colorado Community Media, a consortium of 24 weekly community newspapers and two monthly papers around Denver and in rural Colorado.
Pretty cool for an Eastern Plains farm kid who first experienced CSU through a 4-H dairy cattle contest. She credits her parents and loving Mexican community in tiny Gill, Colorado, northeast of Greeley, for her work ethic.
“Growing up on a farm is a lot like journalism – the news never stops,” she says. “The cows never knew it was Christmas, so work happened every day. I had a job feeding calves by the time I was 5. It’s just what you did.”
Shapley talked about being part of the Rams family a few weeks before Christmas, as the Carpio family – from as far away as Yuma – crowded into her small kitchen for “Tamale Day,” an annual tradition filled with laughter, sweet treats, and enough masa to make 455 tamales (yes, they’re counted).
Her strong sense of community helped make Shapley a fierce champion for local news. She’s now working on a strategy to make CCM a different kind of farm team: one that nurtures young journalists to gain community trust for powerful storytelling while keeping small newspapers thriving.
Dana Coffield, senior editor of the Sun, says Shapley is the creative thinker today’s newspapers need to deliver community news.
“She has managed digital transformation for other organizations, and she will figure out an awesome strategy,” Coffield says. “She’s just a good combination of old-school print and new-school digital.”
Shapley’s Colorado and Mexican roots run deep. Her late parents were both named Lupe as a tribute to Our Lady of Guadalupe, a powerful faith symbol associated with the Virgin Mary. Her father, who was born two miles from the family home, learned to speak English in elementary school. Neither Lupe attended college, making Shapley and her siblings first-generation CSU alumni.
Linda graduated with a bachelor’s degree in speech communication in 1992; her brother Bob graduated in 1993 in animal science, and sister Susan earned a degree in electrical engineering in 1991. Linda’s husband, Ed, attended the University of Northern Colorado, and their daughter Bennett now lives in Fort Collins after attending school out of state. Son Graham earned his CSU journalism degree in 2020.
When it came time for college, CSU’s agricultural roots called to Shapley.
“I loved the fact that they embraced that,” she says. “For a long time, I always thought I would end up in ag journalism, but when I started working at the Collegian, I loved the editing part of it. I only did the reporting so I could be a better editor.”
Editor indeed. At the Post, she designed the front page during one of the country’s last great newspaper wars and helped lead newsroom through the Iraq war, the Columbine High School and Aurora theater shootings, legendary blizzards, and four Pulitzer Prizes, all while making the somewhat painful transition to a digital world. Later at Colorado Politics, she helped launch fully digital newspaper, the Denver Gazette.
Preserving local news
In her current role as CCM publisher, Shapley manages a collection of smaller publications owned by the Colorado News Conservancy, a collaboration between the National Trust for Local News and the Colorado Sun. They include the Northglenn-Thornton Sentinel, Lone Tree Voice, Denver Herald, Fort Lupton Press, and the 155-year-old Golden Transcript.
Shapley also is a 2022 Fellow in the Poynter Institute Media Transformation Challenge, which helps senior media executives address their greatest business challenges, while working with the CSU journalism department to build up her new farm team.
“It’s fun to continue to be involved at CSU because it reminds me of when I started out there,” she says. “They always talk about education being the silver bullet. It just opened up so many opportunities for me. I want to make sure every journalism department in this state knows who I am. My next potential crop of new hires is going to come from their classes.”