By Lauren Irwin

Journalist Stacy Feldman moved to Boulder at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and quickly realized she wasn’t getting the information she needed from local news as the global crisis intensified.

So, Feldman set out to create something new: The Boulder Reporting Lab.

“I spent most of my career helping to build a national news organization called InsideClimate News, and I started to wonder if I might want to build a local news startup here in Boulder because there seemed to be great demand for it,” said Feldman, who moved to Boulder to join CMCI’s Ted Scripps Fellowship in Environmental Journalism.

Pulling from her experience with InsideClimate News, a Pulitzer Prize-winning publication she co-founded in 2007, Feldman raised money and joined nonprofit foundations, like the Google News Initiative, to create a financially sustainable business. Without advertisements, subscriptions and paywalls, she says BRL aims to reinvent the modern news model and audience experience.

BRL launched in November 2021 as a nonprofit, online publication with a small staff of four reporters. In the months since its launch, the outlet’s audience is growing rapidly, and readers are contributing their thoughts and sharing articles with friends, Feldman said.

Now, it offers hyperlocal news about the city and county of Boulder, covering the economy, environment, housing and health. When wildfires struck Boulder County in December, BRL was there, providing extensive coverage for the community.

BRL photographer Anthony Albidrez

BRL photographer Anthony Albidrez

“I was there in the evacuation zone taking photos, and then of course, doing photojournalism of the aftermath,” said Anthony Albidrez, a CMCI master’s student interning at BRL. “The coverage of the Marshall fires was pretty difficult, being in that trauma that was so fresh.”

Prior to the Marshall Fire, Albridrez helped gather Boulder-themed stock photographs to build BRL’s multimedia archive. He said working with a small start-up, rather than a long-running publication, was a really unique learning experience. 

“How often do you get to experience a news organization from the ground up?” Albidrez said.

As the BRL continues to grow, Feldman said she wants to strengthen its relationship with CMCI reporters. 

In addition to Albidrez, BRL has worked with three other CMCI students—Harry Fuller, Henry Larson and Ryan Ernstes—during semester-long internships and freelance projects. The news outlet is also working with the Center for Environmental Journalism to offer a fall 2022 course for graduate students.

“We would love to, in the near future, formalize a relationship with the program at CU, both undergraduate and graduate, to provide a place where students can publish their work,” Feldman said. “We're already getting started on this through our collaboration on a special projects course that will work with graduate students to examine potential health impacts from the Marshall Fire."

For Albidrez, helping the BRL begin to tell those stories has been a significant journalistic experience.

“It's been awesome to work alongside these well-seasoned reporters,” he said. “Seeing it go from ‘This is what we want to do,’ versus, ‘This is what we are doing,’ is really inspiring.”