Fran Zankowski is returning to the Colorado Springs Indy as its new publisher.
Zankowski is no stranger to the organization; he joined Colorado Publishing House — the then-for-profit umbrella company that owned the Indy and Pikes Peak Bulletin and later the Colorado Springs Business Journal, Southeast Express and more — as general manager and advertising director in 2006, before being promoted to CEO in June 2012. He left CPH in December 2015 to lead the Boulder Weekly.
"I feel called to come here and work to bring back and create a new version of our liberal progressive newspaper," Zankowski says of his return. "After being here 10 years, I feel incredibly attached to this community; I have a lot of friends here. It really was very welcoming to me when I came here. I would like to return, in some small gesture, what people gave to me when I was here.
"The staff here is amazing," he adds. "I've always admired it. I was jealous, before I came here, of all the awards that they won. I am thrilled to see that that tradition continues. I would like to be part of that.
"The other reason I'm coming here is because it's a challenge. I'm gonna learn something I've never known — which is about nonprofits, creating memberships, working towards a community based publication. That's exciting to me because after 40 years in the business, this is new. And I'd like to be part of that."
Asked what readers should know about the struggles the newspaper has faced, Zankowski says: "What a gutsy staff this is. Period. Putting up with a whole hell of a lot of change, things being thrown at them unexpectedly — and the resilience of the staff to just bounce back from them. That's what I think we should learn about the people, the quality of the people here. For the community, what they need to know about is: We're back. We're back — strong and motivated to prove our worth once again."
The company’s previous publisher, Amy Gillentine, left for personal reasons in January 2023 following a sizable shakeup at the company, which included the transition to a nonprofit model under the name Citizen-Powered Media, as well as the combining of multiple publications into a single publication, rebranding, and a redesign of its publications and website.
On March 15, following Gillentine’s departure and after the nonprofit board’s discovery of $300,000 in unaccounted for debt, half of the staff at Citizen-Powered Media was laid off.
Shortly after that, the organization, due to reader demand, brought back the Indy and Business Journal brands and their original websites.
Zankowski's hiring, along with an improving financial situation, ushers in a new phase for the publications.
"Through the generous contributions of some community members, through our readers, through our donors, through just plain perseverance, and the willingness of our advertisers to stay with us, we have been able to pay down our debt," Zankowski says. "And we're now able to grow."
"Hiring Fran is the end result of a tremendous community-wide effort to support this paper, to create the revenue necessary to assure our future, and allow us to take this very stabilizing step forward with someone who, on a national publication level, brings not only his experience here in the community, but his experience across the country, to Colorado Springs," says Ahriana Platten, president of the board of Citizen-Powered Media and interim co-publisher.
Read more about Zankowski’s return, to include a message from Board of Directors, in the May 25 issue of the Indy and online at csindy.com.
Editor's note: This story has been edited to clarify CPH's ownership timeline for various publications.