New directions at the Indy

Carrie Simison-Bitz and Fran Zankowski steer the Indy, she as general manager and he as CEO and co-owner.

Friend, ally and Give! co-chair Carrie Simison-Bitz is now the Independent's general manager, the person in charge of overseeing the magic that results in our publishing an engaging Independent, each and every week, to be distributed in 950 locations around the area as well as on our web platforms.

Carrie started as a graphic artist at the Indy way back in April 1998, when she was just 25. After learning of her promotion, Carrie said, "I am so excited to have come of age at the Independent and to get to work with such a talented, passionate staff at a company who practices what they preach, constantly aims to make our community a better place, and celebrates the individuality of each of us."

She takes over the GM duties from Fran Zankowski, who joined the Independent in 2005, first as a visiting publisher, then as a consultant and finally as CEO/general manager.

With this current transition to just CEO, Fran finally assumes the job he was actually hired to do seven years ago. His new focus will be to develop and implement long-term strategies that continue to grow the newspaper.

Fran and I now co-own the Independent. His 41 years of experience in all forms of media make him the perfect person to continue to make the Independent and our related initiatives exceed everyone's expectations. He also gives us national insights and recognition as the current president of our industry's North American trade organization, the 130-member Association of Alternative Newsmedia, and he's been a board member and officer of AAN since 2001.

Give! 2012's new staff

Carrie will remain with me as a co-chair of the Give! campaign. Understandably, she no longer will have the time to serve as the day-to-day glue, making sure all the 10,001 details related to Give! are done right. But no fears — because we are astonished and excited to announce that the campaign will now have two incredible women as its first-ever paid staffers:

Mary Lou Makepeace will serve as the director of community-building for the Give! campaign. In this capacity, our former two-term mayor will coordinate the outreach effort to train and empower participating Give! boards and staff members as well as introduce potential corporate and foundation donors to the power of Give!.

Laura Long joins us in mid-May as the first Give! coordinator. She will do everything Carrie did for the previous Give! campaigns ... and also a lot more. Since 2006, Laura has been Bristol Brewing Company's public relations professional, community liaison and chief "Beerocrat."(See more here.)

Come and be amazed

Next Monday, April 30, the Independent and Greater Colorado Springs Chamberand EDC are bringing in some powerful entrepreneurs to share how they've built incredible art spaces and arts incubators in Providence, R.I. The work of AS220 has helped revitalize Rhode Island's largest city. Come be inspired and energized by their luncheon presentation at the Antlers Hilton. (If you missed it, read Edie Adelstein's April 18 cover story, "The Rhode to renaissance," on how Providence's story evolved.)

142,000 regular readers

While other media properties are cutting back, the Independent's investments in new content and added circulation are paying off. International Demographics' latest March 2012 market research on El Paso County media usage shows that in just the past year, 13.5 percent more locals are now reading the Indy's printed edition. That's a growth from 125,000 to 142,000 regular readers whom we regularly engage (and occasionally enrage). In addition, more than 105,000 folks visit each month.

Loud applause merited!

Huge congratulations are in order for our editorial team, which captured 17 awards, including nine first-place honors, in the highly competitive Top of the Rockies annual four-state contest, featuring papers from Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Wyoming, and sponsored by the Society of Professional Journalists. Pam Zubeck led the way with three firsts, Matthew Schniper had two, and Chet Hardin, J. Adrian Stanley and Ralph Routon had one each. The Indy also took first place in public service for our stories and editorials on making sure the Memorial Hospital task force did its business in open meetings.

New and improved

In addition to the visible changes we've made in print, the Indy has a new, easy-to-navigate mobile site at Check it on the run for blog updates, movie times and links to all our articles.

In addition, the Indy Minute has gotten a makeover. Each Thursday visit the blog at, our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter for a link to a video production showcasing the best things to do each weekend.

Finally, sincere thanks to all who have shared positive as well as not-so-glowing comments about recent content and publication date changes — the Indy now hits the streets 24 hours earlier, on Wednesday mornings, to enable readers to have more time to plan the rest of their week and the weekend.

We actively seek your input. And based on your feedback, we will do what we can to make the Indy better serve your needs. So please, if you have a comment or thought, drop me or anyone else at the Independent an e-mail.