Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Independent, Local, Nonprofit, Investigative

Ark Valley Voice celebrated our fifth birthday on Friday evening, March 31 at the Scout Hut in Salida, with a special thank you to donors, who have supported our role as a local digital news organization as well as our shift late last summer to become a Colorado nonprofit newsroom.

Ark Valley Voice Publisher and Managing Editor Jan Wondra and Truth Has a Voice Foundation President Merrell Bergin, give remarks during the AVV Donor Thank You party on March 31, 2023. At the table behind them veteran reporter Dan Smith. AVV file photo.

“Without the belief that our readers and our donors have in our mission, that ‘truth has a voice,’ we would not be here tonight,” said Publisher and Managing Editor  Jan Wondra. “We’re in the business of facts, words, and truth. The word ‘gratitude’ is too small a word to thank you for believing in us and especially for the huge support you have given us in our shift to become a nonprofit news organization.”

Since its inception in March 2018, Ark Valley Voice has published nearly 8,000 original news stories, and this past year it topped 330,000 unique annual readers. While half of its readers are in the Colorado Central Mountain and Front Range regions, the range of topics that it offers has been read in 37 countries around the world. Unlike print media that skews much older, a large percentage are readers below the age of 35.

For those who may be unfamiliar with our news operational model, it is  what is known as a “public media model.” This means that AVV has always been free and accessible, with no information hidden behind paywalls.

We take no political positions and do not endorse political candidates.

Truth Has a Voice Foundation (THAVF) began two years after AVV with a mission to promote public understanding of democracy and media literacy. It has assisted in funding our student interns. Merging THAVF with AVV is a natural progression that makes sense, as we share the mission of truth and public outreach.

“Our public outreach programs go hand in hand with providing fact-based journalism six days a week,” said Merrell Bergin, who both copy edits for AVV and serves as the THAVF President. “We believe that we can play a role in engaging a diverse community in civil discourse, finding more in common than with those forces that seek to divide us.

With events like panel discussions on housing, polarization, thought-provoking film screenings like “The Social Dilemma” and sponsorship of the upcoming National Civics Bee for middle schoolers, we can bring challenging conversations out in the open and away from the anonymous negativity of social media.”

Ark Valley Voice Publisher and Managing Editor Jan Wondra with new Truth Has a Voice Foundation Board member Tonya Wyles.

All four members of the THAVF Board attended the event, and THAVF is accepting applications for additional board members. Ark Valley Voice itself is planning to resurrect the AVV Advisory Board, which was active before the pandemic hit and the world changed.

We explain our mission this way: that truth has a voice. We listen for, seek out and reflect those voices of truth. As we explore what diversity, equity and inclusion mean in this community we can give a voice to those who have never had one.

“As journalists, our job is not to tell you what to think, but to give you things to think about.” We follow a strict claims substantiation policy in accepting comments on our news stories, letters to the editor, and guest opinions. As a nonprofit, we can accept informative advertising, but not political advertising.

Whether AVV is covering a local story or something as globally important as climate change, we try to provide the information so our local readers know why it could be important to them. As resources allow, we do investigative work; digging in and asking questions to find out what has happened and more important, why.

Ark Valley Voice qualified for membership in the Colorado Press Association (CPA) after one year of operation, and by year two was winning CPA awards. Just as the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Ark Valley Voice was invited into COLab, the Colorado News Collaborative of investigative news, crossing digital, print, and broadcast mediums providing content to the Associated Press. Our first statewide collaborative work was on covering the pandemic in the statewide effort known as “COVID Diaries.”

Merrell Bergin, left and Jan Wondra, right address some of the donors who attended the March 31 Donor Thank You at the Scout Hut in Salida March 31.

Beginning in 2021, our news stories have been requested as a “readable news source” with our work available to be read for the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado, supporting blind and visually impaired Coloradans across the state. Beginning in 2021, Community Editor Tara Flanagan was named as a Colorado Water Fellow by the Colorado Media Project, contributing to the coverage of our state’s water crisis.

From the beginning, AVV attracted the attention of news match-granting organizations, including Colorado Media Project grants funded by the Gates Family Foundation and the Rose Community Foundation.

With our acceptance by the Institute of Nonprofit News this past year, AVV qualified for a major NewsMatch grant of $15,000 at the end of December 2022 — because local donors stepped up with the match amount.

In a surprise announcement in December 2022, we received word from the Miami Foundation that we would be awarded a $4,000 unsolicited grant for our consistent news coverage of threats to our democracy.

Every penny of donations goes to pay our working journalists. Wondra and this team of dedicated journalists have weathered a lot, including months when we volunteered our time and didn’t even take a wage. We did it not because we’re nuts, but because we believe in the mission.

Ark Valley Voice turned five in March and held a Donor Thank You at the Salida Scout Hut Friday evening, with cake and cupcakes by the Biker and the Baker. AVV file photo.

Veteran Reporter Dan Smith, who worked for both the Rocky Mountain News and The Denver Post, before AVV, pointed out that it takes real dedication to produce fact-based news. He reminded the gathering that reporters often take slings and arrows because we ask hard questions, and we keep pursuing information when governments and enterprises would rather not share that information.

Like other nonprofits, we have volunteer needs that we don’t have the resources to cover internally. If you’d like to know more, just contact us at If you’re thinking of donating, well, just click on the red donate button above and know that you have our gratitude.

Officially, we are “Truth Has a Voice Foundation doing business as Ark Valley Voice”. We are a wholly-independent program of our 501(c)(3) fiscal sponsor, the Institute for Nonprofit News, and all donations are earmarked to our dedicated fund.

The celebration was a happy event, with food provided by the catering arm of Poncha Market, and cake and cupcakes provided by The Biker and the Baker. We took a few leftover cupcakes to our booth at the Chaffee Home and Garden show this past weekend — and they were a delicious draw.

Ark Valley Voice now rolls into year six; still independent, local, nonprofit, investigative — and very grateful for our readers and donors.