Raleigh Burleigh (Raw-lee Bur-lay) is the new Sopris Sun editor and hopes to include more local artwork and a Spanish section as he forges a new path in the role.
“(I will be) trying to be as representational as possible. Within that, I think there is a major drive to have a section for the newspaper in Spanish, and not only translating our Anglo-journalist pieces into Spanish but hiring somebody to specifically report from the community … and then translating their work in English so that it’s not a one-way street,” Burleigh said.
Born and raised in Carbondale, Burleigh, 27, took over as editor of the nonprofit newspaper based in Carbondale in December. He succeeds former editor Will Grandbois, who announced his departure in November after four years at the helm.
Burleigh is bilingual in more than one dialect of Spanish, thanks to all his travels which began as a Rotary Youth Exchange student in Chile when he was 16. His travels spread to more and more of South America when he made return trips as he got older.
“I think that, in a way … having so many ties here I think opens certain doors, and I think staying has just continued to open doors. I get to service this community where my heart is very invested … I hope as it’s benefitting me I’m also benefiting the community,” Burleigh said.
Burleigh’s time abroad improved his language abilities and strengthened his appreciation for communities as an entity and the different roles within them. His familiarity with the Carbondale area helped him get his foot in the door as a community journalist, but he said he realizes there is always more to learn.
“I have come over time to appreciate how long it takes to really get to know a community. I have all these points of reference from growing up … joining KDNK and then being a young adult and meeting other young people … just engaging in a different level I found these relationships multiplying and deepening my perspective,” Burleigh said.
Local radio station KDNK’s news director, Amy Hadden Marsh, met Burleigh when he first came to the station inquiring about the team’s need for an intern. His work at first was mostly dedicated to interviews in Spanish and translating English stories, but within months he was promoted and moved to a more directorial programming role at the station.
“Raleigh’s grown a lot as a journalist. I think he’s perfect for the newspaper,” Marsh said. “I think Raleigh’s ability to describe things and put you right there in the moment is a talent that few people have … I think he can get to the heart of the issue.”
Outside of working with Burleigh, Marsh said she considers him to be a dear friend. She said her visits to the sweat lodge at 13 Moons Ranch with him, something Burleigh does on a monthly basis, deepened their connection to one another.
This multifaceted relationship with Burleigh made working together an even more cohesive, collaborative process, she said.
“It’s really neat to work with someone with whom you had that kind of experience, Marsh said. “There’s just a connection that’s different…there’s still that special connection. So when you combine that with a friendship and a working relationship it really deepens that, and it deepens the respect.”
Burleigh’s understanding of his role and responsibility as the head of the Sopris Sun was shaped by his time abroad. He said he had a particularly impactful moment getting to know the Mapuche tribe in El Bolsón, a town in Argentina, during his travels.
Within the tribe’s community is a role called “longko,” and Burleigh said he was able to identify the parallels this title had with the work he wanted to cultivate as a journalist.
“That person, I guess, could be translated to chief, but I think it’s different than that. From my understanding, it’s a person that listens and receives and through listening and receiving they’re able to speak the communal truth,” Burleigh said.
Part of being a responsible and truthful journalist is being sure to get the full scope of the story, Burleigh said. He shared a quote with his team of freelancers from the book, “Always Coming Home,” by Ursula Le Guin that he said he thought embodied how one should approach journalism.
Burleigh read the quote aloud, “‘We have to learn what we can, but remain mindful that our knowledge not close the circle … What is seen with one eye has no depth.’
“I think it’s so important right now that we not consider the circle closed that we don’t know the full story really ever, and maintaining that quality of always searching and kind of that boundless unknown and having that inform our approach to journalism is really important,” Burleigh said.
Marsh said she considers Burleigh to be a trustworthy person and a true community member of Carbondale. She also said she thinks he is the perfect person to take on this role, someone who will add to the work done by editors before him at the Sopris Sun.
“He’s a great among greats and I wish him all the best,” Marsh said.
Burleigh said he wants the community to know he is grateful for the opportunity to work as editor in what he said is a healthy news ecosystem in the Roaring Fork Valley. He said he wants to be as representative as possible of the people who live in Carbondale in the content the Sopris Sun will curate.
In order to do this, Burleigh said he welcomes feedback, requests from readers and is ready to continue to listen and learn with an open mind.
“I take it to heart the responsibilities that I have to be fair and investigative and truthful,” Burleigh said.
“(I’m) also inviting people to reach out to me and let me know if they think that maybe the full scope of a story wasn’t considered, or if they have a lead on a story, or an idea for the paper, or a talent to contribute.”