benjamin-hochman-ColumnSigDenver Post sports columnist Benjamin Hochman will be featured in a Fireside Chat at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 1, at the Denver Press Club, 1330 Glenarm Place.
The program, sponsored by the Colorado Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, will be free and open to the public.

Hochman joined the Post in fall 2007 and covered the Denver Nuggets. He previously worked at the New Orleans Times-Picyune where he wrote a Katrina-themed book “Fourth and New Orleans” which was published in 2007. During his career, he has covered a Super Bowl, NBA Finals, BCS championship game and the 2008 Bejing Olympics.

Hochman has finished top 10 in the Associated Press Sports Editors national sportswriting awards five times in the past five years. In the June issue of Mile High Sports, he is described as a “new generation” sports columnist. According to interviewer Doug Ottewell, in additon to Hochman’s Post column, “he’s tweeting, blogging, chatting, texting. He’s on the radio, on television, on stage.”

His columns range from traditional sports commentary to human interest stories. He also employs self-deprecating humor. On Aug. 30 he wrote about running with Ralphie’s handlers before the Colorado-Colorado State game at Sports Authority Field. “Another friend in the press box asked, “When was the last time you ran that fast?” As I pondered, he then said what we both were thinking: “I don’t think there was a last time.”

In his free time, Hochman performs stand-up comedy around the Denver area.

Metered street parking is available in front of and near the Press Club is available on Glenarm Place. The meters accept credit cards. Parking is also available in a public lot on the southwest side of the Press Club.

The Colorado Pro Chapter received the Society of Professional Journalists 2014 large chapter Circle of Excellence Award for Professional Development and Education.

The award, based on programs and activities in 2013-2014, cited the Colorado Pro Chapter “in recognition of outstanding contributions and excellence in pro development and education.” The awards were announced at the annual SPJ convention Sept. 4-6 in Nashville.

The Colorado Pro Chapter received the large chapter Circle of Excellence Award for campus relations in 2012 and for chapter communications in 2010.

Large state chapters have more than 75 members. Small chapters have less than 75 members.

Here’s the list of 2014 Circle of Excellence Award winners:

Freedom of Information
Large Chapter – Press Club of Long Island
Small Chapter – Utah Headliners

Large Chapter – Florida Pro
Small Chapter – Northwest Arkansas Pro

Campus Relations
Large Chapter – Fort Worth Pro
Small Chapter – Madison Pro

Professional Development
Large Chapter – Colorado Pro
Small Chapter – Rio Grande Pro

Chapter Communications
Large Chapter – Minnesota Pro
Small Chapter – East Tennessee Pro

The Society of Professional Journalists Excellence in Journalism conference took place in early September in Nashville. Colorado Pro was represented by board member Amy Maestas. The Colorado chapter had three delegates vote to cast. Here are highlights of the conference, and how our chapter voted on issues:

SPJ Code of Ethics revision

Among the most hotly debated issues at the conference was the revision of the organization’s Code of Ethics. An 18-member committee began working on revising the code after the 2013 Excellence in Journalism conference. Society members and leaders felt the code needed to be updated to recognize and incorporate the changes journalism has undergone since the code was written in 1996. As the committee said, “Language was changed to make sure it reflected that we weren’t tied to traditional forms of journalism.” The committee also wanted to address transparency in reporting, put tougher standards in place for “checkbook journalism,” advocacy journalism and anonymous sources. Of course, the ever-changing world of technology also mandated that the code include changes that reflected how our industry is being affected.

The committee worked on the code revision for more than a year, and it received extensive feedback from SPJ members during this time. At times, feedback challenged the proposed changes; at other times, the proposed revisions were welcomed happily.

A couple of sessions and forums were held at EIJ before delegates voted on the revision on Saturday night. As expected, delegates representing their various chapters had strong opinions about the changes. Some thought the revision was incomplete and lacked substantive meaning. Others thought it was high time to revise the code and wanted it done immediately.

With spirited discussion, the final proposal was approved. Colorado SPJ voted in favor of the change.

To read the new Code of Ethics, go here: http://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp

SPJ name change

Second to the much-debated revision to the code of ethics was the proposal to change the name of Society of Professional Journalists to Society for Professional Journalism. This year was the fourth time a proposal to change the name came before the society. SPJ Region 3 Director Michael Koretzky led the drive to change the name. Koretzky’s goal was to include a broader range of people who support journalism, and he hoped that would help increase SPJ membership, which has declined 22 percent since 2008. (SPJ wasn’t always called that; in 1988, it was changed from Delta Sigma Chi.) Among the criticism of the name change was that it “rings more like an advocacy group and should be exclusive to practicing journalists.”

“Part of the way we change our name is changing the way we do our membership,” Koretzky said. Ultimately, the proposal to change the name was voted down — 498 to 232 — at the EIJ closing business session. Colorado SPJ voted against the name change.

Read more about the name change here http://www.eijnews.org/2014/09/06/whats-in-a-name-the-debate-behind-the-spj-name-change/

New president

During the conference, the organization installed a new president, Dana Neuts, who is freelance journalist. She replaces Dave Cuillier, assistant professor of journalism at University of Arizona. Among the many areas Neuts says she wants to work on while leading SPJ is diversity – not only among those who participate in SPJ, but also in the media. “Admittedly, SPJ has a long way to go, but the organization recognizes it needs to improve diversity across the board,” Neuts wrote in her blog a couple of weeks ago. To keep up to date on Neuts’ leadership, follow her blog “Freedom of the Prez” here: http://blogs.spjnetwork.org/president/.

Forever Fund

Cuillier is now chairman of the Freedom of Information committee. At the conference, the board approved this endowed fund to support SPJ’s advocacy work. At first, the Forever Fund will be funded through the Legal Defense Fund. Meanwhile, Cuillier will lead the effort to raise money and create an individual endowed fund.

Breakout sessions

As usual, the conference included a variety of excellent breakout sessions that drew dozens of participants. The range of topics included international opportunities to practice journalism, filing FOIA requests, how to be a good manager, how to think about digital when writing or producing stories, ethics, new technology, editing, writing, women in media leadership, accuracy and much, much more.

Among the highlights was a Super Session with Kara Swisher, co-CEO of Revere Digital and co-founder of technology news and analysis site Re/Code. Swisher was a conference favorite, imparting not only her digital wisdom but her business acumen as well. SPJ taped Swisher’s Super Session and has made it available to watch or listen to on its EIJ recap website. It’s worth every minute to watch or listen. You can find it, along with other recordings from EIJ, here: http://www.spj.org/c-recap14.asp#c1.

The 2015 Excellence in Journalism Conference will be held in Orlando, Florida. Follow news of EIJ here: http://www.eijnews.org.

Former Rocky staffers (from left) Denny Dressman, Dusty Saunders, Laura Frank, Mike Madigan and Mark Wolf.

Former Rocky staffers (from left) Denny Dressman, Dusty Saunders, Laura Frank, Mike Madigan and Mark Wolf.

By Ed Otte

Five years later, the pain and bitterness remain for some former Rocky Mountain News journalists.

The Rocky ceased publication on Feb. 27, 2009, less than two months shy of its 150th anniversary. Five former staffers discussed their recollections of the fierce newspaper war with The Denver Post and the Rocky’s closure on Sept. 24 at the Denver Press Club. The program was sponsored by the Colorado Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

“The war was a real thing,” said Denny Dressman, who served as city editor, executive sports editor, associate managing editor, and vice president for labor and human relations during his 25 years at the Rocky. “It was an intense thing between the Rocky and the Post. To this day, I don’t subscribe to the Post. I don’t wish the Post any ill will, I just can’t bring myself to subsribe to it.”

E.W. Scripps, the Rocky’s parent company, ended the war because Post publisher “Dean Singleton wanted to be in the newspaper business and Scripps didn’t,” former Rocky reporter Mark Wolf said.

Before the Internet siphoned off advertising revenue, the two newspapers battled over display and classified ad buys, circulation strategies and news coverage.

“In the newsroom, the competition was visceral,” former sports editor and assistant managing editor Mike Madigan said. “I remember telling (former CU football coach) Bill McCartney, the Rocky views the Post the way you view Nebraska.”

The circulation war occasionally involved tactical hijinks. Both dailies paid hawkers to sell newspapers on the street and, according to Madigan, “The Rocky learned what time the Post picked up the homeless hawkers at shelters and got there earlier and took them away to sell the Rocky. These were homeless people, they didn’t care which paper they sold.”

Sports coverage competition between the two papers was as important as news coverage. “We would count how many people we had in the Mile High press box during Broncos games,” Dressman said. “If we had more than the Post, we thought we would have the better game story.”

Former Rocky reporter and columnist Dusty Saunders said the competition featured a boastful tone at the Denver Press Club.

“In the earlier days when the Rocky was a morning paper and the Post was an afternoon paper, the confluence of all those people, the reporters and editors, downstairs at the bar was amazing,” he said. “They had drinks and talking about ‘we beat your ass on that.’ There was a great sense of pride when the Rocky did stories the Post ignored.

“Because the Rocky was a tabloid, people thought it was like the New York Daily News. But it wasn’t. The Rocky outlived its tabloid reputation.”

When the Post and Rocky entered into a Joint Operating Agreement in 2001, it forced a dramatic change in the Denver media landscape. The newspapers combined their advertising, circulation and business operations while their newsrooms remained separate.

“The JOA announcement was a shock,” Wolf said. “”It was like a kick in the gut. It took a lot of air, a lot of steam out of the Rocky. We lost the battle of public perception about the newspaper war with the JOA.”

Dressman described the JOA as “a bitter turn. It was the most shocking, stunning news.”

The agreement required that the Rocky would publish six days a week, Monday through Saturday, and the Post would publish Sunday through Friday.

“Since the Post got the Sunday edition and the Rocky got the Saturday edition, we felt like we got screwed,” Saunders said.

Wolf, who now works as publications editor at the National Conference of State Legislatures, talked about the personal and professional fallout in 2009. “When the Rocky went down, I was a 60-year-old man who had worked in print journalism. I went two years thinking there would be a full-time job out there for me. I found a good job but the great tragedy was the number of people who didn’t find journalism jobs.”

According to Dressman, “The people who faced the toughest challenge were those who weren’t old enough to retire. The younger ones had to find jobs. Some had to leave the business.”

One of the fortunate ones, Dressman said, is former Rocky reporter Laura Frank. “Laura is an example of what is preserving what we always did, something central to American journalism today.”

Frank is executive director of I-News, the Rocky Mountain Investigative News Network, and vice president of news at Rocky Mountain PBS.

She was an investigative reporter when the Rocky closed. “My desk had stacks and stacks of papers. I was working on stories that would never get done. I began to think about what if an organization could do investigative stories that papers couldn’t do. I decided we were going to do something that had never been tried before in Colorado – public service journalism.”

After securing $300,000 in grant money, Frank hired two other former Rocky journalists “and the three of us became I-News. We were able to do the kind of projects we would have done at the Rocky and added video and audio and it was pretty darn exciting.”

The independent news organization merged with RMPBS and KUVO public radio “to give us more platforms.” I-News provides investigative news stories for newspapers, television and radio stations. Most recently, it partnered with 9News to strengthen its operation.

White the I-News business model proved successful in Denver’s media market, the two daily newspapers couldn’t continue their competition.

“The folks at the Rocky Mountain News were pretty sure Denver would become a one-newspaper town,” Wolf said. “We were right but we bet on the wrong horse.”

‘KUNC President/CEO Neil Best, left, Sandra Fish and Jeff Roberts are pictured with the national SDX award the Greeley public radio station won for its coverage of the September 2013 Colorado floods. Fish and Roberts presented programs on campaign finance research and freedom of information issues on Aug. 27 at KUNC to 19 journalists from the Fort Collins Coloradoan, Loveland Reporter-Herald, Colorado State University-Fort Collins Collegian, Greeley Tribune and KUNC. Two members of the Larimer County League of Women Voters also attended the session. Fish and Roberts presented the same program on Aug. 27 at Colorado State University-Pueblo. The Colorado Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists sponsored the programs. Fish is a member of the Colorado Pro Chapter board of directors and Roberts is executive director of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition.



This is the first in a series of interiews with Colorado journalists. The Q&A with former foreign correspondent Greg Dobbs occurred on Aug. 22.

By Ed Otte

During his 23-year career with ABC News Greg Dobbs covered stories in more than 60 countries and 49 states, appearing on ABC World News, Nightline, 20/20 and Good Morning America He served in the ABC bureaus in London and Paris, and reported on the Gulf War, Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, civil war in Beirut, Iran-Iraq war, civil war in Northern Ireland, civil war in Rhodesia and other conflicts around the world. He won two national Emmys for his work and the Distinguished Service Award from the Society of Professional Journalists. Dobbs retired from ABC in 1992 and lives in Evergreen. He has been the chief correspondent and anchor for the weekly “World Report” on HDNet, served as a talk show host on KOA radio and on “Colorado State of Mind” on Rocky Mountain PBS. His book “Life in the Wrong Lane” was published in 2008 and he wrote “Better Broadcast Writing, Better Broadcast News” for use in college journalism programs. His guest commentary also appears in The Denver Post.

Question: What was your reaction to the killing of freelance American journalist James Foley?

Dobbs: My reaction to Foley’s execution was as much the reaction of a Westerner as it was that of a journalist: horror, not only that a good man was unjustly and brutally murdered, but that it probably will chill the enthusiasm of other journalists to cover some of the world’s most dangerous places, which puts a chill on our ability as citizens to assess what’s going on and intelligently decide what policies our nations should pursue.

Q: Should the U.S. government pay ransom for the release of captured journalists?

Dobbs: Sorry to say but my answer is no. It would only encourage more terrorists to take more journalists hostage. That doesn’t mean the government couldn’t take other steps to try to win the release of hostages, whether journalists or not – there are other quid pro quos and other Western nations have done that for a long time. But in the decades that I covered the Middle East, kidnappings for ransom were a tradition, so this is nothing new; during the civil war in Beirut, it happened every day of the week, carried out as a means of financing one militia or another. ISIS is not the first militant group to make money, and lots of it, from demanding ransoms for hostages. Interestingly, fewer Americans are kidnapped in the Middle East than other Westerners, perhaps because the U.S. is not prone to pay ransom.

Q: How can journalists stay out of harm’s way while covering wars?

Dobbs: Simple answer: journalists shouldn’t. What I learned, sometimes the hard way, was how far to push and when to pull back. So perhaps the answer is, news organizations should go to pains to send journalists into war zones who are seasoned in making these decisions. The catch is, the only way to become seasoned is to start as a rookie and just hope you survive the first few times and come out smarter.

Q: Who is responsible for the safety of journalists?

Dobbs: Ultimately, journalists themselves are responsible for their own safety. But their sponsors – the news organizations for which they work either as freelancers or on staff – should provide training in both cultural norms of the region at war and physical protection. ABC News gave some of that to me and there were a few times in a few places when it probably helped keep me alive.

Q: Is any story worth risking a journalist’s life?

Dobbs: The anwer is, yes, almost! If the odds of losing your life are almost inevitably high, then the story must suffer. But like people in other occupations, risk is part of the contract. What’s more, if a journalist is not drawn to such risks, then he or she probably shouldn’t be there in the first place.

Q: Are photographers more vulnerable in these situations because they must be closer to the action?

Dobbs: Yes, photographers are more vulnerable than writers, but to be immodest for a moment, I never, never sent a camera crew out ahead of me toward a perilous situation into which I wouldn’t go myself. If the photographer can see things better close up, so can the reporter and the reporter thus must go just as close.


“Five Years Later: The Denver Newspaper War and Life After the Rocky” is the topic of a program at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 24, at the Denver Press Club, 1330 Glenarm Place.

The program, sponsored by the Colorado Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, is free and open to the public.

Former Rocky Mountain News executive Denny Dressman will moderate the panel discussion. Dressman retired from the Rocky in 2007, two years before the newspaper ceased publication. He served as president of the Colorado Press Association in 1993 and was inducted into the Denver Press Club Hall of Fame in 2008.

The former Rocky panelists are assistant managing editor Mike Madigan, staff writer Mark Wolf, investigative reporter Laura Frank, and television and radio columnist Dusty Saunders. Frank is now executive director of I-News, the Rocky Mountain News Network at Rocky Mountain PBS. Saunders writes a weekly sports media column for The Denver Post.

The Rocky started on April 23, 1859, and folded on Feb. 27, 2009, less than two months shy of the newspaper’s 150th anniversary.

The Post and the Rocky were locked in a fierce newspaper war that featured circulation battles and reporting competition in one of the last two-daily cities in the nation. The two newspapers entered into a joint operating agreement in 2001 and the Denver Newspaper Agency was formed to provide advertising and circulation services for both papers. Their news departments remained separate.

The Rocky won four Pulitzer Prizes beginning in 2000 under the direction of publisher/editor John Temple. The last two Pulitzers were awarded in 2006 for feature writing and feature photography.

The front page headline in the final edition of the Rocky read “Goodbye, Colorado.”


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