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9News reporter Chris Vanderveen will discuss the award-winning documentary “after Aurora” in a Fireside Chat at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, July 31, 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.

The 9News Special Report, which aired in July 2013, examines how first responders reacted to the July 20, 2012, Aurora theater mass shooting. Twelve people were killed and 70 injured by a lone gunman during the midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises.” Vanderveen explains in the report that it is a “first-person account of how fire, police and paramedics prepare for the next worst-case scenario.”

Vanderveen’s presentation will include an eight-minute clip from the special report which received the Sigma Delta Chi documentary award in the large market television category. The SDX awards were presented June 20 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

Vanderveen graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School in Denver and attended the University of Colorado in Boulder. His first reporting job was at KGWC-TV in Casper, Wyo. He joined KOAA-TV in Colorado Springs in 1998 and four years later was hired at 9News. Eariler this year he was transferred to the 9Wants to Know investigative team.

IMG_0229 (1)By Ed Otte

“Foreign conflicts are confusing to the public. There isn’t enough explanation of why fighting occurs,” Dick Woodbury said. A former Denver bureau chief for TIME magazine, Woodbury participated in the July 9 discussion on how U.S. media cover international news at the Denver Press Club.

“I think the shrinking news hole in newspapers is the problem,” he said at the program sponsored by the Colorado Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. “There’s more of a focus on domestic news, less and less on foreign news. And that’s only about conflicts.”

According to panelist Joe McGowan, “It’s hard to sell positive news to American audiences. War? You get coverage. Famine? You report stories on that. Positive stories get almost no coverage. CNN’s coverage of the Malaysian plane disappearing into the sea went on for weeks. They did great coverage because it was a mystery. It’s what ratings are about.”

McGowan agreed that news industry economics have curtailed international news coverage.

“A lot of newspapers used to have foreign correspondents. They don’t anymore. Thank goodness The Associated Press still has foreign bureaus,” said the former AP bureau chief in India and Peru, who retired in 1997 as the Denver bureau chief. In addition to “personal, revenue, resources,” panel moderator Jim Anderson, news editor at AP’s Denver bureau, said another factor is “the attention span of the public in shaping media coverage.”

Panelist Ann Imse was an AP correspondent in Moscow from 1988-1991 and she maintains contact with Russian friends. Missing in the coverage of the Ukrainian conflict, she said, is a new dangerous public attitude in Russia.

“When you talk about journalists in Russia, you’re talking about government employees. They report the propaganda, calling Americans and Europeans fascists which reminds Russians of the Nazis. The frightening thing is that the Russian people believe all this and now they hate Americans.

“Russians are really, really ticked they lost the Russian empire. They’re happy that Putin is gaining back territory and acting like a world leader. Crimea has a lot of retired military – think Colorado Springs – and they want to be part of Russia. The invasion is all about making Putin popular. He’s doing everything brilliantly, restoring Crimea to Russia.

“Even with access to the Internet, people accept the propaganda. They love Putin, even if they hated him before. The effect is just staggering.”

Closer to home, McGowan said another under-reported story is the number of incursions by Mexican military into the Southwest. He cited “a two-inch story under ‘World News Briefs’ on June 27 in The Denver Post about a Mexican military helicopter crossing the U.S. border and firing on Border Patrol agents in a clearly marked vehicle. In January, heavily armed Mexican soldiers crossed 60 yards into Arizona. How many people are aware of that?”

“There have been thousands of those incidents,” said panelist Peter Eichstaedt whose book, “The Dangerous Divide: Peril and Promise on the US-Mexico Border,” was published in May.

“The Mexican military is corrupt and protects the drug cartels. A rancher told me about a gasoline tanker loaded with drugs, stolen from smugglers, crossed into the U.S. and the Mexican military crossed the border to take the tanker back.”

Eichstaedt has reported in Afghanistan, Africa and Eastern Europe. He gave other examples of flawed international news reporting. “The missing stories in Afghanistan are about the 30 million people living there who have had to endure years and years of fighting,” said the author of “Above the Din of War: Afghans Speak About Their Lives, Their Country and Their Future – Why Americans Should Listen.”

“The reporting has been from Karzai, the White House and NATO. You get this narrow focus, the military focus. You seldom hear from the people living there. The political parties aren’t based on ideologies, they’re ethnic. The Taliban is the largest single ethnic group. The other parties have their own alliances and allegiances. I saw the same thing in Uganda. Political rallies were all based on tribes, not political beliefs.

“I think we’re inevitably headed to civil war in Afghanistan. But none of this gets explained.”

“Even if we get this reported, will anyone read it?” McGowan said. Asked for the sources of their news, McGowan said, “My wife and I read the Drudge Report.”

Imse: “Go to news organizations that correct their mistakes.”

Eichstaedt: “I rely on The Guardian for foreign news but we do have the Internet at our fingertips. OK, the Internet is both a blessing and a curse. We need to go there and get a tremendous depth of information. Don’t spend time on the Kardashians.”

By Ed Otte

How are you informed about the sectarian conflict in Iraq?

What is your perspective on the political turmoil in Ukraine?

Where do you get your information about the civil war in Syria?

“How U.S. Media Cover International News” is the topic of a panel discussion at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 9, 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. The panelists are Ann Imse, Peter Eichstaedt and Joe McGowan.

Imse is the founding editor and contributing writer at Colorado Public News. Before helping establish CPN in 2009, she was a reporter for 14 years at the Rocky Mountain News. Prior to joining the News, she served as Moscow correspondent for The Associated Press for three years. She is the co-author, along with Stuart Loory, of “Seven Days that Shook the World: The Collapse of Soviet Communism” published in 1991.

Eichstaedt is the former country director in Afghanistan and former Africa editor for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting. He worked in the Balkans, Eastern Europe, Afghanistan and Eastern Africa as well as the Hague, Netherlands, where he covered the African war crime trials. He is the author of six books including “The Dangerous Divide: Peril and Promise on the U.S.-Mexico Border” which was published in May.

McGowan is the former Denver AP bureau chief. He also served as bureau chief in India and Peru. After retiring from The AP in 1997, McGowan taught journalism in Chile, Pakistan, Venezuela, Panama, El Salvador, Mexico and Mongolia. An exclusive interview with Fidel Castro in December 1962 is one of many stories about his AP career in “From Fidel Castro to Mother Teresa.”

Jim Anderson, The AP news editor for Colorado, Montana and Wyoming, will be the panel moderator. He joined AP in Mexico City and has worked in Los Angeles, New York, San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Caracas, Venezuela reporting throughout the Caribbean and Central and South America.

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By Ed Otte

Colorado farmers like fracking, dislike residential growth and fear a looming labor shortage.

They can also find a wealth of research information at the USDA and at Colorado State University’s College of Agricultural Sciences, according to Luke Runyon

A reporter with Harvest Public Media, he works at KUNC in Greeley in Weld County. Not coincidentally, Weld County is the third leading agricultural area in the United States.

“Harvest started four years ago out of Kansas City with a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting,” Runyon said at the June 26 Fireside Chat at the Denver Press Club. “It originally was public radio stations in the heartland states that were given seed money by CPB to add reporters to cover agriculture and agribusiness. Harvest was laser-focused on the Midwest but it made sense to have a reporter in Weld County because of its agricultural activity.”

The Fireside Chat was sponsored by the Colorado Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

CPB provided grants to start similar regional networks elsewhere in the country to report on health care, public education and immigration.

“They faded off,” Runyon said because local stations were unable to financially sustain the projects after the CPB grants expired. However, while they faltered, Harvest Public Media flourished. In addition to Colorado, the Harvest network has reporters in Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois and Missouri.

“Everybody eats so it was something people really rallied around,” he said. “”Food and ag issues today are local stories people really latch onto. The transition from the grants to the partner stations raising their own money wasn’t smooth but they worked it out.”

Runyon left Aspen Public Radio in 2013 to begin his Harvest reporting duties at KUNC, six months before the CPB grant ended. Today, KUNC pays his salary.

“I started at the station doing Weld County, northern Colorado stories. Now, I do more state stories and make them appeal to listeners in other states. My workload is split 60/40 with 60 percent of my stories going to Harvest and 40 percent to KUNC. When I do a story, it’s radio first, then I rewrite my copy for our website. Some of my stories are for print, we have partnerships with newspapers. The Kansas City Star prints some of our stories. When newspapers do that, they pay Harvest for those stories.”

Runyon’s stories also appear in the Fence Post, a Greeley-based regional farm and ranch publication.

He likes his coverage responsibilities “because newspapers really don’t have ag beat reporters. Harvest is covering stories newspapers don’t anymore. The nice thing about Harvest is that I’m given more leeway than a general assignment reporter. I know I’m on the hook for a certain number of stories each month but I have time to work on investigative stories, do research, do pre-interviews.”

Observations from his reporting:

“Farmers love fracking. One acre of land to an oil and gas company gives them money to put their kids through college.”

“Farmers are more worried about development and cities that are thirsty. There’s a big bump-up in development vs. agriculture, a lot of competition for water and water rights. There are certain areas of the state that won’t be in agriculture because of constraints in water.”

“Most of the crop irrigation in the state is flood irrigation. It’s wasted water, not efficient. More farmers are looking at upgrades, ways to be more efficient. If they can do that, they can lease water back to cities.”

“Labor is a big issue for dairies. The same is true with produce fields. Work that isn’t glamorous. Farmers can’t get enough people to work the fields. Immigration is a huge issue for them.”

“Livestock is really big in the state and global warming will affect that. CSU is a really good source with that research information.”

“Ag is a great beat for data nerds. The USDA is a great source of information. I can find out how many maple syrup taps there are in the country. I really missed that during the government shutdown.”

We hope everyone’s summer is going well. We’ve got an information-packed Newsletter, including: a chance to let Colorado Pro help YOU go to the SPJ Excellence in Journalism national conference Sept. 4; A public radio primer at a June 26 Fireside chat at the Denver Press club; July elections (call for candidates) and a chapter board member update.

 WHO WANTS TO GO TO SPJ EIJ?

SPJ’s national conference, Excellence in Journalism, is Sept. 4-6 in Nashville. As part of our commitment to professional development, the Colorado Pro chapter gives a member in good standing $500 to apply towards hotel, airfare and/or conference registration. You must be a Colorado Pro member (“in good standing” means you paid your dues for 2014! ;-) Please send us an email (president@spjcolorado.com) of why we should send you by July 15 and the board will pick a winner by July 21. The stipend will reimburse expenses; it’s not an advance.

Here’s what 2013’s winner Boulder freelance writer Jayme Moye had to say about her EIJ experience in California: “I’d say the best part of the national conference is the networking. I got lost walking to a bowling alley in Anaheim with the President of the Colorado Chapter of SPJ (Dennis Huspeni) and ended up with a board position … talked teaching positions with the University of Colorado’s Director of Journalism and Mass Communication (Christopher Braider), had lunch (and landed an assignment) with a senior editor at the Christian Science Monitor, and mentored a college student from Kentucky over burgers and fries.”

THE STATE OF COMMUNITY PUBLIC RADIO

Harvest Public Media reporter Luke Runyon and KUNC reporter Grace Hood will discuss community public radio in a Fireside Chat at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, June 26, at the Denver Press Club, 1330 Glenarm. Admission is free and the event is open to all.

Harvest Public Media, based at KCUR in Kansas City, is a network of reporters and partner stations throughout the Midwest that covers agriculture and agribusiness. Runyon joined KUNC in Greeley in 2013 after spending two years as a reporter at Aspen Public Radio.

Since joining KUNC in 2008, Hood has won a number of state, regional and national awards. She received the Daniel Schorr Journalism Prize in 2012 from the Boston NPR news station for her series “Investigating Colorado’s Online K-12 Schools.” She also received the national Edward R. Murrow awards in 2010, 2011 and 2012 for her feature and investigative reporting.

JULY BOARD MEMBER ELECTIONS:

My name is Deb Hurley. I’m the contributing editor at Evergreen Newspapers and the elections chair for the Colorado Professional Chapter of SPJ. I am calling for self-nominations for the five positions up for election on the board: four directors at-large and the secretary. Per the chapter’s bylaws, the president-elect Ed Otte, who you elected last year, will automatically become president of the chapter without a vote.

Board meetings are held once per month, and board members may attend in person or via conference call/Google hangout. Board members may reside anywhere in Colorado, and must be members in good standing with national SPJ and the Colorado Professional Chapter.

To indicate your willingness to run for a position and to serve on the board, please e-mail me (dchurley@aol.com) your name, the position you are interested in, a photo, a biography of no more than 250 words and a statement of no more than 200 words explaining why you want to be on the board. Deadline is 5 p.m. Friday, July 11.

The election information will be e-mailed to all members of Colorado Pro on July 18, and you will have until noon on Friday, July 25, to cast your ballot.

If you have any questions about the process, the duties or how you can get involved with Colorado Pro – whether as a board member or as a volunteer – please contact me at 303-601-8098 or at dchurley@aol.com or contact Dennis Huspeni at 719-648-0055 or president@spjcolorado.com

 ANNUAL REPORT

The board had three members (Otte, Cara DeGette and Vicky Gits) review the chapter’s finances for 2013/14 earlier this month. We sent the annual report to national and anticipate getting our “good standing” certification in September at EIJ. Thanks for a successful year, members.

FROM THE PRESIDENT: On a personal note, it’s been tremendous serving as your president for the past two years. There are ton of great journalists in this state who care deeply about the state and future of journalism. Your president-elect Ed Otte takes over in August and will do a fantastic job, as he did with the Colorado Press Association. After more than 5 years on the board, I’m resigning effective the end of July when my term expires. That’s for two reasons: I’ve taken job in public relations and it will give other members a chance to serve on the board and I encourage you to do so! Thank you for a rewarding two years.

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Left to right: Tak Landrock, Phil Tenser, Vikki Migoya and Rob Reuteman, at SPJ Colorado Pro's panel discussing social media and breaking news.

Left to right: Tak Landrock, Phil Tenser, Vikki Migoya and Rob Reuteman, at SPJ Colorado Pro’s panel discussing social media and breaking news.

By Ed Otte

Old-fashioned reporting practices are as important as the newest software in digital journalism.

That message was emphasized in a June 18 panel discussion on social media and breaking news at the Denver Press Club. The program, sponsored by the Colorado Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, featured reporters and editors from Fox 31, 7News and The Denver Post. Rob Reuteman, business journalism professor at Colorado State University, was the panel moderator.

“Social media is an incredibly valuable reporting tool. We’ve found that that’s how people want to get their news,” Reuteman said. “But what are the challenges with that?”

The answer: Temptation to post or tweet a story first, even in a very competitive news market such as Denver, is tempered with the need for accuracy.

“The push that social media has forces us to be first with a story. We need to get the hits on a story, that’s good for busienss, ” said Vikki Migoya, Denver Post suburban and community news editor. “But, in a way, social media hasn’t changed what we do. Even though the media changed the way we report the news, we still have to check the facts.

“The work is the same. Only the tools have changed.”

Another factor that hasn’t changed, according to 7News digital executive producer Phil Tenser, is the news organization’s credibility.

“It isn’t the pressure to be first,” he said. “You want the second tweet or Facebook post to be complete and accurate. Verfication is a very big deal. When someone sends something to you on Facebook or Twitter, has that photo been filtered? Is the statement accurate? If your team is passionate about their jobs, they’ll take the time to verify stories.

“I don’t want to throw anyone at our station under the bus but, a good example of this, a photo of a tornado was sent to us last week. It implied it was taken at that time in eastern Colorado. Our weather person put it on his Twitter account. We checked it and found out the photo was two years old. You need to check the veracity of everything. You need to have a workflow procedure that ensures accuracy.”

Fox31 reporter Tak Landrock said, “Some younger journalists don’t check their facts. They simply retweet what they see. That doesn’t help us. If someone tweets to your newsroom that John Elway was hit by a car, you need to verify it. You can’t just post it.”

“I’d rather be last and correct than first and wrong.”

“Facebook pages,” Migoya said, “are good reporters’ tools. It’s just like knocking on doors and asking questions. But the policy at The Denver Post is we take the time to verify statements and photos. The same with Twitter. We use it to go back and get the official word.”

Reuteman asked if questionable content on reporters’ personal Facebook pages and Twitter accounts can jeopardize their employment.

“The Denver Post has a policy that we feel very strongly people represent The Denver Post at all times,” Migoya said. “We had to let a person go recently because of what he said on social media. Employees must adhere to the policy.”

“Viewers see us every night on TV,” Landrock said. “I have to be very careful about what is on my Facebook page. I can’t be tagged with a photo of me holding a glass of beer and looking wasted.”

On the business side of digital journalism, Tenser said, “I spend a lot of time training our staff on new social media tools but the thing we still struggle with is how to make money with social media. When you talk about something of grand importance, you need to be more creative. You need more than dancing hampsters.”

To bolster online ad revenue, he said 7News is looking at native advertising, similar to traditional advertorials minus the overwhelming tie-in to the sponsor’s brand.

“Our digital team can support itself with the revenue it generates. But we can’t support the other parts of the operation – newsprint, the presses, the delivery of the paper,” Migoya said. “The advertising comparison is still digital dimes to print dollars.”

Five Colorado journalists and news organizations won national 2013 Sigma Delta Chi awards for excellence in journalism.

The Society of Professional Journalists selected 83 winners from among 1,800 entries in categories covering print, radio, television, research, art/graphics, newsletters and online work published or broadcast in 2013. The winners will be honored June 20 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

The Colorado winners are:

Newspapers/Wire Services

Deadline Reporting (Non-Daily Publication)
Samantha Tisdel Wright, The Watch Newspaper
“Miners Risked Death in Efforts to Save Two Who Died”

Investigative Reporting (Daily Circulation 50,001-100,000)
Dave Philipps, Colorado Springs Gazette
“Other Than Honorable”

Feature Reporting (Non-Daily Publication)
Alan Prendergast, Westword
“The Lifers Book Club”

Radio

Breaking News Reporting (101+ Market)
KUNC-FM (Greeley) News Staff
“Flooding Wreaks Havoc in Colorado”

Television

Documentaries (Large Market Station, 1-50 market)
Chris Vanderveen, Chris Hansen, John Kuhrt and Blair Shiff, KUSA-TV
“After Aurora”

 

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