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lee_anne_peckNOTE: This is one in an occasional series of interviews with Colorado journalists.

By Ed Otte

Colorado Pro Chapter member Lee Anne Peck was named Volunteer of the Month for October by the Society of Professional Journalists.

Peck, a journalism professor at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, was selected for the national honor for her work on a study and a soon-to-be published book on high school journalism education. “Still Captive? History, Law and the Teaching of High School Journalism” is scheduled to be published by New Forums Press in early 2015.

The book is the result of a three-year research project that surveyed 250 Journalism Education Association members in 47 states. Peck is a member of SPJ’s Journalism Education Committee.

In 2012, Peck and Guy Reel of Winthrop University co-edited “Media Studies at Work: True Stories from Young Professionals.”

Before joining the UNC faculty in 2003, Peck taught international communications at Franklin College in Lugano, Switzerland, and she received a Fulbright grant to teach at the University of Dubrovnik in Croatia.

Peck earned a Ph.D. in journalism ethics at Ohio University, an M.A. in philosophy at Ohio, an M.A. in journalism studies at the University of South Florida (Poynter Institute), an M.A. in English at Colorado State University and a B.A. in technical journalism at CSU. She teaches public relations, magazine writing and media ethics at UNC.

Peck, who is also a member of Colorado Press Women, worked at the Moline (Ill.) Daily Dispatch, Columbus (Ind.) Republic, Fort Collins Coloradoan and the Rocky Mountain News. She began teaching full time in 2001.

Question: Why did the SPJ Education Committee want to do this study?

Peck: In the fall of 2011, then-national SPJ president John Ensslin asked the journalism ed committee members if we had heard that high school journalism programs were facing elimination because of administrators’ belief that “journalism was dying.” Many of us with acquaintances who teach high school journalism had heard some horror stories, so to speak, but not necessarily about the elimination of their programs. The committee agreed to look into the status of high school journalism.

I remembered that in 1994, the Freedom Forum published a report on high school journalism titled “Death by Cheeseburger: High School Journalism in the 1990s and Beyond,” which led us to the earlier 1974 report by the Robert F. Kennedy Foundation titled “Captive Voices: High School Journalism in America.” We had our hook – we would look at high school journalism 20 years after “Cheeseburger.”

Question: Based on your research, what is the No. 1 challenge facing high school journalism teachers and advisers?

Peck: It needs to be noted that more than one-third of our respondents said they had no significant challenges. It’s the other two-thirds whom we have to worrry about – and help however we can. We found that funding was one of the biggest problems. We heard from people who had ancient computers – or just one computer – and both the magazine and newspaper staffs had to share it. They need updated software. The stories go on and on. One teacher said she paid for the printing of her school newspaper out of her own pocket. Yet these teachers or advisers keep at it.

Question: Is censorship a problem with high school newspapers?

Peck: A little less than 15 percent of our respondents said they were “constantly worried” their journalism teaching or student media advising would be reprimanded because of their students’ work that might create a controversy while a little more than 60 percent reported they were “sometimes” worried. Although a quarter of the respondents said they were never afraid of being reprimanded, what is alarming is that almost three-fourths of the respondents reported they are either constantly or sometimes afraid of reprimand. What needs to be done so these teachers are not afraid to do their jobs?

Question: Are high schools eliminating or reducing journalism classes as a result of budget cuts?

Peck: Oftentimes journalism courses are not considered part of the “Common Core.” Therefore, they become electives for students. However, our report points out how journalism courses meet many of the requirements needed to be a Common Core class. For instance, they offer a skill such as critical thinking. One of the challenges teachers face, too, is the fact students don’t have any interest in participating in student media. More research needs to be done with students to find out why they don’t have the passion to participate – like many of us did in high school.

Question: What is the most interesting thing you discovered?

Peck: One of the chapters I wrote was about the beginnings of U.S. high school journalism. It was amazing to me to find that the problems from almost 100 years ago that teachers faced are still the same today. For instance, today many English teachers have to take on the extra burden of student media; many don’t have proper journalism training. It was the same situation at the beginning. No funding, no equipment and so on.

Question: What are your recommendations for high school journalism education?

Peck: We need advocates for journalism classes in the high schools. We need to educate administrators about the value of journalism classes. Student media teaches about the First Amendment and democracy. These classes are steps toward students becoming active citizens.

Question: What role should professional journalists have in high school journalism education?

Peck: The last chapter of the book shares our recommendations. Those that involve professional journalists include the following:

1. Professional media involvement. Many professional journalists began their careers in high school classrooms, and it would be their gift to future journalists to provide moral and material support to scholastic programs and their teachers. Funding college scholarships or offering internships for highly motiviated high school students need to become priorities again.

2. Education of school administrators. Professionals should help administrators understand what journalism really teaches: the Journalism Education Association identified critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and communication skills, all of which are valuable tools no matter what field a person eventually enters.

3. Lobbying of school districts. Professional news organizations such as the Society of Professional Journalists should lobby school districts for improved funding for scholastic journalism programs. Programs should be adequately funded in order for students to learn the skills offered in journalism classes.

Finally, I think the report will be of interest to anyone who is worried about the future of journalism. We need to start recruiting students in high school.

katiekuntz-firesidechat
By Vicky Gits

Since Katie Kuntz, 22, joined Rocky Mountain PBS I-News in July after graduation from the University of Iowa two months earlier, she has become somewhat famous on the Internet as a chronicler of marijuana news. In addition to public television, her stories get play in medical marijuana publications such as 420 Magazine.

She even gets mail from people asking her how to get a job in the marijuana industry. But the reporting on medical and recreational marijuana news is only part of her job.

Lately she has been working her way through murky government databases to uncover the unnamed donors behind the outrageous campaign ads. Sound boring? Kuntz loves it. “It was fun going through the mental aerobics to find out about this,” Kuntz said.

For a young, twentysomething, Kuntz has chalked up an impressive track record.

Kuntz described her career path and life as a multimedia investigative reporter at an Oct. 15 Fireside Chat at the Denver Press Club. The program was sponsored by the Colorado Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

Founded by Laura Frank, a former investigative reporter for the Rocky Mountain News, I-News produces in-depth stories and investigative reports that are shared with its television, radio and print partners and other outlets.

In Iowa, Kuntz won the 2014 SPJ Region 7 online reporting Mark of Excellence Award for “Breaking the Cycle: Meth Addiction in Council Bluffs.”

Kuntz said her path to I-News out of college was paved by degrees in both economics and journalism from the University of Iowa in Iowa City. She was valedictorian of the journalism program as well as in the top five percent of her graduating class of more than 2,500.

She was also offered a job at a Washington D.C. television station before being hired at I-News.

Contributors to candidates for the state legislature and state ballot propositions are relatively transparent compared to U.S. Congressional elections, Kuntz said. “Colorado is pretty good. We know clearly who is paying for what…. State elections are a lot less hidden. If you are a group you still have to list who your contributors were.”

In contrast, the Federal Election Commission is extremely lax in enforcing the law so it isn’t unusual to see a donation that is 10 times more than the legal contribution limit. “It was surprising to find how rarely the laws are enforced,” Kuntz said.

Financial players, such as investment banks, tend to contribute equally to both sides of an issue. The most dollars being spent in the state come from the backers of the campaign to expand casino gambling to racetracks, she said.

In her election-finance coverage, Kuntz found the main obstacle is that political nonprofits don’t have to disclose their donors. But they do have to disclose to whom they gave money. “If I’m Freedom Partners I don’t have to say who gave me money but I have to say who I gave money to.”

It isn’t clear that people are using election-contribution information to make voting decisions, Kuntz said. Voters she has interviewed say they no longer want to participate in the system because corporations are spending so much money.

Kuntz said data-driven stories have a high priority in the newsroom because other outlets don’t have the time to do the work. One of the data-journalists on staff has a degree in aerospace engineering and another is fluent in another language. I-News just hired a new data journalist and has a total of two on staff out of a total of seven.

KatieKuntz

Katie Kuntz, an award-winning investigative reporter with Rocky Mountain PBS I-News, will be featured in a Fireside Chat at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 15, 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.

Kuntz will discuss her recent “The Business of Elections” and other I-News stories. The elections coverage focuses on television campaign ads in Colorado’s key U.S. Senate race and state ballot issues.

Kuntz also has reported extensively about Colorado’s marijuana industry and for the I-News “Losing Ground” series which examines the social and economic disparities that separate the state’s black and Latino residents from their white counterparts.

A multimedia journalist with a background in radio, television, documentary filmmaking and newspaper reporting, Kuntz produced award-winning work while at the University of Iowa and with The Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism and IowaWatch.org. She won the 2014 SPJ Region 7 online reporting Mark of Excellence Award for “Breaking the Cycle: Meth Addiction in Council Bluffs.”

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

SPJ Pizza Party at CMU - Journalism students and faculty enjoy pizza during a Society of Professional Journalists Colorado Pro Chapter visit on Oct. 6 to Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction. Beecher Threatt, co-publisher of the Ouray County Plaindealer; Richie Ann Ashcraft, web content editor of the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel; Brian Calvert, associate editor of High Country News; and SPJ Colorado Pro Chapter president Ed Otte spoke to two journalism classes before the lunch.

SPJ Pizza Party at CMU – Journalism students and faculty enjoy pizza during a Society of Professional Journalists Colorado Pro Chapter visit on Oct. 6 to Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction. Beecher Threatt, co-publisher of the Ouray County Plaindealer; Richie Ann Ashcraft, web content editor of the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel; Brian Calvert, associate editor of High Country News; and SPJ Colorado Pro Chapter president Ed Otte spoke to two journalism classes before the lunch.

Colorado Mesa University journalism professor Eric Sandstrom is pictured in his office with the 2014 SPJ Colorado Pro Chapter Journalism Educator of the Year award he received in April. Sandstrom, adviser to the CMU student SPJ chapter and to the campus newspaper, hosted an SPJ visit on Oct. 6 at CMU.

Colorado Mesa University journalism professor Eric Sandstrom is pictured in his office with the 2014 SPJ Colorado Pro Chapter Journalism Educator of the Year award he received in April. Sandstrom, adviser to the CMU student SPJ chapter and to the campus newspaper, hosted an SPJ visit on Oct. 6 at CMU.

hochman

By Ed Otte

“I’m Denver Post sports columnist Benjamin Hochman and the sixteenth funniest Jew in Colorado. They asked several people to do this, even the janitor at The Denver Post turned them down, so I’m here tonight.”

Those opening comments set the tone for the Oct. 1 Fireside Chat at the Denver Press Club. Hochman, who joined The Post in 2007, also does stand-up comedy in the Denver area.

Denver 8 TV taped the program, which was sponsored by the Colorado Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, and it will be broadcast at a later date.

“I came (to Denver) because, well, I like Coors,” he said. “When I started at The Post, I covered the Nuggets and I jinxed them because they’ve never done anything since then.”

Hochman, 34, credited fellow Post sports columnist Woody Paige – sort of – for his journey from the New Orleans Times-Picayune to The Denver Post. “In 2004 I watched this weird guy on TV screaming. That was Woody. That’s how I learned about Denver. He sets the tone, he’s our brand. What I love about Woody is his passion and, how can I say this on TV, his cojones.”

Asked whether he has ever been reluctant to criticize an athlete, Hochman mentioned a former Nuggets player. “I wrote he was a matador on defense. He hated me because he was anti-Semitic. No, not really. But he did use the f-word to my face the next time I saw him.”

Other topics:

“When people ask me what is the top sports team in Denver, I tell them the Broncos are No. 1, the Broncos are No. 2 and anything else doing well now is No. 3. I can write about anything – as long as it’s the Broncos. I believe the Broncos will win the Super Bowl. I wrote that last year? I didn’t write that, Frodo wrote that. Von Miller is a game changer. By January, if he’s back to 2012 Von Miller and if they don’t have injuries, I think they can win the Super Bowl.”

“I grew up in St. Louis and I learned about baseball with the Cardinals. People in Denver have the Rooftop (at Coors Field). That’s like a big bar in LoDo. At the Rooftop, the game isn’t on TV, it’s right in front of you. The Rockies are a Major League team but not run like one. They cannot draft and they cannot develop players. The quandry is that attendance is still middle of the pack, they’re still turning a profit. But if you were really bad since the late 1990s – with only two successes (2007 and 2009) – don’t you think most people in the galaxy would say we need to replace this guy.”

“For you as a (Rockies) fan, goodness gracious, can’t they fix the problem. (Owner Dick) Monfort is a square peg in a round hole kind of thing. He won’t fire anyone. If you can get a job there, you’re good to go. You’ve got a job for 40 years.”

“Yes, my hair looks different now. I shaved the sides earlier because (Post sportswriter) Adrian Dater shaves the sides of his head. I tried that and the only person who said it looked good was no one. Adrian can do it because he’s cool. That’s probably the only time I’ve said Adrian Dater and cool in the same sentence.”

“It’s amazing to think back to some of the sports heroes we knew and now they’re doing things like putting their keys in the refrigerator. We can’t imagine how life altering one concussion is, let alone several. It takes a certain breed of men to play football. The attitude is ‘it won’t happen to me.’ Pro athletes are wired differently. To win the Super Bowl, they push aside the ‘what if’ of concussions. Unless a superstar’s career is ended by a concussion, people won’t care. But if the Broncos win the Super Bowl, would Wes Welker remember it?”

“We’re a society that loves gladiators. Football is a perfect vehicle for that. You want to see this carnage. Football will always be a billion dollar industry but youth football will change because familes will be concerned (about head injuries). Does the NFL care? I think they care, but they’re businessmen.”

“I literally wanted to be a sports columnist since I was eight years old. The job of a columnist is to make people think, laugh and cry. It’s a cool honor to be a journalist and tell stories for a living. If I’m still writing a column in 10 years, I want my photo to be the slim one. Even if I get fat, I’d want the slim photo. When I lived in New Orleans, I ate everything. I was fat.”

“(Hurricane) Katrina was a heck of a wake-up call for me as a journalist. Katrina taught me to seize the day. It taught me about the fragility of life. As a storyteller, it taught me about actually writing a story that affects a reader. I was honored to help tell the story. I wrote ‘Fourth and New Orleans’ about the Tulane football team’s 2005 season. They played 11 games in 11 weeks in 11 different cities because they couldn’t play in their stadium.”

“If the name of your team offends a lot of people, why don’t you change it? The word Redskins was offensive in the 1950s, in the 1970s. If the NFL announced in a press conference that a team was to be in Los Angeles and they said the name of the team was the blackskins or brownskins or yellowskins – imagine if a person said that.”

SPJ Lunch at CSU - Taking a break from their Oct. 2 lunch at Colorado State University in Fort Collins are, left to right: Tammy Matthews, graduate student; Anna Groeling, SPJ student chapter vice president; Erin Douglas, SPJ student chapter officer-at-large; Allison Dyer Bluemel, SPJ student chapter president; Estes Park Trail-Gazette news editor David Persons; Kris Kodrich, SPJ student chapter adviser and CSU journalism professor; Kate Winkle, editor-in-chief of the Rocky Mountain Collegian; and Evergreen Newspapers editor Doug Bell (foreground). Persons, Bell and SPJ Colorado Pro Chapter president Ed Otte spoke to two journalism classes before the lunch with the SPJ student chapter members.

SPJ Lunch at CSU – Taking a break from their Oct. 2 lunch at Colorado State University in Fort Collins are, left to right: Tammy Matthews, graduate student; Anna Groeling, SPJ student chapter vice president; Erin Douglas, SPJ student chapter officer-at-large; Allison Dyer Bluemel, SPJ student chapter president; Estes Park Trail-Gazette news editor David Persons; Kris Kodrich, SPJ student chapter adviser and CSU journalism professor; Kate Winkle, editor-in-chief of the Rocky Mountain Collegian; and Evergreen Newspapers editor Doug Bell (foreground). Persons, Bell and SPJ Colorado Pro Chapter president Ed Otte spoke to two journalism classes before the lunch with the SPJ student chapter members.

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.

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