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It’s April and Colorado Pro is hoping your Spring has sprung. We are deep into planning for our biggest event of the year, the Top of the Rockies Awards Reception Friday April 25 at the Denver Press Club. More details below, but we hope you all can make it. We’ve awarded our 2014 scholarships and there’s also a cool May program coming up.

Top of the Rockies to ROCK the Denver Press Club

The Top of the Rockies Awards night, as we said, is next week! The fun starts at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, April 25, at the Denver Press Club, 1330 Glenarm, Denver. After socializing, networking, beverages and light appetizers, we’ll start the awards presentation at 7 p.m. We’ve got a NEW format for announcing awards that doesn’t involve a lot of name reading (don’t worry, you all will still get cool recognition in front of your peers). With a record number of entries this year, we’re expecting a lot of attendees to celebrate recognition for a lot of hard work and fantastic journalism in 2013. Entry is free to winners and we’ll ask for a small donation from others to help defray costs. Light appetizers will be provided with a cash bar. Our keynote speaker is Patty Calhoun, editor of Westword. Don’t forget to RSVP on our Facebook page, so we know how much food to make.

2014 Scholarship Winners Announced

Congratulations to the winners of this year’s scholarships by SPJ’s Colorado Pro chapter. Scholarships are awarded on the basis of merit, need and desire to be a journalist.
We had more applicants this year than we’ve had in a while, so thanks all you students for your interest. And because of the elevated number of applicants, the board awarded more money than ever: $7,500!
The envelope please.
The 2014 Helen Verba Awards for print journalism:
* Kiki Turner of the University of Colorado at Boulder, $1,500.
* Kara Mason of Colorado State University-Pueblo, $1,500.
* Scott Fromberg of Colorado State University, $1,500.
* Allison Dyer Bluemel of Colorado State University, $1,000.
* Cali Rastrelli of Colorado State University, $500.
* Hunter Goddard of Colorado State University, $500.

2014 Sheldon Peterson Award for broadcast journalism:
* Sasha Klepitskaya of the University of Colorado at Boulder, $1,000.

Here’s what Sasha had to say on FaceBook after being informed of her scholarship: “Today I was awarded a scholarship from the Society of Professional Journalists! It’s such an honor to be believed in by the best in the business, and it sure takes a little load off my pockets. I can’t thank the SPJ enough! Seems like after everything is said and done, I’m right where I need to be. – feeling blessed.”

We wish all the winners much luck in your continued journalistic endeavors.

May Programming update

Colorado will again play a prominent national role in the November elections and where there’s interest, there’s money – a lot of it – with much of it pouring in from outside the state.

Journalism and Women Symposium and the Colorado Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists will co-sponsor a program on elections and campaign finances on Thursday, May 1, at the Denver Press Club, 1330 Glenarm Place. The 6:30 p.m. event is free and open to the public.

Join Nancy Waltzman of the Sunlight Foundation, who will show you tools to follow the federal money that flows into the state, and Sandra Fish, an independent journalist, who will offer tips on tracking money at the state level.

The Sunlight Foundation is a nonpartisan nonprofit founded in 2006 that uses the power of the Internet to catalyze greater government openness and transparency.

JAWS supports the professional empowerment and personal growth of women in journalism and works toward a more accurate portrayal of the whole society.

From the face off between U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman and former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff to the competitive race between U.S. Sen Mark Udall and U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, to the battle over control of the Colorado Senate, there is much to watchdog. Fortunately, there are resources to help.

At the May 1 program, find out how to use Sunlight’s suite of tools and apps to track the latest campaign finance reports, ad spending, fundraisers and more. Learn to navigate the Secretary of State’s campaign finance system and where else to go for Colorado information (think TV ad contracts, with caveats and cautions on what to look for and what to look out for.

By Ed Otte

9News crime and justice reporter Anastasiya Bolton became a journalist because she wanted to tell “other” stories about her native Russia. That desire continues today.

Anastasiya Bolton

Anastasiya Bolton

“A famous Russian poet said, ‘Russia is like a swamp. It really sucks you in.’ He meant it in a good way,” Bolton said at the March 20 Fireside Chat at the Denver Press Club. The program was sponsored by the Colorado Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

Bolton immigrated to the United States at 17 and, she said, “In college I remember seeing negative coverage of the Russian economy. Stories about long lines of people waiting to get toilet paper. Nothing about the people, the culture and their passion. What they like to eat. I always liked to talk, so in my junior year I changed my major to broadcast news.

“I wanted to tell those other stories.”

After graduating from Southern Methodist University, Bolton worked at TV stations in Dallas, Amarillo and Tyler, Texas, and Birmingham, Ala. “You make mistakes at smaller stations until you get to a bigger market where you can make a livable wage. My last job before Denver was Birmingham and it was interesting to learn about the South.”

One of the major stories she covered, and helped her get a job at 9News, was Hurricane Katrina. It bolstered her resume and it was also an on-the-job educational experience.

“I didn’t know enough during my Katrina coverage to do good stories. I wasn’t good enough. I had to learn how to get people to talk to me with that thing (camera) rolling.”

The Fireside Chat was taped by Denver Channel 8 and will be broadcast at a later date. Bolton declined to discuss the events in Ukraine on camera because, as a reporter, she didn’t want to express political opinions.

One of Bolton’s recent assignments was covering the Sochi Olympics with two other 9News reporters.

“I can’t say a negative thing (about the games),” she said. “I think Russia did a wonderful job putting it on. I’m here now so I wasn’t blown up. And that was a concern. Before going there, I was scared. Channel 9 was very restrictive in what we could do. We stayed inside the ring of steel, so to speak.”

In response to a plumbing question, Bolton said, “No, I never saw brown water. The only thing that happened that was annoying was a sewer smell from the bathroom. And they fixed it.”

Her favorite Olympics story was about the patriotic atmosphere at Sochi.

“When I grew up, patriotism was shoved down your throats. So, for the longest time I doubted that Russians were really patriotic. I thought Americans were pro-country. But Russians are really patriotic. It comes from the depths of their souls. Even with the problems there.”

The “most fun” Sochi story was about food.

“Root vegetables was what we ate a lot because that was all we could get in the winter,” she said about her childhood years in Moscow. One day during the Olympics, “reporters sat at a long table and we ordered a lot of food. And we got to eat it. There is a silly picture of me holding a bowl of borscht and I was smiling like a three-year-old.”

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Journalism education panel
Denver Press Club
March 12, 2014

Mark Newton, Carrie Faust, Kristi Rathbun and Jack Kennedy at the Denver Press Club.

Mark Newton, Carrie Faust, Kristi Rathbun and Jack Kennedy at the Denver Press Club.

By Vicky Gits
At the high school level, kids are still interested in doing journalism and they are even more interested if they can do it online and see their work on a website.
Carrie Faust, a journalism teacher at Smoky Hill High School in Aurora, says productivity soared with the launch of the first school online vehicle, SmokyNow.com, late last year.
Since the debut of SmokyNow.com, in November writers have contributed 211 pieces of content. “More than five whole years,” said Faust.  Students write at least a story a week and Tweet every story published is mandatory, she said. In the works is an online magazine, SmokyNext.com.
A recent issue contained an article about a job fair at the new Dunkin Donuts being built on Smoky Hill Road and how to apply for a job there. Another story addressed how to pay for and complete an AP application.
The school administration resisted going online, but Faust said the kids are loving it.
Faust was part of a panel discussion on journalism education sponsored by SPJ Colorado Pro at the Denver Press Club Wednesday, March 12.
Others in the group included Mark Newton, student media adviser and journalism teacher at Mountain Vista High School; Kristi Rathbun, teacher and media adviser at Rock Canyon High School in Highlands Ranch, and Jack Kennedy, executive director of the Colorado High School Press Association.
Newton’s strategy is to encourage students to produce content for three media simultaneously: magazine, yearbook and online. Projects include broadcasting basketball games, a slam poetry night and a choir concert.
Beyond mastering the mechanics, the teaching process includes media literacy.
“This generation is a media turbo consumer,” said Rathbun, so there is an even greater need for students to be educated on media literacy.
At the same time there is a decline in the teaching of media literacy, Kennedy said.  “The vast majority of high school students are not taking a media class.”
“We believe it needs to start at third grade to help students to be better consumers of media,” said Kennedy.
Yearbook classes are in big demand on Rathbun’s campus. “Every year there are enough for three to four yearbook classes,” she said. Instead, she is assigned to teach remedial reading, which the administration regards as “more valuable.”
“We have approached journalism education in an elitist way,” Kennedy said. Teachers recommend the best students.  I call it the journalism ghetto. It’s invisible to the rest of the school. It has to be more universal.”
Audience member Doug Bell, editor of Evergreen Newspapers, said 90 percent of the publishing revenue continues to come from print, which relies on traditional news content.  Unfortunately all of the college graduates he has hired arrive completely unprepared for news writing, he said. They have no idea how government works.

“Tech skills are fantastic, but that’s not our first priority,” Bell said.
Just because content is online, doesn’t mean it is shoddy journalism, said Faust. “If it’s being taught, good writing is good despite being online. We created a website against our school’s wishes and went online anyway. The kids are publishing more than ever. It happens after class and goes to the editor.  I’m the adult and I never see it. They know the boundaries,” she said.
Kids learned a lesson recently when someone in another school posted a photo he or she borrowed from another website and later got a bill from the corporate copyright owner. “That becomes a teachable moment,” she said.

 

We sent out the following announcement this morning:

“Top of the Rockies 2014 Winners:   

Congratulations. One or more of your entries to the 2014 Top of the Rockies regional journalism competition was recognized as an award winner. You know the drill, we’re not going to announce exact places 1, 2 or 3 until the night of the awards banquet April 25.

 
That’s a Friday night and will be at the historic Denver Press Club, 1330 Glenarm, Denver. Cocktails after 5:30 and program starts at 7 p.m.
 
We will display the winners on our website spjcolorado.com for those who can’t make it that night (though I’d encourage you to do so, it’s going to be a lot of fun) The Colorado Pro board decided to streamline the announcements of the winners, so no sitting there for hours while names are read! We’re re-introducing our special awards this year and will be honoring the Journalist of the Year, Keeper of the Flame, Journalism Educator of the Year and First Amendment Award.

Thanks again everyone for entering and hope to see you Friday, April 25 at the DPC. Certificates will be mailed shortly after that date if you can’t pick up in person.

Welcome to March everyone.

The Colorado Pro chapter has a lot going on, so read on for some great upcoming programs and a recap of our panel discussions at the recent Colorado Press Association convention.

Region 9 Conference hits Salt Lake City March 28/29.

Our Region 9 Conference will be held Friday and Saturday, March 28th and 29th in sunny Salt Lake City.  There’s an outline of the conference schedule and a paypal link for people to register on the Utah Headliners’ website, utahspj.com.   The cost is $25 for SPJ members (and students) and $35 for non-members.

The state of scholastic journalism.

Challenges facing scholastic journalism will be discussed at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 12, at the Denver Press Club, 1330 Glenarm Place. The event is free and open to the public.

The value of journalism in schools (21st century learning and skills) will be discussed by the panel as well as student publication editorial control, finances, staff recruitment and retention, and relations with college journalism programs and working journalists.

Sponsored by the Colorado Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, the program will feature four current and former high journalism teachers and advisers:

- Mark Newton, journalism teacher and media adviser at Mountain Vista High School in Highlands Ranch, is president of the Journalism Education Association.

- Jack Kennedy, executive director of the Colorado High School Press Association and JEA past president, is the former newspaper adviser at Rock Canyon High School in Highlands Ranch. He is an adjunct professor at Metro State University of Denver and Colorado State University in Fort Collins.

- Carrie Faust, Smoky Hill High School in Aurora, is the JEA Southwest Region director.

- Kristi Rathbun, Rock Canyon High School, is JEA’s state director.

Anastasiya Bolton leads Fireside Chat

9News reporter Anastasiya Bolton will be featured in a Fireside Chat at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 20, at the Denver Press Club, 1300 Glenarm Place.

The event is free and open to the public.Anastasiya_Bolton

Bolton, who covers crime and justice at 9News, will discuss her coverage of the Sochi Olympics at the Fireside Chat. She went to Russia in June 2013 to do pre-Olympics stories and then spent February in Sochi during the games.

A native of Moscow, Bolton came to the United States to attend college. After graduating from Southern Methodist University, she worked at TV stations in Dallas, Amarillo and Tyler, Texas, and Birmingham, Ala., before joining 9News.

The Sochi Olympics weren’t Bolton’s first return to Russia on a news assignment. While working at the Tyler station she traveled to Siberia to do stories on the plight of Russian orphans.

Bolton and photojournalist Andy Buck received a national Edward R. Murrow award in 2013 for a series on a Fort Collins woman who survived a killer. In 2007, she won a regional Emmy in Spot News for her coverage of the Safeway warehouse shooting.

Sunshine Week approaches

The Colorado Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition will present a one-hour webinar on Sunshine Week at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 4.

Sunshine Week, the annual celebration of your right to know what and why and how decisions are made by your local, state and national government, is March 16-22. The CFOIC is also sponsoring a panel discussion on “Who’s Records Are They Anyway? How to Get Your Hands on Public Records” on March 19.

The 12-year-old event is officially described as a national initiative to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information. At the grassroots level, it is yearly reminder that every resident of every community has a right to know how the town board, city council, school board, county commissioners and every other elected and appointed board operates.

At the practical level, it also serves as a reminder to public officials that they are to be held accountable for their decisions and actions.

While a variety of organizations – nonprofits, libraries, schools and civic groups – participate in Sunshine Week activities, the news media are often at the forefront of open government and freedom of information projects each March and throughout the year. FOI resources and project ideas can be found on the sunshineweek.org website.

The site features a Sunshine Week Toolkit and Idea Bank.

Last fall, the Colorado Pro Chapter partnered with CFOIC to present open government programs to college students and professors at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, CU-Boulder and on the Auraria campus in Denver.

SPJ and CFOIC also conducted an open government panel session on Feb. 21 at the Colorado Press Association annual convention in Denver.

SPJ at CPA

Colorado Pro Chapter conducted two sessions at this year’s Colorado Press Association annual convention at the Westin Denver Downtown Hotel, Feb. 20.

 Panelists Jim Anderson, left, Steve Zansberg and Jeff Roberts at the Feb. 21 FOI session during the CPA convention. CREDIT:  Thomas Cooper of Lightbox Images


Panelists Jim Anderson, left, Steve Zansberg and Jeff Roberts at the Feb. 21 FOI session during the CPA convention. CREDIT: Thomas Cooper of Lightbox Images

The first was a freedom of information/open government discussion featuring panelists Jeff Roberts, executive director of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition; CFOIC president and First Amendment attorney Steve Zansberg; Cara DeGette, editor of Colorado Public News and immediate past president of  Colorado Pro and Jim Anderson, The Associated Press news editor for Colorado, Montana and Wyoming, and ethics chair of the SPJ Colorado Pro Chapter.

The second SPJ session focused on diversity in newsrooms and in news coverage. The panelists were Denver Post director of news operations Linda Shapley; Tim Ryan, assistant news director at 9News; and Gil Asakawa, manager of student media at CU-Boulder, president of the Denver chapter of the Asian American Journalists Association, and diversity chair of the SPJ Colorado Pro Chapter.

Because of the flood of late entries (you KNOW who you are) and because everyone’s distracted by the Denver Broncos playing in Super Bowl XLVIII, we’ve decided to extend the deadline for the 2013 Society of Professional Journalist’s Top of the Rockies regional journalism contest to Monday Feb. 3, midnight NO EXCEPTIONS.

This is hands-down the biggest and best journalism contest in the West! Better Newspaper Contests makes online entry easy. Freelancer? No problem, choose “open contestant” and enter away. Go to our webpage www.spjcolorado.com for a downloadable .pdf with all the contest rules, categories and entry fees (cheap! And members get one entry free – so sign up TODAY) – Go to  the “Top of the Rockies” Page.

Questions? Email Colorado Pro Prez Dennis Huspeni or acting Contest Chairman Tak Landrock at contest@spjcolorado.com.

By Ed Otte

Local public radio stations are a valuable part of people’s lives in rural Colorado.
“In isolated mountain communities, public radio stations are vital for them,” said Bente Birkeland, capitol coverage reporter for Rocky Mountain Community Radio.

 Bente Birkeland, capitol coverage reporter for Rocky Mountain Community Radio.

Bente Birkeland, capitol coverage reporter for Rocky Mountain Community Radio.

“They have information about local events, everything from meetings to fundraisers. Most are NPR members so they have national and international news. And they select their own music playlist. It’s a different vibe, it’s fun.”
Birkeland spoke at the Society of Professional Journalists Colorado Pro Chapter Fireside Chat on Jan. 15 at the Denver Press Club.

RMCR stations are in Colorado farm and ranch communities in Ignacio and Westcliffe and the Telluride and Aspen ski towns as well as Denver, Colorado Springs and Boulder. Birkeland provides year-round state government news coverage to the 17 non-commercial public stations. Listeners hear more of her audio feeds during the annual legislative session, which began Jan. 8.
Birkeland and her editor, KUNC news director Brian Larson in Greeley, discuss story ideas for the RMCR audience.
“We determine what statewide stories to send them, stories they can’t get anywhere else,” she said. “Some of these stations are a little isolated and small. They don’t have a news director.”

Some stations partner with local newspapers to bolster their news coverage. Birkeland cited KBUT in Crested Butte as an example where Crested Butte News staffers read their stories on air and the weekly paper has a website link to KBUT.  The station’s website lists recent stories including Birkeland’s audio reports from the first week of the session.

Not all of her stories occur in the capitol building.

Last November Birkeland interviewed the owner of the historic Sands Theater in Brush for a story about $200,000 in state funds to try and save 13 rural theaters struggling with the cost of conversion to digital equipment. The theaters range from The Ute Theatre in Saguache to the Crow Luther Cultural Events Center in Eads.
“The grant money led to that story outside of the capitol. I like doing those, going out to communities and telling the human impact.”

She also writes stories for RMCR members and her theater story and photos are archived on the KUNC website.

Birkeland began her RMCR work in 2006 and “the coverage has changed. Years ago I did a piece for the next morning. Now, I may do two stories each day and they play them that afternoon or evening. I also tweet when I’m covering events, not a lot but a few. Twitter is good social media but it doesn’t offer a chance for nuance or perspective.”

She has seen other changes in legislative coverage.

“We went through a period, a few years ago, when budgets were cut, the number of reporters really declined. But it’s back up now. Some papers again have reporters there each day, some added a second reporter. I think the capitol coverage is pretty robust now. It’s better when more people cover the legislature.”

Her prediction for this session?
“After all these years, you understand the ebbs and flows of the legislature,” she said. “It’s definitely always interesting but I don’t expect much to happen in an election year in terms of policy. Not much substance compared to last year.”
The outlook is so calm that a capitol pressroom colleague “was talking about Chris Christie and he said why can’t we have something like that.”
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