Mark your calendars now for the April 15 -16 SPJ Region 9 Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico!

SPJ Rio Grande and the University of New Mexico student chapter will be hosting the regional conference in the Land of Enchantment.

The two-day event will include speakers Robert Hernandez and Fred Brown, and will feature a variety of panels and workshops including: digital security, covering elections, crunching numbers, “backpack journalism” and multimedia, covering the environment and Indian Country, diversity – and much more!

The conference will be held at the University of New Mexico. The event hotel is Hotel Parq Central (which includes free shuttle service and free breakfast). When making your hotel reservations, be sure to mention SPJ to get the group rate.

Follow this link to register: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/spj-region-9-conference-tickets-21018198999

SPJ Rio Grande has reserved space on several of its panels, so if you feel you could help guide the conversation, reach out directly to organizer Laura Paskus at laura.paskus@gmail.com.

The conference schedule is listed below:

Friday, April 15




Digital Security: Journalists may pride themselves on protecting their sources but we leave them vulnerable every day with outdated digital security practices. Whether you’re covering national security for a major news organization or law enforcement in a small town, you should equip yourself with privacy tools for the age of StingRays and cell phone metadata. In this session, Dave Maass of the Electronic Frontier Foundation will provide a crash course on digital security to keep journalists and their sources safe.


Covering Elections:

2016 Political TV Ad Tracker: Nancy Watzman of The Internet Archive. This Knight-funded project uses audio fingerprinting to deliver data on how often political ads air, on what stations, in what states, etc.

Crunching the numbers: Sandra Fish on tracking data in your state with a review of tip sheets on Money in Politics, New Story Ideas, Politician Interviews and Covering Polls and Surveys.

Saturday, April 16


Registration and breakfast


Introduction by Fred Brown, former national SPJ president and key player in new SPJ Ethics Code.

Panel: Telling the Untold Stories: Bringing diverse voices into your coverage

Whose stories aren’t being told in your coverage? The session focuses on identifying the sources we don’t hear from in our newsrooms’ work, and creating an action plan for bringing those sources into our coverage. This is a hands-on workshop session with lots of interaction among attendees. Participants will leave with great sources for their organizations to reach out to and a game plan for how they’ll do it.

Panel: Multi-Media, Crossover, and Backpack Journalism

In today’s journalism world, reporters can no longer survive without multiple skills across platforms. But how can writers take photos that aren’t horrible? Television producers write great copy for the web? And all of us take video footage that doesn’t make people nauseous? SPJ’s regional experts on multimedia and backpack journalism share their tips.

Keynote speaker: Robert Hernandez / Lunch / Mark of Excellence awards

Covering Poverty

Co-sponsored with UNITY

New Mexico remains one of the poorest states in the nation and it is showing no signs of changing. From reservation life to rural Hispanic villages, the conditions, poor schooling and the lack of services seem to foster a repeating structure. What are we missing? How can we do a better job at coverage? How can we avoid poverty porn in our coverage? This panel will have journalists, activists and some politicians from both parties.

Panel: Covering the Environment in Native Communities

The Gold King Mine Spill had a significant impact on farmers and ranchers on the Navajo Nation, but that event was one of hundreds of potential environmental stories last year in Indian Country. Leaders in Native communities are using both traditional knowledge and innovations in technology to respond to environmental concerns and climate change. In this session, Native reporters and other journalists with extensive experience covering tribes in New Mexico will share advice and ideas for covering the environment in Indian Country.

Panel: Challenges for College Journalists

Is your campus news keeping up with user demand? How are you adapting to new platforms and competition for student attention? What constraints are impinging upon your journalism? We are crowd sourcing our list of challenges to be discussed; we’ll complete that list in the weeks leading up to the conference. [Please provide your thoughts to UNM Professor Mike Marcotte (mm@mikemarcotte.com).] Our panel will feature a college newspaper editor, media advisor, writing coach and a recent grad who’s gone pro.

Panel: Cops and Criminal Justice

The public’s relationship with law enforcement has undergone a fundamental shift during the past couple of years, with increased awareness of excessive force, police shootings captured on video and a growing number of federal investigations of police departments around the country. As journalists, we have an important duty to hold accountable individual officers and the systems in which they operate – for there is no more plain expression of state power than a police officer with a gun, a badge and the legal authority to use the power of both in an incredibly personal way. Further, police officers are asked increasingly to deal with some of society’s larger problems – addiction, mental illness, etc. – even though they are ill-equipped to the task, reform advocates say. Covering these issues is complicated and difficult for journalists, because law enforcement often is a more closed society than other areas of government. This panel will explore strategies that have and have not worked in telling these important stories.

Panel: How To Report On Solutions  

When you report on a problem in your community, do you offer potential solutions? We end our regional conference with an introduction to new approaches from organizations like the Solutions Journalism Network and Images of Voices and Hope, which trains journalists in a “restorative narrative” model of reporting.  We present the opportunities and challenges in these models and tell you where you can go to find resources and training.

IMG_0477Nancy Watzman, left, television archive managing editor at the Internet Archive, and Sandra Fish, president of Journalism & Women Symposium, presented a program on how to follow the money and political advertising in 2016 on Jan,. 6 at the Denver Press Club. The program, co-sponsored by the Colorado Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and JAWS, was taped by Denver Media Services and will be broadcast on Channel 8.

Jan. 30 — Colorado Press Women will start the new year with a program on “Exploring gender equity for professional women in journalism and mass communications in Colorado.” We are using this gathering to launch a conversation about how far women have come in our members’ professions, how far we have to go, and how we can “lean in” to level the playing field for women journalists and communications professionals.

The panel discussion on gender equity features Tiffani Lennon, author of research on gender equity and a book Recognizing Women’s Leadership; Patti Dennis, longtime news director of 9News who is now vice president/regional news director and director of recruiting for TEGNA Media (formerly called Gannett Broadcasting); and Meghan Lyden, senior editor for photography and multimedia at The Denver Post.

The event will be held from 9:30 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Jan. 30, at the CCD Confluence Building on the Auraria Campus. In addition to campus parking lots, the location is well-served by RTD’s Light Rail – the Colfax at Auraria and Auraria West stations for lines W,C,D,E,F,H. See Light Rail map for the line nearest you. The CCD Confluence Building is near Colfax.

Registration fees of $5 for communications students, $10 for CPW members, and $15 for guests will include coffee, tea and pastries. Register online through PayPal. http://coloradopresswomen.org/events.shtml

The deadline to submit entries in the Society of Professional Journalists 2016 Region 9 Top of the Rockies Excellence in Journalism contest is 5 p.m. Jan. 22. The annual contest attracts entries from print, broadcast and digital journalists in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

Go to coloradospj.wordpress.com and click the Top of the Rockies link in the menu bar for information about the categories, entry requirements and access to the contest website to enter your award-winning work.

The contest fee is $15 per entry. Payment must be made when entries are submitted and the contest website features a revenue manager module to make payment easier.

Questions? Email contest coordinator Deb Hurley Brobst at dchurley@aol.com.

Last year, 784 entries were submitted in the various categories and a similar number of entries is expected in 2016. Another SPJ pro chapter will judge the entries.

The TOR awards program will be in mid-April at the Denver Press Club, 1330 Glenarm Place. Winners will be notified in March. More than 100 people, from all of the Region 9 states, attended last year’s awards program at the Press Club.

We hope to see you there.

The irascible Trumbo

This is one in a series of interviews with Colorado journalists.

By Ed Otte

“It’s always enjoyable to talk about the irascible Trumbo,” Laurena Mayne Davis said.

Irascible. Academy Award winner. Controversial. National Book Award winner. Blacklisted screenwriter. Free speech champion.

All of these adjectives describe the author and more people are talking about him now with the November release of “Trumbo” starring Bryan Cranston. The film received critical praise and not just because it features the Emmy-winning “Breaking Bad” actor.

“Trumbo” is about one of the Hollywood Ten who was convicted of contempt of Congress after he refused in 1947 to reveal to the House Un-American Activities Committee the names of people alleged to have American Communist Party influence in the movie industry.

Blacklisted during the 1950s, Dalton Trumbo won Academy Awards under pen names for “Roman Holiday” (1953) and “The Brave One” (1956). Those were just two in a long – and impressive – list of screenplays he wrote from 1936-1973.

Trumbo first earned national attention when he won the 1939 National Book Award for “Johnny Got His Gun,” an anti-war novel about a young American soldier in World War 1.

The writer gained local attention in Western Colorado with the 1935 publication of his first novel, “Shale City.” Born in 1905 in Montrose, Trumbo grew up in Grand Junction. He attended the University of Colorado-Boulder in the 1920s and in 1993 CU dedicated a campus fountain court to him in recognition of his free-speech celebrity status.

Laurena Mayne Davis

Laurena Mayne Davis

The portrayal of Grand Junction residents in “Shale City” sparked a hostile reaction. And that’s why Davis, former managing editor of The Daily Sentinel, is involved in the Trumbo story. Today, she is an instructor at Colorado Mesa University teaching Media Theory, Writing and Reporting for Media, and Mass Media: Impact and History.

Question: In your 2007 book “125 People/125 Years: Grand Junction’s Story” you wrote: “(Trumbo) is the city’s most accomplished artistic export by far, but the supportive warmth from his hometown chilled with his 1935 publication of ‘Eclipse,’ a novel in the vein of social satire that angered townspeople who recognized, or thought they recognized, themselves in it.” How long did their animosity last?

Davis: Decades, I’ve heard, although those with long-term grudges likely were a vociferous few. Additional hometown animosity later was heaped on Trumbo during the Cold War, due to his affiliation with communism. For people predisposed to not like him following “Eclipse,” that was a one-two punch. For many people — in Grand Junction and elsewhere — during that period of hyper-nationalism, the Hollywood 10 were not viewed as defenders of the First Amendment, but as traitors.

Question: You also state in your book that Trumbo wrote for The Daily Sentinel while he was a student at Grand Junction High School. Were you able to find any of his stories in the newspaper’s archives?

Davis: My students have found them. In 2005 I taught a class titled “Dalton Trumbo’s Legacy” at Mesa State College, now Colorado Mesa University. We read four books, watched 10 of Trumbo’s films, did a read-through of his play “The Biggest Thief in Town” and went on a tour of significant sites, including his boyhood home. Students also had to complete a final project. For that project, some students pored over microfilm of The Daily Sentinel during Trumbo’s tenure as a cub reporter and printed off everything with his byline. It was standard beginner fare: high school news, service club meeting reports, etc., but it’s fascinating to read that early boilerplate and realize the same writer went on to win a National Book Award and two Academy Awards.

Question: When “Eclipse” was reprinted in 2005, it included a “Who’s Who in Shale City” list of the book’s characters with their real-life inspirations. What was the community reaction to the list?

Davis: The old-timers got out their own lists and compared them! There was a lot of overlap. It fostered some good-natured discussion.

Question: In October 2007 a bronze antique bathtub with the naked 62-year-old Trumbo was installed in front of the Avalon Theatre in downtown Grand Junction. The downtown has many impressive sculptures but why was the bathtub — from an old black-and-white photo of the writer — selected?

Davis: Trumbo was an outsized personality. A traditional bust hardly would have been appropriate. The photo, which shows Trumbo writing in his bathtub, was taken by his daughter Mitzi. Trumbo family members were consulted to make sure they would not be offended by a whimsical selection. They loved it. Legends Committee members, who first united for the Trumbo statue, have gone on to raise money for the installation of eight more bronzes of historical figures. All include storytelling elements. The Trumbo statue is a draw for impromptu seasonal decorating, whether it’s a Broncos beanie or a Santa hat. During the local special showing of the biopic “Trumbo,” the statue had a top hat.

Trumbo was wearing a top hat in honor of the screening.

Trumbo was wearing a top hat in honor of the screening. Photo by Dean Humphrey/The Daily Sentinel

Question: What was the public reaction to the sculpture?

Davis: Probably divided along the same lines of those who either admire or dislike Trumbo and what he stood for. Some appreciate the humor; some don’t. One thing’s for sure, though, even if people don’t know Trumbo from history, they know about “the guy in the bathtub downtown.” It’s a conversation-starter.

Question: In earlier interviews you said you included Trumbo in your Colorado Mesa University class discussions. What were the discussions? Do you do that now in your classes?

Davis: I always teach a section on Trumbo in my Mass 110 gen-ed course, “Mass Media: Impact and History.” Because Trumbo was a journalist, author, playwright, screenwriter and member of the Hollywood 10, we can cite his career as a touchstone in many areas of mass media. Every semester, students are struck by the fact that someone so famous came from western Colorado. I recently solicited student comments about Trumbo. Jayde wrote: “To learn about someone who had such a huge impact in the development of the nation and helped to recognize the rights given by the First Amendment is inspiring. To learn that they were born in my hometown and grew up in the place that I went to seek higher education gives me hope that I might be able to amount to something great, even if I grew up in a town off the radar to most of the country.”

Question: With free speech being unfiltered today in social media, do students appreciate Trumbo’s defiance and courage in the 1940s?

Davis: We watch the 2007 documentary “Trumbo,” which is a reading by multiple actors of Trumbo’s personal letters — some belligerent, some hilarious and some heartbreaking. Students do gain an understanding of the principled stand he and others took and the personal losses they suffered. From the same group of solicited student comments, Sarah wrote: “I wish I had lived at the time of the Hollywood 10, just to follow what was happening. He is very inspiring for never giving in to the pressures upon him.”

Question: Have you seen the Bryan Cranston movie? What do you think the community reaction will be to the film?

Davis: Members of the Legends Committee arranged for a special showing of the biopic “Trumbo” at the Avalon Theatre, on Nov. 13. It sold out. Trumbo’s daughter-in-law, Nancy Escher, spoke before the movie, as did a handful of people from the Legends Committee. As if witnessing a live performance, the audience clapped when the film was over. It really was a special, and perhaps a redemptive, moment. Larry Ceplair, who earlier this year published a fantastic new biography, was there to sign copies of “Dalton Trumbo: Blacklisted Hollywood Radical.” Trumbo’s son, Christopher, had planned to write the book, but he died from cancer before he could. He knew and liked Ceplair from his previous books and handed over his notes and family memorabilia to him. It’s amazingly well-researched. Anyone curious about Trumbo will learn much about him from Ceplair’s book.

What would you do?

By Ed Otte

What would you do?

The Colorado Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists partnered with the Colorado Press Association this fall in arranging visits to the state’s four-year university journalism programs. The visitation teams were comprised of SPJ and CPA representatives, most of whom were with daily and weekly newspapers near the campuses.

Ethics and news judgment were discussed during each visit, either with ethics classes or reporting and newswriting classes. Copies of the SPJ Code of Ethics were distributed in each class and the visitation team members asked real-life ethical questions.


1. Should your news organization identify the gunman in a mass shooting on a college campus in your city? Or should you subscribe to the “no noteriety” campaign to not name mass murderers? What would you do?

2. In early September, a BBC reporter interviewed a Syrian who was walking with other refugees in Hungary toward the Austrian border. A few seconds into the interview, the man asked the reporter to help him and his family. They were thirsty, hungry, tired and his children needed shoes. If you were the reporter, what would you do?

3. You are a TV reporter and the newly elected sheriff in your county asks if you would coach him on how to conduct large news conferences. He says he is comfortable in one-on-one interviews but doesn’t have news conference experience and feels nervious facing a group of reporters and TV cameras. What would you do?

4. You are a TV news director and your station manager wants to establish a policy to avoid conflicts between your staff’s consumer reporting and the station’s advertising clients. Should you push for a firewall that forbids communication between the newsroom and the advertising department? Or should you opt for a policy in which the ad department is advised not to schedule certain ads during a newscast that will feature a critical consumer story? What would you do?

5. You are the editor of a daily newspaper and you hire a young out-of-state reporter to cover the business beat. Two months into the job, you get a telephone call from a local businessman who said after the reporter interviewed him for a story, he asked if his company is looking for a public relations person. The reporter explained that his girlfriend majored in PR in college, she needs a job and would be a good hire for his company. What would you do?

6. You are the editor of a daily newspaper and you have an impressive college intern who is doing a terrific job covering concerts and interviewing touring musicians. One day you get an email urging you to compare recent stories in The New York Times with the stories written by the intern. You realize the student plagiarized the stories. What would you do?

7. You are the editor of a newspaper that has a strict policy against accepting gifts or favors, from news sources or advertisers or people in the communty. All such offers are to be declined. One day in mid-December, the newsroom receptionist knocks on your office door and tells you a woman wants to talk to you. Standing near the receptionist’s desk is an older woman holding a tray of homemade Christmas cookies. She wants to give you the cookies in appreciation for the coverage of her organization’s work in the community. What would you do?



1. This topic was discussed during our visit to Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction on Oct. 1, the day a gunman killed nine people on a community college campus in Roseburg, Ore.

Some of the CMU students criticized the news media for “glorifying” the shooters in these incidents and said the news coverage encourages copycat killings. When asked which news outlets glorify the gunmen, no one could cite an example. But they said using the gunman’s name and photo in stories gives him the noteriety he sought. The students were asked two local news questions: If a similar incident occurred on the CMU campus, would they want to know the identity of the gunman? Would they want to know the gunman’s motive?

Some students said the victims are forgotten while the gunman’s name is used repeatedly in stories. The four-month Aurora theater shooting trial was cited as an example.  It was pointed out by one of the editors that many of the news organizations that covered the trial devoted space or time to the victims and their families. And the judge listened to comments by the families during the sentencing phase, and those were reported.

The topic was discussed during subsequent campus visits and the visitation team members emphasized two points:

A. Many young people don’t read newspapers or watch TV news. They get their information from the Internet and social media. It is there that the copycats learn about the shooting at Umpqua Community College.

B. “Don’t shoot the messenger” is how to describe reaction to the bearer of bad news – but that would have been an unwelcome way to phrase it in this discussion. “Don’t blame the messenger” if you don’t like the message, one member of the visitation team said.

2. The SPJ Code of Ethics advises journalists to act independently by avoiding “conflicts of interest, real or perceived. Disclose unavoidable conflicts.” Simply stated: Journalists should report the story, not become a part ot it.

The students wrestled with this, attempting to balance their obligation as a reporter with their humanistic desire to help the refugee. In each campus discussion, they said the reporter shouldn’t give the refugee anything during the interview. However, after the camera was turned off, many said they would give the man water or food or clothing.

3. Students understood the conflict of interest involved in coaching the sheriff, either as a paid or unpaid consultant. A visitation team member said the sheriff should seek professional advice from a former or retired journalist because “there are a lot of ex-TV reporters and anchors out there.”

4. The visitation team explained two points before asking the students for their opinions: 1. News organizations must be profitable and that means healthy advertising revenue. 2. The ad department often can provide good story tips to the newsroom.

The students saw the value in both policies. Some liked the firewall idea while others understood the business aspect. This led to a discussion about infotainment programming and the growth of native advertising. The SPJ Code of Ethics states: “Deny favored treatment to advertisers, donors or any other special interests, and resist internal and external pressure to influence coverage. Distinguish news from advertising and shun hybrids that blur the lines between the two. Prominently label sponsored content.”

5. The consensus of opinion among the students was that the reporter should be fired. It was explained by visitation team members that the reporter shouldn’t have mentioned his girlfriend to the businessman. He could have encouraged his girlfriend afterward to apply for the PR job, with everyone – the businessman, the girlfriend and the reporter – agreeing that, if she was hired, the relationship wouldn’t create favorable news coverage for the company. But they acknowledged that such an arrangement would be problematic. “This would have all kinds of potential headaches – for everyone involved,” one editor said. “A city of any size has lots of PR jobs. The young woman could seek a job with the school district, city government or the county or a college. Anything that isn’t on the reporter’s business beat.”

What did the editor do? After receiving the phone call, the editor called the reporter into his office and closed the door. He asked the reporter if he lobbied the businessman to hire his girlfriend. The reporter admitted he did because they needed two incomes to pay their living expenses. After explaining why his actions hurt the newspaper’s credibility, the editor fired the reporter and told him to remove his personal belongings from his desk. His final paycheck was mailed to him.

6. The SPJ Code of Ethics states: “Never plagiarize. Always attribute.” One member of the visitation team answered in Internet terms: “Google makes it easy to plagiarize. Google also makes it easy to discover where you stole the original content.” The editor fired the intern, whom he described as “a rising star” before her mistake “because if she didn’t learn then why it was wrong, she would likely continue to plagiarize other peoples’ work.”

7. According to the SPJ Code of Ethics, journalists should “refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment.” That sounds simple enough but this was awkward. As people in the newsroom watched, the editor thanked the woman and started to explain why he couldn’t accept the cookies. Would the woman understand the reason? Would she be embarrassed? After a few seconds, he thanked her and took the tray of cookies to the employee break room. However, clinging to the remaining shred of his ethical beliefs, he didn’t eat any of the cookies.

First Amendment attorney Steve Zansberg, left, president of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition and CFOIC executive director Jeff Roberts discussed FOI and open government issues on Nov. 4 at the Denver Press Club, The program, sponsored by the Colorado Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, was taped by Denver Media Services and will be broadcast on Channel 8. SPJ Colorado Pro president Ed Otte, right, was the moderator.

First Amendment attorney Steve Zansberg, left, president of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition and CFOIC executive director Jeff Roberts discussed FOI and open government issues on Nov. 4 at the Denver Press Club, The program, sponsored by the Colorado Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, was taped by Denver Media Services and will be broadcast on Channel 8. SPJ Colorado Pro president Ed Otte, right, was the moderator.


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