Denver Post reporter Jennifer Brown received the 2015 Palmer Hoyt Journalist of the Year award on May 15 from the Colorado Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
The award was one of four special honors announced at the chapter’s annual Region 9 Top of the Rockies awards ceremony at the Denver Press Club. The 422 first-, second- and third-place TOR contest awards went to journalists in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. This year’s contest received 784 entries, which were judged by the SPJ Connecticut Pro Chapter.
The winners list: TORwinners.
KUSA 9News anchor Adele Arakawa with her 2015 SPJ Keeper of the Flame Award and Bob Burdick.
The special award recipients were selected by the SPJ Colorado Pro board. In addition to the Journalist of the Year Award, Leadville Herald Democrat editor Marcia Martinek received the First Amendment Award, KUSA 9News anchor Adele Arakawa received the Keeper of the Flame Award, and Kenn Bisio of Metropolitan State University-Denver received the Journalism Educator of the Year Award.
Sandra Fish, president-elect of Journalism & Women Symposium and a data journalist for New Mexico In Depth, introduced Brown.
“At The Post, Jen covered higher ed, the legislature and health before joining the special projects team. As a projects reporter, she has investigated the state child welfare system, the parole system, mental health care and child homelessness. She has won Best of the West and National Headliner awards while at The Post.
“With Michael Booth, she co-authored the book “Eating Dangerously: Why the Government Can’t Keep Your Food Safe and How You Can” a work prompted by the 2013 listeria outbreak caused by Colorado cantaloupes.
“Her work on problems with the state’s foster care system prompted lawmakers to ask Gov. John Hickenlooper to replace the leadership of the state’s human services agency. She’s collaborated with others at The Post to produce compelling multimedia work about homeless students, the mental health system and more, using statistics, but, more importantly, the tales of real people to illustrate how we’re failing those who need our help the most.”
Leadville Herald Democrat editor Marcia Martinek, right, with her 2015 SPJ First Amendment Award and Ashley Kissinger.
Ashley Kissinger, whose Denver law firm of Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz represented the Herald Democrat in its open government lawsuit, introduced Martinek.
“Marcia is receiving this First Amendment Award because of her tenacious pursuit of audiotapes of an illegal secret meeting held by Leadville’s Board of County Commissioners back in 2013. The board had learned that the head of the county’s building and land use department was selling prescription narcotics out of his county office. So the board held a two-day long executive session closed to the public and told the employee in the meeting he would be fired if he didn’t resign, which he did.
“Because this was a personnel matter, the board did have the right to discuss it privately under the Open Meeting Law. But that law requires that the public be notified that the discussion is taking place, and know as much about the purpose of the meeting as possible without compromising the reason for holding it privately in the first place. None of that happened here. The board didn’t notify the public that it planned to hold this meeting. The commissioners just gathered in a room, said to nobody, since nobody was there, that they were meeting to discuss a personnel matter and to speak with their attorney, didn’t give any other information, and then locked their door and held their meeting. And then afterwards the board dragged its feet before telling the public that it had held this meeting, publishing minutes of it only after Marcia and her team at the Herald Democrat received a tip and began asking questions.
“”Marcia gave the board many chances to do the right thing, but after they and their counsel ducked and weaved around the law in letter after letter, she made the difficult decision to sue – a decision not lightly made by the editor of a weekly newspaper in a small community. The board defended the suit on numerous legal grounds and a half-day trial was held before the district judge in Leadville, with four witnesses testifying. The judge ruled in favor of Marcia and the paper, writing a detailed opinion and awarding $64,000 in attorney’s fees and costs to Marcia and the paper.
“The board appealed the decision and the Colorado Court of Appeals heard oral arguments on April 29.
“No matter what the ultimate resolution of this lawsuit is in the courts, Marcia deserves a load of thanks for taking on this fight. Litigation is never fun. And I imagine that when you stick your neck out as the editor of a small community newspaper, and slap your good name and that of your newspaper on a lawsuit that forces the county government to expend resources to fight that lawsuit, you can worry yourself sick over whether you are doing the right thing. And convincing your publisher to go for it must add an additional layer of stress. So I commend SPJ for choosing Marcia Martinek for its First Amendment award this year. You could not have made a better choice.”
Denver Post reporter Jennifer Brown, right, with her 2015 SPJ Journalist of the Year Award and Sandra Fish.
Former Rocky Mountain News editor and Colorado Springs Gazette publisher Bob Burdick introduced Arakawa.
“I have the distinct honor of speaking about SPJ Colorado Pro’s Keeper of the Flame Award. This honors a person for distinguished service to journalism. That’s the technical description. But what it really honors is a distinguished journalist for service to his or her community.
“You know her, we know here and most of Colorado would recognize her on the street. That’s because she has been a rock steady figure helping our friends and neighbors cope with the tragedy of Columbine, the mindless bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building, the terrifying Four-Mile Canyon wildfire and so much more. Through it, she has won seven regional Emmys, including Best Anchor. Further, in 2013, she was inducted into the Silver Circle of the Heartland Chapter of Regional Emmy Awards.
“She also has been honored by the Asian American Journalists Association. She is a member of the Japanese American Citizens League and the Japanese American Service Committee, as well as the AAJA.”
MSU-Denver profession Kenn Bisio, right, with his 2015 SPJ Journalism Educator of the Year Award and Doug Bell.
Doug Bell, editor of the Evergreen Newspapers, introduced Bisio. Bell is an adjunct journalism instructor at MSU-Denver, and he and Bisio shared an office on the Metro campus in the 1990s.
“It’s difficult to introduce my friend Kenn Bisio without succumbing to the tendency to make lists. Usually I start with the well-known publications where his photos have appeared, from Newsweek to Sports Illustrated to National Geographic. Then I move on to the list of photojournalism awards he has won, everything from photographer of the year to NPPA awards too numerous to mention. Then there are the former students of Kenn who have won Pulitzer Prizes; two, with three Pulitzers between them.
“All of his former students understand that no assignment is routine or lacks significance, and that no subject is unimportant or unworthy of respect.
“Good journalism teachers give students the knowledge and experiences required to pursue the profession. Great journalism teachers produce professionals who carry forward an unserving commitment to excellence, a humble heart, and a mission to illuminate the human condition. Kenn, and countless students he has touched, share that rare combination of qualities. That’s why we’ve named him Journalism Educator of the Year.”