Feeds:
Posts
Comments

A reminder that Friday, March 27, is the early-bird registration deadline for the 2015 Society of Professional Journalists Region 9 Conference April 24-25 on the Auraria campus in downtown Denver.

You can register online here. Payment can be made by credit card when you register.

“Scaling New(s) Heights” is the theme for the conference, designed for college journalism students and faculty and professional journalists. The conference is cohosted by the SPJ Colorado Pro Chapter and the Auraria Campus Chapter.

The last time Denver was the conference site, in 2012, 140 students, faculty and professionals from Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming attended.

Conference highlights include panel discussions on freedom of information, ethics, diversity, multimedia journalism, non-profit news, investigative journalism, the future of the news industry, challenges for collegiate journalism, and how to get an internship and a job.

The Mark of Excellence Awards luncheon on April 25 will recognize outstanding work by student journalists in the four-state region. Following the luncheon, students will have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with professional journalists to discuss job interview tips and resume reviews.

The early bird registration provides a cost savings for SPJ member students, non-member students, SPJ member professionals and non-member professionals. Registration fees increase in all categories after March 27.

Attendees will be on their own Friday for lunch and dinner, and there are dozens of restaurants – in Larimer Square and on the 16th Street Mall – near the campus. For out-of-town visitors, there are many downtown hotels near Auraria. The SpringHill Suites are on campus.

Parking both days will be available on campus in surface lots and parking garages.

Conference Schedule

Friday, April 24
8:30 a.m. -Registration Desk Opens St. Cajetan’s Church, 1190 9th St., Auraria Campus
Morning Sessions
9 a.m. – Opening Remarks – Bill McCloskey, SPJ National Director At-large
9:15 – 10:30 a.m. – Session 1 FOI. Panel: Tom Johnson, SPJ Region 9 director; Jeff Roberts, Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition executive director; Peg Perl, Colorado Ethics Watch staff counsel.
10:45-Noon – Session 2 Ethics. Panel: Fred Brown, SPJ ethics committee vice-chair, former SPJ national president and former Denver Post capitol bureau chief; John Ensslin, The (Bergen, NJ) Record reporter; Gabrielle Porter, Evergreen Newspapers reporter.
10:45-Noon – Session 3 Diversity. Panel: Tak Landrock, Fox31 reporter; Gil Asakawa, CU-Boulder student media manager.
Noon-1:30 p.m. Lunch on Your Own
Afternoon Sessions
2-3:15 p.m. – Session 4 Multimedia Journalism. Panel: Phil Tenser, 7News digital executive producer; Nicki Jhabvala, Denver Post sports digital editor; Sandra Fish, independent journalist.
2-3:15 p.m. – Session 5 Non-profit News. Panel: Brian Calvert, High Country News associate editor; Neil Best, KUNC president and CEO; Cara DeGette, Greater Park Hill News editor.
3:30-4:45 p.m. – Session 6 Investigative Journalism. Panel: Natasha Gardner, 5280 Magazine senior editor; Bob Burdick, former Rocky Mountain News editor and Colorado Springs Gazette publisher; Burt Hubbard, Rocky Mountain PBS I-News editorial director.
3:30-4:45 p.m. – Session 7 Future of the News Industry. Panel: Lauren Gustus, Fort Collins Coloradoan executive editor; Neil Best, KUNC president and CEO; Jim Anderson, Associated Press Denver bureau news editor.
Dinner on Your Own

Saturday, April 25
8:30 a.m. Registration Desk Opens. St. Cajetan’s Church.
Morning Sessions
9-10:15 a.m. – Session 8 Challenges for Collegiate Journalism. College editors and advisers panel: Metropolitan State University-Denver, Colorado State University-Fort Collins, University of Colorado-Boulder, and Community College of Denver.
10:30-11:45 a.m. a.m. – Session 9 How to Get an Internship and a Job. Panel: Doug Bell, Evergreen Newspapers editor; Noelle Leavitt Riley, Craig Daily Press editor; Kara Mason, Colorado State University-Pueblo.
Noon- 2 p.m. – Mark of Excellence Awards Luncheon. Region 9 director Tom Johnson announces winners. St. Cajetan’s Church.
2:30-4:30 p.m. – One-on-one mentoring and resume review. Students will have the opportunity to discuss job interview techniques and have their resumes reviewed by professional journalists.

CLICK THE FLIER FOR MORE INFORMATION!

SPJ Conference flier for distribution

Sunshine Week 2015 is celebrated March 15-21 but the annual project’s goals – open government, transparency and accountability – should be sought every day of the year.

Begun in 2002 by Florida Society of Newspaper Editors, Sunshine Week is a national initiative to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information. Participants include news media, civic groups, libraries, nonprofits, schools and others interested in the public’s right to know.
Sunshine Week logo vertical
The project is supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and The Gridiron Club and Foundation. National coordinators are the American Society of News Editors and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

Open Government is Good Government
The Sunshine Week slogan is self-explanatory. The organization’s website – www.sunshineweek.org – features a long list of resources for news outlets, community groups and educational institutions to use to further the practice of open government. On the site’s menu bar, click Toolkit, Idea Bank or Schools & Colleges to find a trove of open government and FOI projects and programs.

Let the Sunshine In
The slogan for the Society of Professsional Journalists mirrors the Sunshine Week theme with an emphasis on FOI endeavors. Click here for valuable tools to use for FOI projects. And, like the Sunshine Week site, it is a convenient location to learn what groups around the country are doing in conjunction with the annual event.

The Voice for Open Government in Colorado
The Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition is a non-partisan alliance of groups and individuals dedicated to ensuring the transparency of government in the state by promoting freedom of the press, open courts and open access to government records and meetings. It is an excellent source of relevant and timely information about FOI activities in Colorado. Its website features updated reports about FOI-related actions in the legislature, courts and local government as well as resources for help on FOI issues.

The National Freedom of Information Coalition and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press are valuable sites for year-round open government and FOI issues.

Earlier this month, the SPJ Colorado Pro Chapter posted Sunshine Week commentaries on its website. They can be used by news organizations, civic groups, and schools and colleges any time of the year to help promote open government:

“Let’s recast the definition of ‘freedom of information'” by SPJ Region 9 director Tom Johnson

“We must remember to use the First Amendment” by CSU professor and Colorado SPJ Sunshine Chair Kris Kodrich

“Strengthen open meeting laws” by CFOIC executive director Jeff Roberts

“Sunshine in government is not a natural phenomenon, as it is in nature” by Denver journalist Nancy Watzman

By Ed Otte

Lisa Kennedy would like to move beyond the recent Academy Award nominations controversy. But it isn’t easy to avoid the topic.

The Denver Post film and theater critic was asked about the lack of diversity at this year’s Oscar awards ceremony during the March 11 Fireside Chat at the Denver Press Club. The program was sponsored by the Colorado Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

“They don’t think they are racist but I don’t know if they are,” Kennedy said in response to a question. “I’m just trying to figure it out and not be angry.”

Lisa Kennedy of The Denver Post

Lisa Kennedy of The Denver Post

The question was about the lack of recognition “Selma” received in the 87th Oscar nominations. The film, about the 1965 voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., received two nominations – Best Picture, and won for Best Original Song, “Glory.” Neither director Ava DuVernay nor David Oyelowo, who portrayed Martin Luther King, Jr., were nominated.

“I think Paramount mishandled the marketing of ‘Selma,'” she said. “But we’re constantly talking about snubs and there are a lot of them. Orson Welles was snubbed. Alfred Hitchcock was snubbed.

“What’s wrong with the Academy? The lack of diversity. I don’t want to know how clubby the industry is. I’m more interested in seeing what the industry does now with gender diversity and racial diversity.”

Kennedy also cited box office appeal that reflects public attitudes. “It would more interesting if ‘Selma’ was making the same money as ‘American Sniper.'”

According to Box Office Mojo, “American Sniper” is the No. 1 domestic grossing 2014 film with $337,852,209. “Selma” is ranked 62nd with $51,057,668. Both films opened on Christmas Day.

Kennedy worked as an editor at other publications, including the Village Voice, before joining the Post in 2004. “When I made the shift from editing to writing it was because it would be something I enjoy doing.”

And although she crafts well-written articles, Kennedy added: “My approach to writing is not comfortable. But I try. I don’t have a good filter for what I want to write. That’s why I’m not a good blogger. I like tweeting.”

Admitting “a terrible film is more fun to review then a mediocre film,” she said both efforts require attention. “It takes the same amount of energy. Your name is on the piece. I can watch a mediocre documentary about a topic I’m interested in and like it but I can’t do that with a mediocre narrative film.”

An example of an interesting documentary, she said, is “Rolling Papers.” The 2014 independent feature examined Colorado’s cannibis culture and “our pot editor, Ricardo Baca. That sounds funny, our pot editor, but that’s who he is. The Village Voice had one of those before it was a title.”

Another person asked about critics who have reputations for being harsh in their reviews. “I don’t like judging people. Some (critics) like to tear things apart. They have such panache. But it’s like, don’t pull the wings off, it’s a ladybug.”

Three years ago, theater critic was added to Kennedy’s assignments. She displays equal interest for the stage and the screen.

“I think there’s a theater culture in Denver that’s bubbling up,’ she said. “There’s smart programming going on at the Denver Theatre Center development company. Buell’s the economic engine but there’s some other good theater going on. I think play development will make us (Denver) important. You want people to come here to perform and produce but you want people to stay. You want that mix of new play development and tour companies.”

The same is true for film production. “You look at Boston and Austin as examples, we really don’t have the narrative business now but we do have a documentary infrastructure that is being nurtured. I think there are a lot of crews here who can produce films, documentaries and commercials.

“The Colorado Film School at Lowry is a lot more about film production than film studies. Hands-on training. Pretty complete.”

Kennedy’s favorite films?

“I give a stock answer,” she said. “No, it’s not a stock answer. It’s true. ‘Wizard of Oz’ is my favorite. I can watch that over and over.  I just love it. I didn’t see it on the screen. I saw it on TV. I don’t want to see her go back to Kansas. I want her to stay in Oz.”

“Wizard of Oz” was released in 1939. “I’m a ’30s, ’40s kind of person. There’s some great ’70s things I like.”

The other films:

“Best Years of Our Lives’ (1946) “Still one of the most satisfying movies about men coming back from war and rebuilding their lives.”

“Bonnie and Clyde” (1967)

“Do The Right Thing” (1989)

“And I like Quintin Tarantino,” she said. “I’m so into his work.”

“Scaling New(s) Heights” is the theme of the 2015 Society of Professional Journalists Region 9 Conference April 24-25 on the Auraria campus in downtown Denver.

The conference, designed for college journalism students and faculty and professional journalists, is cohosted by the SPJ Colorado Pro Chapter and the Auraria Campus Chapter. The last time Denver was the conference site, in 2012, 140 students, faculty and professionals from Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming attended.

Conference highlights include panel discussions on freedom of information, ethics, diversity, multimedia journalism, non-profit news, investigative journalism, the future of the news industry, challenges for collegiate journalism, and how to get an internship and a job.

The Mark of Excellence Awards luncheon on April 25 will recognize outstanding work by student journalists in the four-state region. Following the luncheon, students will have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with professional journalists to discuss job interview tips and resume reviews.

People may register at SPJ Region 9 Conference at http://www.eventbrite.com/e/spj-region-9-conference-tickets-16004108720?aff=eac2

Early bird registration fees are in effect until March 27 for SPJ member students, non-member students, SPJ member professionals and non-member professionals. Registration fees increase in all categories after March 27. Payment may be made by credit card on the eventbrite site.

Attendees will be on their own Friday for lunch and dinner, and there are dozens of restaurants – in Larimer Square and on the 16th Street Mall – near the campus. For out-of-town visitors, there are many downtown hotels near Auraria. The SpringHill Suites are on campus.

Parking both days will be available on campus in surface lots and parking garages.

Conference schedule
Friday, April 24
8:30 a.m.: Registration Desk Opens St. Cajetan’s Church, 1190 9th St., Auraria Campus

Morning sessions
9 a.m.: Opening Remarks – Bill McCloskey, SPJ National Director At-large

9:15-10:30 a.m.: Session 1 FOI. Panel: Tom Johnson, SPJ Region 9 director; Jeff Roberts, Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition executive director; Peg Perl, Colorado Ethics Watch staff counsel.

10:45 a.m.-Noon: Session 2 Ethics. Panel: Fred Brown, former SPJ national president and ethics chair; John Ensslin, The (Bergen, NJ) Record reporter; Deb Hurley Brobst, contributing editor, Evergreen Newspapers.

10:45 a.m.-Noon: Session 3 Diversity. Panel: Tak Landrock, Fox31 reporter; Gil Asakawa, CU-Boulder student media manager.

Noon-1:30 p.m. Lunch on your own

Afternoon sessions

2-3:15 p.m.: Session 4 Multimedia Journalism. Panel: Phil Tenser, 7News digital executive producer; Nicki Jhabvala, Denver Post sports digital editor; Sandra Fish, independent journalist.

2-3:15 p.m.: Session 5 Non-profit News. Panel: Brian Calvert, High Country News associate editor; Neil Best, KUNC president and CEO; Cara DeGette, Greater Park Hill News editor.

3:30-4:45 p.m.: Session 6 Investigative Journalism. Panel: Natasha Gardner, 5280 Magazine senior editor; Bob Burdick, former Rocky Mountain News editor and Colorado Springs Gazette publisher; Burt Hubbard, RMPBS I-News editorial director.

3:30-4:45 p.m.: Session 7 Future of the News Industry. Panel: Lauren Gustus, Fort Collins Coloradoan executive editor; Neil Best, KUNC president and CEO; Jim Anderson, Associated Press Denver bureau news editor.

Dinner on your own

Saturday, April 25

8:30 a.m.: Registration desk opens. St. Cajetan’s Church, 1190 9th St., Auraria Campus

Morning sessions
9-10:15 a.m.: Session 8 Challenges for Collegiate Journalism. College editors and advisers panel: Metropolitian State University-Denver, Colorado State University-Fort Collins, University of Colorado-Boulder, and Community College of Denver.

10:30-11:45 a.m. a.m.: Session 9 How to Get an Internship and a Job. Panel: Doug Bell, Evergreen Newspapers editor; Noelle Leavitt Riley, editor, Craig Daily Press; Kara Mason, Colorado State University-Pueblo.

Noon- 2 p.m.: Mark of Excellence Awards Luncheon. Region 9 director Tom Johnson announces winners. St. Cajetan’s Church.

2:30-4:30 p.m.: One-on-one mentoring and resume review. Students will have the opportunity to discuss job interview techniques and have their resumes reviewed by professional journalists.

Note: This is one in a series of articles in the SPJ Colorado Pro Chapter’s 2015 Sunshine Week project. Sunshine Week is March 15-21.

By Nancy Watzman

In 1998, civil rights advocate Amos Brown, now a board member of the NAACP, learned the extent to which the government had followed him in the late 1950s, when he was a teenager in segregated Mississippi.

That was when, thanks to litigation by the ACLU, the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission was forced to open its files. The commission had become a de facto spy agency on the civil rights movement though its goal was supposedly to protect the state from federal overreach follwing the Supreme Court’s 1954 decision in Brown v. the Board of Education to desegregate the nation’s school systems.

Nancy Watzman

Nancy Watzman

Among the papers was a memo detailing how a vice president at a local bank had reported to the town’s mayor that Brown and another activist had opened a bank account and deposited $46.80. The mayor then told the police. Other papers on file at the commission reported how Brown had spoken at meetings, noted his arrests at sit-ins, and referred to him as a “full-fledged agitator.”

The commission had not wanted to release these papers. It took hard work to make them do so. But how invaluable this information is in building  a true picture of the history of this nation. The documents are collected online; now anybody can search them.

Sunshine in government is not a natural phenomenon, as it is in nature. To the extent that we have it, it’s often due to the dogged groups of reporters, advocacy groups like the ACLU, and others who fight for it. And as technology changes, so too does the terms and means of how we can force that sunshine.

At the federal level, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and, in Colorado, the Open Records Act (CORA), remain the backbones for public access to government information and data. But increasingly, advocacy groups such as the Sunlight Foundation and others are arguing for the principle of open data – that the presumption should be on the government to keep things out of reach as opposed to the other way around.

Rather than sitting around waiting for requests to come in from the public, government ought to make information available to all online. Anyone with access to the Internet should be able to pursue their inquiries without the burden of filing a formal request, watching weeks turn into months into years. Sure, there are sometimes reasons why governments need to keep sensitive information from the public. But, of course, what one government at one time and in one place considers “sensitive” is not always in the broader public interest. Just ask Amos Brown, who at 17 had the audacity to open a bank account in Jackson, Mississippi.

Nancy Watzman is a Denver-based reporter who has worked for such watchdog groups as the Sunlight Foundation, the Center for Public Integrity, and the Center for Responsible Politics.

Note: This is one in a series of articles in the SPJ Colorado Pro Chapter 2015 Sunshine Week project. Sunshine Week is March 15-21.

The Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition is a non-partisan alliance of groups and individuals dedicated to ensuring the transparency of state and local governments in Colorado by promoting freedom of the press, open courts and open access to government records and meetings. The Colorado Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists is one of the major donors supporting CFOIC.

By Jeff Roberts

CFOIC Executive Director

Question: What is the most frequent question or complaint you receive from the public?

Answer: I’ve kept a rough accounting of the questions we’ve gotten. Adding them up recently, I was surprised to see that members of the public had submitted more questions about access to records than about access to meetings. I had thought it would be the other way around.

Records questions can be as general as “How do I draft a public records request?” or as specific as “Am I entitled to what’s in that packet of papers handed out at the board meeting?” I get a fair number of questions about the cost of records. Even though the legislature capped “research and retrieval” fees last year, people are still concerned that they’re being charged too much. It’s tough for them to know whether their request really does require 15 hours of staff time to fill.

Jeff Roberts of Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition

Jeff Roberts of Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition

Question: What is the most frequent question or complaint you receive from news organizations?

Answer: Journalists, like ordinary citizens, tend to ask more questions about records, but they ask a higher percentage of questions about meetings than do members of the public. That’s probably because it’s the job of many journalists to attend government meetings on the public’s behalf. I get a lot of questions about executive sessions, whether it was OK for board members to meet behind closed doors and whether they announced the topic of a secret meeting with enough specificity. For a while, I got a lot of questions about email “meetings” involving members of a public body. This was around the time that Pueblo City Council members were accused of violating the Sunshine Law by discussing public business via email with a Pueblo County official.

Records questions from journalists tend to focus on specific exemptions in either the Colorado Open Records Act or the Colorado Criminal Justice Records Act. Journalists often are frustrated when law enforcement agencies claim that releasing certain records would be “contrary to the public interest.”

 Question: Are news organizations at the forefront of FOI challenges?

Answer: Yes! I’ve made it part of my job to collect and post news stories from all over Colorado related to freedom-of-information issues. Scroll through CFOIC’s news feed or subscribe to our newsletter and you’ll quickly see that news organizations of all sizes around the state are trying to hold governments accountable by using public-access laws and pointing out when those laws are ignored or misused.

That said, shrinking newsrooms and shrinking newsroom budgets have made it more difficult for news organizations to watchdog governments and wage costly legal battles against violations of open-government laws. That’s a big reason why the CFOIC ramped up its initiatives to help both journalists and the public navigate these statutes.

Question: How can CFOIC get the public more involved in FOI issues?

Answer: We’re working on it all the time! Help spread the word about us on Twitter (@CoFOIC) and Facebook. Several CFOIC initiatives are focused on getting the public more involved. The hotline is probably No. 1. Anyone can contact us with questions about the open-records and open-meetings laws. We’ve also assembled a small team of volunteer lawyers who will, when appropriate, write letters on behalf of members of the public. Our website is packed with resources and articles about FOI issues affecting Colorado. We also present panel discussions on topics such as school board transparency and the “gray areas” of Colorado’s public-access laws. Videos of these presentations typically are posted on CFOIC’s website so that anyone can learn from them.

Question: What bills are of interest to CFOIC during the legislative session?

Answer: So far this session doesn’t look to be as impactful as last year’s, when there was a major bill standardizing fees for public records.

We were very interested in a proposal that would make the Colorado Public Defender’s Office subject to the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA). You may not realize that court decisions have exempted the entire state judicial branch from CORA. This means that the public has no right under the open-records law to inspect administrative records on judicial branch spending and other matters. This includes how much the public defender’s office, which is a judicial branch agency, has spent so far to keep Aurora movie theater shooter James Holmes from the death penalty.

HB 15-1101, as drafted, had some problems in that it appears to substantially broaden what is now a narrowly defined provision in CORA that exempts attorney-client communications. It’s moot now, though, because the bill died on Feb. 12 in the House Judiciary Committee.

Question: How does communications technology – texting, emails, cell phones – affect adherence to open meetings laws?

Answer: As mentioned above, we’ve gotten a few questions about this. Technology makes it so much easier for us to communicate with one another. It also makes it a lot easier for elected officials to sidestep the Sunshine Law.

Last August, I wrote an article for CFOIC’s blog titled, “The dos and don’ts – mostly don’ts – of using email for public officials” because the law is not well understood, even though it specifically says that “if elected officials use electronic mail to discuss pending legislation or other public business among themselves, the electronic mail shall be subject to the requirements” of the Sunshine Law. The same holds true for texting, tweeting, etc.

The bottom line is, public bodies (city councils, school boards, etc.) should refrain from discussing public business in ways that don’t involve the public. For local government bodies, this applies to three or more members, or a quorum. If two members discuss policy matters on email, and one of them forwards the thread to a third member, that’s a violation.

Question: Should Colorado’s open meetings and open records laws be strengthened?

Answer: Yes. The law could be strengthened or clarified in several areas. Email retention, for instance. The law currently requires governments to have a policy regarding how long emails should be kept before they are deleted. The law doesn’t say what that policy should be.

It also would be helpful to clarify that records may be obtained in their “native” format. For instance, if you request a record that obviously was created as an Excel spreadsheet, make it clear that you are entitled to that spreadsheet rather than a pdf or a printed piece of paper.

In addition, it might be a good idea if Colorado offered some way of challenging denials of access other than going to court. In Colorado, even though you can recover attorneys’ fees, it can be intimidating and costly to initiate a court action to gain access to records or prove a violation of the Sunshine Law. A few other states have mediation or some other method of alternative dispute resolution. We are researching those. Stay tuned.

 Question: What are CFOIC’s fundraising projects?

Answer: Fundraising is an ongoing and necessary effort. Our small budget is supported entirely by dues, grants and gifts. So please consider making a tax-deductible donation or becoming an individual member.

We are working on a public service announcement campaign to expand CFOIC’s membership. If you have any fundraising thoughts for CFOIC, such as a foundation that might be interested in our mission, please email me at jroberts@coloradofoic.org.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 38 other followers