Past Events

Studio SPJ kicks off

Did you miss Saturday’s debut of “Studio SPJ”? Click the link below to see National Secretary-Treasurer John Ensslin’s interview with Colorado Springs Gazette reporter David Philipps.

Law School for Journalists is back!

With lawmakers poised to introduce legislation related to illegal immigration, you may be asking yourself, how does immigration law in Colorado work today and what impact could measure(s) introduced during the session have on current law if passed? Learn the answers to these questions and more during the first installment of the revived Law School for Journalists program.
Join us at 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 26, at the Colorado Bar Association-Continuing Legal Education offices, 1900 Grant St., Suite 300, in Denver.

Nancy Elkind, an immigration attorney and partner with Elkind Alterman Harston PC, will be the guest speaker. Elkind works extensively with national and international organizations regarding their business immigration matters. She has twice been chair of the Colorado Chapter of American Immigration Lawyers Association and has served on numerous national committees of the association. She was lead counsel on the pivotal labor certification case Matter of Information Industries.
You may attend in-person or online via a live webinar. The program will run until 1 p.m. and there is no cost to attend. Please RSVP to or 303-860-1115, ext. 727. Law School for Journalists is sponsored by the Colorado Bar Association and the Colorado Society of Professional Journalists. The aim of the program is to provide meaningful information on legal topics to journalists.
For more information or to suggest topics, please contact CBA Communications Specialist Sara Crocker at or 303-824-5347.

This just in: ‘Studio SPJ’ premiers

Join us Saturday, Jan. 22 at 10 a.m. for the premier of “Studio SPJ” an Internet radio talk show featuring journalists from across the nation.

The first episode of this 30-minute program will feature a conversation with David Philipps, a reporter for the Gazette of Colorado Springs.

Philipps is the author of a new book called “Lethal Warriors – When the New Band of Brothers Came Home.” The book describes the crime wave that occurred in Colorado Springs as soldiers who experienced intense fighting in Iraq returned home to Fort Carson with some of them suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

This episode of “Studio SPJ” is sponsored by the Colorado Society of Professional Journalists. National Secretary/Treasurer John Ensslin will host it.

To listen to the program live or on tape later, click on

To call into the program, dial 347-857-2441.

For more information, contact John at 719-650-0877 or by e-mail at

Join the Denver Press Club for a Book Beat Event

The Denver Press Club with host one of its Book Beat Evenings at 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 10, 6 p.m., with journalist and author Reese Erlich, whose new book is titled “Conversations with Terrorists: Middle East Leaders on Politics, Violence and Empire.”

Erlich questions how the U.S. has dealt with terrorist threats since 2001, suggesting that by “labeling all opponents as terrorists,” the government has … rendered the term “terrorism” meaningless. Using decades of his reporting and personal interviews and new research, Erlich identifies stark differences in the aspirations of Hamas, Hezbollah and the nihilism of al-Qaeda.
Free and open to all; no reservations need. Just show up.

Longtime Denver broadcaster Tamara Banks will serve as moderator.

Fireside Chat Wednesday with AP’s Jim Anderson

Associated Press News Editor Jim Anderson will talk with journalists at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 19 as part of SPJ Colorado’s Fireside chat series.

Anderson is The AP news editor for Colorado, Montana and Wyoming.  Anderson also reports on occasion from Latin America and the Caribbean, most recently directing coverage of the Haiti earthquake, reporting from Havana and serving several stints in Mexico.

Anderson joined the AP in Mexico City, covering the emergence of democracy in that country and editing war copy from Central America. In Los Angeles, Anderson reported on the Rodney King trials and Los Angeles riots and was a national writer on race relations.  Following a stint on the AP’s International Desk in New York, Anderson was an AP correspondent for the Caribbean and Latin America based out of San Juan, Puerto Rico. He later served as chief of bureau in Caracas, Venezuela, a stint that including the coup against President Hugo Chavez. Before coming to Colorado, Anderson also served as an assistant city editor at The Miami Herald.

SPJ combines Fireside Chat, holiday party

Happy Holiday’s from SPJ Colorado! Join us for a members’ holiday party at 6 p.m.,  Wednesday, Dec. 15 at the Denver Press Club, 1330 Glenarm Place in Denver. Free appetizers and cash bar will be on hand for all to enjoy. After warming our bellies with holiday cheer, we’ll gather by the fireplace to hear The Denver Post Editorial Page Editor Dan Haley talk about his career in journalism. The event is free for members and non-members.

SPJ reignites fireside chats

Events held monthly November-March at the Denver Press Club

SPJ Colorado Pro invites you to hear from a variety of speakers this winter. We are revamping our Fireside Chat series that will include award-winning journalists, public relations professionals, authors and more. Our first chat will be with Evan Dreyer, Gov. Bill Ritter’s spokesperson on Nov. 17 Dreyer worked for several years at the Denver Post as assistant city editor. The event starts at 7 p.m. at the Press Club, 1330 Glenarm Place in Denver.


SPJ hosts film fest, director reception

See “Norman Mailer- The American” and meet Director Joe Mantegna

The Colorado chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists is hosting an opportunity to see a new documentary about the legendary writer Norman Mailer and meet the film’s director.

On Saturday, Nov. 13 at 2 p.m. at 2510 E. Colfax Avenue (next to the Tattered Cover) in Theater 13. SPJ will sponsor a screening of “Norman Mailer – The American.”

On Friday, Nov. 12 at 5:30 p.m. at the Denver Press Club, the chapter will sponsor a reception with the film’s director Joe Mantegna (no, not the actor.) Mantegna will talk about Mailer and the film starting at 6:30 p.m. This event is free.

A limited number of tickets for the movie will be on sale at the reception. Price for SPJ members is $10.

For more information, call John Ensslin at 719-650-0877 or e-mail him at

See Flier

An invitation from the Denver Press Club to its Gridiron Show

The Denver Press Club will host its Gridiron Show – a night of hilarious satirical songs, mostly political in nature, on Oct. 29. And this year, there is something special: 3 governors on stage at the same time, talking/singing their way through one of our satirical songs. Gov. Bill Ritter will be joined by past governors Dick Lamm and Roy Romer.
We feature recognizable names from politics and media.
The proceeds go both to journalism scholarships and to Denver Press Club operations.

Friday, Oct. 29, DPC Gridiron Show at the Denver Marriott City Center. Dinner 6 p.m., showtime 7 p.m.

The heavily political satire show is comprised mostly of songs, plus a fake newscast featuring Mike Landess and Cynthia Hessin, one song from the Colorado chapter of the Public Relations Society of America, and plenty more.

To whet your appetite a little, check out these 3 videos of 2009 Gridiron songs:
Here’s a partial list of who you’ll see on stage, besides Mike Landess and Cynthia Hessin: Governor Bill Ritter, former Gov. Dick Lamm, former Gov. Roy Romer, Mayor John Hickenlooper, CBS4’s Jim Beneman, Don Mares of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, CBS4’s Greg Moody (on video), the Denver Business Journal’s Bruce Goldberg, the Aurora Daily Sentinel’s Adam Goldstein, Fred Brown, Sari Padorr, Edie Sonn, Ruth Darling-Goldberg, Steve Koenigsberg, Tom Corona, CBS4’s Gloria Neal, mayoral candidate James Mejia, 9News’ TaRhonda Thomas, CBS News correspondent Barry Petersen and more.

The cost is $90 and includes dinner and the show. You can buy tickets right now on<>, under Oct. 29. If you want the full link, it’s

Table info: They seat 10; bronze cost $1,200; silver $1,700; and gold $2,200; contact me at<> or 303-803-9226.

SPJ Colorado Annual Report 2009 now available

Click on the “About” page to see a copy of the 2009 annual report that was sent to national headquarters this month!

Ron Sylvester to make Front Range tour

“60 Sites in 60 Minutes” – 6 p.m. July 16 at the Denver Press Club

Sylvester will give you the inside line on the websites that will best help you work, research and network. The workshop will begin at 6 p.m. on Friday, July 16 at the Denver Press Club (1330 Glenarm Place). Leave with tools you can take back to your newsroom on Monday.

Members: Free

Non members: $7.

Sign up online at BlackTie Colorado

“Tweeting for Live Coverage” – 10 a.m. July 17 at the Penrose Public Library, Colorado Springs

Sylvester will then head south on the Valley Highway to Colorado Springs where he will discuss how Twitter can help with covering court cases and other breaking news where a laptop may not cut it and a notepad won’t help you beat the competition. Sylvester will be at the Penrose Public Library (20 North Cascade Avenue) at 10 a.m. Saturday, July 17.

This event is free and open to the public.

About the Speaker – Ron Sylvester

SylvesterRon Sylvester is a staff writer for interactive news for The Wichita Eagle and He trains other reporters on how to create multimedia stories and has received attention for his use of Twitter and other social media tools in reporting on live events. Sylvester was a crime and courts reporter for the Eagle from 2000 to 2007 and served as SPJ Region 7’s Director from 2004 to 2008. He worked as a staff writer for the Springfield News-Leader, covering a variety of beats, from 1976 to 2000.

Ensslin announces National SPJ Secretary/Treasurer campaign

Region 9 Director John Ensslin announced May 8 that he will run for SPJ’s national secretary/treasurer position. The announcement came following members’ work to judge another chapter’s contest entries. Highlighting Region 9’s 20 percent growth in membership, Ensslin said membership would be his No. 1 priority if elected. Find out more at Watch the video of his announcement below.

SPJ FOI Director to visit Colorado Springs

Dave Cuillier, SPJ’s national Freedom of Information chair, will be passing through Colorado as part of his one-man, cross-country Access Across America tour.

Dave will be in Colorado Springs on June 7 between 10 a.m. to noon at The Gazette, located at 40 South Prospect Street. His talk is designed for journalists and non-journalists alike. Here is what David will cover:

– Great ideas for document-based stories you can do in your community
– Strategies for effective records requests and overcoming denials
– Psychological skills for getting officials to give you what you need
– Tips for making records part of your daily routine
– Rousing inspiration for doing great journalism in tough times.

This event is free to Colorado SPJ members. To RSVP, e-mail John Ensslin at

About the Speaker – David Cuillier
David Cuillier is chairman of the SPJ Freedom of Information Committee and has been a FOI newsroom trainer for SPJ for five years. He is a former reporter and editor and now teaches journalism at the University of Arizona. He is co-author of “The Art of Access: Strategies for Acquiring Public Records,” teaches courses on access, and conducts research on access strategies.

This event is cosponsored by the Colorado Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
This tour is funded by the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation, a non-profit organization that aids SPJ and journalism initiatives, with assistance by the University of Arizona School of Journalism.

SPJ, DPC host Book Beat Luncheon

Please join SPJ Colorado and the Denver Press club for a BOOK BEAT LUNCHEON with authors Robert W.McChesney and John Nichols, who have written “The Death and Life of American Journalism: The Media  Revolution that Will Begin  the World Again.”

The luncheon will be from noon to 1 p.m.  Monday, April 26, at the Denver Press Club, 1330 Glenarm Place in Denver.

Reservations are a must by 5 p.m. Friday, April 23, at

McChesney is an  acclaimed communication  scholar and host of NPR’s “Media Matters.” Nichols, a veteran newspaper and magazine writer and pioneering political blogger, and McChesney see much greater danger in the death of journalism than the loss of the printed daily news.
They say that without a free and independent press, our democracy is doomed to fail. They explore the history of the media meltdown and its political implications, reject the easy answers of blaming the  Internet or imagining that markets will provide answers, and offer a bold solution for saving American journalism.

The cost  is $11 for members and $14 for nonmembers.

The menu consists of chicken marsala, roasted potatoes, mixed vegetables and tossed salad.

Helen Verba Lecture Series to Feature Jeff Kass May 6

Columbine: A True Crime Story gives an in-depth look at the shooting and its aftermath

Nearly 11 years after Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 12 classmates and a teacher, Columbine remains the world’s most iconic school shooting.  Columbine: A True Crime Story, a victim, the killers and the nation’s search for answers is the first book of investigative journalism to tell the complete story of that day, the far-reaching consequences, and the common denominators among school shooters across the country.
Author Jeff Kass will discuss his book, at 6 p.m. May 6 as part of the Helen Verba Lecture Series, at the Denver Press Club, 1330 Glenarm Place.
Kass was one of the first reporters on scene and wrote the Page One, next day story for the Boston Globe. For 10 years he covered Columbine as a staff writer for the Rocky Mountain News. He has broken national stories on the shootings such as leaked crime scene photos, and the sealed diversion files of the killers. He has also reported the story extensively for the Boston Globe, Christian Science Monitor, Newsday, and U.S. News & World Report.
This event is free and open to the public, presented by the Colorado Society of Professional Journalists, The Denver Post and the Denver Press Club.

Region 9 announces Top of the Rockies Award winners

By Matt Gypin

Journalists from Utah, Wyoming and Colorado were honored April 10 at the Top of the Rockies awards ceremony at the Denver Press Club. The event marked the close of the annual SPJ Region 9 All-Star Conference, with winners selected from a variety of categories. Before awards were handed out, keynote speaker Bill McCloskey, at-large director for the SPJ’s national board, spoke about the need to increase membership.

“The SPJ this year is all about increasing membership,” said McCloskey, who mentioned that the SPJ website now has a job bank and online toolbox to help journalists find employment and learn new skills. “We need to do that to be the largest journalism organization so that when we go to D.C. to represent the shield law, Congress will know we have members in every city and town.”

After McCloskey finished, it was on to the awards. Region 9 Director John Ensslin presented the awards, which ranged from reporting to photography to headlines, in categories like sports, news, features and politics. Rick Egan, a Salt Lake Tribune photographer, won first place in news photography for a picture of a soldier returning home from Iraq.

“It’s always fun to win an award,” he said. “Sometimes we enter a lot of contests and you don’t always expect to win. It’s fun just to be here, and be a part of this. It’s really cool.”

J. Adrian Stanley, a reporter for the Colorado Springs Independent, won first place for science, environmental and health care reporting. She also won third place for general reporting in a series, and received honorable mention for investigative/enterprise reporting.

“It feels great. It’s always an honor and it’s great to be here with other wonderful journalists,” Stanley said. “It’s nice to know they’re still having the event, with the economy as bad as it is.”

Greg McElvin, of the Colorado Springs Gazette, took second place in headlines.

“It’s great,” he said. “I just appreciate John Ensslin. I work with him down in the Springs, and see all the work he does. He definitely deserves a lot of credit. It’s all volunteer work.”

McCloskey said it is up to local chapters to increase SPJ membership and was impressed by the turnout in Denver.

“One of the things that really attracts members, or chases them away, is the activities of local chapters. That’s why it’s such a pleasure to come here and see such a nice crowd show up to a local event.”

Investigative panel encourages reporters to keep digging

By Nic Garcia

While Colorado journalists are down in the dumps with current layoffs and newspaper closures, they have reason to hope for the future and should always be aware of the laws that protect them, a group of experts said March 8 at the Denver Press Club.

The panel, moderated by Ruth Anna, a member of Colorado Press Woman, discussed the current decline in investigative reporting, new business models to support the costs of digging through dirt, ways to cut costs while conducting investigations as a journalist or a citizen and laws that help journalists uncover news.

“We perceive we’re getting loaded down by news,” Anna said at the top of the forum. “But are we really just getting a lot of B.S.?”

She cited 23 million U.S. citizens now get their news from mobile phones.

Laura Frank, an investigative reporter with the Rocky Mountain News until it closed in 2009, said the dramatic cutbacks in newsrooms as well as the complete closures of newspapers all together have left fewer people to do little more than report breaking news.

“The Rocky Mountain News closing was a dramatic event,” she said. “But in every newsroom there have been (layoffs) under the radar.”

The equation, Frank said, fewer reporters equals fewer opportunities to spend the time needed to work on watchdog journalism.

But Frank said there is hope in new non-profit models that supplement the current newsroom product. Her organization the Rocky Mountain Investigative News Network essentially freelances investigative reports to area newspapers.

Lawyer Chris Beall of the law firm Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz, L.L.P. echoed Frank, saying newsrooms need to band together not only to pay for investigative reports but costly litigation that sometimes goes with reporting. He pointed to a recent case when competing newspapers banded together in one lawsuit to gain access to information.

“The only way to do this is setting aside competition,” he said. “(Important) litigation isn’t about breaking news.”

ABC 7News investigative reporter Tony Kovaleski said reporters looking for information should work as many sources as possible to eliminate the most cost.

“If there’s a way to go without a FOIA request: do it,” Kovaleski said. And he cautioned if a request must be made, “you have to ask for documentation, not information.”

Steve Zansberg also of the Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz law firm, said the laws are often on the side of journalists and it is the responsibility of a reporter to know as much about the law as possible to further any investigation.

“It’s important to find ways short of litigation,” he said. But no reporter should be afraid of the role a court would have in any case. “Litigation is more than writing news, it’s history.”

Zansberg said there are several resources for investigative reporters to better understand the law including guides produced by the ACLU, the Colorado Press Association and The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.


Who We Are

Reggie Rivers discusses ant warfare allegory novel

By Clayton Woullard

Photos by Jon Brodhacker

Author Reggie Rivers speaks with former Denver Post reporter Fred Brown during a Helen Verba Lecture series presented by the Post and Colorado SPJ Jan. 21

Despite that his new book is about a war, Reggie Rivers doesn’t believe that’s the way most things get done.

“I think most problems in the world are solved by diplomacy and that was war is a very rare event even though it seems to be happening all the time,” he said to an audience at the Denver Press Club as part of the Colorado Society of Professional Journalists Pro chapter’s Helen Verba lecture series Jan. 21.

Rivers—a former Denver Broncos running back from 1991 to 1996, former Denver radio talk show host and author of four other books—got the idea for The Colony: A Political Tale—an allegory about foreign policy using two ant colonies—when he was watching the run-up to the war in Iraq in 2002.

“And I realized at some point, at some random press conference that we had crossed the tipping point, that this war was absolutely going to happen,” he said. “It didn’t matter what else anybody said or did, they had moved enough personnel or material into the region. There’d been enough harsh rhetoric issued that you couldn’t back away from it if you wanted to. So I got curious about that tipping point in general. How is it, or when is it, that a nation is sure it’s going to war.”

About the same time he remembered a line he’d read in a book that ants and humans are the only two species who organize to go to war with their own kind.

“Humans have an organized cast of soldiers, and ants have an organized cast of soldiers. And a soldier’s job is primarily to fight wars over territory and food and other things like that,” he said. “And then I started to wonder well humans have—nations have a tipping point, what’s the tipping point for ant mounds?”

So he started doing research into ants consulting the book The Ants, a large encyclopedia that won a Pulitzer Prize. He learned that there are suicide bomber ants called camponotus saundersi that are born with poison packs lining their bodies. If one is ever surrounded and it can’t get away it blows up these sacks and sprays poison on everyone around.

He also learned that honeypot ants will engage in the cold wars. If there are two honeypot mounds that are in close proximity to one another and two workers are out in the field, they detect each other by scent and detect that each one is the enemy. They’ll turn and run home and leave a trail to where they met this other ant, gather up an army who follow the scent trail to the battlefield, but right before combat they stop and they face each other. Scientists aren’t sure how ants can do this but they can tell when they have a 10-1 advantage. If an ant army has it, they will go to battle, kill all the other ants, follow the trail back to the mound, kill the queen and eat all the larvae. If they tell they don’t have a 10-1 advantage and sense that fighting will ensure their mutual destruction, they’ll stand there for hours not fighting and go back home at the end of the day.

“The more I read about ants the more I realized I really could use them to tell a human story about warfare,” Rivers said.

The two types of ants he focused on were army ants and leafcutter ants. Army ants migrate from place to place and are marauders in that they go from place to place and kill anyone on the ground. They camp out in a spot and stay for two or three weeks. Once they’ve exhausted the food supply, they move the length of a few football fields and start all over it again. The queen can shut off her egg production and deflate her abdomen to move those few hundred yards and start over again. In his story these ants make up the Alpha Zee colony.

The leafcutter ants, who make up Antistan, cut pieces of leaves off trees with huge mandibles and carry them off to their hive, handing them down to smaller ants who cut them into smaller pieces and carry them even deeper, who then pass on the pieces to even smaller ants until they get to the smallest ants–10 to 12 feet underground–who are 1/500the size of the original ant who cut first cut the leaf. These ants develop a mushroom-like fungus that is so highly nutritious leafcutter mounds will grow to 10,000 or 10 million in population. One mound will eat as much vegetation in a day as a full grown cow.

Once Alpha Zee gets a taste of this fungus they come to believe Antistan is the answer to all their problems as they realize the queen will no longer have to deflate her abdomen and they can stay in one spot. They try to negotiate with Antistan by offering them military protection in exchange for fungus, but Antistan rejects it. So Alpha Zee enlists the services of a wasp, or a terrorist in their world, to launch a civil war in Antistan. During that civil war, the president is killed and a new president is installed and Alpha Zee has a new fungus deal. But the more fungus they get, the more fungus they need.

Rivers wrote the book as his thesis for his master’s in global studies from the University of Denver and said it’s basically about how powerful nations dominate weaker nations regardless of partisan politics.

During the event, Rivers signed his book “The Colony.”

“It’s an unusual thing to write for that kind of degree, but when I talked to my professor about it… (I said) first, whether I get to do this thesis or not, I’m going to write this book. But I’d rather not have to double the effort. I’d like to write this book as my thesis,” he said. “He thought about it and said, ‘You know, I’ve read a lot of (theses) in my life, most of them the only two people who read are me and the person who wrote it. So if you have this creative idea and you want to do this, I’m not going to stand in your way.’”

Rivers said his entire curriculum was built around learning what he needed to know for The Colony.

When Fred Brown, long-time Denver Post writer and moderator for the event, asked Rivers if he had sold the screenplay rights to the book, he said no, but suggested Tim Burton should direct it. He also said his novel parallels the new hit blockbuster Avatar.

Rivers said he writes like he


“I eat when I get hungry,” he said. “I just think that I just need to do a little bit everyday and it’s not at the same time everyday it’s not the same amount everyday. I know that I’m going to do a little bit everyday and eventually 4, 5 years the later the book is done.”

He also talked about the difference between undeclared and declared wars saying that with declared wars, there’s a lot of support behind it, people do hard work for it and it has an end. Whereas with undeclared wars, not everyone is behind it and they tend to go on for a long time. He said the war with Antistan is an undeclared war, but is more subjugation than a military battle.

“I have a 6-year-old son. I don’t care how bad a person I am, if you come and kill me, there’s a very good chance my son’s never going to like you,” he said. “So I think that we’re trying to win a war by going over there and killing the fathers of these kids we want someday to like us and they’re not.”

One audience asked if the book was a pessimistic in its conclusion that all dominant countries will dominate all less powerful countries.

“No it’s not pessimistic in that way and I’m not pessimistic. I think that the world is the way that it is because people have decided it should be that way. There are some forces of power and resources and the ability to go take things that compels countries to do the same things over and over again,” he said. “But I also really believe in justice.”

He said as the two colonies start interacting with each other, the ants in Antistan realize there’s something unjust being done to them and they have a workers’ strike. And some members of the Alpha Zee colony realize that what they are doing is unjust because now they sit back and get fat while someone else labors for it.

“Ultimately justice prevails,” he said. “And I think that’s true—I’m somewhat cynical about our country sometimes and our system of government—but I do think that our society is very just-minded. We can go off to the right or off to the left for a period of time, but we tend to pull back toward the middle repeatedly.”

The Colony: A Political Tale is available through and

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