HEY politicians – we journos are following the $!

By Ed Otte

“Follow the money” is a popular saying from the 1976 movie “All The President’s Men.” It was also the message at a May 1 program about transparency and open government at the Denver Press Club.

Sandra Fish and Nancy Watzman lead a workshop on following the money of today's politics.
Sandra Fish and Nancy Watzman lead a workshop on following the money of today’s politics.

Nancy Watzman of the Sunlight Foundation and Sandra Fish with the Journalism & Women Symposium explained how to research election campaign finances. “Tools for Journalists: Following the Colorado Money” was cosponsored by JAWS and the Colorado Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

“The primary races will be really important,” Fish said. “A lot of money will be coming in for those and a lot of money will be spent on ballot initiatives. With the resources available on the Sunlight website and the (Colorado) Secretary of State website, you’ll find useful information for many stories.”

Watzman’s PowerPoint demonstration showed the various categories and links available on the Sunlight site at http://www.SunlightFoundation.com.

“The Realtime Federal Campaign Finance tracker gives you up-to-the-minute filings,” she said. “Political Ad Sleuth shows you who’s buying airtime for political ads. Old-fashioned reporting can find some of the funding sources for the groups that buy ads, the ‘grassroots’ funding sources.

“Scout is another really, really useful tool. It searches for key phrases in legislation and will send you email and text alerts on specific issues.”

Fish said following campaign donation activity is important because “Amendment 27 changed the playing field, shifting power from candidates and parties. It sharply regulates how much money you can give to campaigns. Now, 527s and IE (Independent Expenditure) Committees are powerful here.”

Amendment 27 was passed by 66 percent of Colorado voters in 2002. It was designed to curb the influence of special interest groups by limiting the amounts and types of political contributions.

The Tracer link on the Colorado Secretary of State’s website (www.sos.state.co.us) “will help you with stories about cash,” Fish said. “Who’s buying TV ads. Who gives the most? It can sort to see who’s given the most in an election cycle. For example, you can see who spent money, and how much, in the 2010 GOP governor races.”

Watzman encouraged journalists to look at additional training opportunities, including free webinars and other online tools, on the Sunlight Academy link on the Foundation’s website. She also explained that the nonprofit, nonpartisan organization’s name comes from a 1913 quote by Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis: “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.”

“That’s why,” she said, “we believe in making government accountable and transparent.”

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Journalists share tips on publishing at Fireside Chat

By ED OTTE

First-time authors “hope to catch lightning in a bottle” but the formula for success is simple: research, rewriting and networking.

That was the message from two former Rocky Mountain News journalists turned authors at the Nov. 13 Colorado Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists Fireside Chat at the Denver Press Club.

“Unless your name is Grisham or King, you will face challenges. Many challenges,” said Denny Dressman, who has authored five books, including a 2010 biography of Grambling football coach Eddie Robinson, and edited four others.

“Even Grisham had difficulties breaking in. It wasn’t until ‘The Pelican Brief’ was published and made into a movie that he was successful. After it was a best seller, his publisher asked if he had other manuscripts and he sent them ‘A Time to Kill.’ It had been turned down by other publishers before ‘Pelican Brief’ became popular.

“You hope to catch lightning in a bottle but most beginning writers have to work hard to get published and to sell their books.”

When the News closed in 2009, Mike Madigan had compiled enough historical material to produce “Heroes, Villains, Dames & Disasters/150 Years of Front-Page Stories from the Rocky Mountain News.” The book won the 2010 Colorado Author’s League award for best non-fiction and was a finalist for the Colorado Book Award.

Both men are members of the Colorado Author’s League and Madigan cited CAL and other writers’ organizations as vital for budding authors.

“It was what we learned as journalists, networking is so important,” he said. “The mentoring, the advice, the leads. It’s all very helpful.”

Dressman said networking also involves finding a reliable person to edit a manscript. “The reason self-published books aren’t reviewed by the mainstream media is because so many have misspellings and grammatical errors. They needed a good editor.”

When asked about the advantage of e-publishing over printed books, Dressman said it is “for specific genres of fiction – romance, sci-fi, young adult novels – a good way for new authors to get published.”

Both men said research is key to producing a good manuscript.

Madigan’s adventure thriller “Double Dare” is based in southwestern Colorado and the author researched the geography and history of the area “to make the story credible. You have fictional characters but everything else has to be accurate.”

For “Sterling Heroes of World War II,” published in 2012, Dressman researched Allied airbases in Europe and included the information in the book so “younger readers would understand the references made by the people interviewed for the story.”

Rewriting was an ongoing process in Madigan’s novel, which was released in September. “When I started, I thought I had to write the perfect book. I was wrong. I did a lot of rewriting to make the dialogue believable, make it all better.”

SPJ Colo Pro meets with Russian journalists

Anyone who would like to join us, you’d be more than welcome and we’re quite sure the delegation of international journalists would welcome many points of view. This will be in a mixer format, so come visit and enjoy the Denver Press Club, 1330 Glenarm.

The delegation of International Journalists visits Wednesday, November 20th from 6:30-8:00pm. They are a very engaged group and will appreciate warm hospitality and professional insights. This program is sponsored by the U.S. Congress Open World Leadership Program and is administered in part by WorldDenver. The five participants have been selected as emerging leaders throughout Russia for their work as journalists, advancing the public’s access to information.

Meeting Topic: The delegation is looking forward to meeting with the Society of Professional Journalists to talk about various journalism issues and to meet with well-known journalists from across the state of Colorado.

Participants:

Ms. Darya DANILOVA, News Correspondent, Russian Public Television

Dr. Denis DOKUCHAYEV, Director of Media & Information Projects, Seryeznyye Proyekty, LLC

Ms. Alina LVOVA, Deputy Editor-in-Chief, Channel 31 News Company

Mr. Pavel POMINOV, Chief Business Development Officer, Omskpress, LLC

Ms. Yuliya SHEVTSOVA, Chief Executive Officer, Vyatsky Nablyudatel Newspaper

Mr. Ilya MICHCHENKO (Facilitator), Deputy Director of Translation and Localisation Centre, “EGO Translation Company”

Escorts: The delegation will be accompanied by Ms. Michelle Woodruff and Mr. Nathan Gallo, representatives of WorldDenver.

 

Nov. Events Coming Soon

Hey SPJers (and friends of),

Here’s some great programming we’ve got coming up in the next couple of weeks.

Using Census Data

Angeles Ortega-Moore of the Partnership & Data Services at the Denver Regional Census Officee, will lead a training session showing journalists how to mine U.S. Census data for story ideas and manipulate it to load your stories with accurate information. The free event will be at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 7, at the Denver Press Club, 1330 Glenarm.

November Fireside ChatFirechat

The old joke was that every reporter had an unfinished novel in the bottom desk drawer. Now, it is an unfinished manuscript in computer files.
If you’re one of these folks, you will be interested in our next Fireside Chat, Journalist to Author: How to Publish Non-Fiction and Fiction Books, at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 13, at the Denver Press Club, 1330 Glenarm Place.
Former Rocky Mountain News executives Denny Dressman and Mike Madigan will discuss the process and their published works. Admission is free.
Dressman is the author of five books and the editor of four others. In a 43-year newspaper career in Cincinnati, Louisville(KY), Oakland (CA) and Denver, he was an award-winning report and columnist, held the positions of city editor, executive sports editor, managing editor and editor; and for 10 years at the Rocky Mountain News was vice president labor/human resources. He is a member of the Denver Press Club Hall of Fame and a past president of the Colorado Press Association, and teaches writing in the University College Enrichment Program at the University of Denver.
His books include “Gerry Faust – Notre Dame’s Man in Motion” (1981); “Yes, I can! Tackle Diabetes and Win!” (2006); the only full biography of legendary Grambling football coach Eddie Robinson, titled “Eddie Robinson … he was the Martin Luther King of Football (2009); and “Sterling Heroes of World War II” (2012). His latest book is scheduled to be published in 2014.
Madigan is a former award-winning journalist and editor at the News. His first novel, “Double Dare,” was released in September (reviewed Sept. 22 in The Denver Post) by Adventure Publications. His short story The GyPSy Line was nominated for the 2012 Pushcart Prize for outstanding literature. The story is one of 11 published in the anthology “Gem Street” by Irish publisher Labello Press.
Madigan also has authored two books of non-fiction: “Heroes, Villains, Dames & Disasters/150 Years of Front-Page Stories from the Rocky Mountain News” won the 2010 Colorado Author’s League award for best non-fiction and was a finalist for the Colorado Book Award. He also authored “Historic Photos of Denver in the 50s, 60s and 70s.”

NewsTrain delivers!

The SPJ Colorado Pro sponsored two entries to the CPA ASNE NewsTrain in Colorado Springs last weekend (Sept. 28-29). Here’s a great report from Tanya Ishikawa

Data, Video and Social Media Tools at APME NewsTrain
By Tanya Ishikawa

Whether journalists accept it or not, multimedia news reporting continues to grow in significance to our audiences. Associated Press Media Editors NewsTrain, which visited Colorado Springs on Sept 27 and 28, offered tips, tools and ways to keep up with new audience trends and help journalists cope and perhaps even thrive in this evolving digital age.

As a former public relations professional and weekly newspaper reporter, I am definitely in my comfort zone when creating and editing stories for print publications. At the same time, my interests in new communication platforms and filmmaking have led to nearly a decade of training and working in social media and video. So, when I saw NewsTrain’s agenda with two days focusing on reporting with data, social media and video, I was a bit skeptical about whether I would learn new skills or gain new information. I’m happy to report that I came away from the weekend with a long to-do list including plans to download helpful apps, ways to update social media pages and new story ideas to pitch to editors.

Brant Houston shared a wealth of websites and leads for finding interesting statistics that can be used in developing stories. Then, he taught us how to analyze and sort the statistics with spreadsheets for better understanding and to create information graphics. You can learn some of the same lessons by going to the resource center and other areas of the Investigative Reporters & Editors website.

Val Hoeppner inspired us to make short, attention-grabbing (and revenue-generating) videos with simple, inexpensive equipment. She shared the names of a treasure trove of free and low-priced apps and websites for online video production and standards for how to produce the best content.

Misty Montano gave us insight into how her news outlet is garnering outstanding audience reach through clicks, impressions, views, visits, likes, shares and all the other ways that people interact online. She offered a long list of resources to help develop a strategic approach for connecting to audiences through Facebook, Twitter and other sites.

Not to be forgotten were the beginning sessions of both days, when Michael Roberts reminded us of the basic foundation of journalism – how to develop and deliver great stories, and Steven Zansberg gave us an introduction (for some of us a refresher) on Colorado’s Freedom of Information laws.

All this and the opportunity to network with 78 other Colorado journalists, who came from as far away as Grand Junction and Greeley, was offered for only $75 due to the generosity of local hosts that included the Colorado Press Association and University of Colorado-Colorado Springs. I personally thank Colorado SPJ, another sponsor that provided me with one of two scholarships to attend this high-impact training. Valuable to both new and seasoned journalists, NewsTrain provided many tools and tricks to strengthen my audience connection and add power to my storytelling. You can find out more about NewsTrain and future workshops here.