Inside the News: 10 Journalism ‘Heroes’ of Colorado Interviewed

  • Corey Hutchins is a journalism instructor at Colorado College and a contributor to Columbia Journalism Review, The Washington Post, and other news outlets. This column is produced with support from the Colorado Media Project, and is distributed statewide via the Colorado News Collaborative.

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Ten journalists from a cross-section of Colorado news outlets sat for an interview this week with Yellow Scene’s Shavonne Blades. She called them “The Heroes” and put them on the cover of the magazine.

“The pay is typically lousy, the hours are long. Stress and burn-out guaranteed,” Blades wrote about journalists. “But they are energized by knowing their work has helped to free innocent people from behind bars, attempts to keep politicians honest, and uplifting humanity.”

From the piece:

After 38 years representing journalism and media, I recently was honored to interview some of Colorado’s most respected journalists – ALL committed to keeping it alive. From Pulitzer Prize nominees, Hearst Fellows, prestigious universities, and lifers to newbies, this was my “Meeting my Favorite Rock Stars” moment, which turned out to be quite intimidating for this art-school drop-out, and even more intimidating to write.

Here’s one quote from each of them that stood out:

  • “For journalists, there’s nothing more exciting than election night. And it has nothing to do with who wins or loses. It just has to do with democracy and what’s at stake. If you don’t care then I don’t think you can do a good job and there really is no room for you in this industry.” — Susan Greene, investigative reporter for Colorado News Collaborative.
  • “When I decided to become a journalist, I said, if I’ve got to do this repeatedly then I think I’ll write about food and music, because that’s what I like.” — John Lehndorff, 5280, Boulder Weekly, KGNU.
  • “An effective journalist may have bias, and there’s no way to avoid the prejudices your perspective creates. But a good journalist will follow the evidence, like a good detective. My willingness to consistently reevaluate my position and my opinion on any topic is what’s made me a decent journalist.” — Dave Flomberg, Yellow Scene Magazine, Colorado Times Recorder.
  • “Good journalists tell the stories that haven’t been told or are not supposed to be told.” — Jeff S. Fard, 30 minutes with brother jeff.
  • “I’m very shy, so if I was in a social situation, I wouldn’t go up to a stranger and ask them a question; particularly a tough question. But in the role of a journalist, I get to call up really interesting people, notorious people, a wide variety of people, and learn more about their motivations, what they’re thinking and doing, and why. That provided a platform for me to be bolder and more opinionated than maybe I was able to handle in everyday life.” — Michael Roberts, Westword.
  • “People like to read about things happening near them and they are actually craving that. Just because people don’t read the newspaper so much anymore doesn’t mean they don’t crave the truth. I have always been a defiant person and so this career appealed a lot to me.” — Amy Golden, Longmont Leader.
  • “I think journalists care about being objective, making sure that their opinion is not showing. Sometimes that can lead to them not calling out things that are the way they are. That’s something I’m becoming more comfortable with. Racist is racist, right? Look up the definition of racism. If you’re in the business of telling the truth, then you have to call it what it is, which has been really important to me.” — Tatiana Flowers, The Colorado Sun.
  • “My passion has shifted along with how journalism has evolved and how the world has changed. I don’t think there ever was any such thing as unbiased journalism. That was something created to satisfy business interests. Just because someone has a particular bent doesn’t mean their information is not good.” — Shay Castle, Boulder Beat.
  • “To be a progressive news outlet covering politics and policy in Colorado and covering smaller stories that don’t necessarily get covered by The Post or 9News … not hiding the fact we are progressive reporters but we still abide by basic ethics of journalism.” — Erik Maulbetsch explaining the role of The Colorado Times Recorder.
  • “I am not a hero. I’m doing the work with my accent, with my grammar mistakes, with my awkwardness. … I remember pulling an all-nighter to produce a piece about a lack of diversity in the media. And I got these thankful messages from people. It was amazing.” — Rosanna Longo, KGNU.

Read the full interviews with each of the above journalists here.

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 This newsletter is in out-of-the-office mode, meaning content might be lighter than usual.

👀 Here’s video of Aspen’s mayor, who goes by the single name Torre, accusing new ownership of The Aspen Times of meddling in the newspaper’s coverage.

⚰️ Colorado “journalism icon” Dusty Saunders died at 90. “It was announced on Facebook and Twitter by his sons,” reported 9News in Denver. The Denver Post’s Kyle Newman reported he died “in his sleep from natural causes” and that Saunders had written “more stories for the Rocky than any other columnist in the paper’s 149-year history.”

🤺 An organizer of the Western Conservative Summit has picked a public fight with The Denver Postsaying the event would not be offering credentials to the daily newspaper for the first time in 13 years. Denver Post reporter Alex Burness said he learned of the development a day after he “received an unsolicited email from the publicist for this event, who wrote, ‘Would love to see you there!’” Colorado Times Recorder reporter Heidi Beedle said her outlet, too, was denied credentials.

👋 Read how Colorado’s second case “to apply Colorado’s anti-SLAPP Act (passed into law in 2019) to a news outlet” led a judge to dismiss a defamation suit against KUSA 9News anchor Kyle Clark.

🆕 Chandra T. Whitfield has joined Colorado Public Radio as a co-host of Colorado Matters. The Atlanta Association of Black Journalists and the Atlanta Press Club gave her its Journalist of the Year award. “After many years covering the nation, I am excited about this amazing new opportunity to hone in on the issues and people that matter most in the Rocky Mountain state,” Whitfield said in a statement. “Colorado has been my family’s home for a decade now and I am excited to bring my unique perspective to the Colorado Public Radio audience.”

🤦‍♂️ The subject line of last week’s emailed newsletter mistakenly read “Outdoor Inc.” instead of Outside Inc.

⚖️ Attorneys for Sentinel Colorado “have asked a district court judge to determine whether to make public the recording of a closed city council meeting where lawmakers discussed and ended the censure process of a fellow council person,” the newspaper based in Aurora reported.

📍 Bookmark this: “Reimagining the public square: What’s happening in Colorado’s information ecosystem right now.”

📻 The Twitter account Women of Radio History, which remembers “women who were radio pioneers from the beginning, in the Golden Age through 1955,” this week featured Lucille Hastings, born in 1910, who was news editor of KLZ in Denver, editor of The Brighton Blade, wrote for The Denver Post, and was regional vice president of the National Federation of Press Women.

📡 Colorado Public Radio is presenting “Black Voices Matter – Impact of Black Communications and Journalism” in partnership with Cleo Parker Robinson during the Juneteenth weekend.

🔗 Collaborative journalism: “In coming weeks, news outlets around the state will be reporting on homeownership, high school graduation rates and Black infant mortality. Future stories will cover higher education and poverty, among other issues,” writes Colorado News Collaborative’s Tina Griego. “COLab and its partners, including The Colorado Sun, Chalkbeat, Kaiser Health News, The Denver Post, KGNU, the Boulder Reporting Lab, and the Denver Voice, are working together to examine the last decade’s trends. Long-term changes are often imperceptible in real time. By analyzing a decade of data in hindsight and pairing that data with Coloradans’ experiences we can begin to take stock of what has changed, how, why, and what’s next.”

📰 Andrew Baron, who was on the receiving end of negative local news coverage about his Boulder-based refugee-support initiative Humanwire, details his side of the story and why he took a no-contest plea deal. “[I]f I read the articles in the Denver Post about someone I didn’t know so well or only knew of, I would never want to talk to that person, ever,” he writes. “The writing was too persuasive, and the authority was too strong.”

📺 The large broadcaster Tegna, which owns KUSA 9News in Denver, is in “the homestretch of a long and sometimes contentious change of ownership, announcing that its shareholders have approved a sale” led by hedge funds Standard General and Apollo Global Management.

🎬 Denver author Julian Rubinstein’s documentary The Hollybased on hisnonfiction book of the same name, won the Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature at the Telluride Mountianfilm festival. The Denver Gazette reported Kwon Atlas, founder of The Five Points Atlas newspaper, saying of the film, “It begs the question of, should gang members as well as formerly associated gang members be part of the solution? And that’s very interesting.” (Maybe someone might want to follow up on that.) KVNF community radio has highlights from a panel discussion about the film. Meanwhile, Rubinstein’s attorney, Steve Zansberg, has aggressively responded to a lawsuit threatened by two Coloradans who appear in the book.

😢 Writing in The Fan 104.3 FM, Dan Jacobs says “The time has come for the Denver media to apologize to Nazem Kadri,” the Colorado Avalanche hockey player.

🔥 Former Colorado TV reporter Brandon Rittiman, who now works for ABC10 in Sacramento, California, has gained national attention for his wildfire coverage and is suing the California Public Utilities Commission, asking it to “comply with the California Public Records Act, which says all agencies must release public records ‘promptly’,” The L.A. Times reported.

🕸 Behold the Colorado local media conspiracy.

📞 Two lines from Mother Jones magazine journalist Abigail Weinberg, who interviewed former employees of Republican Lauren Boebert: “Reached for comment by phone, the congresswoman said ‘Who’s this?’ When I told her I was a reporter for Mother Jones, she hung up.” “Reached by phone for comment, [her husband] Jayson said, ‘Oh, Jesus,’ and told me to reach out to Lauren’s staff.”

🔎 Don’t forget to register for IRE22, the Investigative Reporters & Editors conference taking place in Denver June 23-25.

🛑 “Two agencies of Colorado’s judicial branch object to a proposed new rule that would make records of many completed personnel investigations accessible to the public,” according to the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition.

🔨 “The deficiency of objective journalism needs to be corrected,” reads a letter to the editor of The Greeley Tribune.

💨 April Zesbaugh, host of Colorado’s Morning News, which airs on the iHeartMedia-owned commercial news talk radio station KOA, is calling it quits. Denver’s 5280 magazine’s Jessica LaRusso interviewed her. “We’re moving to Las Vegas; I’ve got family in Arizona and San Diego, so it’ll be a little closer to them,” Zesbaughsaid. “I’m really looking forward to RVing.”

🙄 FOX 21 in Colorado Springs ran this headline this week: “National Donut Day with CSPD!

🗯 The Colorado Sun quoted Logan Davis, the newest hire at The Colorado Times Recorder, saying he doesn’t consider himself a journalist. “I’m a blatantly partisan actor,” he told the Sun’s Unaffiliated newsletter, adding, “I’m not trying to kid anybody about that.” (Find his latest accountability reporting here.) His boss, Jason Salzman, told the Sun he said he doesn’t see any problems with journalists donating to political campaigns or otherwise getting involved politically. Elsewhere in Colorado media, the founder of the Sangre de Cristo Sentinel newspaper has said, “we’re not journalists, we’re partisans … And we make no bones about it. We don’t pretend to be journalists. But it’s working for us.”

💬 Lisa Marshall, associate director of science storytelling at the University of Colorado in Boulder, examined “the role of media coverage” after a mass shooting.

💥 “In a journalism career that has taken me from Colorado to Texas to Washington, D.C., I have covered seven of these shootings, some in the chaos of the moment, some in their aftermath,” reported ProPublica’s Jenny Deam, who wrote about the memories that haunt her.

💵 Colorado journalism pay scales: The local news company Patch will pay $20 per hour for a “part-time, freelance breaking news reporter/local news curator in the Denver area.” The Fort Morgan Times, financially controlled by the Alden Global Capital hedge fund, will pay a multimedia reporter $14 to $16 an hour, while its sister paper The Estes Park Trail-Gazette will pay $17 to $18. The Ogden Newspapers-owned Craig Press will pay $32,000 to $39,000 for an “energetic reporter to cover a variety of beats and topics.” Colorado Newsline, run by States Newsroom, will pay a reporter $58,000. Boulder Weekly will pay an arts and culture editor $38,000 to $40,000. Denver Business Journal will pay a data reporter $50,000 to $60,000.

💵 The Front Porch, serving Northeast Denver, will pay $32,000 for a “half-time” editor position. The paper says it is “already showing signs of post-pandemic growth” and it’s likely the position will “increase in hours and salary in the not-too-distant future to produce a larger paper.” Ballentine Communications, which owns The Durango Herald, is not disclosing its pay, though it is supposed to. (Find more Colorado journalism jobs here. Colorado is somewhat unique in that we know what these jobs pay because of a new state pay transparency law.)

I’m Corey Hutchins, interim director of Colorado College’s Journalism Institute. For nearly a decade I’ve reported on the U.S. local media scene for Columbia Journalism Review, and I’ve been a journalist for longer at multiple news organizations. The Colorado Media Project, where I write case studies, is underwriting this newsletter, and my “Inside the News” column appears at COLab, both of which I sometimes write about here. Follow me on Twitter, reply or subscribe to this weekly newsletter here, or e-mail me at CoreyHutchins [at] gmail [dot] com.