May 3, 2021, started off as any other day would.
It was a Monday following the week we sent the May 2021 editions of Life on Capitol Hill and Washington Park Profile to press, so my tasks for the day were web updating and getting a start on planning the June editions.
There was an announcement that came the week prior that there would be an all-company meeting that day, and everyone was required to attend — either in person or virtually. But as a staff, we were quite used to those. At the time, it was a year of COVID-related ups-and-downs — shift to work-from-home, optional return to the office, mask requirements, etc., etc. So I figured this big meeting would be yet another one to inform us about our internal COVID policies.
So my colleagues and I gather — with masks on and chairs socially distanced — at 9 a.m. that day.
And then the big announcement came: Jerry and Ann Healey had sold Colorado Community Media to the Colorado News Conservancy. This public benefit corporation — a joint venture of the National Trust for Local News and The Colorado Sun — formed specifically to preserve Colorado Community Media and ensure that our 26 publications and websites remain locally owned.
Though most of our day-to-day work has been business as usual creating awesome papers each week (for my readers, each month), lots of behind-the-scenes action has happened in the newsroom since then. CCM hired Linda Shapley as our publisher. And we have two new newsroom positions — Lisa Schlichtman as our editor-in-chief and a soon-to-be-announced senior reporter.
I am proud of the work we CCMers produce. It takes a village, as they say, and the team is not limited to us who report and write the stories. Without my team members in sales, circulation, accounting, the newspapers’ designers and our receptionist — who we’ve dubbed as “the glue that keeps us together” — I wouldn’t be here writing this column today.
April 9 of this year was a particularly special evening. It was the 2022 Top of the Rockies Excellence in Journalism Awards reception, the culminating event of the Society of Professional Journalists’ regional conference. It took place at the historic Denver Press Club.
My plus-one was freelancer Kirsten Dahl Collins, but there were also a handful of us CCMers in attendance — Shapley; Schlichtman; Thelma Grimes, editor of our south-metro weeklies; Belen Ward, reporter for the Fort Lupton Press and Weld County; and Mark Harden. OK, Harden is not currently on staff, but I consider him a CCMer — he is one of our former editors, and as a seasoned journalist, he played a big role as a mentor to me — a newbie editor — prior to Schlichtman joining CCM.
Top of the Rockies is a regional, multi-platform contest that honors the work of reporters and news organizations in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. So it is quite a big deal that CCM garnered eight awards:
• First place, politics/news, Robert Tann, Littleton Independent: “Littleton election results: Council election signals Littleton’s ‘openness to change’; Voters skip hot issues in Littleton school board election; Littleton boosted its sales tax. Here’s what that means”
• Second place, A&E news or feature story, Deb Hurley Brobst, Canyon Courier: “A bucket list art show”
• Second place, religious feature, Christy Steadman, Washington Park Profile/Life on Capitol Hill: “Hospital chaplain is celebrated for years of service”
• Third place, best solutions journalism, Bob Wooley, Arvada Press: “365 days of eternity”
• Third place, news reporting/single story, David Gilbert, Littleton Independent: “Unsolved slaying of a homeless man, one year later”
• Third place, obit reporting, Deb Hurley Brobst, Canyon Courier: “Never the same: Evergreen, Conifer mourn loss of football coach”
• Third place, politics/news, Ellis Arnold, Centennial Citizen: “Centennial election results: Centennial council races see partisan undercurrent; Masks, racial ed don’t drive change in Cherry Creek election; SouthGlenn redevelopment, housing among election issues”
• Third place, social justice reporting, Jessica Gibbs, Highlands Ranch Herald: a three-part series titled “Douglas County school diversity and racial equality”
I must mention that while proud of our awards, we as journalists do not do this for the accolades. We do it because we love journalism, which at its fundamental core involves engaging and informing the community, and for the love of storytelling.
But I will admit that when I got home that evening, I made a post on my personal Facebook about the award I had won. All sorts of people came out of the woodwork to wish me “congratulations.” These “likes” came from family and friends across my social circles, including former colleagues I’ve met along the way on my journalism journey.
But I think two stood out the most.
One from Shaun Schafer, my former journalism professor at Metro State University. It’s always nice to know that the time and patience he and my other my college journalism professors invested in me has paid off.
And the second came from one of my high school teachers. Not to date myself, but I graduated high school in the late ’90s so this is a very special “like.” I had no idea what I wanted to do for a career back then, much less that I would go into journalism. Ruth Barth taught a speech/public speaking class — a course that I took as a freshman. I didn’t particularly want to take the class, but it was a required course, so I had to.
I’ve got to hand it to teachers. Even when the student themself is not too invested in their future, the teacher is. And it is now proven, that 25 years later, they will still care and share in the glory of their students’ successes.