Aspen Journalism 2019 annual report

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In 2019, we completed our ninth full year of operations, and we look forward to celebrating our 10th anniversary in January 2021.

This year, we:

continued our reporting on the city of Aspen’s 1965 conditional water-storage rights on Castle and Maroon creeks, which the city agreed to move out of the two pristine valleys;

broke the story on the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s intent to hold closed-door meetings on a water demand-management program and helped open up the meetings;

broke the story on how repairs to a riverwide diversion dam blocked passage to boaters on the Roaring Fork River, spurring efforts to clear the blockage; and

broke the story on renewed efforts by Aurora and Colorado Springs to move forward with a dam on lower Homestake Creek in the upper Eagle River valley.

Also, we increased our journalistic capacity — our newsroom — from 1.5 full-time equivalent reporters and editors to 3 FTE; and

published 65 stories (47 were about water issues in the Colorado River basin, 15 were about local and regional environment, and three were about Aspen’s history).

We collaborated on our water stories with Swift Communications newspapers, including The Aspen Times, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, the Vail Daily, the Summit Daily, the Sky-Hi News, the Craig Press and the Steamboat Pilot; and

partnered with the University of Colorado Boulder’s Water Desk in order to bolster our ongoing collaboration with Swift Communications newspapers on water coverage; and

collaborated with Aspen Public Radio and The Aspen Times on our environment reporting, and collaborated with the Aspen Daily News on our history reporting.

Also, we won recognition from the Institute for Nonprofit News for best reporting on climate change and the environment in 2019 for our series of stories on the Castle and Maroon creek reservoirs;

learned of our award from the Colorado Press Association for our 2018 story on Highland Bowl, “Taming the Snow Beast“;

held a Publisher’s Circle event in August with Richard Tofel, president of ProPublica;

had a record year of revenue, raising $311,000, up from $209,000 in 2018; and

grew our list of donors and funders from 125 to 149!

This is the first in a series of clips in the annual report that show how our most impactful stories manifest themselves in the various newspapers. This is from The Aspen Times on June 12, 2019 and was the culmination of years of reporting on the issue.

 

Aspen Journalism Key Metrics 2011 Through 2019

This article from May 24, 2019, edition of The Aspen Times let the public know that a significant new state policy was going to developed behind closed doors.

 

Aspen Journalism’s Reporting Capacity In 2019

We started out in 2019 with one employee — Brent Gardner-Smith, serving as executive director, editor and water desk reporter — and a $50,000 freelance reporter budget.

We finished 2019 with three employees in the newsroom and an expenditure of $63,000 on freelance reporting, editing and photographing.

Gardner-Smith retained his duties as editor on the water desk, but he handed the water desk reporting duties to Heather Sackett, who was hired in October on a full-time basis.

We also hired Elizabeth Stewart-Severy to serve as editor and reporter on the Connie Harvey Environment Desk on a half-time basis.

The $63,000 spent on freelance reporters in 2019 included paying Sackett and Stewart-Severy as freelancers before they became employees, as well as Catherine Lutz, Tim Cooney and Sarah Tory, and our freelance copy editor, Dale Ulland. We consider that level of freelance reporting to equal one FTE.

We now count Gardner-Smith’s position in the newsroom as one-half of an FTE employee in the newsroom, Sackett’s position as one FTE, Stewart-Severy’s position as one-half of an FTE, and our freelance expenditures as one FTE. As such, we now have three FTE reporters and editors. As an organization, we now have four FTEs, with the addition of Dave Reed, Aspen Journalism’s half-time development director, whom we count as one-half of an FTE, and Gardner-Smith’s other one-half of an FTE.

This article, from the Craig Press on July 26, 2019, shows a policy charge that we feel took place, in part, because of our reporting.

Aspen Journalism’s Approach to Reporting in 2019

 

Aspen Journalism’s approach to reporting starts with an investigative mindset, which is followed by sustained beat reporting of identified organizations, which includes travel to news meetings and relevant locales, and that is topped off with an emphasis on annotated public documents and original photography.

Our approach also remains collaborative, and in 2019 we built on our ongoing collaboration with Swift Communication newspapers on coverage of Colorado River issues by adding CU Boulder’s new Water Desk to our reporting efforts.

CU’s Water Desk highly values quality reporting on the Colorado River basin and has agreed to a set fee for stories that are produced by freelance reporters working for Aspen Journalism and published in Swift Communications newspapers.

We also established the Connie Harvey Environment Desk and did so centered on a new collaboration at Aspen Public Radio. We then added The Aspen Times in December to the new collaborations, which means our stories on the environment will reach both the listeners of Aspen Public Radio and the readers of The Aspen Times and other Swift Communications newspapers.

And Cooney, a local freelance writer, continued to cover Aspen’s history in collaboration with the Aspen Daily News.

Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

The crowd of water managers and users gathered on June 20, 2019, at the Ute Water Conservancy District to hear the latest on the Colorado River District’s risk study.

 

Water Meetings Attended by AJ Reporters in 2019

As is our consistent practice, we informed our reporting by defining a beat and then attending informative meetings relevant to the beat, especially on our Colorado River/water beat.

Below is the list of the 52 water meetings, seminars, tours and conference calls that reporters for Aspen Journalism attended in 2019. (BGS is Brent Gardner-Smith; HS is Heather Sackett.)

Jan. 15-16 (via phone), Colorado River District, Glenwood Springs, BGS
Jan. 17, White River Conservation District meeting, Meeker, BGS
Jan. 22, Colorado River Basin Roundtable (CBRT) Next Steps, Glenwood Springs, BGS
Jan. 28-29, Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB), Westminster, BGS
Jan. 30-31 and Feb. 1, Colorado Water Congress, Westminster, BGS
Feb. 28, Interbasin Compact Committee, Aurora, BGS
March 13-14, Water in the West (note: bomb cyclone), Aurora, BGS
March 18, CBRT demand management call, BGS
March 20-21, CWCB, Fort Collins, BGS
March 22, Castle/Maroon case status, phone call, BGS
March 25, CBRT, Glenwood Springs, BGS
March 29-30, Lincoln Land Institute water seminar, Phoenix, BGS
April 4-5, University of Denver law school seminar, Denver, BGS
April 10, Colorado River Historic Users Pool, conference call, BGS
April 11, City of Aspen water-official interview, Aspen, BGS
April 16-17, Colorado River District quarterly meeting, Glenwood Springs, BGS
May 14, Colorado State of the River, Grand Junction, BGS
May 15-16, CWCB, Gunnison, BGS
May 20, CBRT, Glenwood Springs, BGS

Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Fourteen of the 15 directors of the Colorado River Water Conservation District gathered for their meeting Jan. 19, 2019. The directors are appointed by county commissioners in 15 Western Slope counties. Back row, from left: Alden Vanden Brink, Rio Blanco County; Karn Stiegelmeirer, Summit; Doug Monger, Routt; Marc Catlin, Montrose; John Ely, Pitkin; Steve Acquafresca, Mesa; Bill Trampe, Gunnison; and Stan Whinnery, Hinsdale. Front row, from left: Mike Ritschard, Grand; Kathy Chandler-Henry, Eagle; Dave Merritt, Garfield; Martha Whitmore, Ouray; Tom Alvey, Delta; Rebie Hazard, Saguache. Not pictured is Bill Gray, Moffat County.

June 6-7, Getches-Wilkinson Conference, Boulder, BGS
June 20, Western Slope Basin Roundtables Meeting, Grand Junction, BGS
June 27, Watershed Summit, Denver, BGS
June 28, Upper Colorado River Commission, Keystone, BGS
July 10, Yampa/White/Green Roundtable, Craig, Lauren Blair
July 11, Metro Basin Roundtable, Denver, BGS
July 16, CWCB Arkansas basin project tour, Leadville, BGS
July 17, CWCB meeting, Leadville, BGS
July 18, CWCB/Interbasin Compact Committee (IBCC) meeting, Leadville, BGS
July 18, Healthy Rivers Board meeting, HS
July 22, Colorado Basin Roundtable, Glenwood Springs, HS
Aug. 7 Bureau of Reclamation Ruedi Operations meeting, Basalt, HS
Aug. 8 CWCB Demand Management Agriculture Workgroup, Delta, HS
Aug. 20-22, Colorado Water Congress, Steamboat Springs, HS

Brent Gardner=Smith/Aspen Journalism

Members of Colorado’s Interbasin Compact Committee attended a meeting in Aurora in February 2019.

Sept. 10, CWCB Demand Management Monitoring and Verification workshop, Grand Junction, HS
Sept. 12, Marble Town Council, Marble, HS
Sept. 16, Gunnison Basin Roundtable, Montrose, HS
Sept. 18, Colorado River District Annual Seminar, Grand Junction, HS
Sept. 19, West Divide Conservancy District, Rifle, HS
Sept. 19, Pitkin County Healthy Rivers and Streams Board, Aspen, HS
Sept. 23, CBRT, Glenwood Springs, HS
Sept. 25-26, All basin roundtable summit, Winter Park, HS
Oct. 8, Basalt Water Conservancy District, Carbondale, HS
Oct. 15-16, Colorado River Water Conservation District quarterly meeting, Glenwood Springs, HS
Oct. 28, CBRT Next Steps meeting, via phone, HS
Nov. 4, CWCB Demand Management Agricultural Impacts Workgroup meeting, Glenwood Springs, HS
Nov. 7, Colorado State University Water in the West Symposium, Denver, HS
Nov. 12, Eric Kuhn book presentation, “Science Be Dammed,” Basalt, HS
Nov. 13-14, Colorado Mesa University Upper Colorado River Basin Water Forum, Grand Junction, HS
Nov. 19, Ruedi Water and Power Authority meeting, invasive species prevention, Basalt, HS
Nov. 20-21, CWCB, Denver, HS
Nov. 22, CWCB Demand Management Environmental Considerations workgroup meeting, Frisco, HS
Nov. 25, CBRT, Glenwood Springs, HS
Dec. 10-13, Colorado River Water Users Association annual conference, Las Vegas, HS

This article, in The Aspen Times on March 27, revealed how a re-worked diversion structure blocked boat passage in the Roaring Fork. It lead directly to change, illustrated by the next article.

 

Aspen Journalism’s Story Production in 2019

Reporters and editors working for Aspen Journalism produced 65 stories in 2019.

Forty-seven of the stories came from the water desk, with Gardner-Smith writing 27 stories, Sackett writing 16, Lauren Blair writing two, and Lindsay Fendt and Sarah Tory each writing one. The goal for the water desk was to produce approximately 50 stories in 2019.

Of the 47 stories produced by the water desk, 44 were published by The Aspen Times, 21 by the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, seven by the Vail Daily, five by the Summit Daily, two by the Steamboat Pilot, one by the Craig Press, one by the Colorado Springs Gazette, and 35 by Coyote Gulch.

Fifteen of AJ’s stories in 2019 came from the Connie Harvey Environment Desk, with Stewart-Severy writing 10 stories, Sackett writing three, and Jeanne McGovern and Catherine Lutz each writing one.

And three of the stories came from the history desk, and all were written by Tim Cooney.

Of the 15 stories produced by the Connie Harvey Environment Desk, seven were radio stories broadcast by Aspen Public Radio and published on the station’s website, and four stories were featured by Aspen Public Radio, meaning that an AJ reporter or editor was interviewed by the radio station about the story and the story was also published on the station’s website, as well on Aspen Journalism’s website. (Each time there is a radio feature produced as part of the collaboration, there are two versions of the story being covered — one for listening to and the other for reading).

In addition to Aspen Public Radio, two stories produced by the Connie Harvey Environment Desk were published by The Aspen Times, one was published by the Summit Daily and one was published by the Aspen Daily News.

The 2019 count of total published, broadcast or featured AJ stories is below:

Aspen Journalism: 65

Swift Communications newspapers

The Aspen Times: 46
Glenwood Springs Post Independent: 21
Vail Daily: 7
Summit Daily: 6
Craig Press: 6
Sky-Hi News: 2
Steamboat Pilot: 2
Craig Press: 1

Other

Aspen Daily News: 4
Aspen Public Radio: 11
Colorado Springs Gazette: 1
Coyote Gulch: 35

All of our stories were also published on the Aspen Journalism website under a Creative Commons license, which allows any other publication or website to publish them under our guidelines.

The Aspen Times, 4.24.19.

This article, in the April 23, 2019, edition of The Aspen Times, illustrates how journalism can have an impact. We reported on a problem, and the problem got fixed.

 

Stories Produced by Aspen Journalism in 2019

In 2019, Aspen Journalism produced stories on three different desks, or beats: its new Connie Harvey Environment Desk, its water desk and its history desk.

Tom Zuccareno

Connie Harvey, left, appears at an event in her honor, held at the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies. Aspen Journalism’s Connie Harvey Environment Desk was unveiled at the event.

Connie Harvey Environment Desk: 2019 Stories

 

The Roaring Fork watershed runs from Independence Pass to Glenwood Springs.

July 1, 2019
Watershed-Wide Study Aims To Protect Wildlife’s Homes
By Elizabeth Stewart-Severy
Broadcast by Aspen Public Radio.

Will Cardamone

A watershed-wide study that began last summer focuses on identifying the best habitat for elk, deer and bighorn sheep.

July 3, 2019
As Elk Herds Decline, Researchers Point To Recreation
By Elizabeth Stewart-Severy
Broadcast by Aspen Public Radio.

Heather Sackett/Aspen Journalism

Crystal resident Roger Neal has spent all of his 71 summers in the tiny hamlet. Neal says traffic speeding past his house has become a problem in recent years.

July 23, 2019
Residents of Marble and Crystal say 13-mile Lead King Loop is being loved to death
By Heather Sackett

Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

A beaver slaps the water on the upper Colorado River.

July 25, 2019
Beavers work hard for river ecosystems
By Elizabeth Stewart-Severy
Broadcast by Aspen Public Radio.

Catherine Cussaguet/Aspen Journalism

Mountain goats in 2014 top a ridge between Geissler Mountain and the upper Marten Creek basin, on the Continental Divide, not far from Independence Pass and about 15 miles from the Maroon Bells – Snowmass Wilderness.

August 9, 2019
State studying mountain goats near Aspen
By Heather Sackett
Published by The Aspen Times and the Summit Daily.

Sept. 4, 2019
After clean electricity, Colorado to focus on green transportation, buildings
By Elizabeth Stewart-Severy
Broadcast on Aspen Public Radio.

Elizabeth Stewart-Severy/Aspen Journalism

The Lake Christine Fire burns on Basalt Mountain on July 4, 2018, just above the electrical transmission lines that supply the upper Roaring Fork Valley.

Sept. 23, 2019
Holy Cross looks to build energy resilience post-Lake Christine Fire
By Elizabeth Stewart-Severy
Featured on Aspen Public Radio.

Courtesy Wilderness Workshop

This photo shows oil and gas development at the foot of the Roan Plateau in the Piceance Basin.

Sept. 25, 2019
Court: BLM must revamp oil and gas development plan, consider climate impacts
By Jeanne McGovern
Featured on Aspen Public Radio.

Courtesy of Colorado Parks and Wildlife

As Colorado’s moose population continues to grow, wildlife officials count on hunting to keep numbers in check.

Nov. 5, 2019
Moose settle in to Colorado and hunters take aim
By Elizabeth Stewart-Severy
Broadcast on Aspen Public Radio.

Courtesy of Pitkin County

Pitkin County released the first management plan for Penny Hot Springs. It calls for banning dogs and adding signs asking people to pack out their waste.

Nov. 11, 2019
Plan for Penny Hot Springs bans dogs, calls for Leave No Trace ethics
By Elizabeth Stewart-Severy
Featured on Aspen Public Radio.

Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Avalanche debris near the Maroon Bells, in the late spring of 2019.

Nov. 13, 2019
Anxiety, grief about climate change lead to new support group in Aspen
By Elizabeth Stewart-Severy
Featured on Aspen Public Radio.

Elizabeth Stewart-Severy

Paddleboarders prepare to launch at the Wildwood put-in to float through North Star Nature Preserve in 2016. Pitkin County is now considering updates to the permitting process for commercial operations.

Dec. 10, 2019
Changes ahead for commercial operations at North Star Nature Preserve
By Elizabeth Stewart-Severy
Broadcast by Aspen Public Radio.

Elizabeth Stewart-Severy / Aspen Journalism

A snowcat sits on grass just days before Snowmass Ski Area opened this winter. As temperatures warm, ski resorts could face shorter seasons, less snowpack and more challenges making artificial snow. It snowed heavily just before SkiCo opened Aspen Mountain and Snowmass the weekend before Thanksgiving.

Dec. 18, 2019
Degrees of warming: Rising temperatures, shorter winters and a declining snowpack are impacting Aspen’s snow-dependent culture
By Catherine Lutz
Published by the Aspen Daily News, and a version was broadcast and published on Aspen Public Radio.

Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Aspen’s namesake trees, the quaking aspen, act as a keystone species that sustains hundreds of other plants and animals. Aspens are also under stress from drier conditions, increased temperatures and overbrowsing by large herbivores.

Dec. 29, 2019
Challenges ahead for aspen forests
By Elizabeth Stewart-Severy
Broadcast on Aspen Public Radio.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife

Biologists say federal target numbers are too low to ensure recovery of the Gunnison sage-grouse, which is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The bird’s largest population resides in the Gunnison basin.

Dec. 31, 2019
Biologists: Feds’ target numbers too low for Gunnison sage-grouse recovery
By Heather Sackett
Published by The Aspen Times and featured on Aspen Public Radio.

This article from the June 17, 2019, edition of The Aspen Times revealed the current intentions of Aurora and Colorado Spring to build additional water storage on lower Homestake Creek.

 

Aspen Journalism Water Desk: 2019 Stories

Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

A snowcat smooths out a mixture of machine-made and natural snow at the base of Little Nell in December. Securing a good base on Little Nell is critical to Aspen Mountain operations, and machine-made snow is often critical to get the job done.

Jan. 2, 2019
After expansions, Skico will use about 900 acre-feet of water a year for snowmaking
By Heather Sackett
Published by The Aspen Times, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent and Coyote Gulch.

Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

The Roaring Fork River runs through Woody Creek, not far below where the Snowmass Water and Sanitation District is seeking the right to divert up to 500 acre-feet of water a year for use in Snowmass Village.

Jan. 2, 2019
Snowmass seeking water from the Roaring Fork River for backup supply
By Brent Gardner-Smith
Published by the Snowmass Sun, The Aspen Times, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent and Coyote Gulch.

Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Rafters float on the Green River, just below its confluence with the Yampa River, which flows in from the left side of the photo. The Green, Yampa and White rivers make up a substantial portion of the water that flows into Lake Powell every year.

Jan. 31, 2019
Northwest Colorado water users wary of potential water cutbacks by state
By Lauren Blair
Published by the Steamboat Pilot, the Craig Press and Coyote Gulch.

Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Hayfields in the upper Yampa River valley, in northwest Colorado.

Feb. 4, 2019
State of Colorado, water managers set to work on water-use reduction plan
By Brent Gardner-Smith
Published by The Aspen Times, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent and Coyote Gulch.

Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

A big beach appears on the banks of the Green River in September 2018, one of the lowest months on record for inflow into Lake Powell. Runoff in 2019 was expected to be better than 2018 but still below average due to dry soil conditions in the area drained by the Green and Colorado river systems.

Feb. 7, 2019
Runoff in Colorado River basin likely below-average, federal official warns
By Brent Gardner-Smith
Published by The Aspen Times, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent and Coyote Gulch.

A boater exits the Grand Canyon on the Colorado River into a retreating Lake Mead. The silt walls on either side of the river reveal that Lake Mead has been falling steadily since a 19-year drought started in 2000.

Feb. 9, 2019
Reclamation official explains drought measures in lower Colorado River basin
By Brent Gardner-Smith
Published by The Aspen Times and the Glenwood Springs Post Independent.

Colorado River District

A map shows the boundaries of the Colorado River District and its 15 member counties.

Feb. 20, 2019
Colorado River District seeking to ease tax limitations
By Brent Gardner-Smith
Published by The Aspen Times, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent and Coyote Gulch.

Photo: Courtesy of Bureau of Reclamation

The dam across the Fryingpan River forms Ruedi Reservoir, which can hold 102,373 acre-feet of water, including that which is owned by the Colorado River District.

Feb. 25, 2019
Colorado River District sees soft demand for its stored water
By Brent Gardner-Smith
Published by The Aspen Times, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, the Summit Daily and Coyote Gulch.

Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

This dam forms the Windy Gap Reservoir, which sits across the main stem of the upper Colorado River, near Granby.

March 9, 2019
Pair of lawsuits challenges need for more Colorado River water
By Lindsay Fendt
Published by Coyote Gulch.

Courtesy Gail Schwartz

Gail Schwartz, a resident of Basalt, is poised to represent the Colorado River basin on the Colorado Water Conservation Board. She’s the first woman to do so, and she’ll be a part of the first CWCB board to have a female majority since 1937.

March 19, 2019
Gail Schwartz joins a majority of women on Colorado’s state water board
By Brent Gardner-Smith
Published by The Aspen Times and Coyote Gulch.

Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

The bathtub ring in Lake Powell in October 2014. Today, the reservoir is under 40% full, and water managers in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico are working on demand-management programs that would reduce water use and send more water to the big reservoir that sits on the mainstem of the Colorado River.

March 25, 2019
Colorado water officials start studying statewide program to reduce water use
By Brent Gardner-Smith
Published by The Aspen Times, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, the Vail Daily and Coyote Gulch.

This photo looks downriver on the Colorado River at Horseshoe Bend, just east of Glenwood Springs. Colorado Parks and Wildlife has significant concerns about a potential whitewater park at this location due to its use by bighorn sheep and because it is good fish habitat.

March 27, 2019
Horseshoe Bend last on list for Glenwood’s whitewater park sites
By Brent Gardner-Smith
Published by The Aspen Times and the Glenwood Springs Post Independent.

This is the Robinson Ditch diversion structure on April 6, 2019, when the Roaring Fork River was flowing at a low 250 cubic feet per second.

March 27, 2019
Dangerous diversion structure in Roaring Fork River made worse for boaters after repair by ditch owner
By Brent Gardner-Smith
Published by The Aspen Times and the Glenwood Springs Post Independent.

Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Both science and science fiction say the future is going to be hotter, drier and dustier, and this silt fall in upper Lake Powell in September 2018 captures the trend.

April 3, 2019
Fact fuses with fiction at Phoenix water meeting
By Brent Gardner-Smith
Published by The Aspen Times and Coyote Gulch.

Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Penstocks feed the Shoshone hydropower plant on the Colorado River in Glenwood Canyon.

April 16, 2019
The Shoshone hydro plant went down, but flows in the Colorado River stayed up
By Brent Gardner-Smith
Published by The Aspen Times and the Glenwood Springs Post Independent.

Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

The Colorado River flows into the still waters backed up by Glen Canyon Dam at the top of Lake Powell.

April 19, 2019
Colorado studies options after Trump signs drought contingency plan
By Brent Gardner-Smith
Published by The Aspen Times, and Coyote Gulch.

Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

This gate opens to a ranch in the Gunnison River valley.

April 21, 2019
Colorado River District shifts gaze to a 2020 tax question
By Brent Gardner-Smith
Published by The Aspen Times, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent and the Summit Daily.

Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

This photo shows the boat passage in the rocks in the Roaring Fork River in Basalt that make up the Robinson Ditch, after work was done on April 15, 2019, to create a better route for rafts and other craft in the diversion structure. It’s the cleanest path though the riverwide structure in years.

April 24, 2019
Robinson Ditch section on Roaring Fork River gets new opening for rafts, boats
By Brent Gardner-Smith
Published by The Aspen Times.

Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

The deep hole in Woody Creek sits at the gravel pit operated by Elam Construction. The city of Aspen has included this location on its list of potential locations to which it might move the water rights from the Castle and Maroon creek reservoirs, along with an undisturbed parcel next door to the gravel pit.

April 26, 2019
Aspen responds to judge’s request in Castle/Maroon dam cases
By Brent Gardner-Smith
Published by The Aspen Times and Coyote Gulch.

Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

A kayaker makes her way down the San Juan River, which delivers water from Colorado, New Mexico and Utah to Lake Powell.

May 4, 2019
Checking the water jug that is Lake Powell
By Brent Gardner-Smith
Published by The Aspen Times, the Craig Press and Coyote Gulch.

Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

This wetland area is one of many that would be inundated by the potential Castle Creek Reservoir, for which the city holds conditional water rights.

May 10, 2019
Water judge issues decree for Aspen’s Castle Creek water storage right, poised to issue Maroon Creek right
By Brent Gardner-Smith
Published by The Aspen Times.

Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

An executive-session notice from a CWCB meeting in Leadville in July 2019.

May 24, 2019
Colorado taking demand-management workgroups behind closed doors
By Brent Gardner-Smith
Published by The Aspen Times and Coyote Gulch.

Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

This is the ungated spillway at Ruedi Dam and Reservoir, which automatically spills water into the lower Fryingpan River should the reservoir ever fill beyond its holding capacity of 102,373 acre-feet.

May 25, 2019
Ruedi Reservoir expected to fill, and maybe spill
By Brent Gardner-Smith
Published by The Aspen Times, the Summit Daily and Coyote Gulch.

Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

An impromptu workgroup works on a problem on the Colorado River. The group members came together below Doris Rapid in the Grand Canyon after a small raft flipped. The members proceeded after the raft was righted. The CWCB could be considered to be embarking on a similar exercise in setting up eight workgroups to discuss ways to leave more water in the Colorado River system above Lake Powell.

June 11, 2019
CWCB names water mavens to demand management workgroups
By Brent Gardner-Smith
Published by The Aspen Times and Coyote Gulch.

Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

This beaver dam, at Maroon Creek Reservoir, is the one that the city of Aspen had been telling the state, since 1965, that it intended to build.

June 12, 2019
Possibility of city of Aspen dams on Castle and Maroon creeks eliminated
By Brent Gardner-Smith
Published by The Aspen Times and Coyote Gulch.

CPW

A Colorado pikeminnow taken from the Colorado River near Grand Junction sits in the hands of Danielle Tremblay, a Colorado Parks and Wildlife employee. Pikeminnows have been tracked swimming upstream for great distances to spawn in the 15-mile stretch of river between Palisade and Grand Junction.

June 15, 2019
Reservoir releases for endangered fish in Colorado River coming after peak flows
By Brent Gardner-Smith
Published by The Aspen Times, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent and the Vail Daily.

Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

The second wave in the Basalt whitewater park rushes in June 2019. The first wave can stop rafts, which then drift slowly into the second wave, which can flip them.

June 20, 2019
Waves in Basalt whitewater park still gnarly
By Brent Gardner-Smith
Published by The Aspen Times and Coyote Gulch.

CBRT draft BIP via SGM.

Here is the Upper Colorado River Basin, or that section of land drained by the Colorado River, within the state of Colorado, above the Colorado River’s confluence with the Gunnison River. This basin is regulated by the state of Colorado as Division 5, and the state’s regional water court and water engineer’s office are located in Glenwood Springs.

June 24, 2019
Dividing the waters: How a compact call might unfold on Western Slope
By Brent Gardner-Smith
Published by The Aspen Times, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, the Vail Daily and Coyote Gulch.

Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Homestake Reservoir sits partially in Pitkin County but mainly in Eagle County. Below the reservoir, the Homestake Creek valley is visible, as well as a short section of what’s known as Homestake Road. Water held in the potential Whitney Reservoir would be pumped up to Homestake Reservoir and then sent to the Front Range.

July 17, 2019
Aurora, Colorado Springs seek to drill on lower Homestake Creek dam sites
By Brent Gardner-Smith
Published by The Aspen Times, the Vail Daily, the Colorado Springs Gazette and Coyote Gulch.

Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Members of the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the Interbasin Compact Committee meet July 18, 2019, at Colorado Mountain College in Leadville. The CWCB members discussed the unfolding demand-management workgroup process in an unscheduled executive session, and then they were challenged to explain their process.

July 22, 2019
CWCB changes course, will open most demand management meetings to public
By Brent Gardner-Smith
Published by The Aspen Times, the Craig Press, and Coyote Gulch.

Town of Carbondale

Carbondale treats water at its facility on Nettle Creek, a tributary of the Crystal River. The town nearly had to shut the plant down during the summer of 2018 because of a senior call on the downstream Ella Ditch.

Aug. 12, 2019
Climate change could threaten Carbondale’s water supply
By Heather Sackett
Published by The Aspen Times, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, and Coyote Gulch.

Heather Sackett

Ryan Loebach, who is Aspen’s utilities senior project manager, holds an old water meter, left, and the meter that will replace it. By replacing about 10% of the city’s aging meters, as part of the Aspen Intelligent Metering project, officials estimate a water savings of 50 acre-feet annually.

Aug. 21, 2019
Meter replacements to help conserve water in Aspen
By Heather Sackett
Published by The Aspen Times.

Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

An irrigated hayfield on McLain Flats, near Aspen.

Aug. 27, 2019
Water equity a concern for Western Slope water users
By Heather Sackett
Published by The Aspen Times, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, Coyote Gulch,

Jeffrey Deems/ASO, National Snow and Ice Data Center

This map shows the snowpack depth of the Maroon Bells in the spring of 2019. The map was created with information from NASA’s Airborne Snow Observatory, which will help water managers make streamflow predictions more accurate.

Sept. 9, 2019
Aspen joins water managers using new technologies to map mountain snowpack, predict streamflows
By Heather Sackett
Published by The Aspen Times.

Heather Sackett/Aspen Journalism

The Crystal River in August 2018 was running at 8 cubic feet per second near the state fish hatchery. Two conservation districts are hoping to get state funding for a study about water supply replacement plans for several subdivisions in the Crystal River Valley.

Sept. 24, 2019
Crystal River study on backup supply plan being floated by conservation districts
By Heather Sackett
Published by The Aspen Times and Coyote Gulch.

Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

An excavator works in the Roaring Fork River in February 2018, shaping the Basalt whitewater park.

Oct. 10, 2019
Supporters say Proposition DD will ‘fund Colorado’s Water Plan,’ but what does that mean?
By Heather Sackett
Published by The Aspen Times, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, the Vail Daily, the Summit Daily and Coyote Gulch.

Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

The first wave in the Basalt whitewater park, just below the low highway bridge and the small boat ramp at Fisherman’s Park, can surprise even experienced boaters. And it can flip rafts.

Oct. 17, 2019
Public asks Pitkin County for Basalt whitewater park to be safer
By Heather Sackett
Published by The Aspen Times, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent and Coyote Gulch.

Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

This is the eastside outlet of the Twin Lakes tunnel, which is operated by the Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co., a member of the Front Range Water Council. The FRWC recently declined to meet with members of a Colorado Basin Roundtable group about demand management.

Oct. 30, 2019
Demand-management groups multiply in Colorado water fight
By Heather Sackett
Published by The Aspen Times, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent and Coyote Gulch.

Heather Sackett

This aerial photo captures the blue expanse of Ruedi Reservoir. Students with the Carbondale-based Youth Water Leadership Program took to the air with EcoFlight to see how people have modified water in the Roaring Fork watershed.

Nov. 3, 2019
Leaders of youth-water program get bird’s-eye view of Roaring Fork watershed
By Heather Sackett
Published by The Aspen Times.

Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

An Arkansas River project partially funded by the CWCB was removing a riverwide diversion structure and replacing it with a new diversion structure that will allow unimpeded boating through Granite.

Nov. 6, 2019
Proposition DD barely squeaks by
By Heather Sackett
Published by The Aspen Times, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, the Vail Daily, the Summit Daily, the Sky-Hi News, the Steamboat Pilot, the Craig Press and Coyote Gulch.

Heather Sackett/Aspen Journalism

Aquatic ecologist Bill Miller, left, and Pitkin County Healthy Streams Board chair Andre Wille stand on the banks of Castle Creek as Miller prepares to take macro-invertebrate samples. The county hired Miller to collect baseline data to ensure that increased snowmaking on Aspen Mountain won’t harm the health of the stream.

Nov. 11, 2019
Monitoring will make sure Aspen snowmaking doesn’t harm creeks
By Heather Sackett
Published by The Aspen Times and Coyote Gulch.

Sarah Tory/Aspen Journalism

Brad Johnson, the lead scientist for the Rocky Mountain Fen Research Project, stands at the project site in the Upper Arkansas River Valley. Launched by two Front Range water utilities in 2003, the project is studying a new way to mitigate potential impacts to fens, an ecologically rich and fragile wetland found throughout Colorado’s high country.

Nov. 18, 2019
Efforts to relocate an ancient wetland could help determine the fate of a water project on lower Homestake Creek
By Sarah Tory
Published by the Vail Daily and Coyote Gulch.

Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

The iconic Maroon Bells are visible from the site where the city of Aspen had proposed building a dam and reservoir. The city has hired an engineering firm to help figure out where to move its conditional water-storage rights after a water-court judge in June ruled out the possibility of building dams or reservoirs on upper Maroon or Castle creek.

Nov. 26, 2019
Aspen moves ahead with integrated water plan and moving its conditional storage rights
By Heather Sackett
Published by The Aspen Times and Coyote Gulch.

Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

The Sweet Jessup Canal’s diversion structure is on the Crystal River about two miles downstream from Avalanche Creek. Pitkin County wants any storage on the Crystal that an augmentation study might recommend to be located below the Sweet Jessup to keep open the possibility that the upper portion of the Crystal can one day qualify as Wild and Scenic.

Nov. 29, 2019
Colorado Basin Roundtable OKs grant to study Crystal River backup water supply
By Heather Sackett
Published by The Aspen Times, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent and Coyote Gulch.

Heather Sackett/Aspen Journalism

Colorado Stone Quarries has an office building and load-out area where County Road 3C crosses the Crystal River in Marble. Quarry officials say a 5,500-gallon diesel spill did not affect Yule Creek, which flows into the Crystal River.

Dec. 12, 2019
Diesel spill halts operations at Marble quarry
By Heather Sackett
Published by The Aspen Times, and the Glenwood Springs Post Independent.

Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Irrigated pasture at Mantle Ranch bumps up against the Yampa River. Ranchers in the Yampa River basin are grappling with the enforcement of state regulations that require them to monitor their water use.

Dec. 28, 2019
Northwest Colorado ranchers grapple with state requirements to measure, record water use
By Lauren Blair
Published by the Steamboat Pilot, the Craig Press, The Aspen Times and Coyote Gulch.

Courtesy photo

Seen from the air, Glen Canyon Dam holds back the Colorado River to form Lake Powell. The state of Colorado is looking into how to fund a program that would pay irrigators to reduce their consumptive use in order to send water downstream to a savings account in Lake Powell.

Dec. 30, 2019
Who should pay for water conservation in the West? Water managers wade into discussion
By Heather Sackett
Published by The Aspen Times, Sky-Hi News and Coyote Gulch.


Aspen Journalism History Desk: 2019 Stories

Flint Smith

Aspen Mountain ski patrollers, from left to right, Tim Howe, Howie Mayer and Steve “Bones” Stratford ready charges at the top of Walsh’s in 1980.

March 11, 2019
Hope delivers Pandora’s Box on Aspen Mountain
By Tim Cooney
Published by the Aspen Daily News.

Aspen Historical Society, Litchfield Collection

John “Johnny” Litchfield, a World War II 10th Mountain Division veteran, as well as the owner and namer of the Red Onion, gets big air in 1946 off a miner’s cabin in Little Annie basin. He is trailed by Jean Litchfield.

May 5, 2019
Ski area plans through the years in Aspen’s Little Annie basin
By Tim Cooney
Published by the Aspen Daily News.

Aspen Historical Society

Miners outside the Smuggler mine in 1910.

Sept. 15, 2019
Dewatering the Smuggler Mountain mines
By Tim Cooney
Published by the Aspen Daily News.

This article, from the Dec. 27, 2019 edition of the Steamboat Pilot, illustrates the range of our collaboration with Swift Communications newspapers.

 

Aspen Journalism’s Media Reach in 2019

Aspen Journalism reaches engaged citizens through its own website, through the websites of other news organizations, and through other news organizations’ publications and broadcasts.

We make a good faith effort to conservatively estimate the number of readers or listeners we may have reached and informed.

According to Google Analytics, from Jan. 1, 2019, to Dec. 31, 2019, the Aspen Journalism website site saw 67,217 sessions (up from 62,811 sessions in 2018), 54,924 users (up from 50,698 in 2018) and 83,075 page views (up from 78,396 in 2018).

The AJ site had 207 active one-day users (down from 216 in 2018), 1,111 active seven-day users (up from 1,108 in 2018), 2,228 active 14-day users (up from 2,042 in 2018) and 3,990 active 30-day users (up from 3,967 in 2018).

We consider that this data suggests that we reach about 200 people on our website on a given day.

Aspen Journalism’s Twitter feed has 1,272 followers (up from 1,201 followers at end of 2018).

We recognize our own unique digital reach remains modest, which is why we continue to place a strong emphasis on collaborating with other news organizations, which have larger audiences than our digital channels do, so far at least.
This article from The Aspen Times, on Dec. 30, 2019, shows how the newspaper can feature statewide water news in a way that is attractive to readers.

Reach via Collaborating News Organizations

Aspen Journalism stories in 2019 were featured in the following publications, and the estimated audience information comes from the websites of the publications.

To reach the potential audience figures from newspaper stories, we multiplied the daily print circulation of a publication and their daily online readership by the number of stories we published with the organization.

Hence, for example, X stories in The Aspen Times multiplied by X copies, plus X online reader = X potential “media impressions.”

We recognize, and emphasize, that the resulting number is the high-end of the potential audience for our stories, but it is the most consistent way to measure and compare the number of people we are potentially informing via our reporting. It is also consistent with how many PR firms measure the reach of media stories.

The Aspen Times, distributed from Aspen to Carbondale, has a daily print circulation of 9,000 and an online readership of 370,000 visits a month, or approximately 12,000 a day. We published 46 stories in 2019 with The Aspen Times, reaching a total potential of 414,000 media impressions via print and 552,000 digital impressions, for a total of 966,000 impressions.

The Glenwood Springs Post Independent, distributed from Basalt to Rifle, has a daily print circulation of 9,000 and 30-day website traffic averaging more than 800,000 page views, or 27,000 per day, according to the Post Independent. We published 21 stories with the Post Independent in 2019, resulting in 180,000 print impressions and 243,000 digital impressions, for a total of 423,000.

The Vail Daily, distributed from Vail to Eagle, has a daily print circulation of 10,500, and an estimated online readership of 10,500. We published seven stories with the Vail Daily in 2019, for an audience of 73,500 print readers and 73,500 digital readers, for a total of 147,000 readers.

The Summit Daily, distributed from Silverthorne to Copper Mountain, has a daily print circulation of 10,000 and an estimated daily online readership of 10,000. We published six stories with the Summit Daily in 2019, for a total potential audience of 60,000 print readers and 60,000 digital readers, for a total of 120,000 readers.

The Craig Press, distributed in Craig, has a twice-weekly print circulation of 6,500 and 7,000 online daily readers and an estimated 4,700 (140,898 sessions over 30 days) digital readers. We published six stories with the Craig Press in 2019, for a total potential audience of 81,000 print readers and 28,200 digital readers, for a total of 109,200 readers.

The Steamboat Pilot, distributed in Routt County, has a daily print circulation of 9,000 and an online readership of about 12,000 sessions a day. We published two stories in 2019 in the Steamboat Pilot, reaching a total potential audience of 18,000 print readers and up to 24,000 digital readers, for a total of 42,000 readers.

The Sky-Hi News, distributed in Grand County, has a print circulation of 5,500 and an estimated online readership of about 5,000. We published two stories, reaching a total potential audience of 11,000 print readers and 10,000 digital readers, for a total of 21,000 readers.

The Aspen Daily News, distributed from Aspen to Glenwood Springs, with a daily print circulation of 14,500 and online readership of 2,000 users on an average day. We published four stories in 2019 in the Daily News, reaching a total potential audience of 58,000 print readers and 8,000 digital readers, for total of 64,000 readers.

Aspen Public Radio estimates it has 2,300 listeners each weekday morning. The station broadcast 11 Aspen Journalism stories or interviews in 2019 during this period, so we estimated our stories could have been heard by 25,300 listeners.

The Colorado Springs Gazette, distributed in Colorado Springs, has a combined print and digital readership of 122,200 a day. We published one story in 2019 with the Gazette, for a potential of 122,200 readers.

Coyote Gulch reaches approximately 5,000 visitors a day, and many of them are water professionals, including attorneys, engineers and consultants. Coyote Gulch published 35 of our stories in 2019, reaching a potential audience of 175,000 readers.

In total, Aspen Journalism stories published or broadcast by our collaborative partners may have reached a potential audience of 2,205,900 readers and listeners. Savvy (or cynical) media professionals may be inclined to discount that number by as much as half, which would mean, in that case, we reached a cumulative audience of about 1.1 million.

 
 
 

Reach Via Public Radio Exposure

Aspen Public Radio

Aspen Journalism’s reporting was featured on 11 news stories or on-air interviews at APR, as well as the news stories or interviews being published on the station’s website.

July 1, 2019
Watershed-Wide Study Aims to Protect Wildlife’s Homes,” with Elizabeth Stewart-Severy

July 2, 2019
As Elk Herds Decline, Researchers Point to Recreation,” with Elizabeth Stewart-Severy

July 24, 2109
Beavers Work Hard for River Ecosystems,” with Elizabeth Stewart-Severy

Sept. 4, 2019
After Clean Electricity, Colorado to Focus on Green Transportation, Buildings,” with Elizabeth Stewart-Severy

Sept. 22, 2019
Holy Cross Looks to Build Energy Resilience Post-Lake Christine Fire,” with Elizabeth Stewart-Severy

Oct. 2, 2019
Climate Impacts Must Be Considered in Future Colorado River Basin Oil Leases,” with Elizabeth Stewart-Severy

Nov. 5, 2019
As Colorado’s Moose Population Grows, So Does Hunting,” with Elizabeth Stewart-Severy

Nov. 8, 2019
Penny Hot Springs Gets a Management Plan,” with Elizabeth Stewart-Severy

Nov. 12, 2019
Climate-Anxiety Group Forms in Aspen,” with Elizabeth Stewart-Severy

Dec. 9, 2019
Changes Ahead for Commercial Operations at North Star Nature Preserve,” with Elizabeth Stewart-Severy

Dec. 20, 2019
Degrees of Warming: Rising Temperatures, Shorter Winters and Declining Snowpack Are Impacting Aspen,” with Elizabeth Stewart-Severy

Dec. 26, 2019
Challenges Ahead for Aspen Forests, with Elizabeth Stewart-Severy

Dec. 31, 2019
Biologists: Feds’ Target Numbers Too Low for Gunnison Sage-Grouse Recovery,” with Elizabeth Stewart-Severy

KDNK, Carbondale

Aspen Journalism’s reporting was featured four times on KDNK, during interviews with reporters about their stories.

Feb. 22, 2019
KDNK News Brief: “Colorado River District Considers Vote to Free Up Tax Revenue,” with Brent Gardner-Smith

Aug. 1, 2019
Booked: “News That Matters with Brent Gardner-Smith and Lucas Turner,” with Brent Gardner-Smith

Oct. 10, 2019
Booked: “Tim Cooney on a Death-Defying Feat Never Before Attempted,” with Tim Cooney

Dec. 20, 2019
Booked: “Aspen Journalism Breaks Story of Spill at Marble Quarry,” with Heather Sackett

Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

The location of the once-prospective Maroon Creek Reservoir, just below the confluence of East and West Maroon creeks.

Aspen Journalism’s Impact and Influence in 2019

 

The end of the Castle and Maroon reservoirs

On June 12, 2019, Aspen Journalism published a story with the headline “Possibility of City of Aspen dams on Castle and Maroon creeks eliminated,” which culminated seven years of reporting on the city of Aspen’s effort to maintain its conditional water-storage rights tied to two large dams on upper Castle and Maroon creeks.

The story was recognized by the Institute for Nonprofit News as among the best nonprofit reporting in 2019. INN said: “Aspen Journalism published the capstone story in a multiyear investigation of whether the City of Aspen would maintain water rights tied to a potential 155-foot-tall dam within view of one of Colorado’s most scenic peaks, the Maroon Bells. Explaining how a complex, difficult-to-cover case was resolved in state water court, the story said the city agreed to seek to build dams and reservoirs in less environmentally sensitive areas.”

We believe it is fair to say that without Aspen Journalism’s reporting on the subject, which began in 2012 with the story “City maintains rights for dams on Castle and Maroon creeks,” the city’s conditional water rights would have remained on the books.

Helping to open demand-management meetings

Aspen Journalism broke the news that the Colorado Water Conservation Board was planning to hold an extensive series of demand-management meetings, with a long list of water professionals, behind closed doors. We believe that our exclusive coverage of the state agency’s intent to hold closed-door meetings brought attention to the agency’s intent, and galvanized opposition to that approach. The CWCB then decided to hold the meetings in public sessions.

Cleaning up the Robinson Ditch diversion structure

Aspen Journalism broke the story that the managers of a riverwide diversion structure on the Roaring Fork River had inadvertently blocked boat passage on the river after making repairs. Our reporting brought the issue to the attention of the local boating community, and the ditch managers worked with local boaters, including a commercial rafting company, to rearrange the boulders in time for the 2019 boating season on the river.

Homestake Creek reservoirs

Aspen Journalism broke the story that Aurora and Colorado Springs had filed an application with the U.S. Forest Service to drill test bores at several potential dam sites on lower Homestake Creek, below Homestake Reservoir, in the Eagle River basin. Our story brought attention to the efforts by the two cities to construct another dam on Homestake Creek, and the story kept citizens and river advocates informed.

Basalt whitewater park

For several years, Aspen Journalism has covered the development by Pitkin County of a whitewater park, and an associated water right, on the Roaring Fork River in Basalt. Our reporting in 2019 documented the dangerous boating conditions created by the county’s infrastructure in the river at high water. Local citizens then urged the county to reduce the hazard by going back into the river, for the third time, and reworking the wave-producing infrastructure.

Oil spill in the quarry in Marble

Aspen Journalism broke the story about a significant oil spill in the marble quarry in Marble and helped inform the citizens of Marble and state regulators about the incident.

Continued coverage of demand management

Aspen Journalism has been covering state and regional water policy on the Colorado River basin since 2015, and we informed a wide audience on an emerging demand management, or water-use reduction program, from the state of Colorado.

This article, from The Aspen Times on March 25, 2019, shows how statewide and regional water news is presented by our collaborating news partners.

 

Tweets About Aspen Journalism in 2019

Here are some of the nice things people said about Aspen Journalism on Twitter in 2019: …

This article is from the Nov. 18, 2019, edition of the Vail Daily.

 

Aspen Journalism’s Editorial Independence Policy

We subscribe to standards of editorial independence adopted by the Institute for Nonprofit News.

Aspen Journalism is an independent news organization and retains full authority over its editorial content.

We are aware of the pitfalls that can arise when a news organization accepts any form of revenue, either in the nonprofit model in the form of donations or in the commercial model in the form of advertising. As such, we diligently maintain a firewall between revenue and the newsroom.

Our news judgments are made independently and are not based on or influenced by donors.

Our organization accepts donations to support the coverage of particular beats or broad coverage areas, but our organization maintains editorial control of all of the resulting coverage.

We cede no right of review or influence of any of our editorial content.

We do not accept anonymous donations.

We disclose donations on our “About” and “Contact” pages, and we list each donation by name, the date we received the donation and the donation amount, and we do so as soon as we receive the donation.

When we deem it necessary and appropriate, we disclose our donors and key stakeholders in our stories or in an editor’s note.

Acceptance of financial support does not constitute implied or actual endorsement of donors or their products, services, actions or opinions.

Aspen Journalism’s Heather Sackett broke the news in December 2019 of a diesel spill in Marble.

 

Aspen Journalism’s Donors and Funders in 2019

Jon Banks, 12.31.19, $250
Susan Brady, 12.31.19, $2,000
Steve and Molly Child, 12.31.19, $52
Brent Gardner-Smith, 12.31.19, $250
Marcella Larsen, 12.31.19, $515
Howie Mallory, 12.31.19, $150
Pete McBride, 12.31.19, $1,000
Frank Peters and Marjory Musgrave, 12.31.19, $500
Rob Rafelson, 12.31.19, $103
Kate Van Schaack, 12.31.19, $ 52
Paul Andersen, 12.30.19, $52
Art Burrows, 12.30.19, $52
Oni Butterfly, 12.30.19, $26
Gavin Dahl, 12.30.19, $21
Tim Estin, 12.30.19, $206
David Fleisher and Gina Berko, 12.30.19, $258
Bill Hunt, 12.30.19, $2,500
David Hyman, 12.30.10, $515
Torie Jarvis, 12.30.10, $41
Dave Munk, 12.30.19, $31
Harry Teague, 12.30.19, $1,029
Ruth Carver, 12.28.19, $1,000
Joan Harvey, 12.28.19, $100
Loren Jenkins, 12.28.19, $250
John Keleher, 12.28.19, $26
Russ Criswell, 12.27.19, $52
John Fielder, 12.27.19, $250
Mark Tache and Christin Cooper, 12.27.19, $206
Howie Mallory, 12.26.19, $150
Will Roush, 12.26.19, $150
Kate Bulkley, 12.25.19, $261
Judy Barnard, 12.23.19, $415
Curtis Robinson, 12.23.19, $1,000
Jeff Davlyn, 12.23.19, $52
Pam Moore, 12.23.19, $1,000
Patti Stranahan, 12.23.19, $1,029
Bob Harris, 12.22.19, $206
Michael Lipkin, 12.22.19, $515
David Hiser, 12.22.19, $35
Ted Conover, 12.22.19, $52
Ron Schiller, 12.22.19, $258
Lorenzo Semple III, 12.22.19, $50
Valerie MacDonald, 12.21.19, $103
Joel Scott, 12.21.19, $103
Linda Resnick, via Resnick Fnd, $5,000
Richard and Marianne Kipper, 12.20.19, $400
Bill Stirling, 12.19.19, $150
Jill Soffer, via Our Part, 12.18.19, $5,000
Marcie and Robert Musser, 12.17.19, $2,500
Bob Purvis, 12.17.19, $1,000
Sue Helm, 12.17.19, $100
Lynn Nichols and Jim Gilchrist, 12.17.19, $103
Dexter Williams, 12.17.19, $50
Crystal Valley Environmental Protection Assoc., 12.16.19, $200
Judy Steinberg, 12.16.19, $5,000
Greg Poschman, 12.13.2019, $100
Amory Lovins and Judy Hill Lovings, 12.13.19, $500
Sarah and Richard Shaw, 12.12.19, $250
Mary and Hugh Wise, 12.12.19, $1,000
Stan Bialek, 12.10.19, $100
Tim Cooney, 12.10.19, $26
John Hoffman, 12.10.19, $100
John Bennett, 12.10.2019, $102
Ken Ransford, 12.10.2019, $102
Tim Cooney, 12.10.2019, $26
Martens Foundation, 12.10.19, $3,000
Flynn Stewart-Severy, via F&M Architects, 12.9.19, $1,000
Lissa Ballinger, 12.9.2019, $52
Cici Fox, 12.9.2019, $52
Peter Van Domelen, 12.9.2019, $1,029
Sara Garton, 12.9.19, $75
Cindy Houben, 12.8.19, $50
Bob and Ruth Wade, 12.7.2019, $52
Jacolyn and John Bucksbaum, 12.5.19, $1,000
Gail Holstein, 12.5.19, $50
Paul Menter, 12.5.2019, $103
Matthew Rice, 12.5.2019, $31
Mary Sackett, 12.5.2019, $103
Elizabeth Stewart-Severy, 12.5.2019, $103
Austin Gardner-Smith, monthly, $250
Karin Teague, 12.4.19, $52
Helen Okobokekeimei, 12.4.19, $5
Frank Peters, 12.4.19, $103
Jim Pokrandt, 12.4.19, $103
Doug Throm, 12.4.19, $52
Michael Hassig, 12.4.19, $103
Bill Jochems, 12.3.2019, $100
Lynda Palevsky, 12.3.2019, $100
Mary Ann Inouye, 12.3.19, $26
Diane Johnson, 12.3.19, $52
Skip Behrhorst, 12.3.19, $515
Nancy Lovendahl, 12.3.19, $21
Deborah Bradford, 12.2.19, $1,029
Bruce Berger, 12.2.19, $250
Mary and Sven Dominick-Coomer, 12.2.19, $250
Sara Ransford, 12.2.19, $1,000
Pam Moore, 12.1.19, $148
Jay Gallagher, 12.1.19, $103
Elizabeth Payton, 12.1.19, $52Pam Moore, 12.1.19, $148
Felicity Huffman, 11.29.19, $1,200
Michael McVoy, 11.27.19, $1,000
Barbara Reese, 11.26.19, $3,000
Jeremy and Angela Foster, 11.25.19, $500
Marcia Corbin, 11.24.19, $100
Annie Rickenbaugh, 11.24.19, $250
Fred Malo, 11.21.19, $11
Tim McFlynn, monthly, $180
Brent Gardner-Smith, 11.20.19, $50
Loretta Lohman, 11.18.19, $26
Leisha John, 11.17.19, $103
Chuck and Meredith Ogilby, 11.15.19, $200
Carol Duell, 11.14.19, $200
Ford and Susan Schumann, 11.14.19, $5,000
Mark Harvey, 11.13.19, $5,000
Judith Steinberg, 11.9.19, $1,029
Peter Looram, 11.9.19, $5,000
Pat Hunter, 11.8.19, $52
Muriel Harvey, 11.7.19, $1,029
Hensley and James Peterson, 11.6.19, $1,000
Dave Maass, 11.5.19, $10
Mitch Levy, 11.3.19, $206
Betty Severy, 11.3.19, $200
Paulina Vander Noordaa, 11.1.19, $26
Mary Conover, 11.1.19, $206
George Sibley, 11.1.19, $26
Robert Gardner, 11.1.19, $103
Ken Neubecker, 11.1.19, $103
Brent Gardner-Smith, 11.1.19, $100
New-Land Foundation, 11.1.19, $15,000
Michael Johnston, 11.1.19, $10,000
Aspen Business Center Foundation, 10.28.19, $35,000
Dave Reed, 10.20.19, $26
Brent Gardner-Smith, monthly, $572
T.A. Barron, 10.9.19, $5,000
Sue Edelstein and Bill Spence, 9.26.19, $1,000
Mark Harvey, 9.26.19, $3,000
Maki Foundation, 9.26.19, $5,000
The Water Desk at the University of Colorado, 9.17.19, $10,000**
Robin Waters, 8.29.19, $36
Edgar Boyles, 8.28.19, $50
Michael Kinsley, 8.27.19, $100
Jackie Merrill and Jay Hughes, 8.23.19, $1,000
John Orr, monthly, $15
Richard Tofel, 8.12.19, $930*
Mark Harvey, 8.11.19, $3,500
Hal Harvey, 8.11.19, $3,500
Ann Knight, 8.10.19, $1,000
The Water Desk at the University of Colorado, 8.6.19, $5,000**
Ann Harvey, 7.25.19, $3,500
Mark Harvey, 7.22.19, $2,000
Tim McFlynn, 7.22.19, $100
Bill Jochems, 6.26.19, $103
Tim McFlynn, 6.25.19, $100
Colorado Media Project, 6.11.19, $1,500
Mark Harvey, 4.19.19, $6,000
Sue Helm, 4.5.19, $100
Catena Foundation, 4.1.19, $100,000
Howie Mallory, 3.21.19, $150
NewsMatch, via the Miami Foundation, 2.21.19, $30,000
Wayne Ethridge, 2.21.19, $100
Danny Kaye and Sylvia Kaye Foundation, 2.18.19, $1,500
Muffy and Andy DiSabatino, 2.18.19, $500
Chuck Oligby, 1.21.19, $200
Harry Teague, 1.18.19, $1,000
Bruce Gordon, 1.8.19, $26
* in-kind
** fee for service

The invitation for Aspen Journalism’s event with Dick Tofel, president of ProPublica, in Aspen in August 2019.

 

Aspen Journalism’s Publisher’s Circle

Last summer, AJ expanded into a new role: bringing journalists and readers together to build a community of engaged supporters of quality journalism and a free press.

Our first such event, held at the Aspen Meadows on Aug. 13, featured Brent Gardner-Smith interviewing Richard Tofel, president of ProPublica, the paragon of nonprofit investigative journalism. Tofel’s remarks ranged from Pulitzers to paywalls, with this highlight for us:

“I’ve watched with great interest what Brent and his colleagues have done at Aspen Journalism now for a decade. I think this kind of thing can make an enormous difference in a community like this.

“Just like you want to have a great hospital, and you want to have a great art museum, and you want to have some theater, and you want to have educational institutions that lift the place up, you need some public-interest journalism to keep a community vibrant, to keep it self-regulating, to keep it able to govern itself in a democratic way, and I hope this community will do that.”

We plan to produce two Publisher’s Circle events in 2020, one over Presidents Day weekend with Carl Hulse, the Washington, D.C., correspondent for The New York Times, and one the first week in August with Evan Smith, the CEO of The Texas Tribune.

Photo by Red

Brent Gardner-Smith, reporting on the Yampa, July 2019.

 

Aspen Journalism’s staff and freelancers

Editor and Executive Director
Brent Gardner-Smith has also been a reporter at the Aspen Daily News, The Aspen Times and KSNO, and executive director at Aspen Public Radio. He has won awards from the Colorado Press Association, the Colorado Broadcasters Association and the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2010, he worked at ProPublica while earning his master’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri.

Managine Editor and Water Desk Editor
Heather Sackett has worked as a reporter at The Denver Post, the Littleton Independent and the Telluride Daily Planet. Her work has also been published in The Colorado Sun and Adventure Journal. She holds a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Colorado Boulder, and her reporting has been recognized by the Colorado Press Association.

Connie Harvey Environment Desk Editor
Elizabeth Stewart-Severy is editor of Aspen Journalism’s Connie Harvey Environment Desk, named in honor of the longtime Aspen environmentalist. She covers the environment in collaboration with Aspen Public Radio. An award-winning broadcast journalist, she has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in education from the University of Colorado Boulder.

Freelance Water and Environment Reporter
Sarah Tory covers water and the environment for Aspen Journalism. She is a freelance reporter and a correspondent for High Country News, and her work has appeared in The Atlantic, Hakai, Mother Jones, Slate and The Colorado Independent. She studied literature at Williams College and received a master’s degree in creative nonfiction writing from Columbia University.

History Desk Editor
Tim Cooney is a freelance writer and former Aspen Mountain ski patroller. The Aspen Daily News, The Aspen Times, The Avalanche Review, Aspen Sojourner, Ski, and Powder have published his work. His Aspen Journalism story “Taming the Snow Beast” won a 2018 award for best story-and-picture combo from the Colorado Press Association. He has bachelor of arts degrees in government and philosophy from the University of Denver.

Freelance Copy Editor
Dale Ulland is a freelance copy editor. He has also worked as a reporter, features editor, page designer and copy editor in his journalism career, including at The Fort Collins Coloradoan and The Denver Post, where he was employed for more than 20 years. He has a master’s degree in creative writing from the University of Montana.

Development Director
Dave Reed has more than 20 years’ experience doing fundraising and communications for area nonprofits, including Wilderness Workshop and Rocky Mountain Institute. He started his career as a journalist, writing for The Aspen Times, Aspen Daily News and other publications, and has authored several editions of “The Rough Guide to Nepal.”


Aspen Journalism’s Board of Directors

Tim McFlynn, chair, is executive director of Public Counsel of the Rockies and a mediator with Aspen Dispute Resolution. He was co-founder of both Pitkin County Open Space and the Manaus Fund. He has served as board president of Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, Wilderness Workshop, and Western Resource Advocates.

Mark Harvey, treasurer, is a local rancher, writer, filmmaker and photographer. He is also on the board of EcoFlight, and has been on the boards of High Country News and Aspen Center for Environmental Studies. He is the son of Connie Harvey, the namesake of the Connie Harvey Environment Desk.

Michael McVoy is an investment adviser at Raymond James Financial Services in Aspen and the former co-publisher of The Aspen Times. In the nonprofit sector, he serves on the Pitkin County Retirement Board and the Roaring Fork Transit Authority Board, and he leads the Roaring Fork Community Development Corporation.

Judith Zee Steinberg worked professionally in the international energy sector and serves as a board member at the Aspen Music Festival and School, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, Jazz Aspen Snowmass, and J Street, in Washington, D.C. She has also served on the boards of Aspen Public Radio and the NPR Foundation.

Harry Teague is the founder of and principal designer at Harry Teague Architects. His work includes the Benedict Music Tent, the Joan and Irving Harris Concert Hall, the Bucksbaum Campus of the Aspen Music Festival and School, and the Anderson Ranch Art Center. He is also on the boards of the Aspen Science Center and Future Generations University.


Journalism Advisory Board

Dave Danforth is the founder and former owner of the Aspen Daily News. The paper, which has the slogan “If you don’t want it printed, don’t let it happen,” was founded in 1978. He sold it to local buyers in 2017. He also co-founded The Conway Daily Sun, the (Palo Alto) Daily News, the Berkeley Daily Planet and the Santa Monica Daily Press.

Charles Davis is dean of the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia and is co-author of “Principles of American Journalism.” He also spent 14 years as a faculty member at the Missouri School of Journalism and served as executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition.

Charlie Firestone is the executive director of the Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program and a vice president of the Aspen Institute. He was also director of the Communications Law Program at the University of California at Los Angeles and adjunct professor of law at the UCLA Law School from 1977-90.

Laura Frank is vice president of journalism at Rocky Mountain PBS and founder of the I-News Network, which merged with RMPBS. She was an investigative reporter at the Rocky Mountain News, specializing in in-depth reporting that requires data analysis and deep public-records research.

David Krause has been the editor of The Aspen Times since February 2017. Before that, he spent nearly 17 years at The Denver Post, first as night sports editor and an assigning editor, and then as deputy city editor. He has also worked for the Denver NBC affiliate as a sports producer and for newspapers in Loveland and Oklahoma City.

Catherine Lutz is an Aspen-based freelance writer, reporter and editor. She contributes to a wide range of publications, including Aspen Sojourner and The Aspen Times, and edits for a number of clients, including the Aspen Institute. A longtime local journalist, she is the former managing editor of the Aspen Daily News.

John Masters is the executive director at GrassRoots Community Network, a position he has held since 2001. He has also worked as program director at Aspen Television Channel 8, as owner of Masters Studio, a video and television production firm in Aspen, and as senior video and television producer at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area.

Curtis Robinson, chair, is senior counsel for media strategy at CRAFT Media Digital. He is the co-founder of Roaring Fork Sunday, a former editor of the Aspen Daily News, and a member of Aspen Journalism’s Publisher’s Circle. He has also helped develop books with Hunter S. Thompson and Douglas Brinkley.

Carolyn Sackariason is a reporter at The Aspen Times, where she covers city hall. She has previously worked as news director at Aspen Public Radio, editor at the Aspen Daily News and publisher of the Snowmass Sun. She is also a co-owner of the Santa Monica (Calif.) Daily Press.

Steve Skinner is the general manager of KFFR, a public radio station in Winter Park. He also served as general manager at KDNK in Carbondale, as program director at Aspen Public Radio, and as a DJ at KSPN and KSNO. He is a weekly weekly columnist for the Aspen Daily News and the Winter Park Times.

Andy Stone is the co-author, along with his wife, Linda Lafferty, of “Light in the Shadows,” a novel about Caravaggio. He is also the author of “Aspen Drift,” a novel about journalism in Aspen, and “Song of the Kingdom.” He also worked as a reporter, editor, columnist and publisher at The Aspen Times.

Curtis Wackerle is editor of the Aspen Daily News, where he has worked since 2006. He has served in every facet of local journalism, including covering city hall and general assignment reporting, serving as managing editor from 2010-15 and then as editor. He is also a debate moderator, editorial board member, opinion writer and podcast guest. He has a journalism degree from the University of Montana.

Nancy Watzman is director of the Colorado Media Project and an award-winning investigative journalist, researcher and strategist. She has also worked with the Internet Archive, the Sunlight Foundation, the Center for Public Integrity, the Center for Responsive Politics, the Democracy Fund, and the Knight Foundation.

Mike Webb is senior vice president for communications at the News Literacy Project. Before joining NLP in July 2019, he served as a vice president at BerlinRosen, a Washington, D.C., public-affairs firm. He was also director and vice president of communications at ProPublica and led sales and marketing efforts at Honolulu Civil Beat.


Financial and Legal Advisors

Mike Marolt is a CPA in his native Aspen, a KPMG Peat Marwick alumnus and a member of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame. His accomplishments include the first skiing descents of numerous mountain peaks in the Himalayas and shooting and producing the movie “Skiing Everest.”

Denise Jurgens is a CPA and partner at Reese Henry and Company, where she has worked since 1984. She has an extensive background in auditing and accounting services, including internal-control procedures and organization governance, and a deep knowledge of IRS rules for not-for-profit organizations.

Ken Ransford is a Basalt-based attorney, investment adviser and CPA specializing in income-tax and estate-tax law for small businesses, individuals and nonprofit organizations. He serves as the secretary of the Colorado Basin Roundtable and holds a voting seat representing recreational interests.

The Benedict Building in Aspen, home to Aspen Journalism.

About Aspen Journalism

Aspen Journalism is an independent journalism organization founded in 2011 and based in Aspen, Colo. We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation and considered an educational organization by the Internal Revenue Service.

Our mission is to produce quality, in-depth journalism, as we believe well-informed citizens make better decisions. Our approach is both investigative and collaborative.

Our coverage area radiates outward from Aspen to Snowmass Village, Pitkin, Eagle, Garfield and Summit counties, the Western Slope, Colorado, and the West.

Since 2011, we’ve covered water, education, land-use, local government, housing, transportation, energy, wealth, real estate, the ski industry and development.

Aspen Journalism is a recognized member of the Colorado Press Association and the Institute for Nonprofit News.

Our office is in the Benedict Building in Aspen, at 1280 Ute Avenue, Suite 4.

We welcome comments, suggestions and questions via phone (970-948-1930) and email (news@aspenjournalism.org).

Our office address is:

Aspen Journalism
1280 Ute Avenue, Suite 6
Aspen, CO 81611

Our mailing address is:

Aspen Journalism
P.O. Box 10101
Aspen, CO 81611

For the Record: Other Organizational Info, 2011 to 2019

 

Journalists at Aspen Journalism, 2011 to 2019

2011
Brent Gardner-Smith and David Frey

2012
Brent Gardner-Smith, Madeleine Osberger, Brady Hurley, Dan Bayer, Catherine Lutz, Tim Mutrie

2013
Brent Gardner-Smith, Catherine Lutz, Allen Best, Madeleine Osberger, Bob Ward, Paul Andersen, Brady Hurley

2014
Brent Gardner-Smith, Bob Ward, Paul Andersen, Madeleine Osberger, Catherine Lutz, John Colson, Nelson Harvey

2015
Brent Gardner-Smith, Bob Ward

2016
Brent Gardner-Smith, Allen Best, Catherine Lutz, Tim Cooney

2017
Brent Gardner-Smith, Heather Sackett, Sarah Tory, Lindsay Fendt, Allen Best, Tim Cooney

2018
Brent Gardner-Smith, Heather Sackett, Lindsay Fendt, Sarah Tory, Jason Blevins, Ali Margo, Tim Cooney, Dale Ulland

2019
Brent Gardner-Smith, Heather Sackett, Elizabeth Stewart-Severy, Sarah Tory, Catherine Lutz, Lauren Blair, Dale Ulland, Tim Cooney

Influence and Impact from Our Reporting, 2011 to 2019

2011
Crystal River dams, Base Village and regional demographics.

2012
Aspen hydro, Base Village, Bear Ranch, polo field and Crystal River.

2013
Windstar, hospital charges, Aspen hydro and Base Village.

2014
Aspen hydro, affordable housing, art museum, billionaires and Colorado River

2015
Aspen and Roaring Fork school districts, Colorado Water Plan and basin roundtables

2016
Castle/Maroon dams, Colorado River issues and wasteful irrigation.

2017
Colorado River, wasteful irrigation and a money-for-fallowing program.

2018
Maroon/Castle dams lead to settlement with city, drought-contingency planning and demand management.

2019
Decrees for the Maroon/Castle dams eliminated, state water meetings pried opened, Roaring Fork diversion cleaned up, and Homestake dam plans revealed.

Collaborating News Organizations, 2011 to 2019

2011
The Aspen Times, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, Aspen Daily News, Aspen Public Radio, The Denver Post, KDNK, and The Snowmass Sun.

2012
Aspen Daily News, The Aspen Times, The Denver Post, The Snowmass Sun, and the Aspen Business Journal

2013
Aspen Daily News, The Aspen Times, The Denver Post, The Snowmass Sun, and the Aspen Business Journal

2014
Aspen Daily News, The Aspen Times, Glenwood Springs Post Independent, Investigate West, and Aspen Sojourner

2015
The Aspen Times (education), the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, and the Aspen Daily News

2016
Aspen Daily News

2017
Swift Communications newspapers, including The Aspen Times, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, Vail Daily, Summit Daily, Ski-Hi News, and Steamboat Pilot); the Aspen Daily News; and High Country News.

2018
Swift Communications newspapers, including The Aspen Times, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, Vail Daily, Summit Daily, Ski-Hi News, and Steamboat Pilot; the Aspen Daily News; and Aspen Sojourner magazine.

2019
Swift Communications newspapers, including The Aspen Times, the Snowmass Sun, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, Vail Daily, Summit Daily, Ski-Hi News, Craig Press, and Steamboat Pilot; the Aspen Daily News; and Aspen Public Radio.

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