October, 2019

AJ launches Connie Harvey Environment Desk

It all started when Aspen Journalism board member Mark Harvey and siblings Ann and Hal decided they wanted to do something to honor their mother Connie Harvey, the beloved conservation hero. The plan started to gel when fellow board member Tim McFlynn joined the conversation. What resulted, on a September evening at ACES, was a lovely family-and-friends tribute to Connie – and the unveiling of the Connie Harvey Environment Desk at Aspen Journalism.

Tom Zuccareno

Connie Harvey at the announcement of the Connie Harvey Environment Desk.

With seed funding from the Harvey family, this dedicated reporting position is being staffed initially on a half-time basis by Elizabeth Stewart-Severy, formerly Aspen Public Radio’s environment reporter, with assistance from freelance journalists. We’re seeking funding to bring Elizabeth up to full-time status in the coming year and eventually to add a second staff reporter.

AJ has a reputation for outstanding reporting on Western Slope water issues. Applying the same shoe-leather approach to the environment beat, the Connie Harvey Environment Desk will produce journalism that informs the decisions of local government bodies and public land management agencies and, potentially, influences thinking on a national level.

Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

The upper Colorado River unites most of the communities on the Western Slope.

Meanwhile, at the Water Desk

Aspen Journalism, Swift Communications and the new Water Desk at the University of Colorado-Boulder are teaming up to increase the amount of water reporting on the Western Slope.

The CU Water Desk is helping to fund AJ’s water reporting being done in collaboration with Swift newspapers, including The Aspen Times, Glenwood Springs Post Independent, Vail Daily, Summit Daily, Sky-Hi News and Steamboat Pilot.

AJ’s efforts are being led by Heather Sackett, our managing editor and water desk editor. In addition to filing water stories on local and statewide issues, Heather is putting talented freelance reporters, including Sarah Tory, together with editors at the various Swift newspapers in order to produce more coverage of water and rivers in the Colorado River basin. The stories will be posted on AJ’s website and then be made available under our Creative Commons license to other news organizations that are part of the CU Water Desk’s growing network.

Summer AJ-ProPublica event was a hit; let’s do more

Dave Reed / Aspen Journalism

Richard Tofel at the Aug. 13 event.

Aspen Journalism doesn’t just produce journalism. This past 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 AJ executive director and editor Brent Gardner-Smith interviewing Richard Tofel, president of ProPublica – the paragon of nonprofit investigative journalism. Tofel’s remarks ranged from Pulitzers to paywalls, but we want to share this unsolicited quote:

“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 theatre, 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’re already planning our next two events, in February and August. Our August guest will be Evan Smith, co-founder of the pioneering Texas Tribune and one hell of an entertaining speaker.

Welcome, Judith Steinberg

We’re pleased to welcome Judith Zee Steinberg as the newest member of AJ’s board of directors. Judith and her husband Paul Hoenmans have been Aspen-area residents since 1995. Following a career in the international energy sector, Judith has been active in the non-profit world, serving at various times on the boards of the NPR Foundation, Aspen Public Radio, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, Aspen Music Festival and School, Jazz Aspen and J Street.