Jan. 16, 2020

Thank you for your support!

Aspen Journalism is going into 2020 with extra fuel and momentum to sustain a 2X bigger newsroom. We’re pleased to report that our 2019 NewsMatch Campaign raised a record $112,850.

We’re grateful to all of you made matching donations, and to our challengers: the national NewsMatch funders, the Colorado Media Project, the Lynda and Stewart Resnick Foundation, and local donors Mark Harvey, Judy Steinberg, the Martens Foundation and Barbara Reese.

The beauty of a challenge like this is that everyone challenges each other, and together we build a framework of support for local, nonprofit, investigative journalism. Fun fact: we actually met our goal sometime on Dec. 31 – whew!

Please take our super quick reader poll

It’s looking like we’re on track to add our next reporting position in late 2020 or early 2021. What issue(s) do you think we should take on next? You have a stake in this community, and we want to be responsive to you. Please take our super quick, one-question reader poll.

In case you’re wondering, responses so far have been all over the map. Immigration and the workforce has been the most popular choice, but transportation, climate, local government, sustainability, housing, justice and education are all not far behind.

Feb. 14: “Dispatches from the Swamp” with Carl Hulse

Please mark your calendars for Friday, Feb. 14, when Aspen Journalism will host Carl Hulse, chief Washington correspondent for The New York Times, in conversation at the Pitkin County Library. The free public event starts at 6 p.m.

In “Dispatches from the Swamp,” Hulse will discuss the latest twists and turns in the nation’s capital, and the life of a journalist trying to cover it. A veteran of more than three decades of reporting in DC, Hulse is the author of Confirmation Bias: Inside Washington’s War Over the Supreme Court, from Scalia’s Death to Justice Kavanaugh.

Check out AJ’s 2019 annual report

Aspen Journalism’s 2019 annual report is now posted on our website. Scroll through it for a tour of AJ’s accomplishments, including our growing capacity and new reporting desks, collaborations with partner media organizations, and the full list of stories published.

Speaking of stories, our reporters have filed some important ones lately, but you might have missed them due to holiday busyness. Here are a few highlights:

Dec. 1, 2019

NYT’s chief DC correspondent to speak in Aspen Feb. 17

Anonymous sources tell us that Aspen Journalism is working on bringing Carl Hulse, chief Washington correspondent for the New York Times, to speak in Aspen on Monday, Feb. 17. We’ll let you know when we confirm it, but mark your calendar.

Carl Hulse is a veteran of more than three decades of reporting in the capital, having previously served as the Times’ Washington editor as well as its chief congressional correspondent. He’s the author of Confirmation Bias: Inside Washington’s War Over the Supreme Court, from Scalia’s Death to Justice Kavanaugh, which interprets that battle in the context of the “paralyzing and all but irreversible dysfunction across all three branches in the nation’s capital.” Talk about a witness to history!

Which desk should be next?

Aspen Journalism has doubled its reporting capacity in the past year, and we aim to double it again in the next three years. We now have dedicated water and environment desks. The obvious question is, what’s the next issue we should cover?

What do you think should be our next desk? Please take our quick reader poll. (The same poll can be found on the flap of the reply envelope in our annual appeal mailing, which went out last week.)

AJ makes the Best of Nonprofit News 2019 list

Aspen Journalism is one of about 230 members of the Institute for Nonprofit News, who (in INN’s words) “regularly produce rigorous public service journalism that elevates diverse voices, informs communities and holds the powerful accountable.”

We’re honored that INN’s annual Best of Nonprofit News list, published this month, includes this citation of Brent Gardner-Smith’s reporting in the Climate Change and Environment category: “Aspen Journalism published the capstone story in a multiyear investigation into 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.”

CU Water Desk expands its partnership with AJ

Last month we announced Aspen Journalism was teaming up with the new Water Desk at the University of Colorado-Boulder to increase the amount of water reporting on the Last month we announced Aspen Journalism was teaming up with the new Water Desk at the University of Colorado-Boulder to increase the amount of water reporting on the Western Slope. The partnership is already expanding: CU has now contracted with AJ to produce 10 stories over the next three months to be published in papers such as the Vail Daily, Summit Daily and Steamboat Pilot.

The first fruits of the partnership appeared in the Vail Daily on Nov. 18. AJ freelancer Sarah Tory’s story investigated efforts to relocate a wetland to make way for a water project on lower Homestake Creek.

Connie Harvey Environment Desk thanks

Connie Harvey has plenty of admirers, that’s for sure! A number of them have stepped forward to honor her with donations in support of Aspen Journalism’s new Connie Harvey Environment Desk. We want to thank Mark, Ann and Hal Harvey, the McBride family, Mike Johnston, T.A. Barron, Peter Looram, Ford and Susan Schumann, Hensley and James Peterson, Carol Duell, and the New-Land and Maki foundations for their generous and heartfelt gifts.

Happy NewsMatch!

Again this year, we’re running our annual NewsMatch campaign, only this time with extra ingredients.

A generous group of local donors and NewsMatch, the national matching-gift program, have pledged a total of $40,000 to Aspen Journalism if we raise an equal amount in gifts of $1,000 or less by Dec. 31. We’re grateful to Mark Harvey, Judy Steinberg, Barbara Reese and the Martens Foundation for putting up the local challenge. NewsMatch is funded by the Knight, MacArthur and other national foundations.

New this year, we’re also participating in a related year-end giving program of the Colorado Media Project, which will match another $5,000 in donations. We’ll be emailing you about that next week.

Oct. 15, 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.