Keeping it Local: Representation in Colorado Journalism
After years ravaged by press layoffs, newsroom shutterings, and attacks on the media, the need for a community-driven rescue mission for local journalism has never been more evident. But first, we must understand the problem and collectively reaffirm how integral local news coverage is to the health of a community, both literally and figuratively. In order to begin this conversation and foster public awareness and grassroots advocacy for local news media, PEN America is launching a series of town hall convenings to bring together members of the press, elected officials, and the public to discuss the landscape of local news in 2021.
This town hall, presented in partnership with the Open Media Foundation, will explore representation in Colorado in journalism. Journalists and the stories they write should reflect and reach the communities they cover—unfortunately, this is often not the case. In this town hall, we’ll take a look at the statistics in your city and/or state and explore the disparities in representation: How many BIPOC journalists report for your local newspaper? How many women work at your local radio station? Are there people with disabilities reporting on your nightly news?
This discussion will illuminate the importance of having a diversity of reporters covering state level and federal activity as a way to foster trust, transparency, and government accountability. We’ll also discuss legislative solutions to disappearing news deserts and ways to increase circulation and accessibility to credible news sources.
Tina Griego is a journalist/coach with the Colorado News Collaborative. She has spent most of her career in Colorado as a reporter for the Rocky Mountain News and The Denver Post and was the first Latina city columnist for a major daily in the state. She has won national recognition for her reporting on immigration, education, and urban poverty, including the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism’s Paul Tobenkin Memorial Award, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists’ Frank del Olmo Print Journalist of the Year award, and the National Headliner Award. She is also a member of the Scripps Howard Hall of Fame for commentary. In October 2019, Griego was inducted into the Denver Press Club Hall of Fame. Grigo lives in Fort Collins with her husband and two kids. She’s a native New Mexican and prefers red over green.
Lori Lizarraga is a 27-year-old Ecuadorian-Mexican-American journalist from Texas and a Murrow- and Emmy Award-winning international reporter. This year, Lizarraga gained national attention for her reporting on diversity in the media, receiving the 2021 Dale Award from the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and the Larry Tajiri Media Award from the ACLU of Colorado, recognizing her outstanding work to further civil rights and liberties for the citizens of Colorado and Latinos across the country.
Tony Shawcross is the Open Media Foundation’s founder and executive director. Before founding the precursor to OMF called Deproduction, as well as OMF’s project Denver Open Media, Shawcross worked with Little Voice Productions, the Colorado House of Representatives, the Pan African Arts Society, and Free Speech TV, among others. Shawcross has presented over 100 media education courses with the Colorado Independent Media Center, Denver Community Television, the Alliance for Community Media, and various local schools and universities.
Dr. Ryan Ross serves as the associate vice chancellor for Student Affairs, Equity, and Inclusion for the Colorado Community College System; owns a boutique speaking and consulting firm called Stirred Up Enterprises; and serves as the president of the Urban Leadership Foundation of Colorado. In the community, you will find him serving organizations such as the Denver Botanic Gardens, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc., and the National Western Denver Scholarship advisory board.
Candi CdeBaca is a proud fifth-generation native of northeast Denver, CO, and a graduate of Manual High School and the University of Denver. CdeBaca is also the first LGBTQ Latina and first Democratic Socialist to serve on the Denver City Council. As a member of the City Council, CdeBaca co-sponsored the recently passed Charter Amendment 2E, which will bring more balance between the branches of Denver’s government when it comes to mayoral appointments. She also successfully led the charge to force the city of Denver to divest from halfway houses run by private prison companies that terrorize and brutalize immigrants across the country.
Sherkiya Wedgeworth-Hollowell joined CPR News in 2021 as the managing editor of accountability and outreach. Wedgeworth-Hollowell is a Colorado native who was born and raised in northeast Denver. After graduating from Iowa State University with a BA in journalism, she began her career as a reporter for the Washington Post Company’s newspapers covering the Washington, D.C. suburbs as a community beat reporter. She then went on to cover local government for Gannett and the Des Moines Register, including the Iowa Black and Brown Presidential Debate and election caucuses, before returning to Washington to continue working in media as a reporter/writer/communications manager and editor focusing on health, healthcare policy, and community advocacy.
Tell Congress: Support Local News
PEN America and several partner organizations are mobilizing our Members and Americans across the country to use their voice to save local news. Join us by calling on your U.S. senators and representatives to support the Future of Local News Act, which would establish a federal advisory commission to study the decline of local news and propose solutions for the industry’s revitalization.
If you would like to help us spread the word about the Future of Local News Act and/or this town hall series, we hope you’ll check out our social media toolkit to access links, visual assets, and sample copy for you to use in original posts across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.