Colorado Press Women was proud to host the successful national conference Sept. 7-9 at the Adam’s Mark in Denver. Included below are links to summaries of the week’s events.
200+ attend Rendezvous in the Rockies
More than 200 journalists and communicators attended Rendezvous in the Rockies, the National Federation of Press Women’s annual conference, Sept. 7-9 at the Adam’s Mark Hotel in downtown Denver. The conference, organized and hosted by Colorado Press Women, drew 75 first timers, an NFPW conference record.
Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper welcomed attendees Saturday morning, Sept. 9, and discussed his mayoral campaign and transitioning from running a microbrewery to running the city of Denver.
KEYNOTE ADDRESSES — Attendees also heard keynote speakers T.R. Reid, Rocky Mountain bureau chief for the Washington Post; Patty Limerick, University of Colorado-Boulder history professor and director of the Center of the American West; Tad Bartimus, syndicated columnist and 28-year Associated Press correspondent; Jeannette Walls, MSNBC.com columnist and author of The Glass Castle; and Heloise, syndicated columnist and longtime NFPW member.
T.R. Reid Washington Post journalist T.R. Reid lamented in his keynote address to conference attendees Friday morning about how infrequently control of the U.S. Congress switches parties.
“Our Congress has had the lowest turnover rate of any governing body in any democratic country,” Reid said, adding that control of Congress has only switched parties twice in the 20th century.
“In 2004, 98.6 percent of incumbents won. Nowhere else does this happen. If you are an incumbent, to lose an election you would practically have to kill your mother in Yankee Stadium,” he said.
Reid’s speech focused on the Nov. 7 election, forecast by many political analysts to be a “historic, revolutionary election,” with the Democrats gaining control of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Reid, who has covered several political campaigns, isn’t betting on it. Though political polls currently show that most Americans are dissatisfied with the Republican Party and the present administration, he doesn’t think the Democrats will gain the 15 seats needed to take control of the House or the six seats needed to take over the Senate.
“Everything would have to break the right way” in six crucial states. If all six Democratic candidates do win Senate seats, “it will be by the skin of their teeth,” he said.
When asked whom the Democrats will nominate for president in 2008, Reid said Sen. Hillary Clinton “leads in the polls, has the most money and the biggest organization. But Hillary’s pro-war stance will be a problem.” He suggested Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano could get the nod.
“We are way, way past the time when we should have a women president,” Reid said.
— Judi Buehrer, Colorado Press Women
“Congenial and clever.”
That’s how Patty Limerick sees herself now, and she says that it’s a long way from her former self, who used to be “controversial and contentious.”
But either way, Limerick provided rapid-fire entertainment to a packed house as a keynote speaker at the annual conference’s Friday luncheon.
Limerick, a tenured history professor at the University of Colorado-Boulder and director of the Center of the American West, is best known for her research that helps explode the myth that the Old West was settled and developed primarily by white men. She champions and furthers the discussion about the contributions of disenfranchised groups in the history of America and especially the West.
Amid delightful side-stories about her recent bout with adult chicken pox and an impressive trip to the White House as First Lady Laura Bush’s guest, she spoke about “women truth-tellers” Margaret Carrington and Angie Debo.
Carrington, the wife of U.S. Army officer Brigadier General Henry Carrington, traveled west. In 1866, Henry took charge of Fort Phil Kearney and received great public scorn for a Sioux ambush that left 80 of his men dead. Margaret rose vociferously in her husband’s defense, explaining in public speeches and a book that the Sioux had superior knowledge of the western terrain and therefore held a strong advantage over the white officers.
Limerick also spoke about historian Angie Debo, who was born in Kansas and reared in Oklahoma at the turn of the 19th century. Debo earned a Ph.D. in history — a most unusual feat for a woman at that time. As a woman, however, she found no jobs open to her, and neither did her “open and direct” examination of the acquisition of Oklahoma Territory from the Indians earn her points from the academic community. Through sheer determination she published her research, and her legacy remains on her tombstone: “Historian: Discover the Truth and Publish It.”
According to Limerick, early historians who studied the field with a distinct bias used none of the knowledge provided by these or other women truth-tellers.
Limerick’s own research appears in her well-respected books: The Legacy of Conquest, Something in the Soil, and The Real West.
— Sue Novak, Kansas Professional Communicators
National syndicated columnist Heloise strolled onto the stage Friday night with her long hair semi-secured into a bun by several pencils and chatting on the phone about an upcoming “helpful household hints” column.
Speaking on the “Trials and Tribulations of a National Columnist,” the “queen of clean” and author entertained press women during the Communicator of Achievement Banquet Friday night.
Heloise was an animated vision of multitasking skills. Mopping a spill on the floor by tossing a towel on it and swishing it with her foot, Heloise spewed hints about uncluttering your house and your life.
Heloise researches all her topics before turning out a column, a job she inherited from her mother, the original Heloise, and has been doing for some 30 years. And she takes pride in her job, especially when she can pass along organizational tips from a top U.S. military officer.
Our intrepid reporter was on a fact-finding mission aboard a submarine. She said she figured if anyone knew how to get organized, it would be a crew that has to pack everything needed for nine months. The commander told Heloise that each crew member had their own job to do, plus one chore every day. Sometimes the chores were daily maintenance and sometimes they were longer-term maintenance. To Heloise, he imparted this wisdom: “A day without cleaning is a day without meaning.”
To fellow NFPW members, Heloise imparted some wisdom of her own. Decide what is the most important thing to do in the morning and do it, she said. Another strategy is to do what you’re avoiding first thing, so you quit wasting your thoughts and energy on it. In parting, Heloise encouraged the audience to be willing to let go of extra work commitments in order to achieve more balance between your work and personal life.
— Judi Buehrer & Erin Hottenstein, Colorado Press Women
“What I Know for Sure”
Speech by Tad Bartimus
Syndicated Columnist & former Associated Press Bureau Chief
at the National Federation of Press Women Conference
Adam’s Mark Hotel, Denver, Colorado ~ Saturday, Sept. 9, 2006
I celebrated a birthday this week, always a good time to take stock, count blessings, make “to do” lists. Milestones prompt me, and probably most of you, to think about what’s been learned during the passage.
One certainty is that I am very pleased to be here with so many fine women who are also fine journalists, and also happy to be back in Denver, even if my hair isn’t! I want to thank Ann Lockhart for her persistence and patience in getting me here, she and Marilyn, Gwen, Gloria and Judy and all the other wonderful organizers are putting on a grand event.
Thanks to the Internet, Microsoft XP and high speed cable, I am now able to live what I call a “small life in sharp focus.” As some of you know, I live at the end of a one-lane road on a speck of rock called Maui in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. My husband, Dean Wariner, used to be a newspaper editor but when my AP career ended because my health went bad I tossed him the ball and he caught it, earning two master’s degrees at age 56. He got a job teaching 6th graders in a mostly Hawaiian school in Hana, and I went along for what has been a roller-coaster ride in America’s Third World.
Although we were married there 29 years ago and visited often, we’ve been fulltime in Hana nearly 11 years now, part of a community of about 2,000 people who live along 100 miles of our isolated, rugged coastline. Our neighbors include Oprah Winfrey, who bought land a mile down the road, a small-time drug dealer who used to live a few doors away until he got sent to the slammer, a sprinkling of hard-working, middle class folks trying to get by in service jobs, and a whole lot of Polynesians whose families have been there for generations and who are barely eking out a living in what the tourists believe is paradise.
Days go by when my conversations are limited to my husband, a few neighbors, some third graders I tutor in reading, and the dog, who is a very good listener. On a scale of 1 to 10, my daily ambient noise level is a 3. My wardrobe has shrunk to one good pair of go-to-town pants, which I’m wearing today, and this pair of black Tevas which have to pass for dress-up shoes.
Everybody in Hana is always at least 30 minutes late to everything, including funerals, so time matters less to me than when I was rushing to report breaking stories as a national roving correspondent. I don’t own a watch.
This is a problem if I’m catching a plane, as I did Thursday morning in order to be here today. I enjoy the suspension of time and space while I’m airborne, but every time I arrive in either Los Angeles or San Francisco, Hawaii’s gateway cities to the mainland, I suffer from culture shock.
Yesterday, when the Blackberries, Blue Tooths, Verizon Wirelesses and Microsoft Mobiles clicked on the instant the jet’s wheels touched DIA’s runway, I wondered how anyone finds time anymore to think about where they’re going in their rush to get there faster.
Which brings me to the heart of what I came here to say. Being a journalist for 45 years has taught me a few things.
I know that writers never retire; I’ve learned to never skimp on presents, that driving a Porsche is more fun than driving a Ford, and that when the cat knocks the Thanksgiving turkey on the floor, it’s better to laugh than to cry.
I’ve learned that never being satisfied that the story is good enough, the floor is clean enough, or the dress size is small enough is a curse as well as a blessing.
At 59, I have one foot and most of my torso out the door of a career that started in 1962 in a cluttered main street office in Belton, Mo. That’s where WHAT my mother called “the weekly wonder” was printed from hot lead type when the journalism bug bit me at age 14. I talked my way into earning $5 every Saturday at the Star-Herald by sweeping its old quarter-sawn oak floors, taking classified ads from walk-in customers, and answering the black rotary phone. I loved the variety of news and the characters who brought it into in that old building that still had brass spittoons. I knew right then I wanted to be a reporter who traveled the world on somebody else’s nickel and had fun doing it.
The great thing about being 14 and 18 and 22 — and perhaps 59 — is that you don’t know what you can’t do, so you just go out and do it. I did everything I wanted to do. I got into the country’s best journalism school at the University of Missouri. I reported to work at The Associated Press two days out after graduation in January, 1969. Four years later, I got my dream of being sent to Vietnam to as a full-fledged foreign correspondent – the second AP woman to be assigned fulltime to the war in Indochina.
What I learned covering my first war holds true for me today: I trust my instincts, I fight for my stories, I cherish my professional colleagues, I stand my ground, and I don’t take anything at face value.
I also know that some life choices have permanent consequences. My decision to go to Vietnam exposed me to Agent Orange’s poison, which left me childless and still coping with a chronic auto immune condition.
It was also in Vietnam, and while reporting in Northern Ireland, Guatemala and Peru, that I discovered the power of my words to ease people’s suffering and influence public policy. My mother, following Thomas Jefferson’s credo to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable,” did the same thing when she gathered nine friends to buy the Star-Herald the year I went to college in order to keep it out of chain ownership.
With no previous experience, my mother became a newspaper reporter and editor who sold all the display ads, reported on the city council, school board and cop shop, wrote all obituaries and birth announcements, and interviewed everybody who ever came to town.
While I was off in foreign countries tilting at windmills my mom was back home in Belton, epitomizing what a great community journalist ought to be. A disapproving neighbor once said to my father, “Your wife and daughter seem to think they can save the world,” to which my dad replied, “Yes, and they’re doing a damned fine job of it, too.”
Finally, the chain offered so much money the other stockholders sold out and Mom retired. She died before I was forced in the past decade to reinvent myself from a print journalist into the living embodiment of the buzz word “convergence.” She would not have been pleased, because she believed newspapers are the bulwark of democracy, but she would have understood because she was a survivor, too.
As anyone in the news business knows, these are uncertain times and we all must be nimble. During a financially tough period a couple of years ago I was making ends meet as a contributor to MSNBC.com, a public radio commentator, a national columnist syndicated by United Features Syndicate, a writer for EMMY magazine, and working on a book for Random House. I was also teaching writing in my spare time.
Exhausted and burned out, I decided a year ago to live on less money in order to have more time. Today my only gigs are the United Features column, which I will put to bed at No. 500 in just 58 more weeks, and helping Hana’s elders and children with their personal writing, thanks to some welcome grant money. My long-term goal is to write the books I keep postponing.
What I know for sure is that my life has never been, and is not now, dull. I have remained true to my roots as a street reporter in search of the best truth I can find. I have done some good work, I have made a difference in some people’s lives, I have been lucky and I am privileged to be in our business.
I know for sure that the best way for me to tell the big picture is to keep the focus small, and that living and writing in an ethnically diverse community that has embraced me even though I am a newcomer, I’m white, and I don’t appear to be working has allowed me to see fundamental truths.
Because I worry about women in general, and women journalists in particular, I will also share with you my belief, arrived at first-hand, that we don’t honor, value, or take good enough care of ourselves.
Four years ago, an American Press Institute survey found that 50 percent of male journalists expected a promotion, while only 33 percent of women did.
A study last year by the Project for Excellence studied nearly 17,000 news stories from nearly 50 news outlets during 20 days selected randomly over nine months. The results revealed that more than three-fourths of all stories contained male sources, while just a third of the stories contained even one female source. Sometimes we don’t remember to ask our sisters what THEY think!
Until we start thinking differently, we won’t act differently and equal respect will remain elusive. One of the catalysts for change is knowledge of the past. That’s why I helped found and now enthusiastically support the Women and Media Collection at the University of Missouri. I want those who follow us to understand what we overcame to succeed at our jobs. I hope you are planning to contribute your personal papers to the Women and Media Collection’s growing archives. One of the best days of my life was when my mother saw my history on display.
Twenty-one years ago, when I founded the Journalism and Women Symposium, JAWS for short — I did it so that stressed-out, frustrated women journalists could get together to help one another. The first of these “Mom goes to camp” sessions was held in Estes Park, in a borrowed cabin where a few smart, ambitious women got together for a long weekend to figure out how to address the huge gender gap of power and pay in our business.
This weekend JAWS is holding its holds its 21st annual camp in Sun Valley, Idaho. To my knowledge, not one of the original dozen or so members is still working in daily journalism. Many were laid off or let go. Several died young, including Nancy Woodhull, the highest ranking female executive at Gannett, and Janet Chusmir, who started working for the Miami Herald as a secretary and was its editor when she died of an aneurism at age 62. Others retired early or were shoved upstairs before they quit; a few just walked away in disgust. For several reasons, none of us has ever achieved the power or salaries we believed, back in 1985, we women should wield. But the good news is, other women have — and JAWS now has nearly 800 members in news outlets around the country. They will make a difference, individually and collectively.
Among other things I know for sure is that women journalists still don’t value themselves or each other enough. We need to help one another more. We need to hire one another, promote one another, recommend one another. And we need to view our job as just that — a job. We need emotional and physical balance in our lives if we are to be effective communicators for the long haul. We need to pursue personal happiness as we would a Pulitzer-worthy story.
Above all, we must to take control of our own destiny. I tell young women entering our profession that if they find themselves working for somebody dumber and more frightened than they are, they need to find another job — preferably, invent their own, then go out and find somebody to fund it.
In this fluid era, when a blogger with a gimmick and a lot of chutzpah can come out of nowhere and become Washington bureau chief for Time magazine in just two years, anything is possible. And that’s not a bad thing.
The scariest, most exhilarating move I’ve ever made was to the middle of the Pacific, where I reinvented myself. As you can see, I survived. I have no regrets.
I leave you with my gratitude for inviting me, and with the certain knowledge that eating a dark-chocolate Dove bar is better than eating a granola bar, that success is possible anywhere, that whales really do sing, and that this room overflows with power, energy and talent.
Go home and use it. As you do, remember to be kinder and gentler to yourself. Value your real life as much, or more, than your work. And make your own list of things you know for sure. You’ll be amazed at how smart you are! Thank you.
To read more of Tad Bartimus, please visit her website at www.tadbartimus.com
“There are facts, and then there is the truth,” said Jeannette Walls, describing how she wrote about her hard-scrabble childhood in her bestselling memoir, The Glass Castle. “So much of life is deciding how to interpret what your experiences mean to you.”
Walls, a celebrity columnist for MSNBC.com, said during her Saturday NFPW keynote speech that she struggled with her book for four years, writing it first as fiction and then turning it into a memoir.
“A lot of my childhood memories are crystal clear,” she said. She relied on her mother, brother and older sister to confirm other memories and quotes. Walls acknowledged that all the quotes may not be 100 percent accurate, but they “are as I remember them” and portray the context and character of her family.
Walls spoke frankly about being ashamed about growing up poor and not disclosing that her parents had become homeless in New York while she was living on Park Avenue as a successful journalist. She decided to write The Glass Castle because of the complexities of her parents and what led to their homelessness.
She was also ashamed about the scars she bore as a result of severe burns she received when, at age 3, she was cooking her own dinner. When her first husband proposed, she felt she needed to show him the scars “so he wouldn’t be shocked to know he was getting a pig in a poke.”
She told him how she got the burns and that she thought they made her ugly. “I always wished I had smooth, silky skin. My husband said, ‘Don’t apologize for your scars. You survived. You have texture’.”
As Walls began writing her book, she gained a new perspective of her childhood. “I realized that my father and mother had taught me a lot of valuable lessons. The story in the book about Dad taking me demon hunting is one of my most vivid memories. He taught me to face up to that demon, harness it and learn how to make your demons work with you.”
Walls said she has heard from many readers who had similar childhoods. “We are all a lot more alike than I realized. I underestimated people’s compassion and ability to understand complex issues.”
— Judi Buehrer, Colorado Press Women
WORKSHOP ROUNDUP — Two days of concurrent professional development workshops drew large audiences and standing-room-only attendance at several sessions.
Women interested in climbing the corporate ladder got a chance to hear from several successful managers at another workshop. The tips these newsroom leaders shared would help any journalist do better at her job. Two other panels explored constitutional questions. Though one focused on the First Amendment and the other on the right to privacy, both examined the idea of a shield law for reporters wanting to keep sources confidential. In addition, women sports journalists discussed the effects of Title IX on their profession and the state of sports coverage today.
HONORS AND AWARDS — Conference highlights included recognition of the accomplishments of CPW’s Communicator of Achievement Joyce Davis at Friday night’s banquet, when NFPW bestowed the national Communicator of Achievement Award. NFPW presented the national 2006 Communicator of Achievement award to Betty J. Packard, a management consultant of San Francisco, Calif. First runner-up for NFPW COA was Vivian Sade-Rosswurm. Saturday night, CPW members raked in 22 awards in categories ranging from short story, entertainment, religion, enterprise writing and continuing coverage writing to editing, writing for the Web and brochure design.
The silent auction generated more than $3,000 for the NFPW Education Fund, which provides professional development grants to members. This year, the fund provided 19 first-time conference attendee grants.
TOUR SUMMARIES — Press Women members and guests enjoyed numerous sights of Colorado, including in Colorado Springs, Breckenridge and Boulder. Another group headed to Red Rocks and the historic Brown Palace Hotel. In addition, about 150 people attended receptions Thursday night at the Colorado History Museum and Friday night at the Denver Press Club.
And that’s not all. The group traveled Breckenridge to have lunch at the Top of the World Restaurant on Boreas Pass, shopped in Breckenridge, and ate bison and quail for dinner at the famous Fort Restaurant, founded by Sam Arnold. His daughter welcomed guests and described growing up in the historic restaurant and adopting a wild bear as a pet.
The three-day schedule also included driving on the scenic Peak to Peak Highway, having brunch and enjoying beautiful scenery at the Wild Basin Lodge, touring the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and touring either Celestial Seasonings Tea Company or the Leanin’ Tree Western Art Museum, having tea at the Dushanbe Tea House in Boulder and winding up at Boulder’s Chautauqua for a delicious buffet dinner.
CPW guides facilitated the tours and provided information about historic and tourist sights. Most tour participants joined the bus tours all three days, while others came on the second and third days, and even more came for dinners at The Fort and Chautauqua.
During the Colorado Springs pre-tour, Nancy Wright Beasley of Virginia climbed back on the bus after shooting photos of a Garden of the Gods vista and said, “This is so cool!” That evening, while dining on barbecue at the Flying W Ranch, Joyce Berger of Delaware praised Colorado, saying she hopes to bring her grandchildren to see it.
Marlys Duran, a member of the CPW tour planning committee, said, “I’m just very pleased that we were able to share some of our beautiful state, especially with those experiencing it for the first time. Colorado put on such a glorious face for our tour folks that success was virtually guaranteed.”
— Barbara Gigone & Marlys Duran, Colorado Press Women
A nearly full bus of conference participants headed west to Morrison to visit Red Rocks Amphitheater Thursday morning. CPW member Marion Galant provided commentary about the history, construction and performances at Red Rocks en route to the famous Dakota sandstone amphitheater.
The group toured the Red Rocks Visitor’s Center and its plethora of exhibits about classical music, country and rock singers who have performed there over the years. Some of the group remained at the visitor’s center to have lunch, while others hiked down the path to shop at the Trading Post.
Following the NFPW general membership meeting, about 40 conference attendees were escorted by CPW members Sandy Nance and Lori Rapp to the Brown Palace Hotel for a ghost tour.
While learning about the historic, luxurious hotel, the group visited three rooms supposedly occupied by ghosts. They also visited the suite on the eighth floor used by President Eisenhower as the summer White House.
“While the suite had been remodeled to take out the knotty pine that the Eisenhowers wanted in their Colorado dwelling, the hotel did save a section of the mantel in a little shadow box to show the dent that Ike put into it while practicing his golf swing,” Nance said.
Press women and guests gathered at the Colorado History Museum Thursday evening to enjoy some wonderful historic Colorado exhibits, some fabulous food from Three Tomatoes Catering, and Colorado wine and beer tasting from Ska, Avery, Bristol land Left Hand brewing companies, Belistreri Vineyards and the Spero Winery. The evening was made possible by Janus Capital Group, sponsor of the event.
Friday night, conference attendees had another chance to socialize and network at a reception held at the historic Denver Press Club, the oldest continuously running press club in the nation. Celebrity bartenders Fred Brown, Denver Post columnist, and Dusty Saunders, entertainment columnist at the Rocky Mountain News, kept the libations flowing, with all tips-totaling $182-going to the preservation of the press club.
Longtime Colorado Press Women member Lauren Lehman of Lehman Communications sponsored the reception.
— Judi Buehrer, Colorado Press Women
More than 65 Years of Service
Longtime CPW member Anne Thompson, 86, publisher of the Rocky Ford Daily Gazette, was due to receive a distinguished award at the national conference for her 65 years of membership in the organization. However, she died Aug. 25, 2006, two weeks before the gathering. Colorado Press Women members visited her in July in Rocky Ford to honor her accomplishments.
I loved the conference. The speakers were all so stimulating, from Patty Limerick to T.R. Reid to the Pakistani woman. I had to leave Saturday morning to be back home for my mother’s 85th birthday party, and I hated to miss what I am sure were equally stimulating speakers that day. The hotel was superb, I loved seeing old friends, and it was a great conference — pat yourselves on the back!
I enjoyed all aspects of the outstanding Colorado conference. The tours were a great introduction to your beautiful state, the receptions were delightful, and I was most impressed with all of the speakers and panelists in the sessions I attended.
Over and above the broad strokes of delivering these things in spades, there was such great attention to the innumerable details of making a really good conference hum. I don’t think anyone who hasn’t worked on something of such scope can really understand what it takes to put on a seemingly flawless event. Getting the smallest of details right makes all run smoothly.
Many thanks to each of you (and your generous sponsors) for all of the careful thought, time, use of your many talents, treasure and energy to give your NFPW colleagues across the U.S. an unforgettable Rendezvous in the Rockies.
It was professional and dynamic, it offered something for everyone in the session strands, and it was welcoming and fun. Collectively, you all hit one out of the park.
Delaware Press Association