DPS Strike Coverage: Local News at its Best

By Alan Gottlieb

There hadn’t been a teacher strike in Denver in 25 years, so this week’s walkout was a big deal, and received heavy local and national coverage. Locally, it was hard to find a news organization that didn’t cover the story. But three outlets — and in particular three reporters — went above and beyond the call of duty.

As the strike entered its third day on Wednesday, both sides sensed a deal was within reach. Negotiators met in a room of the Denver Central Library, and then split off to caucus elsewhere in the building, leaving supporters and reporters alike to cool their heels for hours at a time with no updates.

For nearly 24 hours, Jenny Brundin of Colorado Public Radio (@CPRBrundin), Melanie Asmar of Chalkbeat (@MelanieAsmar), and Elizabeth Hernandez of The Denver Post (@ehernandez) camped out in that basement room, tweeting every new development, and keeping their sizable core of followers up to date on the progress of negotiations.

There’s a certain beauty in that, isn’t there? Reporters from a public radio station, a major metro daily newspaper, and a digital education news nonprofit — representing three distinct business models for local news — demonstrating true dedication to their craft, and keeping the public well informed. And while traditionally reporters on the same beat tend to be competitive, there was plenty of mutual appreciation among these three — as well as other journalists in Colorado.

The three women clearly bonded over the experience. Just after 8 a.m. Thursday, a “fading fast” Brundin tweeted:

Their dedication wasn’t lost on readers or other journalists. The Colorado Sun and Colorado Independent both tweeted out their appreciation of the trio’s marathon reporting stints — and also called out others’ contributions to coverage. Hernandez retweeted a couple of messages from readers who said they decided to subscribe to the Post because of the quality of her coverage.

Channel 9’s Kyle Clark called attention to the trio in the “Nine Next with Kyle Clark.” (Segment starts at 5:57):

May I make a recommendation: that you seek out and support the journalism of three women that did an exceptional job covering this DPS strike. Now technically they are all our competitors here, but that does not matter to you and I’m hoping you get your news from a wide variety of sources these days. If you’re not reading Elizabeth Hernandez’s work in The Denver Post, you’re missing out. She’s also one of the funniest Twitter follows in town. Explaining labor disputes on the radio is not easy, but Jenny Brundin from Colorado Public Radio made it sound simple during the strike. Elizabeth and Jenny put in long, long hours right alongside Melanie Asmar from Chalkbeat Colorado. Chalkbeat covers education in more depth than anybody else in Colorado. If you want a deep dive, I recommend her work. So please seek out and support Elizabeth, Jenny and Melanie’s writing. We have links on the Next Twitter page.

Local news may face challenges when it comes to financial sustainability. But make no mistake: the “fierce women” who covered the teacher strike are not alone. Colorado is blessed with a strong and dedicated corps of journalists who will some way, somehow, keep reporting the news.

It’s all of our responsibility to support them, and the organizations for which they work.

Here’s how to subscribe, join, donate, etc., to various outlets and support organizations, all of which rely upon your generosity: Aspen Journalism, Chalkbeat, Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition, Colorado Independent, Colorado Public Radio, Colorado Sun, Denverite, The Denver Post, Rocky Mountain Public Media.

Photo of Denver Superintendent Susana Cordova signing tentative agreement ending the strike courtesy of Melanie Asmar’s Twitter feed.