Media Monday – Lynn Bartels
Today’s Media Monday has a Hall of Fame flair. Lynn Bartels was recently inducted into the Northern Arizona University College of Social & Behavioral Sciences Hall of Fame after a 35-year career in journalism, including 22 years reporting in Denver, first for the Rocky Mountain News and then at the Denver Post. She recently joined the staff of Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams.
The 1980 NAU grad has some impressive credentials. In fact, NAU isn’t even her first hall of fame induction, as she was inducted into the 20th Annual Denver Press Club Hall of Fame. She won a Pulitzer Prize as part of The Denver Post’s team coverage of the Aurora movie theater massacre, has received a National Society of Newspaper Columnists award, was honored by the Washington Post as one of the nation’s best Statehouse reporters, earned a Public Service Award from the Colorado Press Association for stories on ethics issues at the Colorado Legislature and even has an NAU Samuel LaRue Finley award for creative writing in humor to her credit.
Lynn, time to share.
On the Hall of Fame Induction:
I was incredibly honored to be inducted into the NAU Hall of Fame at a school where I have such fond memories and that employed such first-rate teachers. It was especially meaningful to me because two of my AOII sorority sisters, Stacy Rosebrough Kluckman and Donna Maslanka Hendrickson, attended with me. They were also Mass Comm grads. Afterward, I loved it when Booker T. Evans Jr., a Phoenix attorney involved in the event, told me he would pay to hear me speak again. I served as editor of The Lumberjack and over the years when editors tried to promote me I said the most important thing I learned during my stint as my college newspaper editor is that I am not management material. Another one of life’s lessons learned at Northern Arizona University.
On going into journalism:
I met Bob Woodward the other night and when we were having our pictures taken I told him, “I know this is a cliché, but you had such an influence on my life.” I graduated from high school in 1975 and I can remember during the initial Watergate controversy defending Richard Nixon and blaming the press. When it turned out the Washington Post was right, I felt so betrayed by Nixon and so in awe of the press. I initially went to college to be a teacher, and wanted to teach history. But I minored in journalism and in the fall of 1977 I switched my major. Every June I would think, “Two roads diverged and I, I, I screwed up!”
But I was merely joking. Although I retired from journalism in July after a 35-year-career I still feel like a reporter. I now am the spokeswoman for the Colorado secretary of state and it’s amazing the skill set you bring with you. (“Don’t plan it for January. Papers have a small news hole. Roll it out in December when they are dying for copy.”
On the biggest stories she has covered:
I’ve had a front-row seat to some of the biggest stories in Colorado — the Oklahoma City bombing trials, Columbine — and along the way I’ve met some amazing people. Randy and Judy Brown, Rosemary and Wayne Wicks, the Flemings, I count them all as friends.
I loved it when former Rocky Mountain News reporter Jeff Kass put on Facebook that most people now are talking about politics, my career was much more than that, including Columbine.
On her favorite story:
Maybe it was when a series of homeless men turned up dead, the Rocky Mountain News assigned me to write about who these men were. I fought it (a common theme!) but in the end that might be one of my favorite stories. It turns out these people had friends and family, but for a variety of reasons, including addiction and mental illness, they just didn’t’ go home. I was working that Sunday when people called the Rocky about the piece. One woman was crying and said, “He hung outside our building and I never thought of him as a person until now.”
And I remember one night I had my coat on and I was getting ready to leave when I heard assistant city editor Luke Clarke say the pizza will be here in a few minutes. “Food! Free food! What’s going on?” I asked. The Denver Post today had depositions in the case involving the football recruiting scandal at Colorado University, and we need to go through them. “Want some help?” I asked. And that was my life for the next five months. The Rocky Mountain News won all kinds of awards for our reporting — yes, I have some sports-writing awards on my resume. The best ever was getting the investigative report a day early. We were all over national TV. I heard it was a very unhappy day at The Denver Post.
Colorado’s 2014 Senate race between Mark Udall and Cory Gardner was amazing, and I can never thank the Post enough for assigning me the race and letting me do my thing. I thank the Post for hiring me in the first place. Forever grateful.
I loved the story Tim Hoover and I wrote after the unbelievable civil unions blowup on the second to last night of the 2012 session. And then there was the front page “Has Hickenlooper lost his mojo?” piece that generated lots of e-mails and calls.
And some odds and ends:
In 2007, I won the Public Service Award from the Colorado Press Association for my stories on ethics issues at the Colorado Legislature. I think I was the first reporter in light years to win that award based on breaking news. There was no project editor, no graphics designer, no photographer assigned to the project, no one manipulating reams of data. It was old fashioned beat reporting and I was thrilled to see it honored.
I think former Post reporter Jessica Fender once summed me up better than most when she said something like, “Bartels will never be the kind of reporter who can go through stacks of documents and find the needle, but she’s the kind of reporter who people will pull aside and point her to this box of documents and say. ‘There’s a needle. Don’t tell anybody I told you.'”
Change has always frightened me. When I was first assigned to “the ledge” in 2000, I was miserable the first few weeks. There were many tears that Rocky editor Tonia Twichell and then Colorado Springs Gazette reporter Michele Ames had to deal with. And in 2014 I can remember crying in the women’s restroom in the Post, talking on the phone to Gardner spokesman Alex Siciliano and saying, “Why did they put me on this race? I don’t know federal issues. I don’t know about LMN.” And he said, “It’s LNG, liquified natural gas. I will walk you through it.” In both cases, I ended up loving the assignment.
You can follow Lynn on Twitter – she loves dogs, bacon and Colorado politics!