INN Welcomes New Member Aspen Journalism

Aspen Journalism is based on the concept of the “Aspen Center for Investigative Journalism.” They are an independent online nonprofit investigative journalism organization dedicated to producing good journalism, making public data accessible and compelling, and collaborating with existing local news organizations.

This newest member of INN is based in Aspen, which is the county seat of Pitkin County, and the largest community in the upper Roaring Fork River watershed.

Brent Gardner-Smith, a veteran Aspen journalist who has been a reporter at the Aspen Times and the Aspen Daily News, and was general manager at Aspen Public Radio, is the editor and executive director at Aspen Journalism.

Aspen Journalism is brand new, having received a $55,000 start-up grant in January, 2011 from the Manaus Fund, a local community foundation based in the nearby community of Carbondale. The grant from the Manaus came after over a year of discussions with its board about the importance of local investigative journalism, especially in the face of significant staff cuts at local commercial media outlets.

The Manaus Fund also helped underwrite a four-month internship that Gardner-Smith completed in July, 2010 at ProPublica. At ProPublica, Gardner-Smith served in the role as associate communications manager under ProPublica Communications Director Mike Webb and worked closely with the organization’s editorial and administrative staff. The internship came about as part of Gardner-Smith’s master’s program at the University of Missouri Graduate School of Journalism. He will graduate this spring.

Aspen Journalism’s first collaborative effort rolled last week, when its nascent website went live at Their first story was also published on the front page of the Aspen Daily News, one of two daily and two radio news stories about the topic were produced in conjunction with KDNK, one of the valley’s two public radio stations. The story and collaborative effort helped demonstrate Aspen Journalism’s intent and early capability.

Aspen Journalism is seeking additional seed money from other local community foundations and national foundations that support investigative journalism.