Gene Amole: The Subtle Snub That Spoke Volumes

The wall at the Denver Press Club is filled with framed caricatures honoring the (mostly) men and women who have chronicled and defined the people and events that have built and sustained Colorado. Rocky Mountain News reporter John Ensslin recalls the day one of those men — Gene Amole — shared the story about why his caricature depicts him in the form of an old radio microphone.“It was a subtle little dig at the fact that he was a radio journalist — a subset, a lower form if you will,” said Ensslin, who is currently the president of the Colorado chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and also a past president of the Denver Press Club. “That was back in the 1950s.”

“That’s true,” confirmed Amole’s daughter, Tustin Amole. “Early on, the Press Club didn’t admit broadcasters — only print journalists could become members.”

In many ways, the tribute to this trailblazer in Colorado journalism — complete with the subtle snub — exemplifies a long history of debate, anxiety and sometimes distrust in an ever-evolving industry whose latest incarnation happens to be the Internet.

A half-century ago, broadcasters — who often went on the air and simply recited the stories that had appeared in that day’s newspapers — were often treated as the red-headed stepchildren of journalism.

They were not invited to the grownups table until the 1960s or even 1970s — long after Gene Amole became the first broadcaster in Denver to win, in 1958, a prestigious Peabody award for a public affairs program called Panorama. The show, aired live, was a sort of forebear to 60 Minutes, said Tustin Amole, herself a former longtime Rocky Mountain News reporter who has for the past 8