New Mexico Independent pulls down awards as funding shrivels

Ace New Mexico Independent legislative reporter Trip Jennings won two awards this week from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors in its annual statehouse reporting contest. Jennings won an award last year from the Association and he shared in the First Amendment Award bestowed on the New Mexico Independent by the American Civil Liberties Union New Mexico chapter in September. It will come as little surprise that none of that saved Jennings or the New Mexico Independent from the recession-era digital-age news-industry-transition downsizing Wednesday that threw most of the crack staff working at the Colorado Independent sister site into the line of talented formerly employed journalist people that trails out of newsrooms in every state of the Union.

NMI sharpshooters Jennings, Childress, Doland

The American Independent News Network, the Colorado Independent’s umbrella network, shuttered the flagship Washington Independent site in addition to severely paring down the New Mexico Independent yesterday because the sites failed to draw funding sufficient to sustain operations. The network runs mostly on individual donations and grant funding. Resources have been shared out among the network sites but, as funding has shriveled these past two years, management made the difficult decision to maintain only sites that draw funding to pay for themselves.

The Washington Independent garnered millions of viewers over the last three years and helped shape national news narratives every week.

The New Mexico Independent under the direction of state editor Gwyneth Doland established itself as the go-to legislative news source in the state. Boldly experimenting with new-media tools and approaches to reporting, the site drew regular input and contributions from lawmakers and stakeholders across the political spectrum. The journalism produced by Doland, Jennings, reporters Marjorie Childress and Bryant Furlow, and regular contributors Matthew Reichbach, Patricia Sauthoff and Larry Behrens was high-level investigative work by all the standard measures and by most of what you might call new journalism standards, too. It was lean and fast and concerned with complicated public policy. It placed accountability at the top of its priorities and it raised transparency above objectivity.

Jennings won the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors award this week for stories on an Albuquerque city contractor who alleged corruption in then-Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez’s City Hall and on the strange tale of Gov. Bill Richardson and staff leaving the scene of a boat crash during the 2009 Labor Day weekend.

Last year Jennings won an Association prize for reporting on the explosion of state contracts during Richardson’s tenure that went to a firm managed by one of Richardson’s friends.

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