GRANBY - A 2006 Middle Park High School graduate and former Sky-Hi News intern is one of a team of journalists who won the Pulitzer Prize on Monday.
The Denver Post newsroom won the coveted journalism award for its breaking-news reporting, photography and video coverage of the Aurora movie theater massacre, and Jordan Steffen, originally of Granby, key to informing the public during the aftermath of the incident.
Steffen, 25, was called into work in the middle of that July night, after a gunman walked into a theater showing of "The Dark Knight Rises" at the Century Aurora 16 theaters and killed 12 people and injured at least 58 others.
The young journalist, hired at the Denver Post two years ago, immediately began taking information reporters in the field were feeding to her, then writing and compiling stories for online readership. Steffen was one of the first people in the newsroom in those early morning hours, "one of the first people to have fingers on the keys," she said. As the story unfolded, Steffen worked to update website stories through the night.
"The second day was gathering everything we could and putting together a complete profile" of the suspect, Steffen said.
"From top to bottom, everyone was working so hard and was absolutely focussed," Steffen said. "It was a huge group effort and the performance of everyone in the newsroom was absolutely outstanding. As a young reporter in the group, I learned so much and learned it so fast, and I am extremely grateful for all the support that came from editors and co-workers."
Journalism roots in Grand
Steffen said she is appreciative for each editor she's work for during the years and to her high school English teachers, Marcia Lorton (who has since retired) and John Reynolds.
Lorton taught her that writing is an art form; "she actually helped me to see that it was my form of expression," Steffen said. At one point, Steffen walked into Lorton's office and asked, "Do you think I could be a journalist?"
"And she said yes," Steffen said.
Reynolds, who Steffen received a congratulatory note from on Monday, taught her to "challenge myself in the rhythms of my writing and to really push myself to examine and think about each word on the paper."
During her senior year of high school, the daughter of Jim and Peg Steffen of Granby, took an internship at the Sky-Hi News under then-editor Patrick Brower. Her first story ever published was about Eagle Scouts building bat houses to control the mosquito population. "I sat in Brower's office as he went over my story, and I watched him cover it in red ink, and I thought it was the stopping point for my journalism career," she said.
From there, Steffen went on to attend the University of Colorado journalism school, held an internship at the Greeley Tribune, then a summer multi-media internship at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., then an internship at the Denver Post. Upon graduation, she returned to D.C.
for an internship with the Tribune Company Bureau, writing for the L.A. Times from Washington D.C. An opening at the Post came up, and the rest of the story includes devastating wildfires, shootings, and investigative work on a piece about child welfare. Each story, from the incomprehensible to the mundane, has taught her important lessons about the profession.
"Emotionally, you have to remember your are serving the public," she said. "Empathy is extremely important, but you have to tie down your emotions.
"You either love this job and do it with your whole heart, or you don't do it. And I think everyone here works within that standard."
The Denver Post announced it will donate the $10,000 received for the award to the Aurora Mental Health Center and the Bonfils Blood Center, two charities that "played a direct role in helping in the aftermath of the shooting," accoring to the Post's coverage of the Pulitzer win.
The Post was also a Pulitzer finalist this year for breaking news photography of the Aurora shootings and breaking news for coverage of the Waldo Canyon fire in Colorado Springs, a story on which Steffen also worked.
- Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext.19600.