What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned since graduating from MSU Denver in 2019?
I’ve learned that school can never really prepare you for the real thing. I worked for Met Media at MSU Denver, but that was just warm-up practice. No matter how ready you think you are, it’ll still be more work than you thought it would be.
I’ve also learned the journalism industry, despite making some headway, is still pretty unfriendly to reporters who identify with marginalized groups. I have Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis. Some outlets see the fact that I’m disabled as an asset. Most don’t want to work with someone who has 1-2 doctor appointments a week. Not to mention I have tattoos and facial piercings, which many editors still look down upon as unprofessional. I knew that the industry was a (white) boys club, but I didn’t realize the full extent of that until I started looking for a job.
You launched Ms. Mayhem, a publication that showcased underrepresented voices. What was most satisfying about that and what was most disappointing?
The most satisfying aspect of launching Ms. Mayhem is knowing we told stories that really mattered to people. We changed people’s daily lives, including my own. One of our writers, Lexi Reich, wrote about how pelvic floor therapy can help individuals heal from sexual assault. A doctor had referred me to see a pelvic floor therapist, but Lexi’s story is the push I needed to finally do it. I had suffered from excruciating sciatica and lower back pain, which all but disappeared. We received dozens of messages after publishing the story from people in a similar position, thanking us for putting that information out there. It made me feel so good about what we were doing that I teared up!
On the other hand, we had some big disappointments as well. We launched at the height of the pandemic shutdowns, so it was incredibly difficult time getting any funding. We tried sponsored content, advertising, grants and Patreon, and none of those revenue streams panned out.
What inspires you about community journalism?
Local publications are rapidly disappearing for a number of reasons—absence of financial support, private-equity buy-outs, and readers’ reluctance to pay for the information they receive to name a few. Legacy papers that once covered a single state are having to cover larger areas and national stories just to stay competitive, while many of the smaller local stories fall through the cracks. Community papers are necessary not only to pick up that slack, but focus on niches that larger papers just can’t afford to cover. Community journalists and publications inspire me because they’re producing in-depth coverage on a shoe-string budget. They care about these stories just as much as their readers do because they’re covering things that are happening where they live. You don’t see that as much with larger papers that parachute in when a tragedy happens and largely ignore the community otherwise.
You made a documentary about fly fishing. What do you love about the sport?
Last year Ms. Mayhem produced a multimedia project called Casting Forward in which we highlighted how women are changing the sport of fly fishing. The project included five videos covering the gear industry, safety on and off the river, inclusivity of BIPOC and people with disabilites, and conservation efforts lead by women. It was an exhausting but rewarding process.
I love the sport for many reasons, but most of all because it’s time spent with my loved ones and it introduced me to my passion for protection of public lands. Plus, the high of fighting and netting a huge fish is one I’ll be chasing the rest of my life.
What are your favorite things to do in Denver?
I’m a bit of a homebody, so unfortunately I don’t get out to explore the city as much as I probably should. But I love walking through the Botanic Garden and Denver Zoo. I started collecting uncommon and rare houseplants a couple of years ago and my favorite shop is The Plant Room. My partner and I are very into tropical culture and love to hit up Adrift on a weekend night. We also recently rediscovered one of my favorite childhood activities—pottery painting—at Ceramics in the City. I think I’ve also finally discovered a home tattoo shop at Dead Drift Tattoo. There are so many gems in this city that it’s hard to think of them all.