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Colorado Student Media Association


Colorado Student Media Association


Colorado Student Media Association


About CSMA

Why join the Colorado Student Media Association? What do we get for our annual membership dues?

Check out this four-page handout from February, 2019 for some answers.

Our goals (as stated in Article II of the CSMA Constitution) are to: encourage interest in journalism through participation in school publications, raise the standards of school publications, encourage the recognition of journalism as an important course of study – particularly as it reflects the ability of students to use the mass media in understanding their role as media consumers and citizens,

CSMA also desires to: encourage school publications to accept responsibility as a vital means of communication in the school community, foster students’ interest in print, broadcast, and multi-media journalism, encourage students to communicate accurately, concisely, ethically, aesthetically, and responsibly, encourage knowledge of and appreciation for the rights and responsibilities stated in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and in Colorado state law, encourage students to exercise their legal rights and uphold their ethical responsibilities as student journalists, and provide support for and encourage the professional growth of advisers.

Founded in 1970, the Colorado Student Media Association, formerly the Colorado High School Press Association, has been housed in adviser homes, as well as the University of Colorado – Boulder and Colorado State University, and is now is associated with the Department of Journalism and Media Communication at CSU. The current office for CSMA is in the home of the executive director.


Dorothy Greer was CHSPA Executive Secretary from 1970-1989

Executive Directors
Don Ridgway  1989 – May, 1996
Barbara Plungy  May, 1996 – July 2001
Dianne Gum  August, 2001 – July 2003
Jeff Browne  August, 2003 – December, 2004
Kim Blumhardt  January, 2005 – July, 2007
Clarissa Crozier  August, 2007 – June 30, 2010
Jack Kennedy  July 1, 2010 – Aug. 30, 2020
Elise Carlson  June 1, 2020 – May 31, 2024
Jed Palmer  April 1, 2024 –

Colorado High School Press Association/Colorado Student Media Association

The First Fifty Years

CHSPA begins with a few dedicated advisers

The Colorado High School Press Association was born in October of 1970, following that fall’s state journalism conference on the CU Boulder campus. But there were several years prior where efforts by Dorothy Morgan, an adviser at Sheridan Junior High School, fostered the conditions that pushed others to create a true state association.

Prior to moving to Denver Morgan had taught in Topeka, Kansas, where she counted Dorothy Greer as a colleague. Greer, enjoying her retirement in Estes Park, had been newspaper adviser at Topeka HS and Washburn University before moving to Colorado. She was a Dow Jones National Journalism Teacher of the Year, and had garnered numerous other state and national honors.  Morgan asked for her help in establishing a student press association. They brought together interested advisers, and CHSPA began to take shape. The first elected officers were President Don Ridgway from Kennedy HS and secretary-treasurer Carol Koch from Fairview HS. Greer served as volunteer executive secretary.

The association struggled in its early years, with only a few dozen members and membership dues of $5. The newsletters were mimeographed on school equipment with “borrowed” paper. But on Jan. 21, 1972, the board hosted an important meeting with James Paschal, then director of the Oklahoma Interscholastic Press Association and long-time friend of Greer’s. The board had one important question: What can CHSPA do to get the association moving, to create more interest? Paschal’s answer was immediate: offer a contest.

At the time it appeared that Colorado would be hosting the 1976 Winter Olympics as part of the state’s Centennial and the nation’s Bicentennial celebrations. (Colorado voters later rejected this effort in November of 1972.) The board called the new contest The Publications Olympics, though that was changed eventually due to fear of copyright violation. Sentinel Newspapers of Denver co-sponsored the contest and provided much of the funding. CHSPA was given the afternoon of the annual journalism conference at CU each fall to announce the winners. Eventually, the contest became the Sweepstakes Awards, with certificates for all winners and trophies for the top place-winners (determined by adding up individual award points) from each of three enrollment classifications. These awards morphed into the Best of Colorado awards in spring of 2011.


CHSPA headquarters moves to CU Boulder

The CHSPA board of directors formally requested, after passing two motions unanimously on July 16, 1988 and Jan. 14, 1989, that a two-year trial period for the University of Colorado School of Journalism and Mass Communication to serve as headquarters for the association beginning Aug. 30, 1989. The board requested that Don Ridgway be named executive director.

CHSPA agreed to pay for the executive director’s student assistant and for all printing and mailing costs for the association newsletter, as well as long distance phone calls. The agreement asked that the executive director be relieved of one-third of his teaching load with no salary reduction. It also asked for sufficient office furniture and a Macintosh SE computer and a laser printer. The agreement also assured that the fall conference for students be continued.

The arrangement, based on other states’ press association-university model relationships, was approved and signed by CU Journalism Dean Willard Rowland and CSHPA President Sheryl Foster (Overland HS). “We are very pleased to have the CHSPA headquarters housed at the school of journalism,” Rowland said at the time. “CU and the association have had a long and profitable relationship, one that will be even stronger now.”

Don Ridgway, by then a CU journalism faculty member after successful careers as a journalism adviser at John F. Kennedy HS in Denver and as a copy editor at The Denver Post, began his term as CHSPA executive director, replacing Greer, who, in turn, was named executive secretary emeritus. Ridgway, as CHSPA’s first president, served from 1970-1975. As executive secretary Greer was instrumental in establishing a yearbook contest and, later, a newspaper contest, a student scholarship (eventually renamed in her honor), and the teacher of the year award.

CHSPA flourished from the late 1980s to the mid-2000s, expanding beyond the annual contests, scholarship, and teacher and administrator awards to focus on more student-centered authentic journalism opportunities to include a Governor’s press conference, programs supporting the arts in cooperation with the DCPA and the Colorado Symphony, photography contests in conjunction with the Rocky Mountain Arsenal and the Denver Zoo, and sports reporting mini-contests and write-offs with the Denver Nuggets and Broncos, among others. 

Most importantly, after the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a ruling in the Hazelwood case  in 1988 allowing school administrators to censor student expression, CHSPA undertook an effort to protect Colorado students from administrative censorship. In a hard-fought campaign led by Ridgway, CHSPA Vice President Marta Hedde from Horizon HS, and board member and former President Fran Henry from Castle Rock HS, SB90-99, Colorado’s Student Freedom of Expression Act, passed through a largely Republican legislature on its initial attempt and was signed into law (C.R.S. 22-1-120) by Governor Roy Romer in June 1990, only the fourth state to pass such legislation. The Colorado effort was the first to gain passage of a law on the first try.

Ridgway’s sudden retirement from both CU and CHSPA in 1996 forced changes in the organization. Board member Barbara Plungy, recently retired from Wheat Ridge HS, was appointed executive director, but increasing problems with new policies made for trying times in CHSPA. In 2000, President Sheila Jones and Executive Director Barb Plungy led a challenge against proposed Colorado legislation, HB1202,  that if passed as introduced, would have restricted the rights Colorado student journalists had gained under the Student Freedom of Expression Act a decade earlier by denying them newsgathering rights through the use of surveys. Through a series of amendments to the bill that CHSPA advocated for, student journalists’ rights were codified under C.R.S. 22-1-123 (5)(e) “state law does not prevent a student who is working under the supervision of a journalism teacher or sponsor from preparing or participating in a survey, analysis or evaluation without obtaining written parental consent as long as participation is not prohibited by federal law.”


CSU comes to the rescue

By 2001 leadership changes and budgetary issues led to the need to leave CU Boulder and  find a new headquarters. Dianne Gum, former adviser at Littleton HS, took on the executive director position after years on the board of directors, and along with then President Sheila Jones of Englewood HS, made a proposal to move the CHSPA headquarters to Colorado State University in Fort Collins.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed on Aug. 14, 2002 by Dr. Garrett O’Keefe, chair of the Department of Journalism and Technical Communication (JTC); Larry Steward, director of Campus Media; and CHSPA President Stephen Wahlfeldt, Rocky Mountain HS.

CSU agreed to house CHSPA and provide an employee as executive director, with the two organizations splitting the salary. Campus Media, now an independent organization known as Rocky Mountain Student Media Corporation, provided space, storage, and student help, and took on the important task of hosting an annual journalism conference, renamed J-Day.

Jeff Browne, former adviser at Smoky Hill HS and then adviser to the CSU Collegian newspaper, became executive director in August 2003, and was followed by Kim Blumhardt from 2005-2007. The MOU was altered in 2007 and brought in Clarissa Crozier, recently retired from Arapahoe HS, as the executive director. She served in that capacity until June 2010.

JTC offered opportunities for Crozier to teach on-campus, which made it more attractive for her to drive from her home in Highlands Ranch to Fort Collins twice per week. CHSPA had an office within the JTC space in Clark Hall. Some association files are still housed there.

Current Department Chair (now the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication – JMC) Greg Luft has maintained CSU’s strong partnership over the past decade-plus, supporting J-Day as well as teaching opportunities for the executive director.

When Jack Kennedy, who had retired from Rock Canyon HS, and who was a past president of JEA, took over in 2010 as executive director, that arrangement was continued. When he broke his hip in October of 2014, the department transformed the position to an online-only instructor. Kennedy still retains that adjunct instructor position.


Time for an update of the association name

In order to allow CHSPA to be more flexible and recognize the benefits of technology, Kennedy transferred the headquarters mailing address to his home in Highlands Ranch, CO, with some limited storage in his garage. His home office remains the official headquarters of the organization.

The board had always resisted adding middle school media programs to the association, but once CHSPA decided to pilot efforts to support those programs in 2014-15, it became apparent that the association needed to refresh its name. The board voted to change the name to Colorado Student Media Association (CSMA), effective July 1, 2015.

A number of changes were required, including a new website and social media handles, as well as a new logo. Carrie Faust of Smoky Hill HS and Kennedy collaborated on the current logo.

There was some confusion regarding CHSPA’s non-profit status and about filing requirements, but the IRS and CSMA worked out the technicalities and all official records were updated. Kennedy noted, “The next time someone suggests changing the organization’s name, run fast in another direction.”


The only constant is change

Kennedy announced in 2018 that he would step down as executive director in the summer of 2020, and the board engaged in long discussions and study, eventually issuing a Request for Proposals in June 2019, following the summer board meeting.

The board selected Elise Carlson, from Grand Junction, and former adviser from Florida, as executive director and she began on June 1, 2020. Kennedy continued through August of 2020 to assure continuity in summer critiques and delayed Best of Colorado contests (due to the pandemic).

Jed Palmer was selected as the Executive Director in March, 2024. Carlson and Palmer served together for a transition period of two months in order to maintain the integrity of the organizations contests and critiques.