Colorado's only full-time water reporter

  • The Chieftain's water reporter, Chris Woodka, sometimes finds himself covering news that his boss has made.

    Steve Starr

In 2004, Pueblo Chieftain publisher Bob Rawlings, assisted by his daughter, Jane, was running full-throated editorials against water transfers and occasionally making news himself. The not-exactly-impartial coverage of the controversy bothered Chris Woodka, then a managing editor. So he asked to be assigned to the water beat.

"I said, 'OK: I'm going to do it objectively. I'm going to do it as a reporter,' " Woodka explains. " 'And Bob and Jane, you're just going to be news sources.' "

Today, Woodka, 57, is Colorado's sole remaining full-time water reporter. He has worked hard to separate himself from the Chieftain's editorial slant, and has built a reputation for his fair coverage of an extremely complicated and contentious subject. "You kind of make your own luck," Woodka says. "Your sources have to be good, and you don't burn them."

Steve Henson, the Chieftain's current managing editor, serves as a deliberate editorial firewall between Woodka and the publisher's suite. "I kind of make my own assignments," Woodka says. "Steve will let me know the publisher's concern, and what the publisher would like to see in the story."

"But," he adds, "that's not always the story that he gets."

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A Colorado newspaperman fights for his valley's water
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