Panel: Reporting, Homelessness, and the Public Sphere

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In March 2019, PEN America, the Denver VOICE, Denver Public Library, and Lighthouse Writers Workshop hosted a panel discussing the roles and responsibilities of local journalists, media outlets, and the public library in calling attention to homelessness and the ethics of that work. The panel included a Q&A session, public discussion among participants, and a brainstorming session to critique and examine coverage of local stories.
Panelists included:

  • Sonia Falcon, Community Resource Specialist, Denver Public Library

  • Sarah Ford, Managing Editor, Denver VOICE

  • John Alexander, Denver VOICE contributor/vendor

  • Ben Dunning, Denver Homeless Out Loud

  • Pete Simon, Hard Times Lighthouse Writers Workshop

  • Donna Bryson, Denverite (housing and hunger beat)

  • Moderator: S.E. Fleenor, freelance writer, editor, and writing instructor

Before leaving, participants and panelists were invited to write down one action step they will take based on our conversation. Everyone was provided with two 3x5 cards to write down their step. One copy was left behind. Here are the action steps participants have committed to taking:

  • Change words to “people experiencing homelessness”

  • Learn about Initiative 300 

  • Continue my activism 

  • Continue to greet and talk to people experiencing poverty and homelessness 

  • Vote against the current camping ban on the ballot 

  • Learn more about Initiative 300 

  • Read, read, read 

  • Treat people as individuals and continue volunteering with the homeless community 

  • Learn more about homelessness / do more reading 

  • Subscribe to the VOICE

  • Read and watch news stories from more sources and attempt to see the whole picture

  • Get involved with Denver Homeless Out Loud 

  • Find articles about homelessness and send them to editors asking for more like them 

  • Pursue more understanding to come up with more solutions 

  • Work with City Council candidates and be the “squeaky wheel”

  • Go to more public meetings about this issue and write more 

  • Email editors and reporters with ideas and information about homeless issues; people to profile 

  • Write an editorial letter on my perspective from this meeting critiquing the coverage of 300 

  • Continue to volunteer at the homeless shelter 

    Please check out photos and video from the event!

This event was made possible by PEN America's Press Freedom Incentive Fund, an ongoing initiative providing support for writers, journalists, and local media outlets that are actively defending a free, independent, and robust press here in the United States. You can learn more about the Fund, and how to apply, online at