First Forum 2019

First Forum 2019

June 6, 2019

5:30 PM Reception
6:30 PM Program

Keller Hall at the University of New Mexico
203 Cornell Dr, Albuquerque, NM 87131
(Keller Hall is in the Popejoy complex)

Sustainable Journalism: Preserving the Fourth Estate

Watch the event and background video!



New Mexico First held an exciting discussion on strengthening journalism in our Land of Enchantment.

Do you believe that the best decisions are based on objective, fair and factual information? Each day our local journalists strive to provide this information. Unfortunately, sustainable, quality local journalism especially in our rural communities is in crisis. When the press lacks resources and the public lacks faith in the press, how can we support the next generation of ethical, intellectually curious journalists?


Across the country, citizens worry about perceived news bias and want accurate, dependable media coverage to inform their personal, economic and voting decisions. Our democracy relies on a “free press” consisting of a highly qualified, fair, smart and rigorous workforce of journalists.

Sustainable Journalism: Preserving the Fourth Estate


Russell Contreras is a reporter with the Associated Press in Albuquerque. Previous work included the Boston Globe and Albuquerque Journal. Specialties include multi-media storytelling and enterprise writing.


Michelle Donaldson is vice president and general manager at KOB-4 TV news. She also worked as KRQE's news director and brings television as well as radio experience from the Phoenix and Detroit markets.  

Gene Grant is the host of KNME’s public affairs program, New Mexico In Focus. A journalist and columnist, previous work includes the Albuquerque Tribune, Albuquerque Journal, and Weekly Alibi.  

Jessica Onsurez is the News Director for the USA Today network properties in southeast New Mexico: Carlsbad Current-Argus, Alamogordo Daily News and Ruidoso News. Her experience spans across education, government and data reporting.  

Sustainable Journalism: Preserving the Fourth Estate


Funding support of this important event was critical to fulfilling the important mission of New Mexico First. We would not be able to hold the event without the generous contributions from our community! We thank the following companies for their support.

Notable Newspaper Sponsors

Outstanding Online Coverage Sponsors



Remarkable Radio Sponsors



Friends of Katherine Freeman

Diane Denish, Linda Gavioli, Bud Hamilton, Susie Harburg, Ann Honstein, Senator Michael Padilla, Stacy Quinn, Barb & Len Rand, Trudy Swint and Michael Weinberg

Friends of Heather Balas

Robert Armstrong, Carol Cochran, Joan Drake, Everett Frost, Jami Grindatto, Clint Harden, Jessie Lawrence, Sherman McCorkle, Lillian Montoya, Charlotte Pollard, Valerie Romero-Leggott, Lynn H. Slade

Friends of New Mexico First Sponsors

Barndollar Associates, Fundraising Counsel
J.D. Bullington, Government Relations, LLC
Konica Minolta Business Solutions U.S.A., Inc.
Las Cruces Bulletin
New Mexico Press Association
Santa Fe Brewing Company
Senator Bill Tallman
University of New Mexico - Division for Equity & Inclusion

Sustainable Journalism: Preserving the Fourth Estate

2019 Award Recipients

New Mexico First recognized public officials, journalists, and civic leaders who made a positive impact on New Mexico! Awardees were nominated by New Mexicans throughout the state and were selected because they address serious problems, attempting progress or education on major issues.

Spirit of Bipartisanship

N.M. State Representative Rebecca Dow (R)

N.M. State Senator Clemente Sanchez (D)

Spirit of Journalistic Excellence

Trip Jennings, Executive Director, New Mexico In Depth

Spirit of Civic Leadership

Katherine Freeman, President & CEO, United Way of Santa Fe County

Combined Staff of KOB-TV 4

Lifetime Achievement

United States Senator Tom Udall (D)

The awardees were chosen by a bipartisan committee including Terri Nikole Baca, Heather Balas, Rob Black, John Garcia, Ricardo Gonzales, Clint Harden, and chair, Cynthia Nava.


  • Spirit of Bipartisanship Awards honors public officials who put good policy above partisan politics.
  • Spirit of Civic Leadership Awards honors community and business leaders who make a difference through effective collaboration across party or stakeholder lines.
  • Spirit of Journalistic Excellence Awards honors media professionals who advance fair in-depth coverage of policy issues.
  • Lifetime Achievement Award honors people in any category who have advanced sound, collaborative practices throughout their careers.

Meet our Panelists, Leaders in New Mexico Journalism

Listen to these podcasts to get a behind the scenes insights on the New Mexico First program, Sustainable Journalism: Preserving the Fourth Estate! Tom Garrity, President and CEO of the Garrity Group talked with our First Forum panelists, New Mexico journalists Gene Grant, Russell Contreras, Jessica Onsurez and Michelle Donaldson. Tom serves as a member of the New Mexico First Board of Directors and is chair of the upcoming First Forum Lecture Series—we thank him for contributing his time and talent. The interviews are a part of Tom’s Perception Podcast through his firm.

Listen to New Mexico First's Podcast 



New Mexico First Journalism Research

The Rio Grande Chapter of the Society for Professional Journalists, in partnership with New Mexico First, held funded focus groups across the state to discuss a vision, needs and best practices for meeting the news and information needs of New Mexicans. The goal of these meetings was to produce a set of projects and ideas that can be immediately pursued by existing media outlets and news organizations that will strengthen journalism capacity in the state.

Advancing Sustainable, Reliable Journalism in NM Background Report

Advancing Sustainable, Reliable Journalism in NM Final Report

Some of Our Sponsors