Judith Smelser

Bachelor’s degree in international studies, Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn.

Professional background:
Judith joined Colorado Public Radio in October 2011 as assistant news director, prior to becoming the managing editor in March 2013. She manages the day-to-day operations of CPR's newsroom, editing news features and guiding ongoing coverage of important stories in coordination with CPR's newscast unit and Colorado Matters.

Judith came to CPR from Orlando, Fla., where she served as news director at WMFE for four years. In that role she managed coverage of major events including hurricanes, elections, and most recently, the end of NASA's iconic space shuttle program. Judith also worked as a producer, reporter and host at WMFE from 2004-2007. Before WMFE, Judith was based in Washington D.C., where she edited a breaking-news feed for radio clients around the world at the news agency Feature Story News. She also gained valuable experience as a junior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, D.C.

Judith was the copy editor for a Peabody Award winning documentary titled, “Lucia’s Letter,” which also won a New York Festival’s Gold Medal in 2010. In seven years at WMFE she won nine Florida Associated Press Awards, including top prize in the category for “Best Public Affairs Reporting” for editing and producing a series on water issues in 2008. In 2005, Judith contributed to the documentary, “Countdown Discovery,” which won a Sigma Delta Chi award from the Society for Professional Journalists.

Q & AWhy I became a journalist:
For as long as I can remember, I have been interested in current events, from politics to international affairs, and how those events affect real peoples’ lives. I also have a longtime love for writing; in fact, I still have in my possession, many volumes of journals I kept as a young adult. It was only a matter of time before the two interests came together.

Why I got into radio:
Ever since high school, I’d wanted a career in international affairs. I was going to be a diplomat or a policy maker or one of those think tank experts who were always being quoted in the news. After college, I took my newly minted degree in international studies to Washington D.C., where I landed a fellowship with one of those think tanks. Sadly, I soon found myself frustrated with the slow pace there, and realized I needed to find a career where you didn’t have to wait years to see the results of your work. I was listening to public radio a lot those days, since I had decided to do without a television to save money. I started to think that perhaps radio news would be a way to marry my interest in world events and my desire for a quicker pace of work…not to mention a use for all those years of speech and drama training in high school! I fell into an internship with a Washington-based international broadcast news agency, which later turned into full-time employment…and the rest, as they say, is history.

How I ended up at CPR:
I was not looking to leave Florida. I was happily ensconced in my job as news director at Orlando’s WMFE, where I had been for the previous seven years. But Kelley Griffin and I got to talking at a Public Radio News Directors conference about CPR’s desire to renew its commitment to current and breaking news, and I found myself becoming more and more intrigued. Here was a newsroom that was able to expand in the middle of a recession. Here was a station with the staff to produce breaking news and in-depth analysis. There are few newsrooms like that in any broadcast station in the country – public or commercial, radio or TV. After visiting Denver and meeting the very talented staff at CPR, I was sold.

  • More than 1,300 firefighters are fighting the High Park Fire west of Fort Collins today. Hundreds of people have had to evacuate, and some of them are out of their homes indefinitely. That’s raising questions about their needs beyond things like food, clothing and shelter.
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  • The Fort Collins Loveland airport is playing a key role in the efforts to fight the High Park fire. As KUNC’s Grace Hood reports, the small commuter airport between the two cities is serving as a landing and refueling space for single engine air tankers and helicopters.
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  • 400 firefighters struggled Monday to contain an out of control wildfire that’s scorched almost 37,000 acres northwest of Fort Collins. Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith said more than 100 structures in three subdivisions have been damaged or destroyed. But the details about which ones have been affected are slow to emerge.
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  • A wildfire burning west of Fort Collins now covers almost 37,000 acres. It has damaged or destroyed at least 18 structures, and officials expect that number to rise. Hundreds of people and animals have been evacuated since the blaze started this weekend, and the fire continues to burn out of control with no containment.
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  • Colorado’s legislative session is going into overtime.  The regular session ends at midnight, but Governor John Hickenlooper said Wednesdsay he plans to call a special session, mainly to debate a bill that would create civil unions.  That bill died Tuesday night, along with about two dozen others, because of parliamentary maneuvering on both sides.
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  • Colorado’s aerospace industry takes center stage Thursdsay at the annual Space Symposium in Colorado Springs.  Hundreds of space industry professionals from all over the world are spending the week at the Broadmoor Hotel.
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  • The large wildfire burning in southern Jefferson County is now 70% contained.  Crews have been rushing to extend containment lines ahead of worsening weather conditions. Saturday’s forecast calls for strong winds and high temperatures, a replay of the conditions that created Monday’s destructive inferno.
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  • Firefighters are hoping to gain ground in their fight against a huge wildfire in Jefferson County near Conifer today.  It’s already claimed at least two lives and about two dozen homes, and it’s forced hundreds of evacuations.
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  • About 12,500 Colorado Democrats went to their party’s caucuses Tuesday night.  That’s a tiny percentage of the more than 680,000 registered Democrats in the state.  The low turnout was expected, since President Obama has no competition for the Democratic presidential nomination. In the months ahead, however, Democrats will be working hard in Colorado.
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  • A state-run energy program that was originally funded with federal stimulus money is becoming a private-sector nonprofit today.  “Recharge Colorado” is hoping to prove there’s life after the stimulus. This is a transcript of Mike Lamp’s report: Reporter Mike Lamp: Recharge Colorado started in the Governor’s Energy Office.
  • The Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce is trying to help its members avoid phone calls from political campaigns this election season.  But it may be hard for residents to completely scrub their phone numbers from voter lists.
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  • Colorado Republicans get to weigh in on the presidential contest tonight at the GOP caucuses.  Three of the four candidates made their final pitches to Coloradans yesterday.  Mitt Romney courted Republicans from the Western Slope to the Front Range; Rick Santorum spent his time in the Denver metro area; and Newt Gingrich made his first

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  • President Barack Obama addressed an audience of 400 soldiers and other invited guests at Buckley Air Force Base this afternoon with a speech on energy policy, following up on his State of the Union address.  Colorado Public Radio’s Ben Markus was there.
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