Meet your Idaho Press Club board member

Jennifer Swindell, founder, CEO and managing editor at Idaho Education News

Jennifer Swindell has been an Idaho journalist for 30 years. She spent 20 years with the Idaho Statesman in a variety of writing and editing roles before becoming an information director for the Caldwell School District and then a communications director at Boise State University. While at Boise State, she launched her “big idea” to start Idaho Education News. Six years later, IdahoEdNews.org hosts thousands of page views a day and has seven full-time employees.  In the past year, the organization won 20 awards in the Idaho Press Club annual contest, including winning the First Amendment award (all categories) the past three years in a row.

Where are you from? 

I’m a third generation Idahoan and I’ve lived in Idaho all my life except when in college at the University of Montana. I was voted “least changed” at my high school reunion because I live just a few miles from my childhood home. 

Is this the first time you’ve served on a board? 

I’m a veteran at board work. I’ve served nine years on the Idaho Golf Association’s Board of Directors and five of those years as the IGA’s president. I’m also on the advisory board of the national Education Writers Association and a board member for Go Lead Idaho. Idaho Education News is a non-profit and has its own board of directors.

What was your first journalism job?
I started as a high school sports writer at The Idaho Statesman. At the time, I thought I had the greatest job in the world. My dad was a high school football coach and I’ve always played or watched sports so it was a perfect fit to get paid to watch sports.

I was eventually promoted to assistant sports editor and then I became Idaho’s first female sports editor. We had some great times back then with a large staff and 20+-page Sunday sports sections. Our sports staff included Mike Prater, Michael Deeds and Chadd Cripe. We covered NCAA basketball tournaments, the Winter Olympics and the beginnings of minor league sports in Boise. We worked nights and weekends.  

I later served as the Statesman’s outdoors editor, special projects editor, government editor and news editor. At one point in my career as a Statesman editor, my reporting team included Greg Hahn, Rocky Barker, Dan Popkey, Bill Roberts and Wayne Hoffman. (I deserve a Press Club plaque for those years.)

What is your favorite thing about your job? 

Journalists empower citizens with knowledge so they can make the best possible decisions about their lives, families, communities and leaders. In that way, we can influence positive change in our world. Plus, journalists have a tremendous responsibility to serve as watchdogs over decision makers and tax dollars. 

How has journalism changed over your career?
 
When I started you could smoke cigarettes in the Statesman newsroom. We didn’t have email or laptops. I once dictated a high school football game over the phone from a bowling alley. (We didn’t have cell phones then, either). 

All of the news that happened in a day fit perfectly into the paper that landed on your doorstep in the morning. Today, the delivery of news is personalized and journalists must adapt to what people want to read and how they want to receive it. 

   
What do you do for fun?
 
For fun, I golf, gamble and mountain bike. I run half marathons but they aren’t fun. My dog Henry loves training for them. I love to vacation in Mexico, Palm Springs and Idaho. We enjoy our mountain cabin. And Happy Hour — now those are fun. 

What’s your favorite restaurant? 

I prefer to dine at locally owned restaurants that have good IPAs on tap. Or I really like dive bars with pickled eggs in a jar. 

 
What is a professional accomplishment you are most proud of? 

I’ve always hired well. I surround myself with amazing, smart and talented professionals who produce meaningful and award-winning work. 

I’ve made good personal choices, too. I have great friends, a fantastic husband and a super cool dog, Henry. I even have great neighbors and a swanky hairdresser. 

What is your goal for the next year serving on this board?

My goal is to empower our members with the backing and support of the Idaho Press Club when it comes to fighting for public records and protecting Idaho’s open meeting laws. Journalists have same goals — transparency and accountability — and if the Idaho Press Club becomes a force, that could impact the behavior of record keepers and decision makers.