John Ensslin, a long-time, award winning journalist who worked for the Rocky Mountain News and mostly recently for Colorado Politics, and who served the Denver Press Club as a past president, has died. He was 65.
A graduate of Columbia University in 1976, Ensslin worked as a reporter at the Rocky Mountain News for 24 years. He was with the paper when it closed in February 2009.
“I’m heartbroken,” a gracious Ensslin told The Denver Post at the time of the Rocky’s closure. “I’ve given 24 years of my life to this paper, and I really liked it. I had a goal when I came to Denver: to work for a great American newspaper, and I met that goal, and I got to stick with it.”
Over his more than two decades with the News, Ensslin won numerous awards including a public service award in the annual Colorado Associated Press Editors and Reporters contest. The Rocky’s first-place award was for the November 1992 series “Rape Among Us,” a computer-assisted project by Ensslin, two fellow reporters and an editor. The series also won first place in the best series or special section category.
Ensslin was also among the Rocky’s reporters who covered JonBenet Ramsey. In July 1991, Ensslin wrote a first-person story from an interview with a retired Denver police officer named James W. King, who was investigated for, but not convicted of, a United Bank robbery in which four guards were slain. Ensslin’s interview of King was prior to Denver police and FBI interviews of the suspect.
“I’ve covered some great stories, from the Queen (Elizabeth) in Wyoming and the papal visits,” Ensslin told The Post in 2009. “It was a great run.”
Ensslin’s journalistic journey continued. He worked for The Gazette in Colorado Springs from 2009-11. He then returned east and worked in New Jersey, covering Bergen and Passaic counties for The Record from 2012 until late 2018. He returned to Colorado in February, joining Colorado Politics.
“Covering Denver politics and elections, we really wanted to make and impact with his hire, someone who could jump in and be really effective in the covering the city,” said Mark Harden, managing editor of Colorado Politics. “When the opportunity came to talk to John, we were thrilled because of his stature in the community and the profession.”
In 2007, Ensslin was among five journalists inducted into the Denver Press Club Hall of Fame. A longtime press club member, Ensslin served the organization in about every elected office, including twice as president.
At the press club Ensslin was a co-founder of the Damon Runyon Award and of the Press Club Hall of Fame. He was also a national Society of Professional Journalist president.
“John’s love for the press club knew no bounds. He was incredibly loved (by members). His devotion to the club was unmatched,” said Dan Petty, the current press club president.
Petty described Ensslin as a “kind and gentle soul.”
In a statement released Monday, the club said it was “shocked and sadden” by Ensslin’s sudden death.
“A lot of us are still processing this. The club will not be the same without him, he is a towering figure in the club and in journalism in Colorado,” Petty said
Ensslin’s body was found Monday in his Denver apartment. He is survived by his wife, Denise. Arrangements are pending.