Cindy Uken is an amazing writer. Her December of 2012 articles on the suicide crisis in Montana led to dramatic policy and awareness changes that stood the test of time. These include the development of youth mental health crisis services, the creation of a statewide suicide review team, and the creation of an annual conference on suicide prevention.
She excels at digging beneath the surface of an issue, is able to put the issue in context and inspire readers to think about what is next.
I have had the pleasure of working with Cindy Uken while I was the President, CEO of St. Vincent Medical Center. Among her other responsibilities, Cindy covered the health care beat across the state. I have worked with many healthcare reporters over my career, and Cindy is clearly a standout performer. Her work was always accurate, complete, and fair. She took the time to research her topics, ask follow-up questions, and then craft a story that was compelling, interesting to read, and accurate. In addition to her coverage of the local hospital and healthcare events, Cindy also has a deep body of work at the state level with her work around suicide prevention and honoring our World War veterans being particularly impactful and meaningful.
As editor of The Billings Gazette, I had the pleasure to work with health writer Cindy Uken for almost three years. She was a determined journalist, one committed to reporting stories that would make a difference in our community.
She certainly did that. Most notably, her six-month series exploring the epidemic of suicide in Montana, titled “State of Despair”, provided impetus for federal, state and local leaders to push for action to address this serious health care issue.
She received numerous awards for her series, including first-place in the Awards for Excellence in Health Care Journalism given by the national Association of Health Care Journalists. She also won a Lee Enterprises President’s Award, the top honor given by the parent company of The Gazette. It received several Montana Press Association honors and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.
The powerful series highlighted Cindy’s ability to get people to open up to her about their experiences with suicide and mental health issues. She put that journalistic skill to work in other areas of the health beat to deliver comprehensive coverage of that important subject. She was also the lead reporter in The Gazette’s ongoing coverage of the state’s Big Sky Honor Flight program, in which more than 700 World War II veterans were flown to see the WWII Memorial in Washington, D.C. It was an assignment in which Cindy’s reporting writing touched our statewide community in a special way.
Her work helped her win prestigious fellowships, such as her selection as a recipient of the 2013-2014 Rosalynn Carter Fellowship for Mental Health Journalism and the 2012 California Health Journalism Fellowship.
Cindy’s work for The Gazette and its readers did make a difference. I wish her continued success in all her journalistic endeavors.
Cindy sets high standards for accuracy and fairness and holds herself and her work to those standards. She works hard to get to the story behind the story and put the details in context so other will understand the “why” behind the news and decisions made by newsmakers. She cares deeply about people and treats people with compassion. Cindy is professional and personable. She wants to know more than people’s perspectives and opinions on issues. She seeks something rarer. She seeks truth and the most straightforward way to report it.
I have known Cindy for more than 15 years and worked very closely with her as colleagues on the Editorial Board at the Desert Sun Publishing Company in Palm Springs, CA. Cindy is an outstanding journalist and a gifted communicator. She is a person of the highest integrity and honor and builds deep trust and confidence with her clients and colleagues. She is a person of deep character and principles, and a critical thinker. When confronted with a challenge and given the opportunity to select one individual with whom I could collaborate to find a solution, invariably my choice would be Cindy Uken. She has my enduring respect and admiration.
Cindy is a skilled writer who always delivers. She’s an expert at developing sources, organizing content and delivering pristine copy on deadline. She works independently but is an enthusiastic collaborator. She’s as passionate about quality in a single story as she is in perfecting the organization of a 500-person event.
Cindy was always my ‘go-to-reporter’ at the Billings Gazette. She’s hard-working, organized, well-connected, enthusiastic, and she’s smart. She was able to connect on a personal level with everyone from ill patients to physicians to administrators. She possesses a keen ability to help people feel at ease during interview and connects easily and compassionately with them. She is knowledgeable about health care and engaged in current health care trends. She became an expert on the issue of suicide, covering it from all angles in a riveting, compelling, informative manner. With Cindy, I knew the stories would be accurate and timely. She is a team player and embraces the concept of collaboration.