Biography

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Biography 2016-12-20T18:51:53+00:00

Jana Bommersbach is an acclaimed and respected journalist whose work has encompassed every facet of the profession: she’s been a reporter and editor for both weekly and daily newspapers; she’s written books and is a major contributor to an anthology; she’s written columns and investigative stories for magazines; she’s appeared on television with both political commentaries and investigative stories.

And in each of those endeavors, she’s excelled.

  • In 2016, Jana’s first true fiction novel, “Funeral Hotdish,” was published by Poisoned Pen Press.
  • In 2014, Jana’s first historical novel, “Cattle Kate,” was published by Poisoned Pen Press. Publisher’s Weekly named it one of the best books published in the United States this year.
  • In 2013, “Outrageous Arizona”–the PBS Special that includes Jana telling the real stories of Arizona history–won a Rocky Mountain Regional Emmy.
  • In 2013, The Friends of the Phoenix Public Library presented Jana its Montgomery Award “in recognition of outstanding effort in support of the library, and freedom of information.”
  • In 2013, Jana’s first children’s book is published: “A Squirrel’s Story, A True Tale,” by Five Star Publications. Illustrated by Jeff Yesh, the book for elementary school readers details a true story witnessed in the backyard of Jana’s parents in Hankinson, North Dakota.
  • In 2012, Jana was a writer and performer in a PBS Centennial Special, “Outrageous Arizona,” appearing with True West Editor Bob Boze Bell and Arizona’s Official Historian, Marshall Trimble, in telling stories about outrageous and colorful characters from Arizona’s first 100 years. It has been broadcast several times and is available in a DVD. Jana and Marshall also are columnists for True West, a 55 year-old magazine devoted to telling the true stories of the West. Jana’s column focuses on “Old West Saviors”–people devoted to saving pieces of our nation’s heritage.
  • In 2012, Jana was included in the Arizona Statehood Centennial book, “Skirting Traditions,” that profiles 28 female journalists from the state’s earliest days to present.
  • In 2012, Jana was honorary chair of the “Strong Kids & Families” campaign that raised $150,000 for Downtown YMCA programs. She also researched, wrote and directed a promotional film on the 120-year history of the downtown Y, with the theme: “Older than Arizona and Still Serving Our Community.”
  • In 2011, Jana began teaching creative writing at Phoenix College, the nation’s first community college, continuing to this day.
  • In 2010, Jana was named Arizona’s top author, with “The Trunk Murderess: Winnie Ruth Judd” chosen for One Book Arizona. The honor, sponsored by Arizona State Library and Archives, encourages all Arizonans to read and discuss one book. Jana traveled throughout the state, making over 40 presentations on her book about the infamous 1932 Phoenix murder case that made Winnie Ruth Judd a national household word.
  • In 2009, Jana was honored with the Humanitarian Award from the Arizona Women’s Partnership for her “continuous efforts to elevate the status of women.” The Partnership particularly noted one of her Phoenix magazine columns: “We were moved by your coverage in Phoenix magazine of the Dibor Roberts’ case which focused on a woman’s safety, racism and sexism and then gave birth to pending legislation: The Right to Light bill.”
  • In 2009, as it celebrated its 80th season, the Orpheus Male Chorus of Phoenix honored Jana with its “For Your Heart of the Arts!” award.
  • In 2008, St. Martin’s Press released Jana’s new book Bones in the Desert: The true story of a Mother’s Murder and a Daughter’s Search. It examines the 2004 murder and secret desert burial of Loretta Bowersock, mother of Arizona’s “domestic diva,” Terri Bowersock of Terri’s Design & Consign. The book discovers the horrible secrets that led to this “classic case of elder abuse” and examines the impact of this tragedy on all it touched.
  • In 2007: Jana was named Media Person of the Year by the Arizona Psychological Association for her columns in Phoenix magazine that “consistently shed light on issues relating to domestic violence, mental illness, minorities and other often overlooked and under served populations.”
  • In 2006, Jana won four writing awards from the Arizona Press Club, honoring her investigation into the Kobe Bryant rape case; her probe into the entrapment of a teenager by Sheriff Joe Arpaio for a publicity stunt; her behind-the-scenes story on how a raped wife got Arizona’s “spousal rape” law changed, and her insightful profile into legendary Arizona broadcaster Kent Dana.
  • In 2006, Jana was inducted as an inaugural honoree in the Order of the Silver Key, created by the Society of Professional Journalists to recognize longtime Arizona journalists “whose accomplishments serve as an inspiration to the state’s media community.”
  • In 2005, Jana was inducted as an inaugural honoree in the Arizona Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame.see Video Tribute
  • In 2005, Jana was a major contributor to an anthology published by a division of Random House: “True Tales and Amazing Legends of the Old West from True West Magazine.” Jana wrote the introduction to this 26-story compilation that included four of her original articles: “Vera McGinnis: The Most Daring Cowgirl who ever Rode the West”; “Eating his Weight in Democrats, the Strange Tastes of Alfred Packer”; “The Warrior who Killed Custer?”, and “The Alamo.” The book was published by Clarkson Potter /Publishers.
  • In 2005, she was awarded the Cherish the Children Award from the Great Phoenix Child Abuse Prevention Council.
  • In 2004, she was awarded the Arizona Press Club’s highest honor–The Distinguished Service Award, recognizing her lifetime achievements in journalism.
  • In 2004, she won the state’s top news columnist award for her Jana’s View, and the top feature award  for her Phoenix Magazine article on mobster Sammy “The Bull” Gravano.
  • In 2003, she won the annual leadership award form the Arizona Chapter of the ACLU for her straightforward, gutsy commentaries and columns that “speak truth to power”
  • In 2002, she won five awards in the Arizona Press Club competition for her work in Phoenix Magazine-more than any other single journalist in the state; she also was the first journalist to win the top prizes in both news column writing and feature column writing.
  • In 2002, she also was honored with the “Vera Beaton Volunteer Award” from Girls Ranch of Arizona.
  • In 2002, she also received the “Distinguished Achievement Award” from the International Association of Firefighters.
  • In 2001, she won a Regional Emmy for the television services she created for KTVK-TV entitled “Hurrah for Arizona.”  Her Emmy story profiled a camp that helps children deal with the death of a loved one.
  • In 2001, she also was honored with the “Presidential Award for Media Excellence” from the Arizona Education Association for her commentaries on KTVK-TV in support of education.
  • In 2001, she also received a “Laurel” accolade in Columbia Journalism Review for her coverage-in both Phoenix Magazine and on KTVK-TV-of  The Carol Herriman Story: a woman serving 25 years in prison for killing her abusive husband.  Bommersbach’s four-year coverage of this story is credited with helping Herriman win her release from prison.
  • In 2000, she was honored with Phoenix Theater’s “Women Who Care” Award.
  • In 1999, she received Toastmaster International’s “Communication and Leadership Award.”
  • In both 1999 and 1997, Jana received the Gold Medal as the nation’s outstanding columnist for her Phoenix magazine column, “Jana’s View,” presented by the National City and Regional Magazine Association.  In 1999, the Arizona Press Club also named her Arizona’s outstanding columnist.
  • In 1994, Jana was honored with the first “Communicator Award” from the YWCA’s inaugural Tribute to Women program, which has become an annual event.
  • In 1993, her debut book, “The Trunk Murderess: Winnie Ruth Judd” was nominated for the prestigious Edgar Allan Poe Award from the Mystery Writers of America, recognizing it as one of the five outstanding non-fiction books published in the United States in 1992. She also received Arizona’s only literary prize for the book, which has been optioned for a mini-series.
  • In both 1991 and 1988, Bommersbach won The Don Bolles Award for Investigative Reporting from the Arizona Press Club-the state’s most acclaimed reporting award named in honor of the journalist who was assassinated in broad daylight in 1976. In 1988, the award recognized her investigation into the state’s medical malpractice insurance company for New Times, which led to an $18 million rebate to Arizona doctors.  In 1991, the award was given for a series of articles in New Times on Winnie Ruth Judd.
  • In the late 1980s, Bommersbach won two national awards for her commentaries on KAET-TV, Arizona’s largest public television station.  One came from the National Commission on Working Women, the other from American Women in Radio and Television.
  • In 1987, she won a Silver Gavel Award for “Outstanding Public Service” from the American Bar Association for her stories in New Times about tort reform.
  • In 1983, The Arizona Press Club named Jana Arizona’s Journalist of the Year.