“This Is a Clear Example of the Media Training Your Brain.” Not.

July 3rd, 2018

It’s the kind of conservative Facebook post you might roll your eyes at and move on, except it was posted just before last week’s murder of five staffers at a Maryland newspaper.

“Look at this….!!!” wrote the Montrose County (southern Colorado) Republican Party on its Facebook page, referring to a meme showing two editions of the Wall Street Journal with two different headlines about the same story.

“Same exact newspaper, same exact date, sold in different areas depending on the level of political parties in that area,” states the meme (on your right). “This is a clear example of the media training your brain people. Open your eyes before it’s too late.” [emphasis added]

Except it’s not the “media training your brain people.”

As explained by the nonpartisan fact checker Snopes, newspapers print different editions at different times during the day, and sometimes the headlines and content changes as stories develop:

This image was passed around on the Internet accompanied by the claim that the Wall Street Journal had deliberately published one headline, “Trump Softens His Tone,” in a pro-Trump market area in an attempt to sway readers away from the the GOP nominee, and the other headline, “Trump Talks Tough on Wall,” in a non-Trump market area to bolster support for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

However, these opposing headline editions were not distributed to different political or geographic markets, nor were they intended to influence voters.

This picture shows two editions of the Wall Street Journal published at different times of the day. The paper on the left came off the press early in the day, while the paper on the right was produced later in the day. Print newspapers sometimes undergo revisions throughout their daily runs and typically employ marks to distinguish the various editions — in this case the differing WSJ editions are distinguishable by the number of stars displayed in the masthead:

You hope that the Montrose Republicans remove the WSJ meme from their website, and I’ve asked them to do so. No response.

In any case, they’re a Colorado example of a problem that’s obviously stoked by conservatives across the country, starting with Trump and his “fake news” propaganda.

They’re not only trashing the profession of journalism, which is bad enough given how much we need reporters to hold Trump and every other politician accountable.

But they’re also putting working-stiff journalists at risk. I’m not going to blame the deaths at the Capital newspaper in Maryland on the rhetoric of conservatives. But it creates a hostile climate for journalists, to be sure, which is not deserved or supported by the conservatives who are doing the attacking.

And, again,  it de-legitimizes the honorable profession of journalism.

Take Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, who said last month the media wants conservatives to “fail.” His evidence for this? Zippo.

Gardner has also said, without evidence, that the “press” is biased against conservatives like him. And he blamed the media for Mitt Romney’s loss to Obama in 2012.

If you watch FOX News or follow politics at all, you know that evidence-free news-media bashing plays a leading role in the Republican playbook, going back way before Trump.

So you wonder what conservatives have to say to the journalists in Maryland, like the Capitol newspaper’s website editor, who defended his besieged profession after the shooting last week. The Washington Post reported last week:

Jimmy DeButts, an editor for the [Maryland newspaper’s] website, published a tribute on Twitter about the craft of his fellow journalists, with a nod to the struggles of many local newspapers to continue working under tough economic conditions.

“There are no 40 hour weeks, no big paydays — just a passion for telling stories from our community,” DeButts tweeted. “We keep doing more with less. We find ways to cover high school sports, breaking news, tax hikes, school budgets & local entertainment.”

DeButts added: “We are there in times of tragedy. We do our best to share the stories of people, those who make our community better. Please understand, we do all this to serve our community.”

Maybe the Montrose Republicans, Trump, Gardner, and other conservatives think they’ll maintain power by undermining journalism.

I’m hoping journalism–and our country–prevails, and I read about Trump’s and Gardner’s demise in the newspaper.

ColoradoPolitics Gives Coffman a Platform to Blame Everyone But Himself for Not Helping Dreamers

May 10th, 2018

It was good to see ColoradoPolitics dedicate a post to U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) announcement Wednesday that he supports a parliamentary maneuver to force a long-stalled vote in the U.S. House of Representatives on the Dreamer issue. Who’s not hoping this works? And it might.

But the ColoradoPolitics piece allows Coffman to blame everyone except himself for ignoring the Dreamers, when he’s been a major part of the problem.

Especially in this boisterous election season, ColoradoPolitics should not have posted this quote from Coffman without offering someone, somewhere, the chance to critique it:

“Democrats failed to make immigration reform a priority when they had control of the U.S. House, and Republican leaders have not made any progress to date,” Coffman said in the Wednesday statement. “I’m proud to be a part of this bipartisan effort to finally bring these important immigration reform bills to a vote.”

While it’s true that Democrats did control the U.S. House of Representatives from 2007-2009, Coffman is flat-out wrong to blame “Republican leaders” for the lack of progress on the Dreamer issue, as if he wasn’t part of the problem, even in recent years.

In fact, as anyone who’s tracked the heart-breaking immigration issue knows, the best chance that Dreamers had at gaining protection from deportation died in the Repubublican-controlled House in 2013, after the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly and bipartisanly passed a comprehensive immigration bill by a vote of 68-32. The immigration bill included the Dream Act, which includes a path to citizenship.

ColoradoPolitics even cited the 2103 immigration bill in its post that featured Coffman slamming his partisan colleagues and patting himself on the back.

“Whichever bill makes it to the Senate has at least a fighting chance. The Senate is where Colorado U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet had success with the Gang of Eight in 2013 to pass a bipartisan immigration reform bill, only to watch it wither away in the House,” reported ColoradoPolitics.

But the post left out the fact that Coffman opposed the 2013 comprehensive immigration reform bill, and did nothing to stop his colleagues form killing it, leaving Dreamers desperate for help and the rest of us crying.

 

 

Post Journalists: “Hey Hey. Ho Ho. Alden Global Has Got to Go”

May 8th, 2018

A flock of journalists, from an array of media outlets, covered a rally of about 100 people at The Denver Post headquarters today, pointing cameras at marching and chanting Post reporters, who called on the newspaper’s hedge-fund owner, Alden Global, to find a buyer who cares about journalism and the community.

One of the journalists covering the rally didn’t want to be interviewed about it, saying he needed permission from his bosses before commenting to the press.

But another,  KOA 850-AM’s Jerry Bell, quickly offered his take.

“It’s horrible,” Bell said when asked how it felt to cover the rally. “A lot of those people are my friends. I’ve worked side-by-side with them for years. It’s heartbreaking.”

Despite somewhat strong chants of, “What do we want? A new owner. When do we want it? Now,” an undercurrent of horribleness and heartbreakingness, not to mention vulnerability and sadness, indeed pervaded the rally today at the industrial-scale Post headquarters.

That’s because no one at the rally, or chit chatting on the side or anywhere on the internet, explained how The Post’s predicament, with a hedge-fund owner that’s chopping away at the newsroom, ends well.

No path toward a solution is on the table, but, still, the goal was clear, as expressed in a chant that went, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Alden Global has got to go.”

A dubious group of potential buyers, who rode a media wave after the Post’s former Editorial Page Editor Chuck Plunkett penned an editorial critical of Alden last month, has disappeared, at least for now. Plunkett himself resigned, after a follow-up editorial was rejected by Alden executives.

Plunkett spoke at the rally, expressing the painfully obvious truth that the journalists in front of him were uncomfortably protesting and marching.

But Plunkett also told the crowd and the reporters present, “Local journalism is way too important to be neglected, as it has been over the past few years. Local journalism is way too important to be censored, as we are starting to see now. We really need Alden Global to come around and start reinvesting in its newsrooms and start looking for a way to preserve journalism across all its holdings, particularly at the Denver Post. Or they need to sell to more responsible owners. That’s the message these people are trying to get out. And these people have been working hard, under impossible conditions, for way too long. And it’s time for the people of Colorado to stand up and help these folks, if they care about local journalism, and they should.”

Plunkett is soft-spoken and precise with his words, which makes him a somewhat unlikely character to become the poster child for saving journalism in Denver, but most journalists would be similarly ill-suited for the role. That’s their nature, as Plunkett himself expressed.

Yet, as the signs carried by The Post journalists read, “Democracy Depends on Journalism.”

So there’s hope. There’s still a lot of great journalists in Denver, outside The Post.

And the Post’s cause is so noble that big civic-minded money may well flow its way. That’s what I’m waiting for, at least.

What if everyone at The Post and Camera went rogue? And should they?

April 30th, 2018

The Boulder Daily Camera’s Editorial Page Editor Dave Krieger was “terminated” last week after the Camera’s publisher spiked an editorial, written by Krieger, that took aim at the Camera’s hedge-fund owner, Alden Global, which also owns The Denver Post. Krieger’s piece was titled, “Private Equity Owners Endanger Daily Camera’s Future.”

Krieger published the spiked editorial the week before he was sacked.

Here’s why Krieger published it:

Krieger: “This is a story about an important, longstanding Boulder institution. As journalists working in that community, we have an obligation to our readers to tell it.”

Does that mean that Post and Camera journalists should risk their jobs and start investigating and publishing articles about Alden? Do all journalists have that “obligation” to their readers?

If so, the scribes at the Camera and the Post have some work ahead of them. I had this vision of mass rebellion at the Post and Camera, not just from the editorial page editors, but from the entire staffs, refusing to write about anything but Alden Global, defying management and turning out newspapers until Alden had to call the police to forcibly shut down the newspaper and fire everybody. A mass strike and act corporate disruption.

Not gonna happen, but should more journalists at those newspapers risk getting fired over this, like Krieger did?

Krieger, who’s answering questions at 6:30 tonight at the Denver Press Club, undoubtedly knew there was a chance he’d be fired if he went rogue, just as I did when I published a column, spiked by Rocky Mountain News editor/publisher John Temple, arguing that maybe the Justice Department could intervene and force the Rocky to stay open a bit longer. (Temple got really mad but didn’t fire me.)

But I had almost nothing to lose, because the Rocky was a holiday-season away from closing, and I was freelancer anyway and could afford it.

Krieger’s full-time job was on the line.

And so was Plunkett’s, even though, as I understand it, he never disobeyed his bosses when he orchestrated his newspaper’s editorial attack on Alden Global from the pages of The Post. So maybe his firing seemed a bit less likely than Krieger’s, due to Krieger’s outright insubordination.

Actually, Krieger might not call what he did insubordination, because he works for his readers, or at least partly.

But if journalists put their readers first, what should the remaining staffs at the Post and Camera do now?

It sounds kind of ridiculous to spell it out, but all of us have the option of civil disobedience, if laws violate our higher ethical bearings, and we can tolerate it no longer and are willing to accept the consequences. See David Thoreau.

Whether we, as citizens, break the law obviously depends on a lot of things, including our personal circumstances (ethical, religious, financial, health, and more) and possibly our assessment of whether our law-breaking would help right the ship.

The same holds for journalists who have to decide when they owe it to their readers to disobey the corporate master and rebel, like Krieger did. Or go on strike. Or carry on, under the circling vultures, if they think a rebellion would just hasten the demise of journalism in Boulder and Denver.

Of course, journalists have faced dilemmas like this before, when they’ve battled managers and owners, but Alden Global is forcing a lot of them in our community to think about it at the same time, like right now.

Fact check: Radio hosts should find out why Stapleton left out his squash-playing history at Brunswick School and Williams College

March 21st, 2018

Last month, in a free-wheeling conversation on conservative talk radio, KNUS host Julie Hayden asked Republican operative Dick Wadhams about GOP gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton.

“How does he tap his inner populist?” asked Hayden.

“That’s a good question. Ultimately, you can’t make somebody into something they’re not,” replied Wadhams.

Stapleton sounds as if he’d been listening to Wadhams, judging from his subsequent interview with KNUS’ Craig Silverman.

Stapleton was forthcoming about his private school education at the Brunswick school in Connecticut followed by four years at Williams College in Massachusetts.

At Williams, which he described as “politically correct to a fault,” he said he helped bring conservative William F. Buckley to speak, and he wrote articles for the Williams Free Press.

Stapleton told Silverman during the March 10 interview that he “ruffled some feathers” at Williams.

So it appears that Stapleton might be taking Wadhams advice and embracing his past, trying to show that made the most of it.

But strangely, Stapleton got his own background wrong when Silverman asked him, “What sports did you play?”

STAPLETON: “I played baseball. I played tennis. And I was more — I was a rackets guy. Baseball and tennis were my — were my two.”

A search of Brunswick’s website reveals that Stapleton played squash there. The school proudly lists Stapleton among its student athletes that went on to compete at the college level.

The website states: “Brunswick offers a competitive athletic program that prepares our students for participation in college athletics. While many of our students choose to continue sports on an intramural basis in college, Brunswick’s premier athletes have met with considerable success on college varsity teams. Here is a recent overview of our college athletes.”

Stapleton is listed among the squash players.

Maybe Stapleton played baseball and tennis, too, but it appears he was also a serious squash competitor.  And he apparently played it at Williams college as well.

An email to Stapleton’s campaign, asking why he didn’t mention his squash history, was not immediately returned.

Don’t cancel your subscription to The Denver Post–even though you’ll get some of your money back if you do

March 16th, 2018

Some people are feeling betrayed by The Denver Post, or should I say its hedge fund owner, for putting its articles behind a paywall about a month before the newspaper decided to lay off a third of its news staff, meaning there’s no way The Post’s offerings will match what you expected when you bought your subscription.

It’s a bait-and-switch, even for someone like me who’s had a subscription to The Post for over 20 years.

So I called The Post to find out if you get your unused money back, if you cancel your annual subscription during the year.

You’d expect to get a partial refund, but with the hedge fund involved, and things being what they are, you don’t know.

You’ll be happy to read that, yes, if you cancel, you can claim your money for unused months.

So now what do those of us with subscriptions do?

You could argue, why give money to the hedge fund, which appears to be sucking money from the newspaper without any concern about journalism?

But you could have taken that position not only when the newspaper went behind the paywall in early January, but ever since Alden Global Capital acquired The Post in 2013.

Things look worse now, awful in fact, but if you subscribe to The Post because you wanted to support local journalism, you still should.

Don’t cancel your subscription.

I mean, there’s still hope. It’s hard to write it, but it’s true.

At some point, you have to expect that The Post will be sold, and maintaining as much journalism between then and now is worth it, so that the next owner can start off in the best place possible under horribly adverse conditions.

Yes, Alden Global Capital will eat some of your money, but not all of it. Or maybe not all of it.

Also, if you believe there’s hope in The Post’s subscription-only model, and I have an itsy bitsy amount of faith in it, then you want to give it a chance to succeed. Yesterday’s staff cuts, coming so soon after the wall was put up, are even more sad, because Alden didn’t give the subscription model a chance to succeed, and now it has much less of a chance.

But there’s still hope for it,

So I’m not canceling my Post subscription. The newspaper still deserves the best shot possible. That’s what it should get from its owners but is not getting. And that’s what we should give it.

Plus, I have no doubt that the dregs of the Post, the 70 stiffs who remain, will still churn out great stories that I will want to read.

Denver Post gets it right by reporting that Gardner “doesn’t deny” blocking gun-safety legislation

March 16th, 2018

The Denver Post took time to extract the actual newsworthy information from Sunday’s Face-the-Nation interview, featuring U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), instead of simply transcribing the main topic of the senator’s appearance on national TV.

The news, which came at the end of an interview focused on North Korea, was, as The Post’s headline stated, “Cory Gardner doesn’t deny blocking a bipartisan effort to improve gun-purchase background checks in TV interview.”

In contrast, CBS4’s news-free headline read, “Gardner on North Korea Relationship: Hold China Responsible.” CBS4’s piece, like the Hill’s and not surprisingly the Washington Times’, failed to mention Gardner’s repeated refusals to answer questions about his alleged decision to block a proposed bipartisan law to help force federal agencies to accurately document the criminal histories of gun buyers.

The Post not only reported Gardner’s newsworthy gun-question dodge, but also tried (and failed) to get a clarification from Gardner, provided background on the issue, and noted Gardner’s recent statements on gun issues (urging a focus on mental health care, not guns).

Related: In radio interview about how to respond to the Florida massacre, Gardner doesn’t utter “gun,” “rifle,” “firearm,” “bump stock,” “magazine,” or any related words

The important interview, illustrating the secretive tactics used to stop gun-safety legislation, was mostly ignored nationally and locally.

The Post reported that Gardner “did not deny that he put a hold” on the gun-safety bill.

From The Post:

The Colorado Republican, interviewed on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” said he has concerns about the measure that has broad bipartisan support in the Senate over what he describes as “due process issues.”

“This isn’t a issue of whether you like this or not,” he said. “It’s a question of constitutional rights and protecting the people of this country, protecting them from harm …”

“So, you are blocking the bill for now?” moderator Margaret Brennan interjected.

Gardner continued, “… and, and making sure we’re protecting people from harm and making sure that we get this right, and if there’s a constitutional issue at stake then that should be worked out.”

Why gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Coffman apparently doesn’t want to talk about Planned Parenthood anymore

February 23rd, 2018

Republican gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Coffman, who’s also Colorado’s attorney general, spent a substantial chunk of time during her early career helping Colorado Republicans develop legal arguments to defund Planned Parenthood.

She became widely known as an expert on the arcane topic, and last year, anti-abortion activists repeatedly cited Coffman’s 2001 legal opinion as evidence in a lawsuit (footnote 3 here) claiming that Colorado’s ban on using tax dollars for abortion precludes the state from funding Planned Parenthood at all, even for the women’s health organization’s non-abortion services for low income people, such as breast cancer screening.

Colorado’s Supreme Court disagreed, ruling last month that the state can provide funds for Planned Parenthood’s non-abortion services, despite the constitutional abortion-funding ban.

You’d think this would be a major disappointment for Coffman, who once boasted about her role in defunding Planned Parenthood, “We went through the legal process, since I was [Jane Norton’s] attorney, and we defunded Planned Parenthood in that case, because they were using public funds to subsidize abortion.”

Coffman’s campaign did not respond to my request for comment after the Colorado Supreme Court decision last month.

But during a brief interview Wednesday, prior to a debate, Coffman indicated that her hard stance against Planned Parenthood may have softened.

Asked whether she still opposes public funding for Planned Parenthood’s non-abortion services, Coffman declined comment, saying, “That’s a longer conversation we should have another time.”

If Coffman were still opposed to funding for Planned Parenthood, a quick “yes” would have ended my interview.

You wouldn’t think a “longer conversation” would be required to restate an existing and painstakingly well-documented view. Still, it’s quite possible her hard line position hasn’t changed, and she just wanted to lay it out during a long conversation.

So we don’t know for sure.

At Wednesday’s debate, she referred me to a staffer, who was accompanying her.  The staffer asked me to email her my interview request, which I did and to which I’ve gotten no response.

Coffman has taken conflicting stances on the abortion issue during this year’s gubernatorial campaign, accepting a TV reporter’s characterization of her as “pro-choice” but later telling a talk show host she refuses to accept the “pro-choice” label.  Then she told another reporter she wants abortion to be “rare” and “safe,” which sounds more like a pro-choice stand.

Then Coffman told a radio host that she personally disagrees with the landmark Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion, though she accepts the law as “settled.”

Against this backdrop, you can see why Coffman would rather not talk about the Planned Parenthood court decision, which is precisely why reporters should ask her about it!

She’s already being pounded by anti-abortion conservatives for her contradictory statements on abortion during the gubernatorial campaign.

And anti-abortion Republicans are known to have an outsized influence at GOP assembly, where Coffman must win 30 percent of delegates to advance to the primary election.

So, she’d rather not say anything more to turn anti-choice activists away than she already has.

At the same time, Coffman appears to be setting herself up to try to leapfrog over anti-abortion Republicans and appeal to pro-choice unaffiliated voters in the primary and general elections.

For now, she apparently thinks her best strategy is to have it both ways on abortion, and talking about Planned Parenthood won’t help her.

Despite his promise to answer “any question ever about what we do,” district attorney continues to conceal court documents explaining what his office does

February 9th, 2018

The Colorado Independent took a step yesterday toward winning its battle for the release of court documents illuminating why prosecutors messed up a death-penalty case in suburban Denver against Sir Mario Owens, who was found guilty in 2005 of killing two people.

Arapahoe-County-area prosecutors George Brauchler and his predecessor Carol Chambers wrongfully withheld evidence that might have helped Owens’ defense, according to a Colorado court ruling. But the documents explaining the screw-up were sealed.

The Independent asked a court to unseal the records, but a  judge said no, arguing that Owens would have been found guilty anyway, even if his defense had been given access to the records. Yesterday, the Colorado Supreme Court asked the judge to explain his legal reasoning for keeping the records sealed.

But here’s the interesting part, from a political perspective.

Not only are the prosecutorial-misconduct documents themselves sealed but so are documents from Brauchler’s office, filed in response to the Independent’s lawsuit, outlining his office’s arguments for keeping the documents sealed. 

That’s kind of jaw dropping for two reasons. First, Brauchler is running for the job of Colorado attorney general. And second, as Susan Greene, the Independent’s editor, wrote a post about the case, “Brauchler’s chief deputy wrote our lawyer, Steve Zansberg to say his office fears that the documents, if unsealed, would be used ‘to gratify private spite or – promote public scandal’ and ‘to serve as reservoirs of libelous statements for press consumption.'”

In other words, Brauchler’s office admits that he doesn’t want them released for political reasons.

So it’s no surprise that Brauchler, a Republican who dropped out of the race to be governor last year to pursue the attorney-general office, isn’t talking about why he wants to keep them sealed.

Yet, at the same time, he’s saying publicly that “I will answer any question ever about what we do.”

“Once you’ve announced you’re running for office, there are certain people who are going to view every decision you make as having been motivated by politics,” Brauchler told KNUS host (and Brauchler friend) Steffan Tubbs Feb. 6.  “Even this, someone sitting there right now, recording this, the Brauchler Haters for AG Group or whatever, and they are like, ‘He’s just talking about that.’ Look, this is just who I am. I’m the DA out here. I love the job that I do. It’s an awesome responsibility. And I will answer any question ever about what we do.” [Listen below.]

Any question ever? Why not tell us why you won’t release the documents? Brauchler’s office did not return an email seeking an answer to this question. (He’s stated that Owens received a fair trail.)

Undoubtedly, Brauchler, who’s known for being readily available to talk to reporters and others, may have legal reasons for keeping the Owens’ documents sealed.  But it looks as if politics is playing a big role, if you believe his deputy. But who knows without seeing the docs?

And regardless, as Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition Executive Director Jeff Roberts told Greene, access to to such court documents is “only way Coloradans can know whether the system is working properly.”

At the end of the day, beyond one election, that’s what really matters here.

Listen to Brauchler on KNUS Feb. 6:

Colorado lawmaker “likes” false Facebook meme claiming flu shot recipients are more likely to have learning disabilities

February 6th, 2018

State Sen. Vicki Marble of Ft. Collins “liked” a recent Facebook meme last depicting a woman getting a shot along with the statement, “5x MORE LIKELY to be diagnosed with a LEARNING DISABILITY.”

The image on the post comes from a YouTube video on how to administer a “flu vaccine.”

But Marble says her Facebook “like” does not necessarily mean she agrees with the post.

There are remote dangers associated with getting a flu shot, which are far outweighed by the potential benefits, according to the overwhelming consensus of scientific opinion.

Yet, each year, Facebook and social media sites become sickened with falsehoods linking the flu vaccine to various maladies. Snopes, along with other credible sources, have found these to be false, while acknowledging the remote risks.

There is no factual basis for the assertion that you are more likely to be diagnosed with a birth defect after getting a flu shot, much less “5x MORE LIKELY.”

Asked about the “like,” Marble said via email:

Marble: A “Like” on FB to many people, including myself, means “Thanks for the information” or “Thanks for posting”. There are things on FB I do not like reading, but, it
gave me heads up on a subject I may not have been aware of. Perhaps it gave a different look into the other side of the debate. I appreciate that. It’s pretty simple. Tweets/Blogs/FB/social media are where people voice opinions on events, other people, or, whatever they feel important. It isn’t considered investigative reporting. It may serve to perk the interest of the person reading the social media post to do more in depth research of the subject. That is a purpose served.

The Republican lawmaker once sponsored legislation affirming that parents can opt their children out of recommended vaccines in Colorado.

Marble’s comments on health issues have draw attention in the past.

Marble made national news last year for her dismissive response to a cub scout who asked Marble why she’d said that African-Americans suffer from poor health because they eat so much fried chicken.

Back in 2014, Marble asserted that immigrants bring previously eradicated diseases to the United States. She never provided evidence supporting this mean falsehood.

This post was updated after initial publication with a response from Marble.