If the Rocky closes, media coverage of the state legislature and Colorado politics will take yet another hit–on top of the reduction we’ve already seen.
Like it or not, online publications and blogs by political junkies will become even more important for airing political debate in public.
So politicians, even if they are uncomfortable talking to bloggers, should make the exta effort to do so.
So it was disappointing to hear Cara DeGette, a senior writer at the Colorado Independent, on online news outlet, say at a forum Tuesday that someone in the Republican Party had issued an “edict” that Republicans should not talk to the Colorado Independent.
I asked Colorado Republican Party Chair Dick Wadhams if this was true. “Well, actually, it is,” he told me. “When I am asked about these liberal blogs that are financed by scumbags like George Soros, I encourage Republicans not talk to them. I do not believe they are legitimate journalistic entities. And I think it would be the same thing as talking to the Democratic Party newsletter. I mean, why would we do that? So I do not speak to them. I don’t read them. I encourage Republicans who ask me about it to do the same thing. I don’t spend a lot of time initiating conversations like that. No, I think they are scumbags and I don’t think we need to talk to them.” He said he had a “fairly clear position,” and I agreed.
He said he’ll talk to free-market-oriented sites, like FaceTheState.com, and other bloggers. To Wadhams, size doesn’t matter when it comes to blogs, but their source of funding does. Plus he thinks FaceTheState practices better journalism than the Colorado Independent–a view I’ve shown to be wrong previously.
DeGette explained to those at the forum, sponsored by Colorado Media Matters, that she doesn’t understand why some Republicans wouldn’t talk to her. She defended her reputation as a journalist who aims to be fair and accurate, and she pointed out that Republicans like former Gov. Bill Owens will speak with her. (Even Wadhams did in the past.) She pointed out that public discourse is degraded if politicians try to pick and choose which journalists to grant interviews to. And besides not talking to her makes Republicans look bad, she said.
In a beautiful meeting of the minds, Face the State’s Editor Brad Jones agrees DeGette. “Most of the time, if [Democrats] are willing to talk to us, they come across looking much better and are portrayed in a more positive light than if they get a line that said they did not return phone calls,” Jones told me. His experience with getting calls returned from Democrats is “varied.” The Udall campaign, during the election, spoke with Face the State if a writer could catch someone on the phone when he or she called the Udall campaign office, but messages were seldom returned. Gov. Bill Ritter’s spokesman, Evan Dryer, returns calls, he says.
Overall, Jones is getting more of his calls returned over the last year than he used to. “Would I be unhappy with an edict not to talk to me, absolutely,” he said. “Democrats are a big part of our stories.”
Wadhams has a legitimate concern about the sources of funding from an online entity claiming to be a news outlet. But as more local news is generated from nonprofit organizations and other strange sources–and less of it is coming from for-profit daily newspapers–it’s the reputation of the “news outlet” and the actual journalism produced that matters most–though funding sources should be disclosed. And almost any start-up blogger should be given a chance. Why not?
But Wadhams seems to be adopting a bunker mentality toward left-leaning entities.
He refused to join the Colorado Media Matters panel held on Tuesday, according to Bill Menezes, Editorial Director of Colorado Media Matters. The Panel included Republican former Senator Hank Brown and the conservative editorial editor of the Colorado Springs Gazette, Wayne Laugesen, in addition to DeGette and Bob Moore, Executive Editor of the Ft. Collins Coloradan and Udall Spokeswoman Tara Trujillo.
Menezes described their outreach to Wadhams in an email to me today: After several phone calls and e-mails to which we received no response, our communications director Serena Woods finally got in touch with someone at state GOP headquarters who handles communications, who indicated they’d try to get us an answer. A day or so later she got an e-mail from Wadhams saying simply, “Not interested.” We then extended the invite to Hank Brown in order to have more conservative representation on the panel, in addition to Wayne Laugesen. The senator graciously accepted and squeezed us into a tight schedule (that’s why he left early, he had a noon appointment to make).
I’m grateful Wadhams takes my calls, but everyone would benefit if he’d be more open, just like all politicians and their spokespeople should be–as mainstream media coverage of local politics starts to vanish.