Jane’s Free Ride:
The Denver Post’s Limited Coverage of U.S. Senate Candidate Jane Norton
February 24, 2010
By Jason Salzman, Rocky Mountain Media Watch
Summary: Since September 15, 2009, when Jane Norton launched her campaign for U.S. Senate, she’s been quoted directly in just four staff-written Denver Post news stories. Instead of direct quotes, Norton’s staff offers reporters spokespeople, statements, and news releases. Sen. Michael Bennet and Andrew Romanoff have each been quoted in more than twice as many articles…-even though Norton has made a string of unusual comments that merit further investigation by journalists. The Post should…-more frequently…-insist on interviewing Norton directly, and reject comments by her spokespeople. If Norton refuses to be interviewed, The Post should inform readers of this, as it did once since Norton announced her campaign. The public interest is served when reporters question candidates directly.
Post Coverage of U.S. Senate Candidate JANE NORTON
U.S. Senate Candidate Jane Norton has been quoted directly (talking to reporters) in just four staff-written news stories, published in the print edition of the newspaper, since she launched her campaign on Sept. 15, 2009 through Feb. 20, 2010. She has not been quoted directly in The Spot, the Post’s political blog.
Norton spokespeople have been quoted in nine additional articles. Norton statements or news releases have been quoted once.
In one instance (12/20/2009), when The Denver Post asked Norton about her alleged statement that she favors eliminating the Department of Education, her campaign manager, Norm Cummings “declined to comment on her remarks or the reaction to them.” He stated: ”We’re going to have more to say about this and other issues related to budgetary restraints and out-of-control spending after the first of the year. It’s a holiday. Nobody cares.” It’s well past the first of the year, and The Post has not followed up.
Post Coverage of U.S. Senate candidate MICHAEL BENNET
Michael Bennet was quoted directly in 24 Post articles during the same period (eleven linked to the Senate campaign and 13 linked to his activities as U.S. Senator). Bennet spokespeople were quoted in 11 additional articles, 10 of which were related to U.S. Senate campaign. Bennet statements, letters, or emails were quoted in seven articles, one of which was related to the Senate campaign. Bennet once told The Post he would not comment on a story (9/16/2009) about emails accidentally sent to reporters.
Post Coverage of U.S. Senate Candidate ANDREW ROMANOFF
During the same period, from Sept. 15 to Feb. 20, Andrew Romanoff was quoted directly in 11 Post articles. Romanoff’s spokespeople were quoted in five more articles, and Romanoff statements were quoted in two additional articles. Romanoff told The Post he would not comment on a story about his alleged communications with the White House about a job.
Denver Post news articles with quotes or comments by Senate Candidates (Sept. 15, 2009 …• Feb 23, 2010)
4 (articles with candidate quotes)
9 (articles with spokesperson quotes)
1 (article with candidate news release or statement)
27 (articles with mentions)
11 (articles with candidate quotes)
10 (articles with spokesperson quotes)
1 (article with candidate quote from news release or statement)
89 (articles with mentions)
11 (articles with candidate quotes)
5 (articles with spokesperson quotes)
2 (articles with candidate quote from news release or statement)
42 (articles with mentions)
(An additional 20 articles contained Bennet quotes about his activities as U.S. Senator)
Reporters should seek more comments from Norton
Romanoff and Bennet have been quoted twice as often as Norton. But reporters have had plenty of material that merits comment by the leading Republican candidate. For example, during this same period, Norton has made the following statements that are sufficiently unusual that they meet the basic standard of newsworthiness and merit investigation by reporters:
· This month, the Ft. Morgan Times reported that Norton supports a “national sales tax” and a “flat tax,” and she thinks “simplified flat tax with exemptions only for mortgages and charity” might be viable (Ft. Morgan Times 2/9/10). The Post did not address this statement about a major re-structuring of the U.S. tax code on its news pages, though Mike Littwin included it in a column (2/19/2010).
· Norton stated that the federal government has no role in health care, presumably including Medicare and Medicaid. The Denver Post’s politics and policy bog, The Spot, reported (1/13/2010) that Norton made this comment, and a statement by Norton was posted stating that she wants to protect Medicare. But the candidate did not answer questions about it directly. The Post has not questioned Norton on her apparent statement that health care reform is not constitutional.
· She apparently listened to supporters say President Obama is a Muslim, without making any effort to correct them. And she stated that the “rights of terrorists are more important in this administration than the lives of American citizens.” This statement never appeared on the news pages of The Post, but was included in a Mike Littwin column (1/10/2010).
· She apparently stated that she favors abolishing the Department of Education. The Post (12/20/2009) tried to obtain a response from Norton on this topic, but her campaign declined comment. To its credit, The Post (12/20/2009) tried to obtain a response from Norton on this topic, but her campaign declined comment. There’s been no follow-up in the newspaper.
· During a Colorado Springs radio interview (KVOR 740 AM) on 1/26/2010, she stated, “On the lobbyist thing, I’ve never been a lobbyist.” The Post didn’t pursue this issue, but the Rocky Mountain News identified Norton as a lobbyist in an article (3/4/2001) reporting that Norton “worked previously as a medical lobbyist.” Her lobbying history has been reported elsewhere as well.
First, reporters should obviously seek comments directly from Norton more often. The public interest isn’t served by repeatedly quoting spokespeople and written statements. We rely on journalists to ask candidates tough or uncomfortable questions, with follow-up queries, if needed. If she or her spokespeople refuse comment, The Post should inform readers of this, which The Post did on one occasion. In an Oct. 25, 2009 piece about Norton’s ties to Republican honchos, The Post wrote that “Norton, through her spokesperson, declined to comment.”
If appropriate, The Post should offer coverage of different perspectives on why Norton doesn’t want to talk to Post reporters, if reporters think she’s avoiding them. Let’s hear from experts about her strategy. At her last major news conference, for example, she answered only one question before departing and at the last Republican forum, where you’d certainly expect to find journalists, she didn’t show up at all.
If necessary, The Post should track Norton at campaign appearances and confront her in person with questions.
List of Norton quotes given directly to reporters that have appeared in four stories in the Denver Post:
“The very heart and soul of who we are as Americans is being eroded. We’re seeing Washington’s giant hand grabbing everything in sight” (The Denver Post, “GOP forum: It’s us vs. Dems ” Nov. 11, 2009); “I think the issue in this campaign is all about the debt and the economy. It’s all about big government” (The Denver Post, “GOP shelves values agenda,” Oct. 4, 2009); “I will unite our party.” She was also quoted as saying that Republicans can take back the Senate seat held by Sen. Michael Bennet if they reach out to “young people, minorities, and women” (The Denver Post, “Norton, Penry get early nods,” Sept. 26, 2009); “I have served as lieutenant governor. I’ve campaigned before. I think I know what it takes, and I’m just looking forward to getting out there and talking about the issues.” “I think there’s a saying that says dogs don’t bark at parked cars. So, they (Democrats) must think our campaign has some steam if they’re taking swipes like that.” (The Denver Post, “Norton’s Senate Run Official,” Sept. 16, 2009).
Rocky Mountain Media Watch
Founded in 1994, Rocky Mountain Media Watch is a Colorado-based nonprofit organization aiming to hold journalists to their own professional standards, like those promulgated by the Society of Professional Journalists and others. RMMW gained national acclaim for its analyses of the local TV news industry in the late 1990s.
Contact: Jason Salzman, 303-292-1524
1836 Blake Street, #200
Denver CO 80202