Archive for January, 2011

Ripping off newspaper websites shortchanges democracy

Monday, January 31st, 2011

There’s a feast raging on the Internet. Websites and bloggers are helping themselves to huge servings of whatever newspapers offer online.

People who run content-starved outlets steal articles from newspapers’ websites and post them on their own sites, without payment.

Who cares, you might say. Most newspapers post all their articles on their websites, free for anyone to read, whether they’ve got a subscription or not.

But many newspapers definitely care, because they make money when people visit their websites to read articles. Web advertisements are an increasingly important part of newspapers’ shrinking revenue stream.

When an entire article is copied from a newspaper’s website and posted on another website, fewer people go to the newspaper’s website to view the original article, and the paper makes less money.

Some newspapers are trying to protect their articles from being stolen. They’re trying to develop clearer “fair-use” policies, specifying for example how much of an article can be copied by a blog or website without violating the newspaper’s copyright.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal has gone further. Its parent company, Stephens Media, has helped grubstake a law firm called Righthaven, which is suing Internet entities that post articles from the paper without proper authorization.

Righthaven buys the copyright to a specific newspaper article and then sues the website or blog that posts all or even part of it, typically for $150,000 and the rights to the domain name of website that allegedly commits the offense. Most of the approximately 200 lawsuits filed against organizations, ranging from the Democratic Party of Nevada to GOP Senate candidate Sharron Angle, have been settled out of court.

In December, on behalf of MediaNews, owner of The Denver Post, Righthaven sued the Drudge Report for allegedly publishing The Post’s content in violation of copyright law.

Critics, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, say Righthaven is abusing copyright law by buying copyrights to articles it will never use and by demanding excessive damages, particularly from small-time bloggers who can’t afford to defend themselves.

Critics also don’t like Righthaven’s tactic of filing lawsuits without sending a warning letter first. These warnings, referred to as “takedown” or “cease-and-desist” letters, would give a website owner the chance to remove the offending content to avoid a lawsuit.

Courts in Nevada are sorting out the complexities of whether a website’s copying of a newspaper article–even if it’s used in its entirety and deprives a newspaper of potential revenue–can be justified under “fair-use” doctrine. Critics say the doctrine is more complicated than the Righthaven legal briefs would have you believe.

These critics have a point, but in the bigger picture, the newspaper industry’s cause is just.

The Righthaven approach, imperfect as it is, gets to the heart of one of the most important questions in journalism: How do newspapers protect online content?

Organizations shouldn’t post entire news stories on their websites, and bloggers shouldn’t reproduce newspaper articles in their online diaries.

Here’s why: News articles are written by journalists, who need to be paid. And most of their salaries come from advertisements. (There are exceptions of course, including OtherWords, the non-profit editorial service that happens to be distributing my op-ed to newspapers and new media.)

Newspapers’ advertising revenue has tanked in recent years. For journalism to survive, newspaper websites must sell more ads.

The routine looting and scattering of a publication’s website content across the blogosphere, where newspapers have no prayer reaping any profit, amounts to one more nail in the coffin of journalism. Advertising dollars will then flow to any online outfit that posts stolen news stories.

That’s not only unfair, but it’s bad for our democracy. We need journalists to play a watchdog role now more than ever.

Sure, Righthaven is unseemly in the way it’s suing people, including “little” people. But if you have a better idea on how newspapers should safeguard their online content, lay it on me.

A former media critic for the Rocky Mountain News, Jason Salzman is board chair of Rocky Mountain Media Watch and author of Making the News: A Guide for Activists and Nonprofits.

This column was originally distributed by the OtherWords syndicate.

A “couple of months” later, we’ve heard nothing from McInnis about clearing his name

Saturday, January 29th, 2011

Just before Thanksgiving, when I was thinking of smoked turkey, I read in The Denver Post: “McInnis back on his feet, open to another office run.”

McInnis has his boots on again, I thought to myself. Who’s surprised, seriously?

But still, a couple sentences in the story made me scratch my head more than I usually scratch it when I read about McInnis.

McInnis, 57, said the truth about the plagiarism brouhaha will come out in some sort of public statement within the next couple of months.

“I realize some people say you don’t have any right to stand up on this …- (the researcher) was an older gentleman …- but we’re going to clear our name,” he said.

The Post’s Penny Parker, who snagged the great interview, in an subsequent interview with Dan Caplis and Craig Silverman, said she called McInnis after the article was published to find out if he thought it was fair, and McInnis told Parker that he was ok with it.

I couldn’t locate McInnis at Hogan Lovells, because, you recall, he left the firm and moved to Grand Junction.

I tried calling Rolly Fischer, because it certainly appears, from the McInnis quote above, that McInnis has Fischer in mind for a star role in clearing up his name. A very nice person answered the phone at Fischer’s place Friday and told me he probably wouldn’t call me back because of the “situation right now.”

So I emailed Penny Parker. She replied, “I haven’t heard word one from him since he moved back to Grand Junction.”

So, the clock continues to tick, and the Big Question hangs out there:

How in the world will McInnis clear up this bee-sting-like plagiarism misunderstanding and when will he do it?

Gessler says he authorized Biz Journal tip on moonlighting

Friday, January 28th, 2011

In a post Tuesday, I wrote that Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s claim to have divulged his intention to moonlight was untrue, given that someone tipped the Denver Businss Journal’s Ed Sealover to the story.

On yesterday’s Caplis and Silverman Show, Gessler said he, in fact, instructed someone to tell Sealover about the moonlighting plan.

Craig: Did you go to [Ed Sealover at the Denver Business Journal] or did he get a tip and confront you about the prospect of moonlighting?

Gessler: I think the answer is both. We know people in common, and asked someone to give him a contact and find out if he’d be interested in a story, and he was. And he came in and we chatted about it.

Craig: So the tip he got was from one of your allies who you told to tip him?

Gessler: Yeah, I think that’s fair to say.

Gessler’s old firm “very uncomfortable” with disclosing names of Gessler moonlighting clients

Friday, January 28th, 2011

It’s one thing for KHOW’s Caplis and Silverman show to get deep into the political weeds when the show is ground zero of the GOP soap opera around a huge political race, like the campaign for governor.

It’s another for the show to continue to hide out in the weeds on legislative issues or Scott Gessler’s moonlighting. Caplis and Silverman are doing their best to make this stuff interesting, and I hope people during drive-time are paying attention.

Once again yesterday, the show broke news about Scott Gessler’s potential moonlighting.

Gessler said the negative response from his old law firm to the idea of disclosing the names of clients may kill the idea:

“I did say that I talked to my firm about the possibility — or the old firm — about the possibility of revealing who the clients are, and you can break news right now because I’ve not told anyone this, but they are very uncomfortable with that approach. I guess I can’t blam them. And so that’s another factor I have to think about, and it may ultimately mean that I don’t do this.”

Reporters should question how Gessler could take Hackstaff clients and avoid appearance of impropriety

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler tells The Denver Post that, if he moonlights for his former law firm, which specializes in election law, he’ll disclose the names of clients he’s working for.

But reporters should ask him if this solves his conflict-of-interest problems.

On KHOW’s Caplis and Silverman Show Monday, host Craig Silverman asked Gessler if his Hackstaff-Law-Group clients might have other work with the firm, outide of their narrow work with Gessler, that relates to the Secretary of State’s office. 

It’s a good question, because if Gessler’s clients were using the firm for an issue connected to the Secretary of State’s Office, even if Gessler himself works on a different case with them, then there would still be the appearance of a conflict of interest, because these clients would paying the Hackstaff Law Group for non-election-related work (access to Gessler included wink wink) and election-related work (no acess to Gessler included wink wink).

So you’d expect Gessler to have answered Silverman with an easy, yes, his clients’ entire body of work with the Hackstaff Law Group wouldn’t touch his state work at all.

But instead, Gessler answered, “Generally, yes,” meaning, as I see it, that some of his clients’ work with the Hackstaff Law Group might, in fact, involve the Secretary of State’s office:

Craig: What about clients whom you’d be working for? Would it be that they wouldn’t have any use for that law firm on any issue that could touch the Secretary of State’s Office.

Gessler: I think the answer is generally yes, generally yes. And from my knowledge of the firm, since I used to be part of it, there are a lot of clients there. They do a lot of transactional work.  But also litigation work, for example two people who have a property dispute or an appellate action where they are helping client that’s just very limited to a specific  project, whether it’s a specific litigation or Court of Appeals project or something along those lines that doesn’t touch the Secretary of State’s Office.

I wish Silverman had asked what “generally yes” means, but it’s not too late for him or a reporter to do so.

And there’s more to ask, while reporters are qizzing Gessler.

Even if all of the Hackstaff Law Group’s work with all of Gessler’s clients does not touch the Secretary of State’s office at the time they are working with moonlighting Gessler, what about later? What if his clients come to the firm a year later with a case involving the Secretary of State’s office? Would the Hackstaff Law Group reject their business, because they were tainted by their contact with Gessler, in a paid-client capacity, previously?

One could argue that clients may pay the Hackstaff Law Group to gain access to Gessler on a case about, say, property rights, with the intention of making Gessler feel more favorable toward them when they bring a future case, using the Hackstaff Law Group (wink wink), about an election issue.

These are questions about the appearance of impropriety, not accusations or expectations about impropriety. But they’re issues that journalists should address with Gessler.

A reporter, not Gessler, started the conversation on moonlighting

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler told KHOW radio’s Craig Silverman yesterday that he “purposely decided to have this conversation to start talking and telling the people of Colorado what was going on before” starting to moonlight for his old law firm.

But do you “purposely decide” to start conversation, if you have to be asked about it by a pesky journalist before you start talking about it?

I don’t think so.

In Gessler’s case, it was the Denver Business Journal that started the conversation by asking Gessler about his planned moonlighting.

“I was tipped to it by someone,” said The Journal’s Ed Sealover, who broke the story Friday. “And I approached him, and he agreed to sit down and talk.”

So Gessler should be giving himself credit not for starting the conversation, but for agreeing to continue it. The rest of us should be thanking Sealover for doing his job so well.

And once Sealover got Gessler ignited, other media types like Craig Silverman, have done a good job getting more information on the table, including Gessler’s statement that he hopes to do legal work at home with a sleeping toddler in the house. I wish Silverman had asked Gessler if he plans to add surcharge for pulling that off.

“I’m not hiding anything,” Gessler told Silverman yesterday. “And when it comes to conflicts and what not, most state legislators do stuff on the side, even though they are state legislators. There has been a lot of, well, several that I know, I haven’t fully researched it, but you know state-wide office holders who also had things on the side. And I think that’s appropriate. At the end of the day, we want people who have connections to the real world. We want people who face the same struggles that other people do, whether it’s family obligations or other things. I think I fit in that category, but you want people who face those and have those connections, and I think the difference between, or the reason why there is a lot of attention on me, is because I want to be up front about this. And I purposely decided to have this conversation to start talking and telling the people of Colorado what was going on before I did anything.”

Transcript of Scott Gessler Interview on the Caplis and Silverman Show, Monday, January 24, during the 5 p.m. hour.

Craig: Tell everybody about your background-. How long have you been a lawyer?

Gessler: I graduated from Michigan, passed the bar in 1990, so I guess you could say 21 years. I didn’t practice law during all of that time. There were about eight years in there where I primarily focused on business stuff and didn’t practice full time. So about 12, 13 years total full-time as a lawyer.

Craig: -How many employees do you have in the Office of the Secretary of State?

Gessler: We’ve got about 130 here-.

Craig: Tell us what you were doing before you ran for Secretary of State-.

Gessler: Well, I was a partner in a law firm, Hackstaff Gessler, now Hackstaff Law Group. I had done that, I was with a guy named Jim Hackstaff, for about five years, actually almost six now.

Craig: How big of a law firm was it?

Gessler: When I left there, which was a few weeks ago, we had I think about 10 attorneys and about 13, 14 people total.

Craig: Now the situation that’s gotten everybody talking about you, and it’s great for talk radio, so thanks for doing it, is you want to do some law work for your old law firm. Tell us in your own words how that came about.

Gessler:  Well, obviously I’ve got service to the state, and that’s very important to me, but I also have some family obligations. And so the current salary is a lot lower than what I had been making for quite a while so I wanted to, still want to, supplement that a little bit. So the challenge that I have had is to make sure there are no conflicts. So that anything I do is completely segregated from any election law work or anything that the Secretary of State does, that it’s temporary and focused in nature, so that I don’t have any conflicts. And then I also want to make sure that I don’t have the appearance of conflict. And my view on that is, right now I’m not doing anything. I’m not practicing or doing any work outside of the Secretary of State’s Office.  But I’ve sort of started this conversation, I’ve sort of revealed to everyone, obviously, what I’m thinking of doing. So I wanted to be really open and up front with that even before I do anything.  I know people talk about transparency a lot, and I want to make sure I am transparent.

Craig:  So this is not a done deal? You’re still thinking about doing it?

Gessler: I’m still thinking about it. I mean, I’m planning on doing it. I’ve asked the Attorney General to sort of give me their views on it as well, because I want another set of eyes on this. But I’m planning, I’m expecting to do it. At the end of the day, there has to be work for me to do. It has to be an area where there are not conflicts. And I still want to get another set of eyes to review that, too.

Craig: How would that work-?

Gessler: I’d be an independent contractor, and I’d pretty much be limited to sort of research and writing. So I wouldn’t represent anybody in court, or anything like that. It would pretty much be narrow research and writing. I’d be an independent contractor, for just very specific temporary projects that did not involve the Secretary of State’s Office.

Craig: What about clients whom you’d be working for? Would it be that they wouldn’t have any use for that law firm on any issue that could touch the Secretary of State’s Office.

Gessler: I think the answer is generally yes, generally yes. And from my knowledge of the firm, since I used to be part of it, there are a lot of clients there. They do a lot of transactional work.  But also litigation work, for example two people who have a property dispute or an appellate action where they are helping client that’s just very limited to a specific  project, whether it’s a specific litigation or Court of Appeals project or something along those lines that doesn’t touch the Secretary of State’s Office.

Craig: How much would be making per hour with this independent contractor work?

Gessler: I don’t know. I think that’s going to be on a case-by-case basis depending on what the rate is. But usually depending on what the hourly rate is that’s billed out, my sense is that I’d get about a third of that. So if it were $240 per hour, I’d bring in about $80 per hour.

Craig: Have you and your former partners researched this-?

Gessler: I did the research, spent a lot of time on it to cross the t’s and dot the I’s. That’s why I feel comfortable, like I’m on solid ground, certainly with the bar association and ethics. They put out a lot of formal opinions, researching the ethics rules. And they have a very long opinion talking about temporary attorneys and how that interacts with the law firm and the fact that you don’t become part of the law firm as long as you have the fire walls in place.

Craig: What about the appearance of impropriety-?

Gessler: Well, I think that’s a fair discussion to have, and that’s exactly why I put this out front and center, right away, early on, to tell people what I’m doing and make it very clear that I’m not involved in the election law activity and that they aren’t sharing things with me. I’m not advising them or giving them any strategy. And at the end of the day, and they know this as well because we’ve had these conversations. I mean, I think they are great attorneys and they’ll do great work for anyone, but if, for example, they sue the Secretary of State’s Office, I intend to win that lawsuit. You could be friends away from the courtroom, but when it comes to the courtroom, my first is to the people of the state of Colorado and to the Secretary of State’s Office.

Craig: -You have a big job-How do you have time to do more [than run the Secretary of State’s Office]?

Gessler: Well, what I’m looking to do is spend no more than about five hours every weekend. So this is not a huge number of hours that I’m looking at. It’s pretty limited. It’s what I think is sort of the minimum that I need to do to square my family obligations and state service. I’ve been very clear, I’m not asking from anything from the taxpayer, except the opportunity to do a small amount on the side.  And the other think I would say is this. Look, I’m being up front about this. I’m not hiding anything. And when it comes to conflicts and what not, most state legislators do stuff on the side, even though they are state legislators. There has been a lot of, well, several that I know, I haven’t fully researched it, but you know state-wide office holders who also had things on the side. And I think that’s appropriate. At the end of the day, we want people who have connections to the real world. We want people who face the same struggles that other people do, whether it’s family obligations or other things. I think I fit in that category, but you want people who face those and have those connections, and I think the difference between, or the reason why there is a lot of attention on me, is because I want to be up front about this. And I purposely decided to have this conversation to start talking and telling the people of Colorado what was going on before I did anything.

Craig: Would you agree that if you worked 20 hours on the weekend, it would carry over to your ability to be Secretary of State-?

Gessler: You know, I think that’s a valid point. What I’m looking at is something pretty limited to five hours a weekend where I can do this at home. So I sort of have the flexibility to be at home if I need to spend 10 minutes here or something, while the baby’s, a toddler now…-she always tells us she’s not a baby anymore…-So if she’s sleeping, or something along those lines, I can be there.  So, yeah, if it were 20 hours a week or 40 hours a week, yeah, I think you’re right. I’m looking at something five hours a weekend.

Craig: Without question, a lot of practicing lawyers serve in the state house-.But isn’t that a part-time position in the Legislature and weren’t you elected to a full-time job?

Gessler: Well, I think some of the legislators, and my heart goes out to them, because I think, really, for a lot of them, it’s a full-time position. I mean, they are answering constituent concerns year round, they are meeting in committees year round, but your point is right. I mean, we thoroughly expect people to be sort of citizen legislators. But I think, you know, as a matter in the past, I mean we’ve got sort of citizen executive-branch people too. You know, if you’re still focused on the Secretary of State’s Office, which I am, and I will continue to be, and you are not burdening yourself in such a way that you cannot spend the time on it. And if you’re also making good decisions. I mean, yes, there are 130 people here, but I don’t think we want a Secretary of State who’s going to assume responsibility for, you know, every time the toilet flushes to make sure everything is right. I mean, we’ve got great staff here that do good jobs. And my job is to sort of make sure that this office is headed in the policy directions that we need to be headed in, that we’re doing the right thing along those lines, that I am reviewing what staff is doing and helping tweak it, or make sure things are running well.  Yeah, that’s a busy job, but I think we also recognize that it’s not like I’m working, or any executive branch officer, works 200 hours per week. It’s supposed to be manageable. And to be honest with you, if I didn’t have to do this on the side, I wouldn’t.

Craig: -ProgressNow is saying resign from the Secretary of State Office, Scott Gessler. Is there any chance of that-?

Gessler: I’m not resigning. ProgressNow, they’ve got their job to do, which is attack Republicans. They are going to do that anyway. Here’s a group that screams for transparency, and I provide transparency and they scream louder. So that ain’t going to happen. I’ll go to plan B and I’ll look into maybe teaching at a university. I’ve taught election law at the CU Law School in the past. Maybe something along those lines. I will find a way to figure it out.  

Boyles and Post agree that speculating on a suspect’s immigration status is wrong

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

In October, you may recall, Jose Nevarez-Coronado was charged with vehicular homicide in the death of Prof. Yvonne Frye of the Community College of Denver.

On the radio Oct. 8, a couple days after the crash, Peter Boyles, who has little good to say about The Denver Post these days, except about reporter Karen Crummy whom he praises, ripped into the newspaper’s coverage of the crash.

The Post had reported that Nevarez-Coronado had a criminal record showing multiple arrests for theft, and he was on probation for one of them.

Boyles claimed that the suspect, Nevarez-Coronado, “stunk to me” and “used nine different names, three different places of birth, and he has a criminal record that’s really lengthy.”

Boyles went on: “Guess who this guy is, right? Now, The Denver Post isn’t going to tell you who this guy is. The Denver Post actually did an editorial saying Denver is not a sanctuary city. Just Google sanctuary city, and Denver comes up. And they’ve endorsed the sanctuary mayor for governor.  So none of this is surprising.”

But guess what, you Boyles listeners, and there are a lot of you because his program tops the rating charts for Denver radio in the mornings.

Nevarez-Coronado turns out to be an American citizen, born in Albuquerque. He’s not an illegal immigrant. (Boyles’ much-hated Denver Post editorial board got Nevarez-Coronado’s citizenship wrong, too, and posted a correction.)

But the point of this blog post is not to beat up on Boyles for speculating about Nevarez-Coronado, even though his conjecture, and the hateful way he delivers it on the radio, makes me sick personally, and it should make Boyles himself ill because of the hatred this can whip up toward innocent people.

But, putting that aside, the question is, how can this be avoided next time? How can journalists and talk-show hosts like Boyles report or discuss the news and respect Hispanic citizens?

Last week, I asked Post City Editor Dana Coffield what The Post’s policy is on reporting the citizenship status of criminal suspects.

I had noticed that in its coverage of the Aurora Central High shooting in December, it reported repeatedly that the suspect has an ICE hold and is “believed” to be an illegal immigrant, according to police.

Coffield emailed me:

“We only report a person’s immigration status when it becomes part of and material to the public record. If I recall correctly, Aurora PD made a statement regarding the arrest of Luis Guzman-Rincon that included a mention of the ICE hold pending investigation of his immigration status.

The public records databases that we have access to do not let us know whether a person is a U.S. citizen or not (imagine looking yourself up in ACURINT …• you get age, name, voter registration, property ownership, licenses, stuff like that, or the criminal records database, which shows charges and disposition.) I know that police have access to more detailed records that may detail immigration status, but they’re not something we’re allowed to look at.”

I asked Coffield if she thought she’d get more information under the new Secure Communities program, which uses fingerprints to determine if a suspect is a known illegal immigrant. Coffield said she didn’t think this would change anything.

Coffield wrote:

“[It seems inappropriate to presume that anyone is NOT a citizen or legal resident of the U.S. When Weld County deputy Sam Brownlee was killed in Evans in November, people were quick to presume Rueben Reyes was not a citizen (and were wrong). Would they have done the same if the assailant was named Jason Salzman, presuming that a shooter by that name was in the country illegally from Austria, or named Peter Boyles, presuming that a shooter by that name was in the country illegally from Ireland (who had intentionally changed his appearance using plastic surgery to evade identification by police- I joke, but-)?”

I asked Boyles if he thinks The Post should speculate about a suspect’s citizenship status, whether he or shie is Hispanic or half Polish like me.

He said no. Boyles does not want The Post to speculate.

“What should they report?” I asked Boyles.

“They ought to say that the suspect has given multiple DOBs [dates of birth] and POBs [places of birth],” he answered.

“It’s easily found out,” Boyles said. “You tell us. Those aren’t tough records. People run those records all the time.”

Coffield wrote that if this information is in the public record, The Post will report it, but she added that this type of information is found in the police databases that are not public.

So, a way forward emerges.

I’m hoping that next time a Hispanic suspect is arrested, Boyles will be more humane and refrain from speculating on the person’s immigration status or accusing The Post of deliberately hiding part of that suspect’s criminal record, if it’s not available in public records.

And if Boyles knows details about a suspect’s criminal history that aren’t publicly available, he will tell us where they came from and how he got them and where, specifically, The Post can find them.

Then before bashing The Post, he might ask someone there why something was left out.

An interview with 9News’ Adam Schrager, who’s leaving Denver in Feb.

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

You’ve probably heard by now that political reporter Adam Schrager is leaving 9News Feb. 9 take a job with Wisconsin Public Television, as first reported on ColoradoPols.

Schrager came to 9News in 1999, after working for CBS News in London and three TV stations in Wisconsin. He attended the prestigious journalism school at Northwestern University, and he’s won numerous journalism awards.

Schrager is also producer/host of YourShow, an innovative public affairs program on Channel 20 that solicits show topics, questions, and guest suggestions from viewers.

Once in a Rocky column evaluating public affairs shows in Denver, I gave Schrager’s YourShow a grade of “B” because I thought it was too serious. Schrager matter-of-factly pointed out that for years I’d been criticizing local TV news for its excessive fluffy content. I regretted the column but appreciated Schrager and YourShow all the more.

I thought Schager’s many admirers would like to know more about why he’s leaving and his reflections about journalism and his job here as he departs. So I asked Schrager to answer a few questions, which ┬áhe kindly answered below:

J: Why are you leaving?

A: It’s been hard raising kids away from grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins and now, we have some health issues with my dad which are only going to get worse. Hopefully not for a while, but we figured since both sets of our parents are in their 70’s, if we’re being honest, we needed to get back soon if we wanted our kids to have those relationships. We love Colorado but sadly could not convince everyone else to come out here.

J: Did you see a dim future for your style of political reporting at 9News?

A: No.

J: Were you being pressured more often to do things at 9News that you did not want to do?

A: No.

J: Why are you leaving the local TV news biz? Do you think your style of serious political reporting is going out of favor in the industry?

A: Honestly, I am fortunate to be able to stay in the industry but I was prepared to get out if that’s what I needed to do to get back to the Midwest. We just had to get back asap for family reasons. I’ve been doing this 20 years now and I’m a bit tired. As I think you can discern from your conversations with me the last few years, I’ve been testier and a little more on edge as the volume surrounding what we do ramps up and the anger associated with politics rises. That’s just not my personality and it hasn’t been nearly as much fun as it’s been in the past. I’m very much looking forward to doing long-form journalism and reconnecting with my craft in a way I haven’t been able to do over the last few years. That’s just a result of an industry becoming more and more driven by the immediate as that’s what the public seems to want. Maybe I’m old-school, but I like to think a little bit more than I’m afforded the opportunity to in life these days. I always like to cover the Capitol outside the Capitol and I used to be able to go find the people, places and things affected by the policy being proposed. It kind of morphed into me asking those folks questions to policy-makers, but I didn’t get out into the field as much as I would have selfishly liked to. The Wisconsin Public TV folks are part of the longest-running civic journalism project in the country, We The People Wisconsin, which teams up with Public Radio, the CBS affiliate in Madison, the Wisconsin State Journal and the leading on-line political news site in the state. They want to expand it, to do much of what we have done at 9NEWS (i.e. Teach people how to do truth tests, ask voters’ questions to candidates, etc.) and I’d imagine I’ll be a part of that.

J: Do you have doubts about giving up your big audience for the relatively small number of people who watch public TV in Wisconsin?

A: No doubts at all. I don’t look at ratings now, haven’t in the past, and don’t imagine I ever will in the future. I can’t do anything about them so why worry about it? I can control what I can control and that’s to produce the best stories I can. If more people watch them, that’s great, but it doesn’t define whether I’ve been successful or not.

J: Would you advise a young journalist who cares about politics to pursue a career in local TV news? What would you suggest he or she do?

A: You’ve heard me quote my dad before on this. He likes to say you’re a lot happier in life if you associate with people who speak in commas and question marks than periods and exclamation points. Sadly, politics has become all about the latter. If a young person wishes to focus on the former, they can make a great difference in the process. If they decide to pursue the latter path, I’d argue they need to hold their breaths because there are a lot of blowhards out there who are going to be talking in front of them.

J: Is there any chance that Wisconsin political reporting will be as interesting as what we have here?

A: I worked in Wisconsin for eight years before moving out here, covering their State Capitol and federal delegation. It’s a fascinating state, rife with the same kind of apparent historical contradictions that Colorado has. The same state that brought us Robert LaFollette and the progressive movement produced Joseph McCarthy. People there vote people before party, just like Colorado, which will always make the elections fascinating and of national interest.

J: Do you have plans to write about the progressive infrastructure in Wisconsin? How about the Wisconsin conservative infrastructure?

A: Haven’t thought about it. Just finished an epilogue to The Blueprint called “The Western Firewall” that chronicles how the progressive infrastructure helped John Hickenlooper, Michael Bennet and Harry Reid withstand the Republican tidal wave of November. As for future book projects, I have two in mind and neither are directly political in nature. As I mentioned earlier, I need a bit of a break mentally from the political grind.

J: Will you continue writing about Colorado Politics?

A: One of my book projects involves Colorado history which inevitably includes politics, but if you’re asking if I intend to become a blogger, columnist or some type of advocate, I can tell you I don’t intend to do that. I need to spend more time with my kids, not less. More time with my family, not less. More time with my friends, not less.

J: Will YourShow continue? Truth Tests?

A: Hope so on both accounts.

J: Who will do political reporting at 9News?

A: For the short-term, my colleague Chris Vanderveen will be handling the General Assembly when I leave. Another colleague, Matt Flener, will be the point person on the Mayoral race.

J: What are a couple of your favorite moments during your career here?

A: My favorite moments are not at all political in nature, unless you think being inspired by the triple amputee who comes down to the Capitol to lobby for other amputees. I have been so moved by so many, it’s hard to narrow it down to just a few great moments. I think you know I love what Gov. Carr did. I’m happy to have met him in the figurative sense and more importantly, to have been able to share the story of Japanese American internment to an audience that sadly doesn’t know anything about it. I could really just ramble here about person after person who’s moved me, but that would be dull to your readers and take me way past my bedtime which is early these days since our 16-month-old son still has trouble sleeping through the night.

J: Anything else?

A: Thanks for your interest in what we’ve tried to do.

Spokesman explains Hick’s “drill-the-living-daylights” quote

Sunday, January 9th, 2011

Today’s New York Times features a profile of Governor-elect John Hickenlooper, concluding that, if Hick does “well” and is re-elected in 2014, then “it’s not hard to believe” that there will be “murmurs” about a Hick presidential run in 2016.

That’s a convoluted way to say the murmurers have already started murmuring.

But there was more in the article to murmur about, especially if you’re a murmuring environmnentalist, and we all know those folks like to murmer (Sorry, I like typing “murmur,” I guess.).

NYT Reporter Frank Bruni quotes Hickenlooper as saying “we should drill the living daylights out of natural gas and cut regulation.” Bruni adds that the Gov-To-Be also considers himself an “environmentalist.”

It’s a 13-word quote in a loooong article, and Hick has said similar things before. But, still, he’s getting close to “drill, baby drill’ here.

So I emailed Bruni to find out if Hickenlooper might have added a couple dozen other words in their conversation that put the “living daylights” quote in more context. Unfortunatley, I did not get a response.

So I asked Alan Salazar, who will be Hick’s chief policy and political director, what Hick meant. Was there context that was left out?

He emailed me:

“Context was lost in what John would acknowledge was a clumsy reiteration of what he consistently said on the campaign trail, namely that we ought to push natural gas enthusiastically and adjust regulations that aren’t proven to be efficient or effective. But regulations that are necessary for protecting public health and the environment have to be upheld. It’s always a matter of balance and keeping an open mind to what works. John recalls making this latter point (as he did whenever the topic came up on the campaign trail) to Mr. Bruni, but it didn’t make the story.”

Post right to move Littwin column off page two

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

You hate to see Mike Littwin being shuffled back to the commentary section of The Denver Post.  But it was the right move.

I loved reading Littwin on Page two, and I’m sure lots of people who hate Littwin also loved reading Littwin there. He’s one of the best things the paper has to offer.

But I agree with the old argument that newspapers will survive in the long run only if they can convince us that they’re fair and accurate. That’s the niche that might possibly allow them to survive in a blogosphere full of news that you can’t trust. Not all of it, of course, but a lot of it.

The Post’s future depends more on its credibility than the quality of its opinion writers. Littwin is a great writer, and he’ll still be there. In fact, The Post should put a little note on page two every day for the next year telling readers where to find Littwin.

But a left-leaning political column like Littwin’s, surrounded by the news pages, creates the perception that The Post’s news content is also biased.

Asked via email why he move Littwin, Post Editor Greg Moore wrote me:

“I think it is fairly obvious why Mike is in op-ed. It is a perfect place for the type of column he writes, one we value. I created Page 2 exposure for him and Tina to signal to our broader audience we had embraced two high profile Rocky columnists and frankly I had no place else to put them and give them visibility. I had known for a while that Littwin really was writing an excellent op-ed column and we had achieved what I wanted on page 2. So we made the move.”

The move also puts Littwin on the editorial board of The Post, which needs dose of air from the left.

In his debut column from his new location, Littwin didn’t sound very hopeful about winning over the editorial board, but at least he’ll be there some of the time. Just looking at Littwin might frighten a guy like columnist Vincent Carroll, who is also on the editorial board.  Littwin wrote:

“They’ve promised I can skip as many board meetings as I like and that I don’t have to wear a tie and I still can go on the road to follow Palin and Huckabee and the rest of the Fox News Republican primary next year, but only after poking as much fun as possible at Mejia, Romer, Boigon, Hancock, Linkhart and everyone else running for the honor of taping the welcome-to-Denver greeting at DIA.”
I understand Littwin’s sitting in a desk vacated for his arrival by Carrol, who moved to a new seat in the office.  That’s the kind of detail that might help people understand what a newspapers opinion section  is supposed to be about.