Post should stop rewarding the bad blog behavior of Complete Colorado

Bloggers like me see it as big win if a serious journalistic entity like The Denver Post credits them for breaking a news story.

People read about your blog in the newspaper, and your audience might increase from three to five.

But the best part is the credibility. Most bloggers still flail on the margins of the media world, hoping more people will take them seriously.

Even bloggers who don’t like The Post have to admit it represents the finest Colorado has to offer, journalism-wise.

So when The Post acknowledges a scoop by your blog, you just gained some standing in the journalism world, making your blog a little harder to ignore, even by reporters who hate bloggers.

So the blog Complete Colorado, a project of the right-leaning Independence Institute, is probably feeling pretty good right about now.

It’s been mentioned by The Post as the “first” to make public the evidence allegedly showing that Denver mayor-elect Michael Hancock was a client of a local prostitution ring.

Post reporters didn’t say Complete Colorado broke a news story.

But Post reporters have repeatedly referred to Complete Colorado as putting the story in motion, even if words like “broke the news” were not used.

To my way of thinking, this amounts to crediting Complete Colorado for breaking the Hancock news story even though The Post doesn’t consider the allegations published by Complete Colorado as a legitimate news story.

In fact, after Complete Colorado published the allegations, Post Publisher Dean Singleton said that no “reputable” news organization would touch the story. It didn’t pass muster as news story because the facts were not verified and the sources not adequate, Singleton said on the Caplis and Silverman show, where Post reporter Chuck Plunkett made similar comments.

It didn’t rise to the level of a legitimate news story, in The Post’s eyes, until later, when Hancock allegedly reneged on a promise to turn over cell phone records to The Post, according to an op-ed by Post Editor Greg Moore, who wrote that the campaign was “stonewalling.”

That’s when the Hancock story was deemed news, as Moore explained in his op-ed on Sunday.

So Complete Colorado deserves credit for nothing in this case, except irresponsibly spreading unsubstantiated anonymous rumors. Nothing resembling journalistic triumph for Complete Colorado.

In an email to me, Post Editor More wrote that his reporters didn’t credit Complete Colorado, but instead cited its action as “a fact in the narrative timeline.”

More wrote me:

As you noted in your email, The Denver Post has not described what Complete Colorado did as “breaking” a story. We simply described the fact that it posted the documents purporting to contain Hancock’s name and that represents nothing more for us than a fact in the narrative timeline.

He’s right.

But here’s an example showing how Complete Colorado was included in a front-page Post news story.

Nine days ago, as those records from Denver Players were first made public by the blog Complete Colorado, Hancock vigorously denied any association with the service. His campaign pledged to The Denver Post and 9News that it would produce cellphone records showing no calls to or from the service, and bank records that would show whether he made cash withdrawals on or near the dates in question.

You can see why I think most readers would mistakenly believe that The Post, above, is giving Complete Colorado credit for breaking a news story, even though if you read carefully, you see The Post isn’t doing so.

So here’s a proposed solution:

Going forward on this story, if an irresponsible outfit like Complete Colorado must be mentioned for background, The Post and other Denver outlets should state clearly that Complete Colorado published unsubstantiated information, which reputable news outlets would have left in the garbage can, at least until more credible information was found.

Continuing to give de facto credit to Complete Colorado encourages it, and other bloggers, to act irresponsibly in the future.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m really glad The Post is trying to give credit where credit is due to lowly bloggers for breaking news stories.

The Post’s proper acknowledgement of the fine work of bloggers will help journalism and good bloggers survive. But rewarding bad blog behavior, like rumor-mongering, hurts journalism, bloggers, and everyone else.

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