Gazette Editor says CO Springs officials didn’t apply pressure to re-assign or fire reporter

Colorado Springs Gazette Editor Joe Hight told me this morning that he received “no pressure” from CO Springs government officials to fire or re-assign former City Hall reporter Daniel Chacon.

The Colorado Springs Independent reported Friday that Hight had not responded directly to its question about whether officials connected to CO Springs Mayor Steve Bach pressured the Gazette to remove Chacon from the City Hall beat.

The Independent cited a Facebook post by former mayoral candidate Buddy Gilmore, raising concerns about the unproven allegation that pressure from Bach’s office was applied. (This apparently led to the formation of the “Free Daniel Chacon” Facebook page.)

“There was no pressure,” Hight told me. “This is the transition of a reporter from one beat to another. Does City Hall express concern? That’s part of what you’d expect.”

But he said there was no pressure from Bach’s office to fire or re-assign Chacon.

Gazette State Capitol reporter John Schroyer was also assigned a new beat, the Independent reported. Hight told the Independent.

“It’s perfectly reasonable for newsrooms to realign reporters and their beats, especially those who have been on ones for periods of time,” Hight writes. “It is even more reasonable considering our focus on expanding our news and information products and services. We are a growing organization and need to make moves and transitions, similar to the newsroom management realignment we announced last week, as well as bring in new people to meet those needs. John and Daniel are experienced journalists who will be assets in their new positions and provide talent to important newsroom endeavors.”

Publications like the Gazette obviously get pressure from all quarters, and it’s no surprise that Bach’s office could have been angry over Chacon’s reporting.

But if a public official demanded the firing or reassignment of a reporter, and did so on the record, a newspaper should definitely report it.

Hight did the right thing by talking about the matter to me and the Independent. There was a day when an editor might have refused to discuss it.

A call to Colorado Springs government offices was not immediately returned.

In November, Philip Anschutz’s Clarity Media Group purchased The Gazette from a California-based newspaper chain.

Follow Jason Salzman on Twitter @bigmediablog.




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