Archive for May, 2017

Can conservatives and progressives trust journalism for the sake of fighting “fake news?”

Friday, May 19th, 2017

To fight fake news in a bipartisan way, Republicans and Democrats need to find it in themselves to trust professional journalism, while reserving verification rights.

We need to agree that the role of journalists is to enforce truthfulness as a basic ground rule for civic discourse, while advocates reserve the right, of course, to disagree with the conclusions of journalists.

So it kills me that conservatives, like Colorado State Sen. Tim Neville (R-Littleton), won’t accept respected journalistic fact checkers as arbiters of fake news.

But maybe there’s a road to compromise in liberty advocate Ari Armstrong’s thoughtful definition of fake news that he articulated last month–much of which I agree with.

Armstrong and I diverge from the thinking of most journalists on the definition of fake news, because we both define fake news based on the content of the news story, not its source. In other words, we both agree that a fake news story could come from the Washington Post, Brietbart, BigMedia.org, PeakPolitics.com, or TheFreePatriot.org.

If you define fake this way, you allow conservatives, who might hate the Washington Post, and progressives, who might hate Breitbart, to agree on a starting point to discuss how to address the fake news problem. So I accept the idea that any outlet could produce fake news partly for sake of compromise with conservatives.

But how could someone like me, who has such respect for journalism, possibly agree that the New York Times could be a potential source of fake news? Because, as Armstrong points out, a credible news outlet like the Times will go to great length not to make errors and to correct them quickly. So if it makes a mistake, and produces a fake news item, its fake news will likely be ephemeral fake news.

But even if we accept that any news source can produce fake news, we need a practical way for liberals and conservatives to agree on a definition of fake news.

This definition has to rely on arbiters, rather than an individual’s own case-by-case assessment, as proposed by State Sen. Tim Neville (R-Littleton) and, in part, by liberty-advocate Ari Armstrong, because just like in any competition, partisans need referees to judge the game, in this case, to assess the facts.

That’s why it’s so unfortunate that most conservatives won’t name journalistic entities that can help us referee the facts. By doing this, they are rejecting the role of professional journalism in society.

Both Armstrong and Neville have rejected the Fake News Pledge, which is a promise not to post fake news on Facebook. It defines fake news as a story “deemed false or inaccurate by Snopes, Politifact, Factcheck.org, or by a respected news outlet.” It also must “packaged to look somehow like news.”

That definition could snag an article from the Times, but as a practical matter, it’s unlikely that a fact checker like Factcheck.org will find a factual error in a New York Times article before the Times corrects the error.

So I think the Fake News Pledge’s simple definition should work for conservatives and progressives.

But who’s optimistic? With Donald Trump’s constant berating of mainstream media as “fake news,” how could Trump followers ever accept journalists as arbiters of facts, especially given that everyday Republicans in America don’t seem to. The Pew Research Center reported this month:

Today, in the early days of the Trump administration, roughly nine-in-ten Democrats (89%) say news media criticism keeps leaders in line (sometimes called the news media’s “watchdog role”), while only about four-in-ten Republicans (42%) say the same.

That’s not encouraging for the prospects of Republicans accepting the Fake News Pledge and the role of journalist fact checkers as arbiters of fakeness. And it’s bad news, no matter how you look at it.

Colorado conservatives mindlessly blame media for Trump’s problems

Thursday, May 18th, 2017

Some Colorado conservatives are joining Trump in blaming the press for the daily-eye-pop-head-spin news stories streaming from the White House.

Leading the charge are local talk radio hosts, but conservative politicians are also mad at journalists.

Appearing on KOA’s Mandy Connell show yesterday, U.S. Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) lamented that the media are “inventing this Russia story.”

Buck: “When George Bush won, he was the dumbest human being alive, even though he’d gone to great schools and gotten great degrees. Every time he stumbled in a speech, it was a story for two or three days. He just wasn’t smart enough to be president ” Buck told Connell. “And then we get Barack Obama, and he’s the smartest person in the world. He’s just a savior.

“And then we get Donald Trump. And they’ve got to find something with Donald Trump. He’s a very successful businessman. So obviously he’s not stupid. So now now we’re inventing this Russia story, and just on and on.”

Citing the anonymous sources used by the New York Times in its story about Trump pressuring Comey to lay off Flynn, KNUS radio host and (former Fox 31 Denver reporter) Julie Hayden said on air May 15.

Hayden: “I have been dismayed — I mean, as a reporter– at just how they just make it –. I mean, they really do just make it up, you know!”

C0-host Chuck Bonniwell jumped in with, “They don’t care. They just don’t care.”

You can always criticize journalists, and some people will never accept anonymous sources, but that’s why we have professional journalism. To utilize such sources in a responsible way. That’s not making stuff up–or not caring.

Gubernatorial candidate George Brauchler also pointed to media bias among reporters covering Trump. On KNUS 710-AM May 15, Brauchler said:

Brauchler:  [Journalists] don’t need Trump’s help. But he gives it to them anyway. That’s the only part that’s a little frustrating, is like, ‘If you, Mr. President, could just pull it back– just a little bit — it would expose, I think, how biased that they truly are.’ Because right now, there’s just enough there that they make mountains out of molehills, and all this other stuff.  But if he can just pull it back, just a little bit.

To her credit, KOA host Mandy Connell faults Trump for blundering, but then she attacks the “viciousness” of the media and says the “media has picked [his blunders] up, [and] blown up into massive proportion.

“Trump keeps giving the media ammunition with which to shoot him,” said Connell on air. “If he would shut his pie hole sometimes and not shoot from the hip, they would not have the ammunition that they currently have.”

In truth, the media are working sources and exposing serious dangers to us and our democracy. That’s what the fourth estate is supposed to do. Thank you, journalism.

Listen to Buck on KHOW May 18:

Talk radio host appropriates Cinco De Mayo as “Cinco De Drinko” and more

Thursday, May 18th, 2017

The voice you hear in the audio below is Jimmy Lakey, morning host at Fox News Radio (KCOL 600-AM) in Ft. Collins, Colorado.

He offers an insulting take on Cinco de Mayo, calling it “Cinco de Drinko,” and mocking other aspects of Latino culture. He tones it down before his guest GOP gubernatorial candidate George Brauchler appears. Lakey is a former GOP congressional candidate.

Lakey once compared Michele Obama to Chewbacca, and howled with laughter when a caller compared her to the the main character in Planet of the Apes.

Post downplays Trump story on front page of print edition

Wednesday, May 17th, 2017

UPDATE: CNN looked at the front pages of 10 newspapers across the country, including The Denver Post and the New York Times. Eight out of ten featured the Comey story above the fold in the print edition. The Manchester Union-Leader joined The Post in not doing so.

CNN had this comment on the Manchester newspaper: “And then there was the New Hampshire Union-Leader, a notoriously conservative paper, which made only passing mention of the story with a pro-Trump blurb ‘White House disputes Comey memo’ and teased to a story on B2. The other tease at the top of the front page? “Cloud eggs: They’re hot, versatile and trending.”

———

I’m still the kind of person who compares The Denver Post to the New York Times.

Today, the major headline in the Times’ print edition reads, “Trump appealed to Comey to halt inquiry of Flynn.” It occupies two columns on the upper right portion of the front page, where the most important headlines of the day are placed.

The Post’s upper right-hand headline, in contrast, states, “Judge orders inmate freed,” not an insignificant story but paltry compared to the Trump story, which has rocked the White House, the stock market, and even Republicans.

And The Post’s headline, “Trump pressed Comey to drop Flynn Probe,” filled just one column of the print edition’s front page, in the lower right hand corner, “below the fold,” as newspaper readers like to say.

A glance at The Post’s front page makes you think of hail, since that’s the dominant story, not the possible downfall of the president.

I know The Post likes to emphasize local news on its front page–as well as stories that the whole world hasn’t already heard about by the time they receive their dead-tree newspaper in the morning. And, of course, the Times broke the Comey story, so might expect some hype.

But if the story was hyped, it deserved it, for obvious reasons that, apparently, The Post didn’t understand, at least as of yesterday. I’m hoping they’ll do better as this story inevitably unfolds.

Reporters shouldn’t wait to tell the story of Trump’s impact on GOP gubernatorial race

Wednesday, May 17th, 2017

“I want to point out something important. Everybody that stands before you moving forward, who says that they want your vote to be the Republican nominee for fill-in-the-blank, you must insist on finding out whom they voted for for president.”

That might sound like a progressive media critic urging reporters to find out where conservatives candidates stand on Trump, but it’s actually GOP gubernatorial candidate George Brauchler speaking at a celebration of Trump’s first 100 days in office.

“And I’m here to tell you I voted for Donald Trump,” continued Brauchler, saying how impressed he was with the turnout. “…If you listen to the news, you think we’re on the verge of some sort of Constitutional crisis. This tells me we’re all in pretty damn good hands right now in terms of the United States of America.”

Later Brauchler, who’s the Arapahoe County District Attorney, told a conservative radio host that Trump’s first 100 days have been “productive.” And he bashed the media as “biased” and, with Trump’s help, making “mountains out of molehills.”

Mountains out of molehills?

By grabbing onto Trump like he’s doing, Brauchler is embracing the conventional wisdom that bedding down with the right is essential to winning the GOP primary next year.

But remember that Dick Wadhams (or was it Jack Graham?) finished second behind Darryl Glenn in the 2016 GOP U.S. Senate primary last year. And who knows what impact the open primaries will have on the Republican primary, which is looking to be a crazy clash of dynasties and cash.

So, yeah, the GOP Trump base seems energized, but it’s still surprising that when Brauchler looks across the state, all he seems to see is Trump. During his KNUS 710-AM interview (below), he said Colorado Republicans see “steady progress forward on a lot of things that people care about.” And, Brauchler said on air, “within the party, when you go to the Lincoln Day dinners…you can’t find a Trump naysayer in the group.”

Not a Trump naysayer! And this was the day Trump leaked classified information to Russians in the White House.

So how far will the GOP primary candidates go in their courtship of Trump voters?

Reporters should take a cue from Brauchler and not wait until the September to tell this dramatic and high-stakes story.

Listen to Brauchler on KNUS 710-AM May

Candidates may not like the focus on family ties in gubernatorial race, but they’re a big part of the story for reporters

Friday, May 12th, 2017

Steve Barlock, the former chair of the Denver Trump Campaign, announced he’s considering a jump into the governor’s race and immediately took a shot at fellow Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Robinson and likely GOP candidate Walker Stapleton.

“I am interested because I want to stop a Bush and stop a Romney,” Barlock told Fox 31 Denver’s Joe St. George, explaining why he wants to be governor.

Barlock was referencing the fact that Walker Stapleton, who’s expected to run for governor, is the first cousin of former President George Herbert Walker Bush, with “Walker” as the lineage connecting Walker Stapleton to the Bushes. Stapleton is currently Colorado’s Treasurer.

Robinson, an investment banker, is the nephew of Mitt Romney. His mother is Romney’s older sister.

The intersection of the Republican dynasties on the Colorado campaign trail is definitely grabbing attention, as it should. With an outlier in the White House–and voters mad at the establishment–it’s fair for reporters to point out and analyze the impact of family ties. It’s obviously hugely relevant.

You can expect that the candidates won’t like it, as Robinson indicated during a May 5 appearance on KCOL 600-AM.

“I’ve done a lot on my own. And I want people to realize that I am Doug Robinson. And yes, my mother is Mitt Romney’s older sister. And that is part of my heritage. But the Denver Post led with that. They didn’t even have my name. Mitt’s nephew.”

I couldn’t find The Post coverage that Robinson refers to. The lede of the online Post story about Robinson’s campaign launch reads, “Mitt Romney’s nephew Doug Robinson is running for governor of Colorado.”

Robinson shrugged off the focus on Mittens, telling Lakey, “I come from a place of wanting to make this state better and put a vision out there of where we can go.”

Listen to Robinson on KCOL May 5 here:

Bennet defends journalism, saying Trump has “hard time” distinguishing between reality and “somebody shooting their mouth off on the internet”

Thursday, May 11th, 2017

Colorado’s Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet took the fight against fake news to the floor of the U.S. Senate yesterday, saying Trump resorts to “talking about ‘fake news’ when he doesn’t like [journalists’] reporting” and that Trump has a “hard time” distinguishing between “something that is real” and “somebody shooting their mouth off on the internet.”

Bennet did not suggest, as I would have done, that Trump sign the Fake News Pledge for elected officials, but it’s great to a politician stand up for journalists, who are almost as unpopular as politicians themselves. Which is exactly why Trump attack them.

Bennet made the fake news remark as part of a blistering attack on Trump, focused on his firing of FBI Director James Comey but touching on Trump’s overall disrespect for American institutions of government.

Watch Bennet here.

And here are his comments on journalism and fake news:

Bennet (at 5:30): And [the American people] remember his attacks on the free press as well, when he doesn’t like their reporting and his resorting to talking about ‘fake news’ when he doesn’t like their reporting. Mr. President, I have had to talk to so many high school students. and middle school students in Colorado over the last four or five months about this whole question of fake news and what the importance is of edited content to our society–and again to the rule of law. The importance that middle school students and high school students place on edited content on curated content, their ability to distinguish between something that is science or something that is real, something that is edited versus somebody shooting their mouth off on the internet. The president has a hard time making that distinction as well.

Gardner wants everyone to drop the “hyperbole” about GOP health-care bill, but radio host fails to ask him what hyperbole

Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

U.S.  Sen. Cory Gardner told a conservative talk-radio host Monday that he wants people to “drop this hyperbole that we continue to hear” about the problems with GOP health care proposal and put in place a health care system that will work.

KNUS 710-AM host Steve Kelley didn’t ask the simple question of what “hyperbole” Gardner is referring to. Kelley played Gardner a series of audio clips of Democrats saying among other things, that the bill would cause Americans to suffer and die, how it would adversely impact the most vulnerable, and how it would give the rich a tax break.

So where’s the hyperbole Gardner is talking about?

The fact that an estimated 24 million people will lose their health insurance by 2026, in the likely event that this bill is comparable to the last one?

The fact that the latest Obamacare repeal doesn’t protect people with pre-existing medical conditions (like diabetes, cancer, even pregnancy)?

The fact that the rich would enjoy a tax cut of over $600 billion?

Where’s the hyperbole that’s bothering Gardner? (listen to him here on May 8, hour 1, at 13 min)

But you wouldn’t expect a conservative talk radio host to put these types of questions to Gardner, and the senator knows it.

That’s probably why, when the New York Times called his office last week to discuss the health care bill, Gardner didn’t return the call.

That’s also probably why Gardner has appeared on over 15 conservative talk radio shows in Colorado this year.

And why he’s appeared at exactly zero town halls.

Contrary to blogger’s claim, reporter sought comment and clarification and utterances of any kind

Monday, May 8th, 2017

In a blog post April 29, ColoradoPolitics.com reporter Joey Bunch criticized Western Wire, a news service backed by the oil and gas industry via the Western Energy Alliance, for a post that, Bunch wrote, “left an impression” that last Saturday’s climate protests were canceled due to snow.

Bunch reported:

The article goes on to cite a Facebook post about the event in Colorado Springs being cancelled. The story, however, makes mentions of Denver, including a forecast of 12 inches of snow in the metro area, but never says whether its event is cancelled or a go.

I e-mailed [Western Wire reporter] Johnson to ask about the “Denver-area climate marches” the article refers to, and why an industry site is doing a weather story and sending it out to reporters who might be thinking about covering the event.

He replied that the story specifically cites the Colorado Springs event. “And where exactly in the story did we dissuade reporters from going?” he wrote about the story e-mailed to reporters.

The Western Wire article failed to mention the Colorado Springs march was moved to Sunday at 1:30 p.m. beginning at Colorado Springs City Hall.

Many advocates would cry and wail about Bunch’s post in anonymous tweets, but to his credit, Western Wire’s Matt Dempsey responded directly in a post titled, “Our Friend Joey Bunch Missed The Mark.” He claimed Bunch “missed the point of our reporting entirely.”

I agree with Bunch that Dempsey’s post created the impression that the Denver demonstrations were at least threatened with cancellation, if not cancelled. But Dempsey claims in his post that he had actually wanted reporters to attend the rallies. “After all, the giant snowstorm that hit Colorado highlighted the supreme irony of the anti-fossil fuel activists’ campaign,” wrote Dempsey in his blog post. And he pointed out that Western Wire’s post linked to updated information about the Colorado Springs rally.

But I can’t figure why Dempsey concluded his post this way:.

It also makes us wonder why Joey didn’t just ask for a clarification in his email, instead of seeking comment for a critique of our story. Western Wire, like any other news outlet, is open to readers asking for clarifications or corrections. But that’s not what happened here.

The question to Joey is: Why not?

This is funny because Bunch sought (and got!) a comment from Western Wire. He’s a reporter, not a reader who might seek a correction or clarification. He asked for Western Wire’s thoughts or utterances of any kind–including clarifying variety. That’s what journalists do when they send you an email with questions and an explanation of what they’re doing.

Bunch provided me with the questions and background information that he emailed to Western Wire prior to writing his story. Here it is.

Did you guys try to confirm that with anybody yesterday? You really come away from your story thinking the thing was cancelled. I’m going to blog about the event, and it’s a side note that an industry wire service was seemingly dissuading reporters and attendees from going the day before. I’m not sure what the point of a weather story on Western Wire was all about.

But Dempsey says Bunch should have followed up again, if necessary, to determine Western Wire’s intentions. Dempsey told me, via email:

Our point is that Joey made a bad assumption by asserting that the Western Wire news story suggested the event was cancelled, and that somehow by posting it online and emailing it that we were discouraging reporters from attending.

Instead of trying to understand what the story actually said, he was in a rush to get comment for a rebuttal story of his own.

Following his story we felt a need to weigh in through a commentary piece. Our aim was to be respectful while still making our point.

Bunch is more worried about the journalism practiced at Western Wire.

“I’m not offended at all by Matt Dempsey’s opinion of me, and I don’t know any reporters who are taking it seriously,” Bunch emailed in response to my request for a comment. “I’m not. It’s the disregard for journalistic principles of fairness and accuracy in both blogs that bothers me as a person who’s been doing this for 30-something years. It doesn’t speak well for Western Wire as a news source or the Western Energy Alliance, if it continues to stand behind it.”

Dempsey continues to stand behind his post, maybe not understanding how serious it is to claim a journalist didn’t do the most basic aspect of his job–when in actuality it seems Dempsey didn’t do his by not giving Bunch the info he needed.

Woods posts fake news on Facebook

Friday, May 5th, 2017

woods trey gowdy 5-17Despite the example set by Trump, it seems that public figures in Colorado are being more careful about posting fake news on their Facebook pages than they were prior to the last election.

And to their credit, some officials in Colorado are removing fake news, if they are convinced it’s inaccurate.

But former State Rep. Laura Woods (R-Westminster), who lost her state senate seat in November, apparently hasn’t gotten the memo about how fake news rots civic discourse, not to mention representative government.

She apparently posted this fake news item, provided to me by a source, last week, headlined, “Trey Gowdy Breaks Silence After 2 of His Investigators Were Found Tortured and Killed-Proud Patriots.”

Woods apparently commented, “OM gosh…The Clintons’ trail of dead bodies is unbelievable. Hopefully Attorney General Sessions will take them down.”

It appears that Woods refused to remove the fake news, even after a someone on her Facebook feed pointed out that it was debunked by Snopes.

Woods doesn’t return my calls, but I invite her to sign the Fake News Pledge for Citizens here.

But it appears she may have found her own way to deal with Fake News, with a site offering right-wing radio host Mark Levin, right-wing columnist Michelle Malkin, and others:

woods alt news site