Archive for the '7News' Category

Rolly Fischer, whose honesty and integrity helped sink a Republican gubernatorial candidate, dies

Friday, November 11th, 2016

Rolly Fischer, who bravely fought off 2o1o GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis’ attempts to blame him for McInnis’ plagiarized water articles, died last week in Glenwood Springs.

Fischer went from “irascible” water nerd to cult hero in Colorado political circles after some of McInnis’ articles, commissioned by the Hasan Family Foundation, on Colorado water issues turned out to be substantially lifted from the writings of then Colorado Supreme Court Judge Gregory Hobbs.

After the plagiarism came to light, McInnis blamed Fischer, who was 82 years old at the time.

“I had staff assistance, I had research, and as you know, the research – that’s where the problem is here,” McInnis told Denver 7 at the time. McInnis added on the radio that his assistant felt “very remorseful” and “sick about it.”

But, oops, Fischer soon told the Glenwood Springs Post-Independent, “Scott’s responsible for it.”

The piano fell through the floor when Fischer spoke with then Denver 7 reporter John Ferrugia in one of Colorado’s greatest political TV-news moments.

Ferrugia asked, “Rolly, is Scott McInnis lying to us?”

After some thought Fischer said, “Yes.”

The 82-year-old said, “I never knew about the foundation or any foundation Scott was associated with.”

“Did you know how he was using these?” Ferrugia asked, referring to the articles.

“No. I had this sophomoric assumption that he wanted them for his own inventory,” said Fischer.

Turned out, McInnis even tried to get Fischer to sign a letter saying the plagiarism was Fischer’s fault.

After the Ferrugia interview, McInnis sort of took responsibility for the plagiarism, telling The Denver Post, “I made a mistake. . . . I immediately owned up to it. It’s my responsibility. I’ve got to fix it. I’ve told my side of the story. So that’s where we are on that. I’d love to talk to you on jobs and some of these other things.”

He gave his two-year stipend of $300,000 back to the foundation. (He’d paid Fischer a few hundred dollars per water article.)

But in 2014, McInnis appeared to throw Fischer under the bus again, telling the Grand Junction Sentinel that he “didn’t plagiarize, period” and that he’d “used ghost writers my whole career” and “didn’t make the mistake.”

Still, in a Nov. 7 obituary in the Glenwood Springs Post-Independent, McInnis had kind things to say about Fischer.

Scott McInnis, a former U.S. representative and current Mesa County commissioner, called Fischer “a water giant in his time,” who prepared the district for the issues it faces today…

Fischer figured in the collapse of McInnis’ campaign for governor in 2010, but McInnis said he never held the incident against Fischer.

“That’s water under the bridge now. I always thought Rollie was one of the brightest water people on the Western Slope,” McInnis said.

Did McInnis really say water under the bridge? A new water musing?

In any case, Fischer’s uninvited but starring role in the story of the downfall of McInnis deserves more than an asterisk in Colorado history. It was game changing.

If you were around at the time, you know that McInnis’ treatment of Fischer was far more damaging politically to McInnis than the plagiarism itself. It lead directly to McInnis’ loss in the GOP gubernatorial primary to Dan Maes, whose many flaws (and despite the best efforts of Tom Tancredo) paved the way for Hickenlooper to be governor.

Unlike now, Hickenlooper, you may recall, was weak and flailing during the 2010 election, and Hick would might have lost to McInnis in a general election. And McInnis might have won the GOP primary had Fischer lied and taken fake responsibility for the plagiarism, as McInnis asked him to do. I mean, Tancredo and Maes, who both ran for governor in 2010, together had nearly as many votes as Hick.

It clearly wasn’t easy for Fischer, who served as a Colorado Water District Chief, to stand up to his long-time friend McInnis, but apparently in keeping with his personality, he did, and it brightened the spotlight not only on the plagiarism but on a nasty side of McInnis that GOP voters didn’t like. Can you blame them?

We owe Fischer our collective gratitude for his honesty and integrity.

Fischer’s memorial service will take place tomorrow, Saturday, November 12, at 10:30 a.m. at the First United Methodist Church in Glenwood Springs. Contributions should be sent to the National MS Society, in care of S. Reel, 521 Rood Avenue, Suite B, Grand Junction, CO, 81504.

Panel discussion: Journalism and the 2016 election

Thursday, November 10th, 2016

Share your love or hatred of political journalism by joining a panel of journalists and media observers Tuesday, Nov. 15, for a discussion of media coverage of the election, particularly in Colorado.

The panelists are:

  •  Lisa Cutter, former president, Denver Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America
  • Hope Elizabeth, Denver University’s Roosevelt Institute
  • John Frank, political reporter, The Denver Post
  • Greg Moore, former editor, The Denver Post
  • Marshall Zelinger, political reporter, Denver 7

It will take place from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at The Denver Post auditorium, 101 West Colfax Ave., followed by further discussion, light appetizers, and cash bar at the Denver Press Club, 1330 Glenarm Pl.

Paul Teske, Dean, University of Colorado Denver, School of Public Affairs, will make introductory comments.

Moderators Laura Carno, founder of I Am Created Equal, and yours truly are soliciting questions in advance of the event—and queries from the audience will be encouraged on Tues.

The event is free and open to the public but register via tapthevote2016.eventbrite.com

You can submit questions in advance to Laura Carno (lauracarno at gmail.com) or me (jason at bigmedia.org).

The event is part of a series of political forums that have taken place at The Denver Post and the Press Club this election season. Sponsors: Denver 7, Denver Press Club, Public Relations Society of America, Roosevelt Institute, and The Denver Post.

Best local journalism of the 2016 election season

Tuesday, November 1st, 2016

Here are my favorite election stories by local journalists:

Denver 7’s Marshall Zelinger of course gets the top prize in both the journalism and entertainment categories. His series of stories showing forged signatures on the ballot-access petitions of former GOP state Rep. Jon Keyser had a game-changing impact on Colorado’s U.S. Senate race and reflected everything you want from journalism, especially at a time when it’s going to the dogs. (Don’t miss your chance to see Zelinger’s Keyser interview again here.)

Without the state-senate campaign coverage by Marianne Goodland at the Colorado Independent and Ernest Luning and John Tomasic at the Colorado Statesman, we would’ve had little reporting—until the final weeks—on the key state senate races that will determine control of Colorado government. Other outlets weighed late, which is great, but these races were so pivotal and important to the entire state this year, they deserved the early and sustained focus they got only from the Statesman and the Independent.

Luning also exposed a Democratic state legislative candidate who basically made up his entire resume and was later defeated in his primary race. In a similar vein, Goodland’s piece revealing the potential jail time faced by state house candidate Tim Leonard also deserves high praise. So does former Post reporter Joey Bunch’s treatment of Darryl Glenn’s legal troubles as a young man.

Denver Post reporter John Frank’s series of inside-view articles on the revolt by Colorado Republicans against Trump at the GOP National Convention informed the national debate on the growing #NeverTrump and plain-old anti-Trump movement among Republicans.  (Frank’s prodigious output generally also deserves mention.)

The Denver media’s political-ad fact-checkers have my eternal admiration because their job is tedious and difficult but really valuable. So, a shout out to Denver 7’s Alan Gathright, The Denver Post, 9News’ Brandon Rittiman, and  CBS 4’s Shaun Boyd. Reporters, like the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Charles Ashby, who dip into this territory, deserve credit too.

She got ribbed by fellow reporters for burying the lede, but former CO Springs Gazette reporter Megan Schrader gets credit for reporting U.S. Senator Cory Gardner’s off-the-cuff comment that he planned to vote for Trump after all. The story generated national buzz and shows what’s lost as we shed campaign-trail journalism.

The Colorado Independent’s Corey Hutchins’ story about anonymous campaign flyers may later play a role, in a small way, in a legislative fix that all sides would welcome.

I thought the debates moderated by 9News’ Kyle Clark and Brandon Rittiman were particularly informative.

It’s the little things that can make politics fun, so hats off to Molly Morrison at KRDO-TV in Colorado Springs for revealing that Trump was rescued by the Springs’ Fire Department after the head-strong mogul had insulted the Springs’ fire marshal. Nice.

Kudos to 9News‘ Rittiman and Denver’s 7‘s Zelinger for asking U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, after he released an ad critical of Trump in August, who he’d vote for. The fallout from his response—that Coffman would still consider voting for Trump or for the Libertarian candidate–got national coverage. And it t turned out to be a harbinger of Coffman’s troubles later, as he’s tried to both support and oppose Trump at the same time, ultimately opposing Trump. We all love it when journalists follow up beyond the canned statements and ads.

Finally, can you beat the editorials in the Aurora Sentinel? No. Even if you like U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO), you still have to love the writing in the Sentinel’s endorsement of his Democratic opponent Morgan Carroll, as well as the fire in its other editorials on any political topic.

Key state senate race starting to get media attention but more is needed

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

With a few of our more bigger badder news outlets (CPR, Denver Post, Fox 31 Denver, and KMGH-TV Denver 7) finally getting around to covering Arvada’s state senate race, which is the most important contest this election, the simple point should be made: follow-up stories are needed.

The candidates, Republican Laura Woods and Democrat Rachel Zenzinger, aren’t being challenged sufficiently on their stances on the issues (See some of their positions, on abortion to guns, here) or on the politics of the race. Some outlets have returned to the races a few times in coverage, which is good, but more attention is required. Some of our state’s most prestigious news entities have essentially dropped the ball on the race.

I’m not saying Aurora’s congressional race, our ballot measures, or other races aren’t important too, but if political journalists want to help voters understand what’s at stake this election cycle, they should turn their attention repeatedly to Senate District 19—and, to a lesser extent, other key state senate races.

Here’s a video to emphasize the point.

Harber to produce weekly TV interview shows on election topics

Friday, August 19th, 2016

Denver television fixture Aaron Harber will again produce an extensive series of TV interview shows, called Your Decision 2016, focusing on Colorado election races, ballot initiatives, and related issues beginning no later than Sept. 25 and ending Nov. 6.

“The majority of voters really start paying attention after Labor Day, so our focus is to try to make people aware of this over the course of the next four or five weeks and then start the programming,” said Harber. “Our goal is not just to provide the programming as a public service. Our goal is to reach thousands of voters, so they have a place to go for fact-based and mutually respectful and civil discussion, which seems to be in short order in the political world today.”

Harber will soon begin solidifying topics for 14-to-18 half-hour shows. He aims to cover not only the major races and state-wide ballot initiatives but also key down-ballot state legislative races, such as state senate contests that could determine whether Democrats take control of Colorado government.

Harber plans shows on Colorado’s U.S. Senate race and the Aurora Congressional race (U.S. House District 6) between U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman and his Democratic challenger State Sen. Morgan Carroll.

At least two shows will be offered each week. They will air on KCDO-TV Channel 3, Saturdays at 9 to 9:30 p.m. for one show and Saturdays 9:30 to 10 p.m. for another show. (The two shows will be air again on KCDO from 11 a.m Sundays to 12 a.m. and later on Sundays from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.) The two programs will also be broadcast on COMCAST Entertainment Television Mondays from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. (with repeat shows during the week on COMCAST and on ION Television), and the two shows will also be downloadable on COMCAST XFINITY ON DEMAND service).

The different venues offer “voters lots of chances to see the programs,” says Harber.

“With these six prime-time spots, we really want to take advantage of the opportunity to be on the air when a lot of people are watching television,” said Harber.

Harber’s show joins other Denver TV candidate-interview shows that have made a demonstrable impact on Colorado politics in recent years: 9News’ Balance of Power and 7News’ Politics Unplugged. Unfortunately, Fox 31 Denver dropped its interview program when longtime political reporter Eli Stokols left the station for a job at Politico.

There’s also the Get More Smarter Show, hosted by progressives Jason Bane and Alan Franklin, and Devil’s Advocate, “moderated” by Jon Caldara of the right-leaning Independence Institute. (Caldara’s show broke news last month when U.S. Senate candidate Darryl Glenn backtracked on his previous pledge to ban all abortion, even for rape.)

In 2014, Harber’s election shows were rolled out in partnership with The Denver Post. Harber has a regular public-affairs TV program as well as the focused election programming.

Thanks to journalists who refuse to take the same non-answer for an answer

Friday, June 24th, 2016

Journalists take a lot of hits these days, but we’re all glad they’re out there asking questions.

The final days of the Republican senatorial primary give us an opportunity to thank journalists for asking candidates a question multipile times when the question isn’t answered.

This primary season, we added interviews with former State Rep. Jon Keyser to BigMedia’s video of reporters who refuse to take the same non-answer for a real answer. (The video also includes interviews with Rep. Mike Coffman and Sen. Cory Gardner. Tip of the hat to, among others, 9News’ Kyle Clark and Brandon Rittiman, former Fox 31’s Eli Stokols, and New7’s Marshall Zelinger and Marc Stewart.)

Keyser says “liberal media is not going to give up”

Thursday, May 19th, 2016

U.S. Senate candidate Jon Keyser has proven to be a horrible media critic, threatening a reporter with his dog and saying the media is out to get him, without offering any evidence for his anger.  In fact, I can’t identify a single question from reporters that’s been unfair to Keyser or unreasonable given the facts on the table.

If anyone doubts this, I offer the following exchange between Keyser and KNUS 710-AM’s Dan Caplis, beginning at 28:50 May 18 Hour 2 here.

Caplis: Obviously you’ve been getting a lot of questions over the way you handled an interview with a particular reporter from Channel 7. Give folks your perspective of that conversation through your eyes.

Keyser: The interview that you’re talking about, it actually took place during the middle of a debate. We were in a debate, a candidate debate. We took a five-minute stretch-your-legs break, and then of course this guy  [Denver7’s Marshall Zelinger] came and shoved a camera in my face. We were in the middle of the debate!

You know, I think it takes a lot of discipline to stick you your guns and say, ‘Here’s what I know. I know that I’m on the ballot. The Secretary of State has looked at that. A judge has looked at that again and again.’

And it takes a lot of discipline to not give the left what they want, which is — it’s not the 24-hour news cycle anymore–it’s something that will feed into the 24-minute news cycle.

They wanted me to misspeak, or they wanted to have me say something that they could run with or that would hurt me later. But I was focused on not stoking that fire, because, frankly, that is a very serious thing. And we wanted to make sure that we had the truth, that we knew exactly what happened. And that takes a little while sometimes. Now that doesn’t satisfy 24-minute news cycle.

But, you know, I think it was important that I stood in there, and frankly, we got to have a Republican who can stand there and take the punches, because the liberal media is not going to give up. They are not going to give me a free pass. That’s for sure. So, I’ve got to be able to stay on message, stay disciplined and be able to take the punches. And I’ve shown again and again that I can. I’ve answered more questions in the four months that I’ve been running for the United States Senate than Michael Bennet has in 4 years…

Caplis: This reporter who went to your home during the day?

Keyser: Yeah, certainly I think there are boundaries. And like any dad, I’m protective of my family. And if it seemed in that interview that I was agitated or somewhat upset, it’s because I was! It’s because I’m a dad. I’m very protective.  He scared my kids. My baby cried for another hour after they left. Nobody’s jumping out of Michael Bennet’s bushes to ask him questions.

Keyser said he’d “double- and triple-checked” his petition signatures and “everything”

Thursday, May 12th, 2016

With Republican U.S. Senate candidate Jon Keyser still not talking to reporters about multiple forged signatures on his ballot-access petitions, I had no choice but to look back at previous statements Keyser made about the signature-gathering process. And reporters should be interested in what I found.

Recall that he claimed, on conservative talk radio May 2, to have “double- and triple-checked our petition signatures.”  Listen below.

In fact, in one interview on KOA 850-AM, he twice said he the phrase “double- and triple-checked,” indicating he’d put some thought into it. He said his campaign checked “everything” related to the petition process, which you’d think would include forgeries and signature gatherers with criminal histories of forgery.

This leads to the question for Keyser, if he ever talks to reporters about this: How could he possibly have double- and triple- checked his signatures if at least 10, according to 7News, are forgeries?

Why did Keyser say he double- and triple-checked the signature, as well as the entire “petition process and everything?” Did someone mislead him? Was he making this up? Why didn’t he verify what he was saying before he said it?

Keyser told KOA’s Mandy Connell on May 2:

Keyser: “It was an interesting week. It wasn’t too dramatic for us. We had double- and triple-checked our petition process and everything. And actually, I’m a reservist still in the United States Air Force, and I was gone on reserve duty. And I knew that we had double- and triple-checked our petition signatures. But we had a secretary of state that said we had a problem. We were a few signatures short in one of the congressional districts. But we knew we were okay. We were very confident about that. It took a couple days, but I’m on the ballot now and ready to beat Michael Bennet.” [needless to say, BigMedia emphasis]

Keyser’s promise to “always” answer questions is out the window

Wednesday, May 11th, 2016

Reporters should now that earlier this month, former Rep. Jon Keyser said what some politicians will say, and promised to always answer questions.

The context of May 2 discussion on KOA 850-AM was social issues, but you wouldn’t expect Keyser to have one standard about answering questions on social issues and another standard for other topics, like possible illegal campaign activities.

Keyser’s promise with respect to answering questions was clear (Listen below.):

Keyser: These are all issues that we have to talk about, if it’s a social issue. If it’s a question, I always answer the question. [BigMedia emphasis]

But now, Keyser’s campaign is refusing to answer questions from 7News reporter Marshall Zelinger about signatures that were apparently forged on Keyser’s petition to put his name on the June 28 GOP primary ballot.

Zelinger reported: We reached out to the Keyser campaign with a phone call and text to the spokesman, but as of Tuesday night at 11:45 p.m., he had not returned our call, text or tweets.

It’s not as if Zelinger’s questions are out-of-bounds or anything. He’s found 10 signatures that are clearly forged from people who leave in Congressional District One, where Keyser’s campaign needed to gather 1,500 signatures to make the ballot. He got 1,520 signatures. If you subtract the 10 forged signatures, Keyser is down to 1,510, and all of his signatures from CD 1 haven’t been analyzed yet.

Bottom line, reporters should point out that Keyser has promised in the past to always answer questions. In the wake of this story, he’s not doing so.

Sounding like Trump, Brophy says unnamed “efficiencies” are needed to solve Colorado budget woes

Friday, March 11th, 2016

The latest Republican to stand in front of a camera and complain about state spending on health care for the elderly, disabled, and other poor people, without offering any alternatives, is former state Sen. Greg Brophy, who’s freshly back from a job with Rep. Ken Buck in Washington DC.

Brophy appeared on Politics Unplugged, 7News’ interview show, last month to say that Colorado is being forced, under TABOR rules, to refund taxes to citizens due to the hospital provider fee.

“The hospital provider fee and the other expansions of, well, it amounts to Obamacare, have committed spending on that area at the expense of every other area in state government,” said Brophy.

In 2009, Colorado tapped federal funds, used to match a “hospital provider fee” collected by hospitals, to expand Medicaid coverage to around 300,000 low-income people and children. It allowed kids, for example, from families of four making $45,000 annually to qualify for state Medicaid coverage. Later, Obamacare kicked in, reimbursing the state to cover more poor people in Colorado.

So yes, Colorado has expanded its Medicaid program. It’s one of the major functions of the state government, along with k-12 education, higher education, transportation, and prisons.

Brophy thinks the state has gone too far in helping the elderly, disabled, kids, and other poor people get medical coverage. If we weren’t covering more uninsured people, we could prioritize spending “on education and transportation where the people, I think, want it.”

So, reporters should ask how he wants to cut Medicaid. Knock off some of the disabled people? Keep in mind that the state isn’t paying for coverage of the newly added people anyway, since the feds pick up the tab for Obamacare and the hospital provider fee. So what would Brophy have us do? Charge poor people co-pays, which Brophy advocated in the past, saying poor people aready spend their money on, Lotto, cigarettes, and air conditioning? Would he have Colorado lower eligibility thresholds? Are we too generous?

Brophy didn’t return a call to explain.

“I really think we want to force the state of Colorado to find efficiencies in what they spend money on,” Brophy told 7News’ Marshall Zellinger, sounding a lot like Donald Trump.

Where are these efficiencies? Where’s reality? Or is it like, I’ll force Mexico to build the wall. Trust me, they will.