Archive for the '9News' Category

A Colorado governor who fought bigotry–and won in the end

Wednesday, November 18th, 2015

During WWII, the U.S. government forced Japanese Americans  from their homes on the West Coast and moved them to interior states. Kansas Gov. Payne Ratner, reflected the opinions of many governors when she responded at the time with, “Japs are not wanted and not welcome in Kansas.”

With at least 22 Republican governors saying they’ll try to keep Syrian refugees out of their states, Denver University’s Seth Masket wrote a blog post yeserday reminding us of this and pointing out that Colorado Governor Ralph Carr “stood out” among his fellow governors at the time and declared that the forced relocation of the Japanese Americans under Executive Order 9066 was unconstitutional. He also welcomed them to Colorado.

Masket didn’t mention Hickenlooper, who has welcomed Syrian refugees, but the loose parallel between the two Colorado governors isn’t lost on anyone reading Masket’s post, titled “The governor who didn’t give in to fear … and paid a price for it.

Masket: “Obviously, the relocation of American citizens of Japanese ancestry is not the same as accepting refugees from another country,” writes Masket, who’s an Associate Professor of Political Science at DU. “But there are clear parallels, particularly in the political incentives governors are confronting. It’s not just that it’s easy to demagogue against foreign invaders; it’s that it’s sometimes politically risky not to. The governors refusing to take in Syrian refugees today may or may not know Ralph Carr’s name, but they have surely imagined his fate, and they don’t want the same for themselves.” [BigMedia emphasis]

Masket cites the Principled Politician, former 9News reporter Adam Schrager’s much-acclaimed biography of Carr. The book shows the respect Carr has now, in hindsight, even though his stance during WWII ended his political career.

I asked Schrager, who retweeted Masket’s post, about the similarities–or lack thereof–between Carr’s stance and the situation today.

Schrager: There are some similarities and some differences with the Syrian refugee situation as it’s not a true apples-to-apples comparison, primarily because the “refugees” in question in 1942 already lived in the U.S. They simply weren’t citizens, and as students of Executive Order 9066 will point out, even citizenship did not matter to President Roosevelt and, at that time, to the U.S. Supreme Court, which originally upheld the de facto jailing of American citizens of Japanese descent in addition to those who weren’t.

The other major difference between the times is that Gov. Carr was basically alone in his stand. Nowhere in the country at that time do you find a politician of equal stature both agreeing to help the U.S. government “win the war” by housing/incarcerating people of Japanese descent as well as defending the Constitutional rights of Americans citizen with that heritage to remain free. One of the things that’s always struck me about Gov. Carr is how lonely he was, going against friends and relatives, who didn’t understand where he was coming from. As inflammatory as some may believe the rhetoric is today, consider that Wyoming Gov. Nels Smith said in 1942, “If anyone of Japanese descent were sent to his state, they’d be found hanging from every pine tree.” (Source:

In today’s situation, while there are a number of politicians who are “refusing” to allow Syrian refugees into their states, there are also a number who are more accepting.

The major similarity is that, in both times, state leaders, must have known then and currently know now, they really have no authority in this area. It’s the federal government which determines immigration policy and politics aside, there’s really not much a state can do to stop a resettlement inside its borders. Sure, they can try to stop funding, but courts at the highest levels of our country have determined that even illegal immigrants are entitled to emergency care, education, etc. From reading the sentiments of 1942 leaders, including people like Earl Warren, there’s no doubt in my mind they were legitimately afraid and their comments reflect that. However, a sober approach and a conversation with their states’ respective attorneys general, would have alerted them to the realization they were powerless to stop what the federal government was proposing.

My gut reaction when I heard about this actually surrounded a couple of other situations in recent history, both of which I have little knowledge of, but I think might prove to be a more direct correlation to the topic of Syrian refugees, but even they don’t seem to fit exactly. The first also dates back to World War II when the federal government actually created Prisoner of War camps throughout the interior of the country to house mostly German and Italian soldiers captured overseas. I wonder how communities back then reacted to that.

The second and maybe slightly more relevant surrounds the resettlement of the Hmong, also largely here in the Midwestern part of the country, after the Vietnam War. Again, I have no direct knowledge of any type of xenophobia related to that situation, but I’d imagine—even though in that case you had people who had fought with us—I’m guessing there were fears of welcoming people who looked like those we had spent years fighting to communities.

In his blog post, Masket quotes Carr:

“The Japanese are protected by the same Constitution that protects us. An American citizen of Japanese descent has the same rights as any other citizen… If you harm them, you must first harm me. I was brought up in small towns where I knew the shame and dishonor of race hatred. I grew to despise it because it threatened [pointing to various audience members] the happiness of you and you and you.”



9News shows other Denver TV stations how to air a successful political interview show

Friday, October 16th, 2015

9News, Colorado’s NBC affiliate, is showing the world (Or, let’s hope, at least other Denver TV stations) how to air a longish-form political interview show–and make it interesting and important in the new media landscape.

This week’s interview with Hillary Clinton, which will be aired Sunday on the program, called Balance of Power, shows how it’s done.

The show’s primary host, Brandon Rittiman, landed the interview, he says, in part because having a regular public affairs show “makes us a better sell to get these interviews.”

Rittiman: “They decided that they wanted to do some local affiliates after the debate, and out of the blue sky, after talking to their people back and forth for a long time, they called… We have this hole, this home, for content. It makes us a better sell to get these interviews… It takes a lot of time and effort to put together a regular show on politics and public affairs. And there stations that don’t want to make that resource commitment, because it’s difficult. But it does have its rewards. We got news content yesterday that we might not have gotten otherwise.”

9News rushed the entire interview online, to get maximum love from the 24-hour news cycle, with Rittiman, who’s 9News’ political reporter, pushing it out on social media. And the station aired some of the Rittiman’s questions, which mostly had Colorado connections, on various newscasts. On Sunday morning, the interview will air in its regular 15-minute Balance-of-Power slot on 9News prior to “Meet the Press.”

Rittiman: If you turn on your TV to 9News and you watch a newscast, you’ll get great information, but that’s not the same as having it out in the longer form conversation. It’s not the same as giving a Colorado voice to the presidential election. The two are symbiotic. We get good content for newscasts out of Balance of Power, and Balance of Power gives people a great place to go beyond the soundbite type story.

And it’s clear that long-form TV interview shows, like Balance of Power, are more than just junk food for the political chatter class. They make a difference in the policy debate and in elections, as was demonstrated last year and continues to be evident. In the shrinking media universe, with tightly controlled campaigns, they can actually affect elections and policy.

And simply having a regular political interview show helps a TV station from forgetting about politics in the midst of exciting storms and animal sightings.

Unfortunately, Balance of Power is the only local political TV interview show that remains standing in Denver. Fox 31′s excellent “#CoPolitics at the Source” died with the departure of Eli Stokols. Aaron Harbor’s locally-themed shows usually appear only around election time. And Channel 6′s “Colorado State of Mind” most often focuses on policy not policymakers and candidates. Channel 12′s Colorado Inside Out talks about, not with, public officials and newsmakers.

Rittiman says 9News is committed to airing Balance of Power at least through next year’s election, and points to its regular Sunday time slot as proof of this. Until earlier this year, it was a here-and-there kind of feature. The show is promoted on air on 9News regularly, which is key, and it’s featured on the station’s website.

You might laugh at calling Balance of Power’s 10-15 minute interviews “long form,” but, hey, that’s what it is compared to what’s out there today. As Rittiman says, you can go “well beyond soundbites” in 15 minutes.

And, mostly, it’s hard to argue that anything longer than 15 minutes has much interest to people beyond the chatter class.

“How many people will watch a half-hour discussion about a local or state-level political issue? If people aren’t watching it, did we really help the community that much?” asks Rittiman. “Did it really help voters that much? I would argue that it doesn’t, if you’re not reaching a substantial audience.”

You can make a good case that any interview on the record is important, even with no audience, but Nielsen ratings from February, which was the last month of Stokols’ Fox 31 interview program, show Balance of Power being watched on over 4 percent of Denver TVs, which is impressive. It eclipsed Stokols’ show. Harbor’s program showed no audience at all, which makes me feel like an alien because I watched it sometimes.

“I don’t know if it’s Donald Trump. I don’t know what it is, but I’m getting the sense that politics is beginning to have a bit of a renaissance on TV,” says Rittiman. “Maybe because the presidential race is turning into a quasi-TV reality show. I don’t know.”

“If you put in the work to understand the issues, and the processes involved, and to convert it all into English that people can digest and use to grasp the arguments, you connect with people,” says Rittiman. “And we’ve proved it here at 9News. People want this stuff.

“I don’t think there’s anyone sitting at home who thinks, ‘Oh, you know, I don’t care about the way the world is run.’ As an industry, we think, ‘This is complicated. We have to hand hold people to help them understand this.’ Hand holding pays off. That’s all I would say to that. And people are grateful for it.”


Talk radio hosts sees leftists tainting Jeffco school board

Thursday, June 11th, 2015

During a radio broadcast last month (See below), KOA radio host Ross Kaminsky goes on and on passionately about how most everyone is against the conservatives on the Jeffco School Board.

In fact, the only folks Kaminsky left out of the alleged cabal attacking the Jeffco-school-board conservatives were the students, parents, and community that has organized to hold the school board accountable.

On the radio, Kaminsky mentioned that the Jeffco-school-board conservatives, specifically John Newkirk, are under attack by Democrats, “union-pawn liberals on school boards everywhere,” other liberals, leftists, “stupid reporters,” more unions, 9News anchor Kyle Clark, and others.

Kaminsky, who was subbing for KOA’s Mike Rosen, said these types of people are supporting board members like Jill Fellman, whom Kaminsky calls a “leftist.”

Kaminsky: “And by the way, I say [Fellman] is a leftist because the teachers union loves her, and because I went and looked online at her political contributions, and 100% of them are to Democratic candidates in the Colorado Democratic Party.”

As a leftist, I know that donations to the Democratic Party and its candidates are not a good measure of one’s leftyness. The Democratic Party itself would not be called lefty. Would you call Hick a lefty? Bennet? Obama? No. More like centrists. Also, the teacher’s union gives to centrist Democrats as well as progressives.

I asked Kaminsky for a response to this criticism, and he replied:

Kaminsky: I don’t know Jill Fellman is as far left as you or others might be, but between her political contributions and — more importantly — her utter fealty to the teachers union at the expense of children, as well as her opposition to public negotiation of contracts between school districts and teachers unions, she meets my definition of leftist. I realize that to a self-described leftist such as yourself, Ms. Fellman may not quality for that same adjective, though I also think you don’t know exactly where her politics lie. Therefore, I think your criticism is more petty than your usual disagreements with me.

Businessman promoting “White Appreciation Day” now says he’s leaving Republican Party.

Tuesday, May 12th, 2015

Edgar Antillon, who’s twice run for the Colorado State House and is promoting a “White Appreciation Day” at his rural Colorado BBQ joint, says he’s leaving the Republican Party.

Antillon lost his latest bid for the Colorado legislature just last year, and he’s still listed as an “active” Republican candidate on Colorado Secretary of State’s website.

But Antillon said in a Twitter exchange yesterday that he plans to close his campaign accounts as soon as possible, and he doesn’t consider himself a candidate currently.

“Never will I run as a Republican again,” tweeted Antillon, who led Mitt Romney’s Hispanic outreach effort in Adams County, Colorado. Antillon’s pro-gun activism has supported state GOP legislative efforts.

Antillon explained his position in a subsequent email.

Antillon: “I support gay marriage. Support a Ronald Reagan style amnesty. Support legalizing marijuana.

I once thought I was a Republican. I now know I’m not. Republicans claim to be the party of freedom…they are not.

I’m not a Democrat either though.”

Antillon is still promising to give white people a 10 percent discount on June 11 at his Rubbin’ Buttz BBQ in Milliken.

But in a development first reported by Denver’s NBC affiliate Sunday,  Antillon is now saying he’ll give everyone, regardless of race, a discount on his restaurant’s “White Appreciation Day,” which has gained national media attention.

He insists that it was never his intention to exclude non-white races from the discount, despite telling 9News’ on tape that Hispanics like himself would not get the discount. He reiterated to 9News that the point of White Appreciation Day was to bring Americans together.

“We’re not backtracking,” he told 9News. “We’re not clarifying anything. This was the intention from the beginning.”

He’s also said he received a bomb threat at his restaurant Friday.


9News omits fact that organizer of “White Appreciation Day” appears to be a well-known conservative activist

Saturday, May 9th, 2015

MONDAY UPDATE: Using info from a ColoradoPols commenter, I’ve confirmed that the co-owner of a BBQ joint that will give “white Americans” a discount is an active Republican candidate for the Colorado State House.

Edgar Antillon, who’s promoting his restaurant’s “White Appreciation Day,” ran as Republican for House District 32 (Commerce City) last year–and for House District 35 (Westminster) in 2010. He lost both times. His House Distric 32 campaign is active, according to state records.

The story about the discount for white people, originally aired by Denver’s NBC affiliate, has gone viral nationally. But news outlets,  including an AP story today, haven’t reported Antillon’s connection to the Republican Party.

Calls to Antillon’s restaurant, Rubbin Buttz, to find out if his “White Appreciation Day” has the backing of any of Antillon’s Republican colleagues were not returned. Neither did Antillon respond to an email seeking comment.


Denver’s NBC affiliate, 9News, aired a story Thursday about a BBQ joint in Milliken, Colorado, that’s planning to give “white Americans” a discount later this month. From there, the story has gone viral nationally.

But news outlets failed to report that the co-owner of the restaurant, Edgar Antillon, who’s promoting his restaurant’s “White Appreciation Day,” appears to be the same conservative activist who ran as a Republican for the state legislature (District 35) in 2010, served as the Adams County chair of Mitt Romney’s Hispanic outreach effort, called “Juntos con Romney,” and organized extremist pro-gun events.

Calls to Atillon’s restaurant, Rubbin Buttz, to confirm Antillon’s background were not returned, but photos, as well as a Washington Times piece referencing his gun background, make me think it’s the same guy.

When Antillon made his legislative run in 2010, the progressive blog ColoradoPols drew on reporting from The Denver Post and provided some background on the Republican candidate,:

Antillon pled guilty to perjury after being arrested on two counts of felony impersonation in 2004. Antillon’s record includes fully 18 failure-to-appear counts on numerous mostly minor charges. Antillon told Bartels that family troubles as a youth made it difficult to appear in court, but he apparently has time to maintain a Youtube pseudonymous identity as “Juan a Be the Luchador” where he frequently poses with assault weapons (above). Antillon was personally introduced at the GOP state assembly by Frank McNulty, highlighting Antillon’s race as one they can, uh, win… “

In 2013, Antillon appeared again to organize a “Guns for Everyone” rally at the state Capitol. He and others vowed to pack concealed heat at the event, which turned out to be a bust but managed to capture the media spotlight anyway. Last year, he grabbed attention by advocating that legal marijuana users get gun permits. 

9News reported Antillon’s thoughts on his “White Appreciation Day:”

“We have a whole month for Black History Month,” Antillon said. “We have a whole month for Hispanic Heritage Month, so we thought the least we could do was offer one day to appreciate white Americans.”…

Antillon says the discount isn’t meant to discriminate, but instead bring people together. He added that he has been the target of racism in the past. He hopes opening up the discussion will prompt others to think differently about race.

“We’re all American, whether you came from a different country, or you were born here,” Antillon said. “We’re all American.”

“White Appreciation Day” is meant to bring people together? Looks more like a media stunt from a guy using his conservative-activist background to draw attention to his business. That should have been part of the news stories.

Exit interview: Leaving local TV news for Politico, Stokols looks forward to never being told, “That’s too inside baseball”

Friday, March 27th, 2015

Eli Stokols, who came to Denver as a general assignment reporter in 2005, is leaving KDVR Fox 31 Tuesday as one of the state’s top political reporters. He also became a Fox 31 anchor, launched his own public-policy TV show, and wrote nonstop on multiple platforms.

I had coffee with Stokols, and we talked about his ten-year run in Denver and his future job at Politico in Washington DC. Here’s an edited version of our conversation:

Why Politico?

Stokols: I’ve been looking for an opportunity to report on politics from a national platform. I don’t think that’s any secret. And, frankly, part of that is because in Colorado you get a taste of doing that, because every campaign here is nationalized. There is no shortage of great political stories to cover here, which helped me to broaden my work. You come to a point in your professional career when you need a different challenge. On some level, because I’d been here for so long and was considered one of the veterans, a lot of people come to you with information, and it gets easier. And you can find yourself not working as hard because stuff comes to you. Or you find yourself not as excited when the campaign cycle comes around because you’ve done a ton of them.

And what are you going to do there?

I’m going to cover 2016, mostly write about it. I imagine I’ll cover a lot of the presidential candidates early on.

On the trail?

Yeah. I’ll be traveling a lot. That’s going to be exciting. I’ve been joking with people. It’s about time someone gives up statehouse reporting and goes and covers the presidential race, because what America really needs is more reporters covering the presidential race. You understand going into it that it’s going be hard to come up with stories and angles, but it’s exciting. It’s probably a cliche, but if you’re a political reporter, and that’s what you’re interested in, the opportunity to cover a presidential race and be on the trail is a bucket list thing.

Speaking of the state legislature, will Fox 31 replace you?

The upshot is, this was never a position we had because management said we had to cover politics. I don’t know what they will do. [See CJR's Corey Hutchins' take on this here.] It’s disappointing. You get this opportunity, and then you leave. And you look at what you built. And I know [9News political reporter Adam Schrager] felt the same way when he left. You want it to continue. And so it’s bittersweet.

Here’s a sad question. You’ve established Fox 31 as a go-to source of local political news. Now you’re leaving, and you say you’d like to see things continue. But it doesn’t look like they’re going to. And there doesn’t seem to be any incentive for Fox to do it, in terms of ratings.

What I’ve done has never been about ratings. I think there needs to be more decisions made in local television that are not made based on ratings but are based on the greater good, the public good. And you get criticized for being a media elitist when you say this, but I will unabashedly say, as journalists, we have a responsibility to determine what the audience and the greater public really need to know about–and make fewer decisions in terms of what we do and don’t cover based on what we think they will like seeing on the news.

Bottom line, you don’t think that ratings will suffer with your departure?

No, I don’t.

What will happen to the station?

I really do think Fox 31 is moving in the right direction. The new news director, Holly Gaunt, is very smart, sees the big picture, sees things clearly within the market and within our newsroom. And [she] will continue that station’s upward trajectory. I think [Fox 31 anchor] Jeremy Hubbard is, I think, the best anchor in the market. There are a lot of talented people there. I think Fox 31 has a decision to make about what kind of footprint they make in terms of political coverage.

What’s it going to take to change viewer habits in Denver. You’ve busted your ass. Your station is very competent, but yet you’ve sat there at the bottom, or close to it. It has got to be frustrating.

I won’t say [9News] hasn’t done a lot to maintain [its top slot in the market] and earn that. Some of it is journalism. A lot of it is also branding and community involvement. They sponsor everything. They are a juggernaut, and it’s not just because of the news department. But they are less dominant than they were when I first got to the market. And there are opportunities to challenge them. At the CBA awards, it was Fox 31 and 9News that won most of the awards. They do a good job. A lot of stations do a good job, but changing viewer habits is sometimes as simple as finding that right anchor team and that chemistry. Channel 7′s morning show was killing it when they had Ana Cabrera on there. She is a special talent, and there’s a reason CNN said, “We want to take you.” And they did take her. And now their morning show is not the same. And it takes nothing away from other people who are on the morning show.

Something like that could flip it?

I think Jeremy Hubbard is that kind of talent. He’s very good. He’s only been back here in this role for a short time. There’s a real consistency with him.

There’s something really great about covering state and local politics. You get a personal interaction with people. You see them at the grocery store. You see that in DC too, but I never felt it was the same. What do you think you are going to miss about being here?

The relationships are the hardest thing to give up, because in a smaller market like this you really get a lot of access to people–except when it’s campaign season. [It is] amazing how people who are your best friends suddenly disappear during campaign season. It takes time to build something like I feel I have here in Colorado. And DC, it’s a bigger pond but there are a ton more fish in it too. There are too many journalists.

And more sharks, too.

I’m looking forward to being in a city, and writing for a publication, where there’s no question about whether people are interested in politics.

I know. I don’t blame you.

One of the most exciting things about going to Politico, and the reason I wanted to go there, is because, one, you don’t have the requirements of doing broadcast television that naturally, in some ways,degrade the depth of your journalism. They help you in some ways too.The Cory Gardner interview [during which Gardner repeatedly denied the purpose of a bill that Gardner co-sponsored] wouldn’t have been anything if it weren’t a televised interview. So it’s just different.

The big thing is, I will never be told by an editor there, “That’s too inside baseball; no one cares.” I won’t hear that. And I hear it almost every day and have for ten years. And that is one of the things that’s most exciting to me, is working for a political place like that.

And it’s true. It’s hard to get people to pay attention here. That’ll be fun.


Journalists express frustration during discussion of election news coverage

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

The Columbia Journalism Review’s Rocky Mountain Correspondent, Corey Hutchins, has posted highlights of a panel discussion Tuesday, moderated by Compass Colorado’s Kelly Maher and me, on local news coverage of the 2014 election.

Here are three of Hutchins’ eight highlights:

Bored on the Bus

KDVR’s Eli Stokols on covering the modern professional campaign:

“Unfortunately there were very few days where I sat there and I said, ‘Absolutely have to shoot this today,’ because it was so rare that these candidates were actually available, putting out public schedules, doing public events… I rode on the Udall bus, I went up to Fort Collins and Greeley a couple times to find Cory [Gardner] when he was speaking to Republicans there, and you know, you would get the same rehearsed, trite lines from all of them. And when you sat them down in an interview you got the same rehearsed, trite lines from both. And so maybe it is incumbent on us to be better, to push them out of their comfort zone a little bit … I think that’s the tough part of the modern campaign. Campaigns with money are so not reliant anymore on mainstream media to get their message out, especially in a market like this [in Colorado] where there is not such a critical mass of media.”

The Denver Post didn’t want to cover ‘scripted theater’

Post politics editor [Chuck] Plunkett said his paper didn’t want to fall into the trap of covering what he called the “scripted theater” of the campaigns. So in the early spring, he said, he gathered staff for multiple substantive discussions about issues they wanted to address this election season, so they weren’t just “having to chase the Twitter around, having to chase the horse race around.” Some of the issues they decided to focus on were immigration, the ground game, and money, and how candidates evolved on issues. Also, for the first time, the paper held its own recorded debates in its auditorium instead of partnering with a TV station….

Didn’t approve this ad

CBS4’s [Shaun Boyd] provided some levity when she spoke of how she’d recoiled at seeing her on-air reporting appear in a political ad on TV. To her dismay, her station ran the ad on its airwaves. But, she said, other TV stations in Denver didn’t air it because they didn’t want to highlight the reporting of a competitor.

In his post, Hutchins discusses the journalists’ frustration with the scripted answers from the candidates. Riccardi, in particular, talked about how closely the professional candidates stay on their talking points, and he said he hoped to walk away from the campaign trail more often in the future and write about the election from an outside-the-box perspective.

That’s a good idea, but I thought local journalists could have at least tried to break the campaign script more often during the last election on many issues. And even if they didn’t break it completely, they could have spotlighted candidates’ manipulative or repetitive talking points more clearly for voters, like Eli Stokols did in his interview with Senator-elect Cory Gardner.

This would have required more aggressive follow-up questioning by journalists, and it could have been done at more of the public events where reporters questioned the candidates.

The frustration of the journalists on the panel Tuesday was mostly not evident at the candidate debates and interviews, where journalists, with some important exceptions here and elsewhere, took a passive role, without much follow-up.

Here’s part of Tuesday’s discussion about how to address the talking points.

PLUNKETT: We do break the script. A good journalist can get people to talk about more than sometimes we give them credit for. I think when you start to think about the election in general, you remember all those scripted moments, and you’re frustrated by it. It’s annoying. You wish people would just answer the question. And that creates a very human reaction in you, and you react to it, in a hostile kind of way. But I do think, if you think back, there were tons of stories written by lots of people on the campaign trail, and we did get into issues. We did look at important moments.

STOKOLS: I think as a journalist you have to draw out and just explain to people when somebody’s not answering the question, sometimes. Whether you show that in a TV format or in a print format, you just say, you know, “…has refused to answer this question repeatedly throughout the campaign,” or, whatever it is. I think that should be revealing to people, you know, like Chuck said. Sometimes, there’s not a lot more you can do.

Durango Herald’s Peter MARCUS: Yeah, I agree. And I also agree that it is tougher in print. I mean, when I was pushing Cory Gardner on, you know, what the difference is between the state Personhood initiative and the federal bill, you know, it’s weird to write that into the story. It’s like, “The Durango Herald pushed Gardner on…” You know, and how many times can you write that? And are people even understanding what’s going on in the exchange, that you’re on the phone, or conducting your interview in person, we’re just asking the same question over and over in different ways? It gets hard to write it into a story. But more importantly, you can’t make them break the script. I STOKOLS: Well, you know, we have to be a little analytical. I mean, we can’t just sit there. we’re not stenographers.


STOKOLS: So, you know, when you sit there on a campaign bus, and Mark Udall and Michael Bennet are sitting there, and the national reporters are asking, you know, like, “President Obama, he’s not here. Is he killing you?” And they’re like, “Oh, no! It’s fine!” Whatever. And then, you know, they go on background, and they’re like, “Jesus! The President is killing us!”

MARCUS: Right! What do you do? Yeah, what do you do?

STOKOLS: It doesn’t take a lot of analysis to understand, one, what the reality is, and two, why they can’t explicitly say that, or admit that, doesn’t mean we can’t write it, and explain that to the reader or the viewer, that, look, this is a fundamental reality of this campaign, whether it is admitted to or not admitted to, you know, by the candidate.

MARCUS: Yeah, you may not get them to break the script. You can write it in, because of what people tell you on background and everything. But you’re not going to quote them on it,

RICCARDI: Yeah, I totally agree. If you’re just waiting on these guys to tell you something, the yield-to-effort is minimal.

Asked why more of gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez’s extreme comments were not covered, some of the journalists on Tuesday’s panel explained that it’s difficult to address an issue if the campaign isn’t focusing on it.

RICCARDI: I also think this is a great example of how campaigns define a lot of what you end up covering. Hickenlooper ran a positive campaign. Hickenlooper did not put these past statements of Beauprez in the public light repeatedly, therefore there were other things that reporters had to focus on with their limited time. Look at how much ink we spilled over Gardner on two measures that will probably never become law. Right? And that’s a direct reflection of the fact that the Udall campaign and their allies put a lot of time, attention to creating points behind those issues. And I think you’re seeing the opposite of it in terms of what happened on the governor’s side. Hickenlooper did not want to make that an issue, and guess what, it didn’t become a big issue. I agree with Chuck, it’s a balancing act [on how much coverage old candidate statements should get]. There’s no—there’s no clean formula for anything in this business. But I also think this is a great example of how a lot of our coverage reflects the choices being by campaigns, for better or for worse.

STOKOLS: Yeah, the governor’s race was about the Governor because the Governor made it that way. I mean, he didn’t come out and do a lot of campaign events, but when he went to the sheriffs, and Kelly’s folks got that on video, that was a huge pivot in the campaign. And there were other things that he did —the comments to CNN earlier in the year, in answering a hypothetical question. There were mistakes that he made that we were sort of forced to cover. Whereas, some of these [Beauprez] statements, they matter on some level, but they have a shelf life. And so, when, you know, you’re running ads based on a 2006 statement, it does seem harder sometimes to rationalize going back and covering this, just because you’ve got a, you know, a 527 or somebody calling you and saying, “Hey, you know, did you see these statements? You should cover these. You should do a story.” Sometimes, you need more than that to be pushed off the ledge, especially when you look around and your colleagues aren’t doing it. It’s not like we all run around in packs, but when you’re going to go out and do a story yourself, and you’re going to be first, and you’re going to rationalize something that is just really aimed at putting another campaign or a candidate on the defensive, you have to be pretty careful about that, I think, in terms of, you know, have we covered this before, right? I don’t know what the exact formula is but–

MARCUS: There is no formula, but I think, for me, a component is also gauging, you know, interest, from outside groups, from the public…You know, at the beginning of the campaigns, a lot of the outside groups were really trying to push these 2006 talking points and comments and things like that. And you could just see, it wasn’t gaining traction — forget in the media, it wasn’t gaining traction on twitter — it wasn’t gaining traction. And it wasn’t because, I’m pretty sure, that these outside groups—and I know some of you are in the room, so I’m sorry — but, you didn’t have that much. The fact that you were going back to 2006, back to 2008 shows that it was—it was all you had. And it wasn’t gaining traction, not because we weren’t covering it—perhaps maybe possibly a little bit, but it really had to do with people’s interests. I didn’t see these statements coming back up. I think the closest we got was “Both Ways Bob” came back for a short minute, there. But, I was just looking around. I wasn’t seeing it gaining traction. It seemed like people were looking to move on, find out what this election was about, and I think that plays into how much attention it gets with the media, as well.

The event, which was sponsored by the University of Colorado Denver’s School of Public Affairs, Compass Colorado, and, was attended by political operatives and others from both sides of the political divide. There were about 40 people in the audience.

It’s the media’s fault! Or is it?

Saturday, November 8th, 2014

It’s easy to complain about journalism among friends. But what do you get out of it? Echoes.

Here’s a chance to talk back to the media directly. On Tuesday, a panel of top local journalists will discuss the highs and lows of media coverage of the 2014 election—and take questions from the audience.

The panel features Shaun Boyd, Political Specialist, CBS4, Peter Marcus, Denver Correspondent, Durango Herald, Chuck Plunkett, Politics Editor, The Denver Post, Nicholas Riccardi, Western Political Reporter, Associated Press, and Eli Stokols, Political Reporter, Fox 31 Denver.

Any question about local news coverage of the election is fair game. Why so few stories about Bob Beauprez’s wild birther ideas? Were John Hickenlooper’s gaffes underplayed? Did reporters allow senatorial candidate Cory Gardner to bury his Tea Party past? What about Benghazi, ISIS, and Obama?

The panel will cover the spectrum of opinions in part because moderators come from the left and right on the political spectrum: Kelly Maher is director of the conservative Compass Colorado, and yours truly is a progressive blogger.

The event takes place Tuesday, Nov. 11, from 7:30-9 a.m. at 1380 Lawrence Street in the 2nd-floor Terrace Room.

It’s free, and even includes coffee and continental breakfast. Doors open at 7:30 a.m. and the discussion runs from 7:45 – 9 a.m. Please RSVP to tips You can also email questions, if you don’t want to ask them yourself.

Paul Teske, Dean of University of Colorado Denver’s School of Public Affairs, will offer introductory remarks. The University of Colorado’s School of Public Affairs is sponsoring the event, along with and Compass Colorado.

Best Local Journalism of the 2014 Election Season

Friday, October 31st, 2014

Here’s my list of top election-season journalism by local reporters:

Fox 31 Denver’s Eli Stokols didn’t take Cory Gardner’s falsehood for an answer on personhood. And, and in the same five-star interview, he tried harder than any other journalist to get a straight answer from Gardner on the details of his health insurance plan.

Only the Colorado Independent’s Susan Greene offered a comprehensive look (with Mike Keefe cartoon) at the extreme right-wing comments of gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez. See Bob Beauprez’s Last Eight Years: Conservatism at its Extremes.

The Associated Press’ Nick Riccardi explains why senatorial candidate Cory Gardner says he favors immigration reform. And he points out that that Gardner’s actual support for reform proposals is limited and illusive.

Corey Hutchins, who writes for a variety of outlets, broke the shocking story on Medium about Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs) urging a military revolt against Obama. (Reminder: Our country is at war.)

9News’ Brandon Rittiman was the first local journalist to press senatorial candidate Cory Gardner on the hypocrisy of his withdrawing support for state personhood measures but remaining a co-sponsor of a federal personhood bill. Other journalists, besides Stokols and Rittiman, deserve credit for challenging Gardner on this: 9News’ Kyle ClarkThe Grand Junction Sentinel’s Charles Ashby, The Denver Post’s Lynn Bartels, and The Durango Herald’s Peter Marcus.

Stokols wrote the definitive piece on Rocky Mountain Gun Owners toxic impact on Colorado Republican Party’s election prospects. See The New Front in Dudley Brown’s War: Jefferson County.

Colorado Community Media’s Vic Vela provided the first comprehensive look at the Republican turmoil in all-powerful Jefferson County. See Jeffco Limps Forward in Races.

The Denver Post’s John Frank wrote an insightful piece on the potential impact on the election of the school-board protests in Jefferson County.

They err themselves, but local TV news fact checkers Shaun Boyd (CBS4), Brandon Rittiman (9News), and sometimes Eli Stokols make a huge contribution to rational electoral debate with their Reality Check, Truth Test, and Fact or Fiction pieces.

Freelance journalist Sandra Fish filled a media gap with detailed reports on election-ad spending, mostly written for Colorado Public Radio (e.g., here and here).

The Associated Press’ Kristen Wyatt was quick to expose Gardner’s hollow claim of being a leader of Colorado’s new energy economy. See Senate candidate in Colo. touts a failed measure.

The Denver Post’s Mark Matthews wrote intelligently about how the outcome of the Coffman-Romanoff race, in district whose demographics reflect America’s, could portend how well the GOP does in 2016. See GOP incumbent in Colorado 6th CD in a Race with Implications for 2016.

The Denver Post’s Lynn Bartels told the story of how the grand fracking compromise was reached, with its implications for the upcoming election. See Let’s Make a Deal: How Colorado Came to a Fracking Compromise.

Finally, and I’m a progressive media critic being completely objective here, the Colorado Independent‘s Mike Littwin has been brilliant over the past few months, writing with humor and insight that you can’t help but appreciate, even if you love the people he lampoons or shreds.

All in all, at a time when everyone complains about the demise of local journalism, we saw some great stuff. Of course, there were epic lapses, but I’ll get into those later, or perhaps at our (bipartisan) Nov. 11 panel discussion on media coverage of the 2014 election.

Colorado Bishops declare “neutral stance” on personhood amendment. But how neutral?

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

Colorado’s Catholic Bishops, speaking through the Colorado Catholic Conference, announced their “neutral stance” last week on Colorado’s latest personhood measure, Amendment 67.

The Bishops’ announcement came in a news release denouncing an anti-personhood media campaign by Catholics for Choice, a national organization that challenges the “Vatican on matters related to sex, marriage, family life and motherhood.”

A spokeswoman for Catholics for Choice points to tacit support by Colorado Bishops for Amendment 67, despite their professed neutrality on the measure, by allowing congregations to organize in support of it. You can find more details on a post of mine today on RH Reality Check.

You wonder what the bishops are thinking and how they justify it. And a trip back four years sheds some light on the matter.

The bishops’ statement of neutrality this year doesn’t get into the details, but back in 2008, when the personhood initiative first appeared in Colorado, they articulated their belief that a personhood amendment, if successful, could undermine the church’s goal of bestowing legal rights on zygotes or fertilized eggs.

The 2008 statement by Colorado Bishops Charles J. Chaput, Arthur N. Tafoya, Michael J. Sheridan, argues that a state personhood amendment is the wrong tactic to achieve personhood, because the federal courts could use it to affirm Roe v. Wade:

We admire the goals of this year’s effort to end abortion, and we remain committed to defending all human life from conception to natural death. As we have said from the start, however, we do not believe that this year’s Colorado Personhood Amendment is the best means to pursue an end to abortion in 2008…

Constructive alternatives to reduce abortions and advance the ultimate objective of ending abortion, however, do exist at the state level.

In the last two years, state level legislative strategies to protect life have included: increased penalties for attacks on pregnant women which result in the death of the unborn child; informed consent and ultrasound legislation which would have required a woman to be notified of her right to receive an ultrasound before an abortion was performed; and a complete abortion ban.

The Catholic Church in Colorado has a long and active history of working, through state legislative efforts and other community initiatives, to protect life from conception to natural death. We will continue through every realistic means to work toward this end. [BigMedia emphasis]

Maybe that’s why Gardner opposes personhood at the state level but supports in in Washington. He thinks it’s a more realistic way to ban abortion and common forms of birth control. That’s speculation, but with Gardner apparently lying about personhood, what else can you do?

After all, like Beauprez, Gardner has said his position is the “same” as Archbishop Chaput’s.