Archive for the '9News' Category

Misleading attack ad spotlights facts about Obamacare, thanks to TV fact checker

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

UPDATE 3-21-14: Journalists at Politifact.com also evaluated this anti-Obamcare/anti-Udall ad and declared it “false.”
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Sometimes a misleading political ad has the unintended consequence of creating a backlash of truthful information that runs counter to unsupported claims in the ad.

That’s what’s resulted from the Americans for Prosperity advertisement claiming that “millions of people have lost their health insurance” thanks to Obamacare.

In a fact check of the ad last night, 9News political reporter Brandon Rittiman pointed out that “it’s true that millions of people with individual coverage got cancellation notices because their old plans didn’t meet the standards of Obamacare…. But getting one of these notices is not the same thing as losing insurance.” [BigMedia emphasis]

Rittiman explained:

By federal law, when they cancel a plan, insurance companies have to offer you an alternate plan if they want to stay in business.

Of course, some of those alternate plans were more expensive and that caused trouble for people.

But this ad is trying to make you believe that all those people just became uninsured, which is just not the case. [BigMedia emphasis]

It’s so “not-the-case” that reporters should set the record straight, in day-to-day reporting, when Obamacare opponents claim that Coloradans lost their insurance thanks to the Affordable Care Act—or had it canceled.

Some journalists are already doing this, as you can see in Denver Post and Fox 31 coverage of the Americans for Prosperity ad, where reporters pointed out that renewals were offered to the vast majority of people whose policies were canceled, and new policies were offered to all. I confirmed these facts in a previous blog post.

But I like Rittiman’s simple statement that getting a cancellation notice did not mean you lost your insurance.

Thanks to Americans for Prosperity’s heavy-handed attack ad, and the corrections by journalists, maybe this simple fact will stick.

A more complicated fact that the AFP ad unwittingly clarifies is, as Rittiman put it, under Obamacare “people are by and large getting more in their [health insurance] plans, not less.”

The AFP ad claims the opposite, that “millions are paying more and getting less.”

But Rittiman’s fact check points out:

Even opponents of the law argue that point, saying people may not want their plans to have all the new mandatory features: like getting rid of lifetime caps, covering prescription drugs, and preventive care.

What’s true is that people are paying more.

Overall, healthcare costs are still going up for people year over year, though less quickly. It’s also worth noting that some people are paying less, because of subsidies in the healthcare law.

It looks like one of the best ways Obamacare supporters can get the truth out about the healthcare law is for AFP to air an ad for reporters to fact check. (If only the fact-check story was promoted with a million dollars of advertising time, like the AFP ad was.)

Reduced Staff of Political Reporters at Denver Post Reflects Decline in Colorado Journalism

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

You hear complaints about The Denver Post’s reduced coverage of politics, but the newspaper still has more political reporters than any other news outlet in Colorado. And it’s still the state’s leading source of political news.

So, to show what’s happened to political journalism in Colorado recently, I thought I’d compare the number of Post reporters covering elections and the legislature today to the numbers in recent decades.

The most shocking comparison is the Post’s staffing today versus 2010, when Colorado had senatorial and gubernatorial elections, like we do this year. This November, like 2010, Colorado also has state-wide races for state treasurer and secretary of state, plus state legislative elections and one of the most competitive congressional races in the country.

Just four years ago, The Post had double the number political reporters dedicated to elections and the state legislative session (four versus eight). The newspaper had about eleven in 1960s, 1970s, and mid-1980s.

“I would like to have more resources at my disposal when it comes to covering politics in swing state Colorado in an election year while the legislature is in session,” Denver Post Politics Editor Chuck Plunkett told me via email. “Presently I’m asking Kurtis [Lee] and Lynn [Bartels] to do double duty. Lynn’s tracking the governor’s race while Kurtis tracks the Senate race. For the much-anticipated 6th DC contest, Carlos Illescas, recently assigned to focus on Aurora, is following Coffman and Joey Bunch is following Romanoff. Joey also does a mix of other stories. Obviously, on the national races we lean on Allison Sherry to help out from Washington. [Note: Since I corresponded with Plunkett, Sherry has announced her departure.]

“This is our present configuration. As the races heat up, that configuration could change. Change, of course, has never been a stranger to newsrooms. Being adaptable is what we’ve always been about.”

Curtis Hubbard, who was The Post’s Politics editor in 2010, described the political reporting staff he oversaw.

“Best guess is that, at a similar moment in time [in 2010], I had at least 8 reporters available to cover the statehouse and state and federal elections (though that number increased the closer we got to Election Day),” Hubbard emailed.

“During the primary phase, Karen Crummy covered the governor’s race; Michael Booth and Allison Sherry were pulled from other jobs in the newsroom to cover the U.S. Senate race; Michael Riley covered the delegation and congressional races from our D.C. bureau; Lynn Bartels, Tim Hoover and Jessica Fender covered statehouse races, the state treasurer’s race and congressional races; and John Ingold covered the Attorney General’s race, the Secretary of State’s race and general issues pertaining to elections and turnout.

“In my time there, The Post’s leadership team always understood the important role the publication played in informing voters on the issues and never shied away from adding reporters to the politics team as warranted. Additionally, The Post continually sought out ways to help bring understanding of the issues to voters, whether that was through launching online Voter Guides, which proved to be among the most popular online offerings each election season, or on-camera interviews with candidates.

“Despite the ongoing ‘right-sizing’ that has depleted the ranks of reporters and editors at The Post in recent years, the organization continues to dedicate more people to politics than any other news outlet in the state.“

During the 1960s and 1970s, when former Denver Post reporter Fred Brown started covering the Colorado Legislature, the newspaper assigned six reporters to election campaigns, plus five to the legislature, according to Brown. Brown wrote that the numbers were slightly reduced in the mid-1980s, when he returned to the beat.

The Denver Post used to assign about half a dozen reporters, or more, to election campaigns,” Brown told me via email. “Senatorial and gubernatorial campaigns had a total of four: One for each major party’s candidate. The congressional candidates usually were covered by suburban or regional reporters. Sometimes suburban reporters covered more than one congressional district, but they always covered both major-party candidates. Other state offices, and the legislative races, typically were covered by the chief political writer (me or others who had that role before and after).

“The dwindling staffing of election coverage reflects what happened to legislative coverage. The first dozen or so years I was part of the legislative team, there were five reporters and one photographer regularly assigned to the session. Leonard Larsen, Tom Gavin and Charles Roos joined me (the regular statehouse reporter) and one other general assignment reporter (assigned ad hoc) on the legislative team during the session. Duane Howell’s full-time assignment as a photographer was to cover the legislature when it was in session.”

Although they’re a useful measure and symbol of the decline of Colorado journalism, The Post’s staffing numbers don’t tell the whole story, which is obviously much more complicated.

So-called “computer-assisted reporting” allows reporters to be more efficient in many ways than they used to be.

And the experience and skill of individual reporters can make a huge difference. One good political reporter, whether at The Post or a regional newspaper, radio station, or other competitor (some of which have good political journalists on staff), can do the work of many lesser journalists.

Also, the long competition between the Rocky Mountain News and The Post affected staff levels at the newspapers and the quality of Colorado political journalism until the Rocky closed in 2009. In an email, former Rocky Editor John Temple described, in broad terms, the Rocky’s approach to coverage in the early/mid 2000s:

“Typically, as I recall, we had a reporter for the House and a reporter for the Senate,” Temple wrote. “I also liked to have a free-floating reporter, but I can’t tell you with any confidence that we did that every session. In addition, Peter Blake spent most of his time at the Capitol. We then would send in beat reporters as required. In other words, we wanted the higher ed reporter to cover education issues and take them out of the Capitol and provide perspective, or the environment reporter. As for political races, typically it is difficult to cover them during the session. But what we did was assign reporters to the different races. So each race or group of races would have someone responsible for it. Typically one of our legislative reporters would be responsible for legislative races, as I recall. Burt Hubbard would cover money and help other reporters with that type of data journalism. Every reporter would be responsible for money in his or her race/races.”

Political reporting on local TV is not filling The Post’s gap. As has been the case for decades, we’re lucky if a Denver TV station has one dedicated political reporter, even though, for example, the stations earned a combined total of $67 million in political advertising dollars in 2012. Only Fox 31’s Eli Stokols offers day-to-day political coverage, like a newspaper reporter, but 9News and CBS4 both have political reporters and contribute quality political journalism.

And new technology allows for the contribution of progressive and conservative journalists. (See the Colorado Independent and the Colorado Observer.) Bloggers and trackers and everyday people with cameras are also part of “journalism” in the state.

I’m not saying that The Post’s staffing levels are the definitive measure of political journalism in Colorado, but they’re a serious indicator of the state’s journalistic health. And so it’s hard to be anything but depressed about the current situation.

For our sake, journalists should fight each other more often

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

Journalists like to think of themselves as good critics, so why are they so timid about criticizing fellow journalists?

“I’d like to see more media criticism in general,” 9News Anchor Kyle Clark emailed me. “I think it can only make journalism more accurate and useful. I think journalists are often in a unique position to offer competing perspectives on the work of other journalists. As long as that criticism is provided in the spirit of getting accurate and complete reporting to the public, I see no issue with it.”

Fox 31 Denver Political reporter Eli Stokols told me via email:

Stokols: “Denver is increasingly a media desert. The only remaining big daily newspaper is hemorrhaging staff. Television stations are going younger and cheaper with each passing contract. As a result, there are more and more mistakes and omissions in stories, less depth and analysis, less stories getting covered on the whole — and there’s hardly anyone out there in a public role doing criticism, keeping score. So, when there’s an important journalistic distinction to be drawn, it often falls on journalists themselves to draw it. And in some cases, I’m willing to do so.”

Denver Post Politics Editor Chuck Plunkett also supports journalists criticizing each other, writing that it’s “responsible” for reporters to be media critics.

So why don’t we see more media criticism by Denver journalists?

Criticism Should Not Be Reserved for Egregious Cases

Stokols wrote that he’d criticize journalists more often if he had more time, but only in “extreme circumstances.”

Time constraints I understand, but why just extreme circumstances? The media is a player in politics, and so it’s obviously part of the basic job description of a political journalists to criticize other journalists, as often as possible, even if the criticism isn’t major.

Thumping the Journalistic Chest Is Good

Clark favors more criticism generally, but worries that “trolling the work of fellow journalists purely for mean-spirited or competitive purposes doesn’t do any good.”

Journalists don’t need to be mean-spirited, I agree, but competitive? Why not? Doesn’t fact-based, professional competition (scoops, investigative reporting, etc.) among journalists benefit everyone?

As Eli Stokols wrote:

“As someone at a station with a brand that doesn’t carry the same heft as ‘The Denver Post’, it’s a bit more important to remind readers/viewers when they’re getting certain stories, or more stories, from FOX31 News at 9 or kdvr.com. We’re not the number one station. We’ve only been on the air 13 years. So we have to fight a little bit harder to build and enhance our unique brand. If I break a story and, two hours later, it starts getting traction after it appears in the Post, I’m not doing my job getting my story into the news pipeline and making sure that readers and other sites linking to it understand who broke it and when. All journalists want to serve the public, but we also want to get credit for our work. This is a business. Our brands are important. It’s not enough to report and write and then post or air a story; now, you’ve got to sell it too.”

Criticize Even If You Think It Might Be Petty

Plunkett worried that “if the criticism became overly personal — one writer picking on a writer for a clunky sentence. for example — my concern is that it would make us look petty.”

I agree with Plunkett — and so did Clark and Stokols. But journalists are too thin-skinned generally, so they should compensate for their natural tendency to think a criticsm is petty or personal when it probably isn’t. In other words, they should err on the side of launching the criticism, even in they think it’s dumb.

Journalists Shouldn’t Let Fear of Making Mistakes Stop Them from Criticizing Others

Stokols wrote: “I try to remember to temper my criticism a bit, knowing that I myself and my newsroom get beat on plenty of stories and make our share of mistakes.”

If a journalist sees an opportunity for criticism, and it’s in the public interest to point it out, she should. It’s irrelevant that she might make the same mistake some day. If the criticism is deserved, and there’s time to articulate it, it should be delivered.

Journalists Should Side with Factual Commenters

This is big frustration of mine, as a progressive. Why don’t more journalists intervene, as in take sides, when another journalist is fighting a reader/advocate/partisan about whether a story is accurate? (See Twitter)

If a journalist is debating a reader about a fact, let’s hear from other journalists. If that’s not in the public interest, what is? Not just on Twitter, but also in comment boards.

Plunkett said journalists should side with fellow journalists or reasonable commenters, adding:

“I try to respond to credible criticism that strikes me as offered in good faith, whether the post comes from a transparent or opaque account. Doing so should build accountability and good will within the politics community. If the poster is a known belligerent or appears destined to become one, I tend to avoid response.”

Media Criticism by Journalists Can Make A Difference

Clark wrote: “Constructive media criticism via Twitter is hugely useful because it allows us to identify weak spots or errors in stories, often before they go out via our largest distribution platforms. Accuracy is the goal and constructive media criticism is essential to getting the story right.”

This makes sense to me, especially with the rise of Twitter, because what better way to stop the messengers from spreading bad information than calling the messengers out while it’s still gestating on Twitter?

Stokols is less optimistic: “When there are no consequences for ripping off other people’s work without citation, no consequences for failing to cover a major story or doing so poorly, lackluster journalism is likely to persist — especially when outlets with stronger “brands” seem to maintain some bottom-line dominance regardless of what they’re putting in print, online or on the air. And unfortunately, a sharp-tongued tweet or blog post probably isn’t going to do much to reverse that trend or wake people up. Put another way, it’s unlikely that sort of criticism will ever reach the critical mass where it has any serious impact.”

I think public criticism by respected journalists can make a difference, and even more so as social media expands.

If more reporters saw media criticism as part of their daily beat, and more seem to, it might make a difference.

Plus, it makes for good reading — which is another reason journos should do it. They’ll build their audiences.

Channels 4 and 9 should have credited Denver Post for breaking story about GOP bid to host 2016 Republican convention in Denver

Friday, November 15th, 2013

On The Denver Post’s Spot Blog yesterday, I was happy to find political editor Chuck Plunkett being a media critic.

He called out CBS4 and 9News for running stories about the State GOP’s bid to host the 2016 Republican convention in Denver–without crediting The Post for breaking the story earlier in the same day.

Plunkett wrote:

Few journalists can say that they have never failed to mention that a competitor broke a story or broached aspects of a story before they published or broadcast their reports. But it ought to be a journalist’s good-faith rule of thumb that she try to point out when another journalist or newsroom did the hard work of informing the public.

The argument is both an ethical and an economic one.

The Post, like many newsrooms, has faced repeated downsizing in recent years. The livelihood of its journalists depends on the success of our brand.

So when newsrooms with large audiences take our work for their own, we are disenfranchised.

9News responded to Plunkett’s post with a tweet stating that 9News attributes stories to the source that confirms the information. In this case, 9News turned to Colorado GOP Chair Ryan Call, who spoke about the topic on camera.

“Journalists get tipped to a story in a lot of different ways, and it’s our job to go out and confirm it ourselves,” 9News News Director Patti Dennis told me this morning, adding that this is the reality of how the news business works. “We love the guys at The Post, but if we can confirm our own stories, that’s what we’re going to do.”

But Kelly McBride, Ethics Faculty at the Poynter Institute, told me Dennis’ approach conflicts with the journalistic ethic to be transparent, which, she argues, is increasingly important to today’s news consumers.

“The audience is really wondering where all of your [story] ideas come from,” McBride told me. “It’s not just when you get it from a competitor. They want to know, ‘Hey, our beat reporter found this out from a source on the beat.’ Or, ‘We stumbled upon this while perusing public documents.’ Or, ‘This is on the agenda of this politician’s schedule today.’

Why are you choosing to tell us this story now, because the reality is, most stories don’t have a news peg, even though we think they do. This is a classic example. If you’re in the news market, you’re wondering, ‘Why is everybody in my news market suddenly writing about the possiblity that the Republican convention is going to come here. What is the event that caused this to happen? Well, the event was that The Denver Post stumbled upon it.”

It’s ethical to be transparent, McBride said, partly because when you are, the “audience finds the information more helpful and useful.”

Ethics aside, McBride thinks that, especially in today’s news environment, news outlets will lose credibility over time, if they don’t credit news outlets that break information, like Plunkett requested.

“What’s interesting now, because the audience can track where they get their information from, because of time stamps on the internet, people can see the news process much more clearly, the audience is starting to request a little more intellectual honesty from the news providers,” McBride said. “This isn’t a big thing, like, ‘Hey, you stole that story from the newspaper.’ It’s more of a little thing that adds up over time to either add credibility to an organization or undermine credibility.”

And so, over time, if you’re constantly doing that, more and more of your audience members are going to notice it,” said McBride, who just finished editing a book called The New Ethics of Journalism. “And they are going to notice that you get beat on a story, and then miraculously you have the story, and you never acknowledge that someone else turned up the information first, and they’ll start to see you as someone who’s not completely honest about where your ideas come from. And it’s so easy to be honest. You dont’ have to say in your first line of the story, ‘as originally reported in.’ You can acknowledge it half way through the story or at the end of the story

As a blogger, I definitely appreciate it when The Denver Post or 9News or CBS4 gives me credit for information I find. It’s the nice thing to do, especially if you care about saving newspapers and journalism generally–not just about saving yourself (though McBride argues it’s in your own self-interest too).

So I come down on Plunkett’s side on this one, even though, as Dennis point out, it’s not necessarily the way the journaism world works. But it should be.

In trying to defend Coffman, Mike Rosen proves enviros’ claim that Coffman has head in sand on global warming

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

I try not to miss any of the fact-checks of political ads on local TV. But somehow 9News’ Aug. 21 “Truth Test” of an ad attacking Rep. Mike Coffman got by me. It was the ad showing photos of ostriches and claiming that Coffman has his head in the sand about global warming.

9News’ Brandon Rittiman concluded that, even though part of the ad is an “overstatement,” it’s “fair to say” Coffman questions whether “we can do much” about climate change, because he’s “said repeatedly that ‘climate change is naturally occurring’ and it’s still up for debate how much of an impact people are having.”

Rittiman reports:

“Despite saying on his website that he wants to reduce carbon emissions, Coffman does have a solid record of voting against controls for carbon.”

“Bottom line, if you want someone in office who will vote for more control of carbon emissions, Mike Coffman isn’t your guy.”

Rittiman’s analysis of the ad demonstrated basic integrity and attention to detail that was nowhere to be found in the work of Denver Post columnist Mike Rosen, who also critiqued the ad.

Rosen starts his Aug. 11 Denver Post column by writing that the ad, paid for by the League of Conservation Voters, “dishonestly attacked Rep. Mike Coffman,” and “absurdly calls Coffman an anti-science extremist.”

But where are the dishonest attacks on Coffman? Rosen never tells us. Instead, he just writes that “science is never settled,” and, it’s “highly speculative” whether humans are causing global warming.

Rosen doesn’t try to defend Coffman for being the climate-change denier that the ad accurately says he is. Instead, Rosen holds hands with Coffman and questions whether humans are causing climate change. Rosen asserts that the ad falsely claims that “97 percent of scientists agree that climate change is real.”

Rosen: The league charges that Coffman is out of step, claiming “97 percent of scientists agree that climate change is real.” Of course climate change is real. Coffman doesn’t deny that. The Earth’s climate perpetually changes. Ice ages and warm ages predated human existence. Yes, global temperatures have increased since 1800. That was the low point of what’s called the “little ice age.” And the increase was driven by solar radiation, not SUVs. But notice the League of Conservation Voters’ sneaky wording. It didn’t say that 97 percent of scientists agree that “human activity” is a primary cause of global warming, because the survey it cites made no such claim. And the impact of human activity is the key, disputed variable.

Actually, the survey cited in the ad says that 97 percent of scientists do, in fact, agree global warming is “very likely due to human activities.”  They didn’t assert that it’s absolutely positively the primary cause, but “very likely” sounds like agreement to me.

That’s probably why Rittiman also found the ad’s fact that 97% of scientists believe climate change is real “to be true, among climate scientists.”

Rittiman reported:

CLAIM: 97 percent of scientists agree climate change is happening and NASA says it’s worsening extreme weather. VERDICT: TRUE

The ad should have specified that the figure represents agreement specifically among climate scientists, but it is a well documented figure, backed up by reputable research.

You can also find articles from NASA discussing extreme weather as it relates to climate change and worsening fire conditions, too.

It turns out, surprise, Rosen denies climate-change science just like Coffman does.

So, ironically, in trying to defend Coffman, Rosen reinforces the basic facts in the ad, which were affirmed by Rittiman, that scientists agree humans are causing global warming and Coffman doesn’t believe mainstream scientific opinion on the topic.

 

Telemundo Denver anchor gets surprise invitation to interview Obama

Friday, July 19th, 2013

Correction on 7-19-2013: Obama told a Telemundo Dallas reporter that he didn’t want to speculate on whether he’d use his executive powers to stop deportations of undocumented immigrants, if Congress doesn’t pass an immigration reform bill. Obama did not say this to Telemundo Denver reporter Maria Rozman, as reported previously here.

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In a one-on-one interview with Telemundo Denver anchor Maria Rozman about immigration reform, President Barack Obama re-affirmed his commitment to creating a “path to citizenship” for 11 million undocumented immigrants. Obama told Rozman:

“It does not make sense to me, if we’re going to make this once-in-a-generation effort to finally fix the system, to leave the status of 11 million people so unresolved. And certainly for us to have two classes of people in this country, full citizens and people who are assigned to a lower status, I think that’s not who we are as Americans. That’s never been in our tradition.

Rozman was one of four Hispanic journalists from around the country invited to the White House Tuesday for one-on-one interviews with Obama.

Rozman told me she got the invitation “out of the blue”  via a call on her cell phone on Friday evening.

“I said ‘yes’ immediately,” she told me, “without knowing for sure that it wasn’t a prank. I was looking at the time, because I had to be on-air for my newscast. I said, ‘yes, sure thing, can you send me an email.’”

Rozman was on a plane Monday and spent all day Tuesday in the White House for the five-minute interview, briefings, and tours.

Rozman said that the White House didn’t screen her questions for Obama on the immigration issue.

A bipartisan immigration-reform bill cleared the Senate but House Republicans have said it’s dead on arrival.

Rozman told me that she was on the White House lawn when an armed and shirtless intruder prompted a massive security response.

“Police were everywhere,” Rozman said. “I was just hoping it wasn’t one of those movies.”

See the interview here.

9News’ innovative fact-checking partnership with Denver Univeristy should be national model for local TV stations

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

During the last election, Denver’s local NBC affiliate (9News) hired Denver University graduate students to help reporters check the facts in election ads.

“We essentially created three temporary jobs with a set number of hours each week to study as many ads as possible,” 9News Assistant News Director Tim Ryan told me via email. “What we assumed, which turned out to be true, was that we would see an extraordinary number of political commercials in Colorado in 2012 and needed additional staff to keep up.”

Ryan says the additional help allowed 9News to produce 44 ad-check stories during the 2012 election cycle–and it gave the student researchers some real-life job experience.

“Our researchers produced very detailed examinations of each spot, then our permanent reporting staff (Brandon Rittiman, Chris Vanderveen, Matt Flener, Todd Walker) turned that detailed research into television stories,” wrote Ryan.

9News calls its ad-check stories  “Truth Tests,” and they won a Cronkite/Jackson prize and other national praise.

“The reason this was successful is all about volume.  At any point in time, there might be commercials from the Obama campaign, the Romney campaign, interest groups in support or opposition to both candidates, as well as a number of competitive congressional campaigns that also included spots produced by candidate campaigns as well as interest groups.  In other words, there was a tremendous stream of ad content that needed attention, and the only way to do that effectively is hire additional staff.”

Local TV stations should hire more real-life-professional journalists, but short of that, it’s a no brainer to employ graduate students for fact checking, especially in swing states where political ads bring in millions of dollars.

But Ryan doesn’t know of other stations that have done it. “We certainly think it could be a model for other organizations, but newsrooms would have to balance the cost vs. the number of spots requiring study.”

I checked around and it appears that no other station in Colorado–or the country–has tried a similar arrangement.

“I’m not aware of those relationships, but I wouldn’t be shocked if there were some,” said Mark Jurkowitz, Associate Director of the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. “Student journalists are contributing in more robust ways to news. In Boston, investigative journalist students have written for local media. Graduate students are 0ld enough to perform the task, under the assumption they’re properly trained to the point that you are confident they are looking at things the same way.”

Deborah Potter, who’s the Executive Director of NewsLab and writes frequently about the local TV news industry, doesn’t know of any other stations that have hired graduate students to “fact check” political ads.

“I’ve often wondered why more stations don’t partner with colleges and universities in their area on projects that involve research,” Potter emailed me. “As long as student work is supervised by professionals, I don’t see much downside in this kind of arrangement.”

“They were closely supervised and they trained in terms of reliable sources,” Ryan told me. “Their jobs didn’t require source building, or other pieces of journalism that are more difficult. It was database work. And at the end, the experienced political journalist had to decide what to call the ad. Was it true? Exaggerated?”

And if an error slipped through, Ryan said, 9News would hear about it. “As you know, the campaigns watch everything and would take issue with anything they thought was wrong. And we’d respond.”

Ryan expects to hire graduate students again for the 2014 election, but nothing is finalized. Until then, staff reporters will probably check political ads as they air.

I suggested that TV stations that are too stingy (sh0ck) even to hire grad students might partner with a professor and find a graduate seminar class to take on an ad-check project for free. No money!

Ryan said this could be a “definite possibility,” but cautioned that  “management could be a bit more challenging.”

“But if you had the right class, it could work, especially for stations that don’t have the resources,” Ryan told me, adding that his station “partnered” with Denver University to find graduate students this year, working with a DU staff person as a point of contact.

9News’ emphasis on fact-checking political ads began in 1998 as a series called “Spotcheck,” done in conjunction with Denver Post reporter Mark Obmascik, according to Ryan.

“In the 2002 cycle, we continued to work with the Post but called the project ‘Adwatch,’” Ryan wrote. “Adam Schrager began producing them as Truth Tests for the 2004 cycle, which we repeated in 06, 08 and 10 (as well as occasional off-year efforts like Denver mayoral campaigns).

The concept of checking political ads on local TV was apparently pioneered in Denver by Channel 7′s John Ferrugia, in a project called “Truth Meter” ,in the 1990s.

 

9News won’t refer to an individual as an “illegal immigrant”

Monday, April 15th, 2013

During the debut Sunday of its occasional political discussion program, Balance of Power, 9News announced that after  the April 2 decision by the Associated Press to stop using the term “illegal immigrant,” 9News reviewed its use of the term and decided not to use it to describe an individual.

“When referring to individuals, we’ll refer to them as people in this country illegally, or simply, people here illegally,” 9News anchor Kyle Clark announced in a Sunday newscast.

The Denver Post is also reviewing whether to change its style guideline for “illegal immigrant,” in the wake of the AP decision.

9News explained.

The Associated Press recently announced it would confine the use of the word illegal to actions, rather than individuals. 9NEWS decided the AP’s guidelines make sense. Our goal to use language accurately, precisely and fairly.

We’ll continue to use the term illegal immigration to describe the larger issue. When referring to individuals, we’ll refer to them as people in this country illegally, or simply, people here illegally.

We’ll take care to note, when speaking about specific individuals, whether their legal status has been adjudicated by the government. That mirrors our policy of specifying whether someone accused of breaking any criminal or civil law has been found guilty or is simply accused.

“It’s more accurate,” 9News concluded. “And that’s our goal.”

9News did the right thing by putting manipulative banner in context

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

You’re feeling pretty good right now if you were one of the gun-rights activists who paid for the biplane that flew over the Colorado Capitol Monday carrying a banner: “Hick: Do Not Take our Guns.”

Local reporters ate up the banner, and a Google search turns up about 2,000 hits.

One problem: The banner is totally misleading, in the context of what is actually happening below the plane on the ground at the Capitol.

If you own a gun, you won’t lose it under the proposed legislation. And if you’re a law-abiding citizen, the bills won’t affect your ability to buy a gun.

As such, you’d think reporters who cited the banner would have pointed out, hey, its message doesn’t connect with reality in Colorado.

But just one story bothered to say that the banner was a sky-high form of manipulation.

As far as I can tell, only 9News’ political reporter Brandon Rittiman did the right thing and put the banner in context:

A constant drone of honking car horns could be heard from inside the governor’s office, part of a demonstration against the gun control measures. A hired airplane flew over the Capital for hours towing a banner that read, “HICK: DO NOT TAKE OUR GUNS.”

“There’s a plane flying around that’s saying, ‘Hick, don’t take our guns.’ Well, here’s the answer: we’re not taking any guns,” said the governor.

While nobody would have to give up a gun they currently own under the proposals, the protestors still see them as overly restrictive of the second amendment. [bigmedia emphasis]

Other reporters let the banner speak for itself.

Associated Press reporters Ivan Moreno and Kristen Wyatt’s piece, which was picked up widely, including by the Washington Post, described some of the gun bills under consideration, but didn’t refute the implication of the banner:

A biplane flying above the Capitol Monday warned the governor, “HICK: DO NOT TAKE OUR GUNS!” Hickenlooper backs expanded background checks and has said he’s considering a bill to limit ammunition magazines to 15 rounds. He hasn’t indicated where he stands on other measures, including whether he supports a proposal that would hold sellers and owners of assault weapons liable for shootings by such firearms.

The Denver Post’s Lynn Bartels and Kurtis Lee reported:

The biplane flying over the Capitol carried a not-so-subtle message to the Democratic governor: “Hick, don’t take our guns.”

(To be fair, Post coverage described the gun bills in separate articles, but still.)

Television stories by Fox 31’s Kim Posey and 7News Anica Padilla reported the banner and provided no context.

If you’ve made it to this point in this blog post, you might be thinking that this isn’t such a big deal. A manipulative banner. What else is new?

But the response by reporters to the banner is emblematic of how gun-rights activists have managed to push their accusation of a gun-grab into the debate at the Capitol without being called out on it.

The don’t-take-my-gun banner isn’t an outright lie that can be corrected, but reporters should try harder to defend readers from the you’re-going-to-lose-your-gun spin that’s being pushed at the Capitol.

Reporters should question Coffman on abortion for rape and incest like they did Ken Buck

Friday, October 26th, 2012

In a good story today, Associated Press reporter Ivan Moreno, discusses how the personhood amendment isn’t on the Colorado ballot but it’s nonetheless a big part of this year’s election debate. The Associated Press reported:

An anti-abortion proposal to ban the procedure in all circumstances isn’t on Colorado ballots this year — but the divisive measure is still playing a big role in the state’s political campaigns.

The article goes on to report the details, which I’ll get into below, but readers would have benefited from some background on how GOP candidates in Colorado talked about their ties to personhood in 2010. And compared that to what’s happening today.

Two years ago, U.S. Senate candidate Ken Buck decided to un-endorse personhood, but stuck to his position opposing abortion, even in the cases of rape and incest. Other top-line personhood supporters in 2010, like Rep. Cory Gardner and Rep. Mike Coffman, did not back off their positions.

This time, as AP reports, GOP congressional candidate Joe Coors has apparently un-endorsed personhood, and he’s definitely flipped on his position opposing abortion in the case of rape and incest.

But Mike Coffman is following Ken Buck’s path on personhood, distancing himself from the measure itself, but standing firm with key elements of personhood, including opposition to embryonic stem cell research and abortion for rape and incest.

He told The Denver Post in August, with no elaboration, that he’s against all abortion, except to save the mother’s life.

Today’s AP article points out that Coffman is trying to skirt personhood-related questions by saying he’s not focused on abortion rights.

That’s exactly what Buck tried to do, but reporters and other media types, like KHOW’s Craig Silverman, rightfully wouldn’t let him get away with continuing the dodge. They pressed Buck on the issue, forcing him to explain his thinking fully and openly.

And they were right to do so, as women’s issues are of obvious importance to voters.

Recall this exchange with Buck on KHOW’s defunct Caplis and Silverman radio show:

Craig: Let’s say, god forbid, that a 13-year-old boy impregnates his 14-year-old sister and does it by forced rape. You’re saying that the 14-year-old and anybody involved in the abortion should be prosecuted, if they choose to terminate the pregnancy, either through surgical abortion or a morning after pill?

Buck: I think it is wrong, Craig. I think it is morally wrong. And you are taking a very small group of cases and making a point about abortion. We have hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of abortions in this country every year. And the example that you give is a very poignant one but an extremely rare occurrence.

Craig: Incest happens. I’m sure your office prosecutes it. And we know rape and sexual assault happen all the time, and your office prosecutes it. So it’s not completely rare. I agree that most abortions have nothing to do with that. I don’t know if I’d go with rare.

And during a televised debate on CBS4, Gloria Neal asked Buck, “Will you really make a raped woman carry a child to full term?”

Buck said that “we need to stay focused on the issues that voters in this state care about, and those are spending and jobs.”

Neal responded:

“Social issues are important to the voters in this state. I am one of them. So I need you to answer that question, because in addition to votes and jobs and all of that abortion is very important, and when you start talking about rape and incest, that is important to the voters. So, please, answer that question.”

Buck then said:

“I am pro-life, and I don’t believe in the exceptions of rape and incest.”

This is the kind of questioning we need from reporters when Mike Coffman tries to dodge questions about personhood/rape because these issues allegedly aren’t his current focus, though obviously they have been in the past.