Archive for the '9News' Category

Why did Gardner miss his chance to un-endorse fed personhood bill?

Friday, September 19th, 2014

The House of Representatives adjourned at noon today, meaning Colorado senatorial candidate Cory Gardner has officially missed his chance to withdraw his name from the Life at Conception Act, a federal personhood bill, prior to the Nov. election.

To uncosponsor the bill, Gardner would have had to make a statement from the House floor, and now the House is out of session until Nov. 12.

In March, Gardner reversed his longstanding support of state personhood amendments.

But in an endlessly puzzling move, the congressman did not also remove his name from the federal personhood bill, saying instead that the federal bill is a toothless symbol–even though numerous fact checkers, like Factcheck.org, think otherwise.

The mystery of why Gardner thinks the Life at Conception Act is symbolic remains unanswered because, well, Gardner won’t answer it, saying stuff like, “There is no federal personhood bill.”

I guess, if you’re a reporter, all you can do is ask the question again and see if a factual explanation emerges.

Media omission: With House adjourning, Gardner faces last chance to withdraw his name from federal personhood bill

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

It’s a big week for senatorial candidate Cory Gardner, as the clock ticks down on his opportunity to withdraw his co-sponsorship from a federal personhood bill, which aims to ban all abortion, even for rape and incest.

To get his name off the legislation, Gardner is required to make a speech from the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, which is expected to adjourn as early as this week. And it would not meet again prior to the election. So this is Gardner’s last chance.

Fact checkers in Colorado (here and here plus yours truly) and nationally have concluded that the Life at Conception Act, which Gardner cosponsored just last year, is substantive legislation, written and promoted by its sponsors to end a women’s right to choose.

But, inexplicably, both Gardner and his spokespeople, like Owen Loftus,  have told reporters that the bill is symbolic. Most recently, Gardner told 9News’ Brandon Rittiman, “There is no federal personhood bill.” The bill he cosponsored “says life begins at conception,” Gardner told Rittiman. Loftus once said, “The Democrats like to say that it is personhood but it’s not.”

Given these statements by Gardner, who’s challenging pro-choice Democrat Sen. Mark Udall, you wouldn’t expect Gardner to withdraw his name at this point, because he’d have a mouthful of explaining to do–like why he thinks his legislation is symbolic when no one else does.

Reporters should put that question to Gardner regardless of whether he removes his name form the bill in the coming weeks.  Why is he repeating the documented falsehood that the Life at Conception Act is symbolic, given the text of the legislation and the fact checks. With the deadline approaching, now would be a really great time to ask him.

9News Rittiman does journalism proud by asking key questions of both Gardner and Udall

Sunday, September 7th, 2014

9News political reporter Brandon Rittiman got one-on-one interviews with both senatorial candidates last week, and the questions he chose to ask Sen. Mark Udall and his Republican opponent, Rep. Cory Gardner, should earn him the respect of conservatives and progressives.

One of Rittiman’s questions for Gardner has been consistently overlooked by Denver journalists:

Rittiman: How do you square your recent change on personhood at the state level with the bill that you still are on in Congress. The life begins at conception act?

Gardner: Well, there is no federal personhood bill. They’re two different pieces of legislation, two different things.

Rittman followed up by pointing out that other co-sponsors of the bill say it it is federal personhood, and asking, “But it’s still a piece of legislation that says abortion ought to be illegal, no?”

Gardner: No. It says life begins at conception. Look, Sen. Mark Udall is trying to say that it’s something that it’s not.

Rather than letting Gardner’s false statement slide, Rittiman reported:

Rittiman: At the very least, the bill is meant to set up a legal challenge to a woman’s right to choose. [Factcheck.org supports Rittiman's reporting here.]

Rittman also brought up the subject of Gardner’s failed healthcare plan, reporting: “9NEWS asked a few times for Gardner to share the details of his canceled healthcare plan, which he has used as an issue in the campaign.”

Rittiman: You don’t want to discuss the details of your old plan?

Gardner: “Well, look. This is about a promise that Mark Udall made. About being able to choose the health insurance that they liked for their family. Mark Udall didn’t tell people that if you had this policy or that policy you might be able to keep this but not that. Mark Udall promised if you like your plan you could keep your plan. He broke that promise.”

Rittiman should have explained to his audience that details of Gardner’s plan are important because Gardner has ranted about how much more money he had to pay for insurance under Obamacare, which covers pre-existing conditions and preventative care, among other benefits.

If Gardner’s old plan was bare-bones, or if it had a giant deductible that would make it too risky for average voters, then his complaint about the increased cost of his Obamacare insurance starts to smell rotten. As it is, the smell of his answer to Rittiman is pretty bad and deserves more scrutiny by journalists. Why won’t Gardner release details of his old plan?

As for Udall, Rittiman asked the question that comes up most frequently on conservative talk radio:

Rittiman: Frankly, does Colorado deserve for this campaign to be about more than just about abortion?

Udall: My campaign is about contrasts and comparisons. An election is a choice…. It’s my responsibility to bring that to the attention of Colorado voters, and I will continue to do so, but I will also talk about all the other things that I’ve accomplished.

Rittiman followed up twice by asking Udall about fracking, “They didn’t hear you saying specifically where you think the policy on oil and gas should go. Do you think that local governments ought to have the power to full on regulate it, or is it just about giving them meaningful input?”

Udall: Look, I’m gonna let governments speak from their point of view, but I think there’s a sweet spot there. You definitely want meaningful involvement, you want meaningful input. And again, there may be places where the local community decides that the use of that land is better directed at a park or a wildlife refuge or subdivisions, versus drilling for natural gas. I think there’s broad support for that, including in the industry.

Rittiman reported that Udall “opposed the now-dead ballot questions to restrict oil and gas operations, but still gets support from the environmental lobby.”

Why do Beauprez and Gardner support personhood at the federal but not the state level?

Monday, June 30th, 2014

On 9News’ “Balance of Power” show Saturday, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez confirmed his continued support for a federal personhood law but said he doesn’t support a state personhood amendment.

In so doing, Beauprez aligned himself with U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner, who’s withdrawn his support for a personhood amendment in Colorado but is still a co-sponsor of federal personhood legislation.

The simple question reporters should ask both these candidates is, “What’s the difference?” The simple fact is, there is no difference.

If either were passed, the impact in Colorado would be identical: a total ban on abortion, even in cases of rape and incest, as well as an end to the legal sale of some forms of contraception. That’s what happens, among other things, when you give fertilized eggs (otherwise known as zygotes) legal rights.

But this fact didn’t stop Beauprez from telling 9News’ Political Reporter Brandon Rittiman Saturday that “we have to draw the line” at a state personhood “amendment.”

Rittiman: Early on in the primary, Democrats pushed back on you for supporting, while you were in Congress, a federal version of personhood. And you’re admittedly a pro-life guy. How do you reach out to a middle-ground female voter who feels that this is her rights that you’re messing with?

Beauprez: “Well, let’s be very clear. I am a pro-life Catholic. I voted that way. I’ve got a pro-life voting record. I believe that life begins at conception. But I also believe, as does my good friend and my Archbishop, who used to be in Denver, Archbishop Charles Chaput… [who said] a “The personhood amendment, and that’s where we have to draw the line, the personhood amendment might have identified the right issue, but the very wrong solution”

Back in March, Rittiman asked Beauprez if he ever supported personhood, which would ban all abortion in Colorado.

Beauprez: “No. I got a hundred percent pro-life voting record, as you probably know, so I’m very much pro-life. But personhood as my dear friend and my Archbishop Charles Chaput, our previous archbishop here in Denver, said ‘that’s not the way to do it.”

After critics pointed out that Beauprez supported federal personhood legislation in 2005, Rittiman followed up by asking the Beauprez campaign about it. Beauprez’s spokesman told Rittiman that Beauprez stood behind his answer.

As Rittiman reported, “[Beauprez's spokesman Dustin Olson] says [Beauprez's] answer to 9NEWS was meant to convey that he has not supported it at the state level.”

The question left hanging is, why would Beauprez (and Gardner) support personhood at the federal level but oppose it in Colorado when the results here would be the same?

 

 

For context: compromise immigration laws backed by Romanoff in 2006 deflected hard-line anti-immigration initiative backed by Coffman

Friday, May 16th, 2014

Back in 2006, then State Treasurer Mike Coffman stood in font of 200 people on the steps of the state Capitol as they launched a ballot initiative that would have stopped Colorado from providing services to all undocumented immigrants, even children.

Coffman led the group in reciting the pledge of allegiance, and then handed the microphone over to a string of speakers from an organization called Defend Colorado Now, which was organizing the extreme anti-immigrant initiative.

After the rally, Coffman told a reporter from the Longmont Daily Times- Call that he supported Defend Colorado Now’s ballot initiative.

Coffman “said afterward that he supports Defend Colorado Now’s ballot initiative,” reported the Daily Times-Call April 28, 2006.

The history of Defend Colorado Now’s initiative is worth dredging up for reporters, for context, as Republicans step up their attacks on former House Speaker Andrew Romanoff for his role is passing legislation in direct response to the ballot initiative.

If you were around in 2006, you may remember a bipartisan group of lawmakers, including then Gov. Bill Owens and Romanoff, agreed on compromise legislation to stop the hard-line initiative from being placed on the ballot.

A set of 2006 laws, passed during a special session by the Democrat-controlled Legislature and signed by Republican Owens, softened the draconian approach of the Defend Colorado Now initiative, known also as Amendment 55.

The Denver Post reported in July of 2006:

Former Mayor Federico Peña likes the special-session legislation better than the proposed Amendment 55, which would have prohibited undocumented immigrants from receiving state services that are not mandated by federal law.

“It’s far better than the negative consequences of 55,” he said.

The compromise legislation, backed by Romanoff, was more immigrant-friendly than the Defend Colorado Now initiative, supported by Coffman. This fact makes a mockery of GOP attacks on Romanoff for pushing compromise immigration bills, which are credited for keeping Coffman’s hard-line initiative off the ballot. (Amendment 55 was rejected by the CO Supreme Court on a technicality but was expected to be resurrected the following year.)

The Defend Colorado Now initiative, which was also backed by Tom Tancredo, would have denied all non-emergency state services to undocumented children, preventing them, for example, from getting vaccinations.

In contrast to some of the cruelest provisions of the ballot initiative supported by Coffman, Romanoff’s bill (HB-1023), passed during the special session in 2006, protected undocumented kids by allowing people 18-years or younger to receive state services without presenting identification.

Another law (HB-1002) supported by Romanoff specifically allowed state funds to be used for children, regardless of their “immigration status,” to receive preventative care as well as treatment, for communicative diseases, such as HIV and tuberculosis.

The immigration-enforcement laws passed in 2006 were widely considered to be tough, and were described as such both locally and nationally. There were new identification requirements, police reporting procedures, and tax provisions.

Some pro-immigrant groups and lefties like me criticized the new laws. And so did the Tom Tancredos of the world.

But no one would say, then or now, that the laws backed by Romanoff were worse for immigrants than the initiative favored by Coffman would have been.

That’s the context through which reporters should see Republican attacks on Romanoff’s 2006 immigration legislation.

GOP unity against in-state tuition deserved more emphasis in debate coverage

Monday, April 28th, 2014

The Durango Herald got it right Thursday by leading its report on 9News’ gubernatorial debate with the news that “three Republican candidates for governor said they would probably repeal a law passed last year granting in-state tuition to students who immigrated illegally.”

News coverage of the debate among Republican gubernatorial candidates, minus no-show Tom Tancredo, should have put more emphasis on the in-state tuition issue, because all the GOP candidates came out against in-state tuition.

No one wavered much, and no one thinks Tancredo will do so, meaning the GOP gubernatorial field is unified on an issue on which Republicans must “improve” or “die,” according to GOP guru-pundits Josh Penry and Rob Witwer, writing in The Denver Post just after the last GOP bloodbath:

Penry and Witwer: We’ve forgotten that politics is a game of addition, not subtraction. And here’s some more math: 50,000 Latino kids turn 18 every month in this country. These kids grow up in households where parents work hard and attend church on Sunday. These are American values. But yes, some of these kids — through no fault of their own — were not born American citizens.

We’ve seen the arc of the immigration debate, and through our own personal experiences, we’ve also seen that it must now be resolved at all costs. This is a human issue, with moral (and biblical) implications. It’s time to bury the hatchet and forge bipartisan agreement on immigration reform.

Here’s the 9News’ exchange in the “lightening round” clip:

9News Political reporter Brandon Rittiman: Would you sign a bill repealing in-state tuition for college students in the country illegally?

Bob Beauprez: Yes.

Rittiman: That was a yes.

Mike Kopp: I would. I’ve, In fact, led the Senate effort against that the first time it went through.

Scott Gessler: Probably yes. Of course, you want to look at them. But probably yes.

 

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.”
—–

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.