Archive for the 'Blogs' Category

Post should stop rewarding the bad blog behavior of Complete Colorado

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

Bloggers like me see it as big win if a serious journalistic entity like The Denver Post credits them for breaking a news story.

People read about your blog in the newspaper, and your audience might increase from three to five.

But the best part is the credibility. Most bloggers still flail on the margins of the media world, hoping more people will take them seriously.

Even bloggers who don’t like The Post have to admit it represents the finest Colorado has to offer, journalism-wise.

So when The Post acknowledges a scoop by your blog, you just gained some standing in the journalism world, making your blog a little harder to ignore, even by reporters who hate bloggers.

So the blog Complete Colorado, a project of the right-leaning Independence Institute, is probably feeling pretty good right about now.

It’s been mentioned by The Post as the “first” to make public the evidence allegedly showing that Denver mayor-elect Michael Hancock was a client of a local prostitution ring.

Post reporters didn’t say Complete Colorado broke a news story.

But Post reporters have repeatedly referred to Complete Colorado as putting the story in motion, even if words like “broke the news” were not used.

To my way of thinking, this amounts to crediting Complete Colorado for breaking the Hancock news story even though The Post doesn’t consider the allegations published by Complete Colorado as a legitimate news story.

In fact, after Complete Colorado published the allegations, Post Publisher Dean Singleton said that no “reputable” news organization would touch the story. It didn’t pass muster as news story because the facts were not verified and the sources not adequate, Singleton said on the Caplis and Silverman show, where Post reporter Chuck Plunkett made similar comments.

It didn’t rise to the level of a legitimate news story, in The Post’s eyes, until later, when Hancock allegedly reneged on a promise to turn over cell phone records to The Post, according to an op-ed by Post Editor Greg Moore, who wrote that the campaign was “stonewalling.”

That’s when the Hancock story was deemed news, as Moore explained in his op-ed on Sunday.

So Complete Colorado deserves credit for nothing in this case, except irresponsibly spreading unsubstantiated anonymous rumors. Nothing resembling journalistic triumph for Complete Colorado.

In an email to me, Post Editor More wrote that his reporters didn’t credit Complete Colorado, but instead cited its action as “a fact in the narrative timeline.”

More wrote me:

As you noted in your email, The Denver Post has not described what Complete Colorado did as “breaking” a story. We simply described the fact that it posted the documents purporting to contain Hancock’s name and that represents nothing more for us than a fact in the narrative timeline.

He’s right.

But here’s an example showing how Complete Colorado was included in a front-page Post news story.

Nine days ago, as those records from Denver Players were first made public by the blog Complete Colorado, Hancock vigorously denied any association with the service. His campaign pledged to The Denver Post and 9News that it would produce cellphone records showing no calls to or from the service, and bank records that would show whether he made cash withdrawals on or near the dates in question.

You can see why I think most readers would mistakenly believe that The Post, above, is giving Complete Colorado credit for breaking a news story, even though if you read carefully, you see The Post isn’t doing so.

So here’s a proposed solution:

Going forward on this story, if an irresponsible outfit like Complete Colorado must be mentioned for background, The Post and other Denver outlets should state clearly that Complete Colorado published unsubstantiated information, which reputable news outlets would have left in the garbage can, at least until more credible information was found.

Continuing to give de facto credit to Complete Colorado encourages it, and other bloggers, to act irresponsibly in the future.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m really glad The Post is trying to give credit where credit is due to lowly bloggers for breaking news stories.

The Post’s proper acknowledgement of the fine work of bloggers will help journalism and good bloggers survive. But rewarding bad blog behavior, like rumor-mongering, hurts journalism, bloggers, and everyone else.

El Paso GOP passes resolution urging Republican county officers not to criticize elected Republicans

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

The El Paso County Republican Party executive committee passed a measure last night recommending, but not mandating, that party officers refrain from criticizing elected Republicans.

ReclaimTheBlue blogger Al Maurer broke the story that a resolution was introduced by Republican Bob Denny “on behalf of Rep. Amy Stephens” and was “designed to stifle opposition to SB-200.” HB 200, which cleared the Colorado House today by a 44-21 vote, establishes health insurance exchanges and has been opposed by Tea Party organizations, while supported by business organizations.

Denny, who represents HD-20 on the El Paso County Republican Party executive committee, told me today that Stephens asked him to bring it up, but he did not introduce the measure on her behalf.

“It was precipitated by SB 200, but the issue was broader than that,” Denny said. “She was concerned about it, and I introduced the measure in general terms.”

Denny declined to say who helped draft the resolution.

“Not that we don’t have freedom of speech, but as party officers, when you’re talking to the press or sending a mass email or something, you shouldn’t undermine party elected officials,” he said. “Party officers don’t agree with everything all the time, but we should at least be neutral.”

“The purpose of our officers is to get Republicans into office, and not undermine the work of those we sent to Denver,” Denny said, adding that there’s no way a resolution like this could stifle debate on SB-200 or other issues people care about.

Denny said it wasn’t practical for a party officer to broadcast personal opinions, for example to reporters, outside of his or her role as a party officer, because the party officer would inevitably be seen as representing the Republican Party.

“I was in the Air Force,” he said. “When you put a uniform on and you start talking, you were seen a representing the Air Force. You might say, I’m speaking for myself, but the press are going to pick you up as representing the Air Force.”

The resolution, which Denny said was a recommendation to the GOP central committee, passed after amendments were added, among which was changing “shall” to “should,” specifying that no mandate was passed, only guidance to party officers.

Maurer wrote on his blog post, which was titled, “Stifling Debate in the El Paso County GOP:”

In the end, cooler heads prevailed, and the measure passed with amendments that made it clear that county officers should remain neutral but were not absolutely prevented from speaking out. A big thanks is due to those on the committee who, while recognizing the need for civility in discourse and party discipline and unity, also balanced that with concerns for free speech and reasoned, open debate. You can read the measure for yourself, with my handwritten edits, here.

But watch what you write on Facebook, Twitter or your blog–all mentioned specifically in the measure–Big Sis is watching. Clearly name-calling and personal attacks are simply rude and uncalled for, but no one in public office should have a problem with honest disagreements on policy. We’re not Democrats after all.

Why I’m still going to blog for Huffpo, despite “virtual picket line”

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

I’m a volunteer blogger for the Huffington Post.

I’m paid to write elsewhere, but I submit my work to Huffpo for free to push out my writing.

HuffPo relies on volunteers. It has a core staff of about 150 paid journalists, but much of the site’s content comes from volunteers like me, for free.

But some of the volunteers aren’t happy. Last month, a group of them told Arianna Huffington that they want to be paid, or at least talk about being paid.

Their demand came after AOL purchased the Huffington Post for $315 million.

These bloggers called on the rest of HuffPo’s volunteer bloggers to stop submitting their work.

They asked bloggers like me not to cross their “virtual picket line.” In other words, they asked me to stop volunteering.

The virtual picket-line organizers didn’t ask volunteer writers who submit content to other blogs and online publications to stop submitting their writing to those outlets too. Just Huffpo.

But others could have been targeted, like Yourhub.com or even ColoradoPols.com. One way “new media” entities are surviving, whether they make money or not, is to solicit content, like articles, photos, and columns, from you, the public.

Sometimes this work is edited, as it is cursorily on Huffpo, and sometimes it’s not, as you can see on many blogs that happily accept some of the worst and most vitriolic commentaries you can imagine. (A bad combination, I know, but it works for some blogs.)

The question raised by Huffpo strike is, if an online entity makes money, should it share some of that revenue with its volunteer writers?

Well, many volunteers would love to be paid, but you have to think they’re happy to give up their time freely, seeing as how they’re volunteers, as a Huffington Post spokesman pointed out in a response to the strike.  Look at all the volunteers for the United Way, whose staff makes decent money. Or for political campaigns.

In fact, it sounds crazy for volunteers to demand payment and call a strike, especially if the volunteers didn’t first organize their fellow volunteers, take a vote, and then collectively demand wages.

I certainly thought so, after first not knowing what to think.  Then I found out that the virtual picket line at the Huffington Post was endorsed by the Newspaper Guild, the union that represents journalists nationwide. It’s a union I respect a lot.

Why would it support a “strike” like this?

“We think we’re in a critical phase of reinvention in journalism,” Guild President Bernie Lunzer told me. “We want to tackle the question of the value of our work before there’s an assumption that writers take a vow of poverty to do their craft. It really has more to do with a critical moment than anything. That’s really the point of this.”

It’s a desperate time for journalism, as big-city newspapers bleed jobs and revenue, serious news outlets offer more mayhem and fluff, and a model to support journalism on the web has not materialized.

Journalism is dying and few people seem to care. Even fewer are doing anything about it.

So, yes, you can make a case that the Huffington Post, with its influx of AOL money, should hire more journalists and pay more of its contributors.

And you can also make a really good case that Arianna Huffington herself should meet with the organizers of the virtual picket line. That’s one of their central goals. But she has refused, Lunzer told me. Most recently she called a class action lawsuit filed filed by bloggers “frivolous.”  The suit demands a cut of the AOL money.

Huffington’s bunker-style response made me want to join the bloggers and support their cause. I thought about not posting anything for a month as a symbolic show of support for the Newspaper Guild and for paid journalism.

But I couldn’t convince myself that my volunteerism was in fact hurting journalism.

The Huffington Post isn’t the problem. In fact, a hybrid of professional journalists and volunteer writers may be part of the solution. I mean, Huffpo has a staff of professional journalists, and appears to have a bright future, while other for-profit journalistic outfits are in free fall.

Still, it’s true that writers need not only a platform–but cash as well.

I hope Arianna Huffington gets the message. I hope Republicans attacking National Public Radio and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting get the message. I hope anyone who hires a freelance writer gets the message.

A version of this blog post was distributed last week by the OtherWords syndicate.

Follow Jason Salzman on Twitter @BigMediaBlog

Unproductive media criticism at ColoradoPeakPolitics.org

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

I’m hoping ColoradoPeakPolitics succeeds at being an intelligent blog on the right, like ColoradoPols is on the left.

It’s off to a decent start, with writing that keeps you awake, but its recent critique of a blog post of mine displayed media criticism at its worst, long on platitudes and short on specifics.

My post provided evidence that the The Denver Post opinion page is more ideologically balanced now, at least in terms of in-house columnists, with David Harsanyi gone. I counted columns by Post columnists and proved this.

ColoradoPeakPolitics acknowledged my diligent work with an “abacus,” thanks very much, but didn’t refute my numbers. The best it could come up with was an irrelevant statement that more journalists give money to Democrats than the GOP, which is irrelevant because my focus was on opinion columnists who aren’t trying to be fair anyway. (In fact, it also doesn’t matter whom journalists give money to. It’s their writing, their product, that matters, and there’s no study showing news bias at The Denver Post.)

Then ColoradoPeakPolitics wrote that I left out the editorials, which are “overwhelmingly liberal.” That’s funny, because I said they were right-leaning. And Post Editorial Page Editor Dan Haley, in his response to my blog post, defended them as centrist.

I had to acknowledge that I really didn’t know which direction The Post’s editorials lean generally. I wrote I’d do a deeper bean count later, over a defined period of time like maybe six months, to determine if the newspaper’s editorials lean left or right. My view was just an impression, like that of ColoradoPeakPolitics. Impressions make bad media criticism, so I’ll try to get some data on the table that we can all debate in a meaningful way.

I’d suggest to ColoradoPeakPolitics that we do this analysis together but the unfortunate anonymity of ColoradoPeakPolitics precludes this.

ColoradoPeakPolitics went on to say I was using “fuzzy math” but at least I showed my work.

Then it concluded that Haley wasn’t buying my argument that a new Harsanyi was not needed. But what does ColoradoPeakPolitics think of Haley’s comment: “Locally, as of next week, we will have two main op-ed columnists (Carroll/Littwin) who will write 12 columns a month from the right and left. That’s balance.”

Agreed.

So, dear ColoradoPeakPolitics, it’s great to have you around but please, if you’re going to be a media critic, slow down and try to be more specific and focused. Then we can have a productive discussion, like you might find on ColoradoPols.

Budget woes, personal responsibility, and homeless youth

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

Back in February, state Rep. J. Paul Brown (R-Ignacio) took heat from ColoradoPols for standing alone in a 64 to 1 vote against a bill that would, among other things, allow homeless youth shelters to temporarily house children ages 11 to 21. Today, only homeless kids ages 15 to 18 can be defined as “homeless youth” under state law and be served by youth shelters.

On Monday, when the bill returned to the state House from the Senate, where it was approved 34-0, Brown wasn’t as lonely.

Ten of Brown’s colleagues changed their minds and joined him in opposing “Reduce Homeless Youth” bill, which was essentially unchanged from the version that passed 64 to 1 in February–except for the addition of reporting requirements which were unanimously adopted.

What happened?

“I struggled with it a little bit the first time because of that extension of age,” said Rep. Don Beezley, R-Broomfield, who had originally favored the measure but voted against it Monday. “As we look at the budget and as we look at the situation in the country overall, we have to at some point ask ourselves, when are we going to call ourselves adults and hold people accountable and look at their personal responsibility.”

“When are we going to require folks to be adults?” Beezley said. “They vote at 18. They go to war at 18.”

I asked Beezley about the part of the bill that expands the definition of “homeless youth” under Colorado law to include kids ages 11 through 14. Would he have favored the bill if the 18-to-21-year-olds were excluded?

“Yes, potentially, but I’d have to look at it again,” he answered, adding that he had fiscal concerns about the bill too.

“Extend those definitions and you expend more dollars over time,” Beezley said.

That was the primary reason Rep. Brown gave for opposing the bill–and the reason for his solo stand was not reported in February.

“I have a hard time expanding government,” Brown said.

For the 11-to-14-year-olds as well?

“I didn’t have as much of a hard time going in that direction, but I think there are other programs for those kids,” he said, acknowledging that he hadn’t researched it and didn’t know for sure.

It turns out that Brown’s hunch is correct. Social services do, in fact, exist for homeless 11-to-14-year-old kids, even though they can’t currently be defined as homeless.

But the system would work more efficiently and effectively under the Reduce Homeless Youth bill, according to Kippi Clausen, Director of Policy and Population Strategies at Mile High United Way.

The United Way, through its “Bridging the Gap” program, spearheaded efforts to pass the bill, which was actually broadly conceived two years ago by a group of young adults working with the United Way, according to Clausen. The young adults advocated for the bill’s passage by organizing support and writing testimony about their own experiences in foster care or homeless themselves.

To focus the effort, the United Way convened meetings among representatives of state agencies serving homeless youth.

“If you were 11, 12, 13 or 14, and you showed up a homeless shelter, it by law couldn’t serve you,” Clausen said. “That was a big deal because of how dangerous it is for a child to be on the street.”

Shelters could call social services, which could lead to long-term placement in foster care, but experience shows that a temporary solution benefits children who may not ultimately need to be separated from their families, but need help, according to Clausen.

So the bill allows the state to license “host homes,” houses where trained families provide a room for a homeless youth for 21 days to figure out “what’s the best solution for that family and child,” according to Clausen. She adds that the host-home option works well for small communities that don’t have big facilities serving youth.

I asked Clausen about the provision in the bill allowing kids 18-to-21 to be considered “homeless” and remain in foster care.

Why shouldn’t these young people be treated as other adults and fend for themselves?

She said that, under the bill, to remain in foster care between ages 18 and 21, young adults have to be working or enrolled in and educational program or be “medically fragile.”

“Intact families spend an average of $44,500 after the age of 18,” Clausen told me, citing Pew Charitable Trust report, “Time for Reform: Aging Out and on Their Own.

“At the age of 18, many young adults find themselves homeless after leaving foster care, because it’s very hard for 18-year-olds to support themselves on their own. A kid coming out of foster care has no one to go back to.”

I also asked Clausen about the fiscal impact of the bill, which would cost state government nothing, but could possibly cost local governments some money, though such expenditures would be discretionary.

“We do know that some counties were concerned that this would cost a county more money, because if a child shows up at a runaway homeless youth shelter, this would require them to call the department and let them know they have an underage child there – and this might require them to open more cases,” said Clausen.

“I think at the end of the day, if you have a kid out there who needs help, and budget is tight, these are still kids. I can’t imagine being a 14-or-15-year-old and not have a home, and not feel like you can go back to your home. There’s a lot of misunderstanding about what it means to be a homeless youth in the United States.”

The “Reduce Homeless Youth” bill, HB 11-1279, has been sent to the Gov. Hickenlooper, who will decide if it becomes law.

Inability to accept fetus’ legal status stops anti-abortion zealots from protecting fetuses

Monday, March 21st, 2011

Sometimes you want political change soooo much that you refuse to acknowledge the legal status quo, even if admitting to legal reality might help your own cause.

That’s where extreme anti-abortion activists find themselves today with the fetal protection bill, which has been withdrawn by State House Republicans.

The Denver Post did a good job Friday illuminating that Republican lawmakers objected to language in the bill that simply stated the reality for fetuses in Colorado. They are not considered “persons,” despite two failed ballot initiatives and other failed legislative actions. The bill stated that nothing in the bill “shall be construed to confer the status of ‘person’ upon a human embryo, fetus or unborn child at any state of development prior to live birth.”

That’s the reality for fetuses, whether they like it or whether you like it. And that’s what killed the bill, according to The Post.

You might argue, why did the legal status of the fetus need to be spelled out in the bill at all?

Well, because the bill’s purpose was to criminalize hostile acts against the fetus. To do this, to express this bipartisan idea, you have to refer to the fetus as something. You have to use your words!

So lawmakers apparently got together and used words that tried to be sensitive to those who wish fetuses were considered legal persons but also recognized fetal reality in Colorado.

Colorado representatives wrote a fetal-protection bill, with bipartisan support, whose title and language use the words “unborn child,” the term favored by those who support “personhood.”

Ari Armstrong pointed out Friday that the bill’s

-title and language explicitly refers to an “unborn child.” As I’ve argued, this “vague, non-objective” language “obscures the important distinction between a fetus and a born child.” Given that ambiguity, language clarifying that a fetus is not in fact legally a “person” is absolutely essential to the bill.

Now, for a bill with a neutral title, such as “A Bill to Protect Embryos and Fetuses from Criminal and Reckless Harm,” specific language about “personhood” would not be necessary, so long as the bill’s provisions unambiguously refrained from restricting abortions.

But it appears that referencing an “unborn child” for the narrow purpose of protecting a fetus, while acknowledging the fetus’ legal status in Colorado law, was not good enough for the extreme anti-abortion group, and so the bill was killed.

You may despair and think there’s no hope for a bill like this to ever pass due to the inability of one side to recognize the (as they see it) horrible legal reality that confronts them.

But how about moving back to the days before we had written words? This might work for the anti-abortion right!

Diagrams pointing to the thing legally called the fetus could be inserted in the bill wherever the word “fetus” should rightfully appear.

We could respect the fantasy world occupied by the zealots and still protect the fetus, which is the word those of us who abide by the rule of law accept and respect.

Why did the extreme anti-abortion crowd oppose a bill making it a crime to kill an unborn baby?

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

The Spot blog reported yesterday that a bill making it a crime if you kill an unborn child is on life-support after Republicans withdrew their support yesterday.

Why? Democrats quoted in the blog post said state GOP leaders gave in to pressure from anti-abortion extremists.

But the article doesn’t explain why anti-abortion activists would oppose a bill that would put someone behind bars who kills an unborn child through reckless or criminal action.

Ari Armstrong explains on his blog what happened on the right-wing side:

On March 14, the Colorado Catholic Conference sent an action alert via email opposing 1256. This Catholic group offered two main arguments. First, the “bill fails to recognize an unborn child as a separate victim of homicide or assault,” as the bill explicitly states that a fetus is not a person under law. Second:

“The Colorado Catholic Conference also opposes the fact that this bill seeks to repeal the criminal abortion statute that is still on the books in Colorado. The pro-life community looks forward to the day when Roe vs. Wade is overturned, and there is no benefit to the pro-life community to repeal our criminal abortion statute, even if currently it is not enforceable.”

I take it this refers to statutes 18-6-101 through 18-6-105, which bill 1256 would have repealed. Statute 18-6-102 outlaws the ending of a “pregnancy of a woman by any means other than justified medical termination or birth.” The key, then, is what constitutes “justified medical termination,” which 18-6-101 defines. The measure severely restricts abortion to cases of likely death of the woman, “serious permanent impairment of the physical health of the woman” (including mental health), serious fetal deformity, cases where the woman is under sixteen, rape, and incest.

So the Colorado Catholic Conference admits the abortion statute is unenforceable, but that doesn’t stop it from undermining a law that would protect unborn babies, as recognized by enforceable law.

The Colorado Christian Family Alliance explained its opposition to the fetal homicide bill as well:

If passed this bill will virtually undo all of Colorado’s pro-life laws, including parental notification for minors to receive an abortion.

HB 1256 specifically removes the status of “person” for pre-born children and codifies taxpayer funding for abortion mills in spite of article V section 50 of the Colorado State Constitution that forbids any direct or indirect tax payer funding for abortion.

HB 1256 is so anti-life it’s even sponsored in the Senate by the radical leftist senator from Denver, Pat Steadman, formerly a leading lobbyist for Planned Parenthood!

The bill was also sponsored by Republicans Matt Waller (CO Springs) and Laura Bradford (Collbran).

I’ll try to find out if the GOP offered any way forward for the Dems, but it looks like this was a one-sided torpedo by the anti-abortion extremists, for the reasons illuminated above.

As Armstrong later concludes, “So the next time a criminal gets away with killing a woman’s fetus, feel free to blame the anti-abortion crusaders who killed bill 1256.”

Bloggers and legacy media deserve fair credit for stories

Monday, December 13th, 2010

In a public discussion Wed. of media coverage of the 2010 election, The Denver Post’s political editor Curtis Hubbard said if The Post reports on a news story that’s appeared previously in another outlet, the newspaper is committed to giving proper credit to the news outlet that broke the story.

The Post is “trying very hard to give credit where credit is due,” he told the audience of about 50 people. He said that, for his newspaper, this is a “sea change” in culture, but it’s only fair, he said, given that The Post wants credit for its work.

I called State Bill Colorado Editor Don Knox, who previously quoted Post a post editor saying the same thing, to discuss Hubbard’s statement, and he told me Friday that he’s seen “positive signs” at The Post lately.

“What I sense is that everybody is getting a bit better about it,” he told me. “But in the end, there’s no police, so you have to have the integrity to want to attribute.”

That’s the bottom line, and as Knox points out, if reporters do a Google News search prior to starting a story, they can usually determine if their story has been reported previously.

That part is easy, which isn’t meant to imply that reporters or bloggers or others always do it. Or that it always works for various reasons.

But this issue has layers of complicating factors.

When does a news story become sufficiently established as to become a fact of life, free for the taking without requiring a tip of the hat or a wag of the finger to anybody?

Knox says the length of time you continue to give credit for a scoop depends on the circumstances. “If you come in a month later, and write a story about it, and act like you’re breaking it, that’s where you should recognize other people’s entrepreneurial journalism.”

Semi-retired Post columnist Fred Brown, who’s written on journalism ethics for the Society of Professional Journalists, told me that once the “candidates are making a big issue of the story, the originating organization loses ownership of it.”

He also said: “I think one of the ways you make the story part of the accepted history of the campaign [so as to no longer require credit] is to further it. If you turn up a new fact, you credit the originating organization once, but after that, it’s as much your story as theirs because you’ve done reporting.”

What about a reporter who gets a story idea from another publication and then confirms the story independently from the same or a different source?

Knox says this is a “red herring.”

“It doesn’t matter whether I got it from an individual source or a publication, I still acknowledge the publication that had it first,” he said.

I asked Brown what he thought a news outlet should do if it discovers later that it failed to credit the work of a publication that reported on a story first.

He first said he sympathizes with reporters who might miss something due to the large number of news sources out there.

Then he said he’d first have to be convinced that another news organization had the story right. If so, he said, to be fair and credible, he’d write a clarification, possibly for the archive, or mention it in a follow-up story, if there were one.

“It’s not a huge ethical issue,” he said. “It’s more a matter of manners, to go back and give credit to the originating organization.”

Brown goes on to say that the public doesn’t care about who got it first.

And even big scoops can’t do much for newspaper sales these days, when news consumers get the same big news instantly as it spreads across the media.

But scoops are far from meaningless. In fact, they’re really important. They show people that a news organization is doing its job, doing reporting, breaking news.

Giving a news organization proper credit for its work, and abiding by reasonable fair-use policies, displays a basic understanding that journalism isn’t free. Proper credit helps the outfit that dug up the news pay its bills, through its ads that you see when you click through to its website to read more.

The name recognition for getting proper credit also helps. The links help. The respect helps. It adds up, and gives everyone, bloggers and legacy media, a chance to survive based on their own work.

Dean of UCD School of Public Affairs to speak briefly at media panel

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

Paul Teske, Dean of UCD School of Public Affairs, will make short welcoming comments at next week’s panel on “Colorado Journalism and the 2010 Election.”  The event takes place Wed., Dec. 8, at 2 p.m. at the Lawrence Street Center, 1380 Lawrence Street, 2nd floor.

Some have been critical of the panel makeup, pointing out that it lacks “new-media” representation. I agree with this, to a degree. The problem is, if you added someone from the influential new media in Colorado, (among others, ColoradoPols, the Colorado Independent, Face the State, and possibly some elements of the People’s Press Collective), you’d have to have added two people to maintain balance. That would have made the panel too big. And if you removed a couple people, I think the panel would have been less interesting.

Also, “new media” and “old media” are blurred nowadays. The “old media” are doing a much better job of using new-media technology than they used to. 

And finally, at least at this moment in time, the “old media” in Colorado have a much greater impact on elections than all the new media combined. This isn’t as true at the national level, but that’s how I see it here in Colorado. I’m not saying CO new media didn’t have an impact on the 2010 elections. They did, but “traditional media” still rule here.

Video cameras playing journalists’ role on campaign trail

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

At a campaign stop in 2006, the former Senator (R-VA) was repeatedly referring to a young man of Indian descent–who was volunteering for Allen’s rival Jim Webb–as “macaca.” Webb won. Allen’s videotaped “macaca moment” may have cost him the election.

Allen’s “gaffe” was serious–the term is a racial slur.

Still, with video cameras rolling at events large and small, from the beginning of a campaign to the end, we should take candidates’ gaffes with a grain of salt, because political campaigns shouldn’t be won or lost with the single slip of a tongue.

However, the ubiquitous video cameras on the campaign trail do more than catch gaffes.

They also show how politicians change their messages in front of different audiences.

That’s particularly important, nowadays.

Fewer journalists are assigned to trail political candidates, which makes it harder for us to know how candidates are fine tuning their stump speech and talking points as their campaigns progress.

This past electoral season here in Colorado, GOP Senate candidate Ken Buck was caught on video early in his campaign making statements that arguably later led to his narrow loss to incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet.

But Buck’s video-taped statements weren’t slips of the tongue. They weren’t “macaca moments.” They were policy positions that appealed to conservative voters in the GOP primary.

Republican primary voters were deciding between Buck and his Republican rival Jane Norton. Norton was viewed as more of an establishment Republican, while Buck was embraced by Tea Party groups.

With backing from the GOP’s  far right wing, including social conservatives, Buck narrowly defeated Norton.

But after Buck won the Republican Party primary, videos of Buck’s right-wing statements came back to haunt him.

They were used both by national groups and state campaigns to paint Buck as “too extreme” for Colorado.

In assessing his Senate bid after his loss, Buck told The Denver Post that Democratic trackers recorded video of him at 600 public appearances and took his words out of context.

A review of his statements, however, shows that videotapes of Buck mostly illuminated straight-forward policy positions that voters in the general election, as opposed to conservatives in the GOP primary, found disagreeable.

Many of the videos that hurt Buck weren’t shot by his opponents at all, but by his supporters, eager to spread the word about Buck’s ultra-right conservative views.

The statements that damaged Buck in these videos for the most part weren’t  gaffes but policy statements, which may never have come to light had they not been recorded on the campaign trail.

Video clips showed Buck telling various conservative audiences that Social Security is a “horrible policy,” the Veterans Administration and big chunks of the federal government should be privatized, and the Department of Education abolished. He also questioned the federal separation of church and state and the federal student loan program.

One clip aired repeatedly in TV ads showed Buck telling a Tea Party group during the primary: “I am pro-life, and I’ll answer the next question. I do not believe in the exceptions of rape or incest.”

The passion in his voice on the video contrasted with his statements later that he wasn’t campaigning on social issues, like abortion.

So campaign-trail videos, at least in Colorado’s U.S. Senate race, helped bring to light Buck’s policy positions–and also illustrated his heart-felt dedication to them.

That’s a role that journalists used to play in covering a campaign. They’d write about these kinds of policy shifts and nuances from start to finish. But with their ranks depleted, more of that role, especially in the early part of a campaign, is left to individuals, holding small video cameras near candidates in church basements or back-yard picnics.

I’d rather see professional journalists doing this. But at least we’ve got cameras on the candidates–even if some of them are operated by paid political operatives.

This op-ed was distributed by the Other Words syndicate.