Archive for the 'Blogs' Category

As traditional media continue to decline, it’s time for bloggers to step up

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

[Update: This post originally stated that Westword's Michael Roberts is responsible for eight blog posts per day, written by himself and other staff, on the Latest Word blog. Due to poor reporting on my part, I got this wrong. He is actually responsible for eight posts himself, Roberts kindly tells me, adding that Westword aims for at least 12 posts per day on Latest word, eight by Roberts and four or more by others.]

As The Denver Post sinks and shrinks, there’s no getting around the fact that, even if you hate them, bloggers become more important as opinion (and information) providers.

So I thought this would be a good moment to offer up some tips on blogging from Colorado bloggers, to inspire more and better blogging

For some reason, it took me about 15 minutes to write those two lousy sentences, which is around 14 minutes more than Westword Latest Word blogger Michael Roberts would have probably required.

“I’d love to write more slowly and linger over words and phrases, but in this context you have to open up the channel, receive and send. It’s not like you have the luxury to spend 10 or 15 minutes on a sentence.”

I called Roberts at about 1:30 p.m. Friday. He’d posted 10 items during the day, but he said, “I’ll be damned if I know how.”

“At the end of the day, if I were asked to tell you every post I wrote, I would be unable to do so.”

If you follow Roberts, you know he’s in a league by himself, among Colorado bloggers, in terms of productivity. He told me that being curious is a big help in writing so much.

But I wondered about his typing speed. Without meaning to diminish the quality of his writing, I asked if he was a really fast typist.

“I am a quick typist,” he told me. “One of my stock lines is. If I ever lose this job, I’d have a decent shot at a gig as an executive secretary.”

“I have at least one more [blog post] to do before I’m done for the day,” he said as we ended our brief conversation. He’d exceeded his daily target of eight posts, including four with an original concept and content, but, he said, “Damn it, news didn’t stop. There are a couple of things I really need to do.”

Asked for her advice on blogging, Denver Post blogger Lynn Bartels provided me with this blogger-sized list:

1. Employ nouns.

2. Add art.

3. Mix it up, between the lighthearted and the serious.

Bloggers like to refer back to their own work as early and often as possible, to cut down on typing and to get more mileage out of existing content, and that’s what Bartels did in answer to my question.

“I wrote a number of serious posts last fall about redistricting and reapportionment, including breaking news about new maps,” Bartels wrote me. “But I also had fun. Here’s one of my favorites, simply because of the picture and the cutline: [CLICK HERE].

My favorite recent blog: [CLICK HERE].

ColoradoPols‘ Co-founder Jason Bane said, via email:

The best advice I can give is to keep your writing short and simple. There’s no reason to write 5,000 words if you can make your point in 500, but that’s easier said than done. Most journalists and reporters will tell you that it is actually easier to write 5,000 words than 500, because you have to spend more time thinking about how to get quickly to the point. People don’t visit blogs because they are looking for long-form writing, and the longer you write, the less time you have to write something else.

I agree with Bane, but one trick is to get others to write for you. That’s why I’m grateful to Bane and the others for emailing me their responses to my questions. Unfortunately Westword’s Roberts won’t do email interviews, because he says he writes too much as it is. So I had to talk to him, which is better anyway, if you have the time.

Bane also wrote:

I believe it is also important to stick to a theme as much as possible. Whether you are writing about politics or about yarn, don’t stray too often from your central topic. Think about why readers are coming to your website. If someone visits your yarn blog, they aren’t going to keep coming back if you are always writing about sports, wine, and why you think Spring is the best of the four seasons.

Rossputin’s Ross Kaminsky had these tips:

Write up something just before bed, for posting the next morning. Even better, wake up a few minutes earlier and check the news to write something with maximum newsworthiness.

If you have more than one idea, write them all up, but post-date them so you can cover a couple of days at a time.

It’s widely agreed that posting content early in the day, with edgy headlines, attracts more readers. (And in Colorado, throw in the phrase “medical marijuana” as often as possible.)

Kaminsky continued:

People won’t return to sites which disappoint them with stale material more than a time or two Therefore, don’t bother blogging unless you have something new almost every day, and certainly every work day other than occasional vacations. If you can’t meet that level of supply of writing, try to participate in a group blog (such as Peoples Press Collective, for those of a free market/libertarian/conservative bent.)

Try to find an approach or style of analysis that is sufficiently different from other web sites that your writing will stand out as worth reading. Be honest about your ability to do so. Most people can’t. Like it or not, most people don’t really have enough to add to a discussion that they’re worth taking your time to read. Again, be honest about whether your writing is really different and incisive enough to be worth reading.

Quoting other people and unique sources is usually the best way to keep a blog worth reading. So even if you hated my take on things in this piece, which I wrote for posting during a vacation, at least you heard something from somebody else. With traditional journalism dying, that’s what we need most from bloggers, if they have the time.

Video of personhood press conference shows often-overlooked value of bloggers

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

I’m a blogger, so I’m in a good unbiased position to write that bloggers make more contributions to the public debate than they are often given credit for.

No matter where you are on the political spectrum, you have to appreciate the blogger who posts unedited video of public events, like Free Colorado’s Ari Armstrong did yesterday.

Armstrong posted video of a press conference staged by backers of Colorado’s personhood on the occasion of submission of wording for a 2012 personhood amendment.

It’s excellent material, airing out good information, along with Armstrong’s interviews and written analysis, about the initiative.

Here’s his video:

Post’s Carroll and Littwin now blogging

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

You may have noticed that The Denver Post’s op-ed columnists Mike Littwin and Vincent Carroll have written a flurry of blog posts recently.

Well, that is, if you call Littwin’s four posts since Oct. 28 a flurry, which I would, given that Littwin wrote six blog posts this year prior to Oct. 28. Littwin jump started his blogging with string of two blog posts on the same day, Oct. 28.

Carroll has written ten blog posts since Oct. 5, when he apparently first started blogging.

I asked Littwin via email if he was joining the ranks of the blogging class, in addition to writing his normal column.

His response:

Yeah, I’m trying to join the digital-first, or at least digital-second, world. Obviously, you can’t be a full-time columnist and full-time blogger – or an old guy like me can’t, anyway – but I’m trying to do some blogging, and even tweeting, on days when I’m not columnizing. We’ll see how it works. When I’m blogging, I am, by necessity, sacrificing some of the time I would normally spend doing old-fashioned reporting for my column. But I’m not blind to the new realities, so I’m giving it a whirl.

You can find his “Fair and Unbalanced” blog here. Carroll’s blog is here.

They’re both off to a good start. It’s an honor to have them join us here in the blogosphere.

The Denver Post may be on the verge of taking new approach to opinion blogging

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

It’s been bugging me that The Denver Post’s Spot blog runs The Post’s editorial opinion without any other opinions to balance things out.

What about offering a little more diversity of views on the Spot? Or, better yet, scrub the opinion from the blog.

So I sent an email to Post Editorial Page editor Curtis Hubbard:

I notice that you occasionally place Denver Post editorials on the blog. And Alicia Caldwell posts there occasionally.

I don’t think this is fair because readers of the Spot get The Post’s opinion without getting the range of opinion they find on the commentary pages. So, for example, they hear your side on the paid-sick-days initiative but not other views. (Caldwell’s pieces are usually more informational than opinion.)

Even if you argue that The Post’s in-house editorial is centrist, you’d admit that it’s consistently anti-union and, for that matter, pro gay rights.

So I think you should throw Littwin’s and Carroll’s columns onto the blog, if you’re going to offer opinions there, so readers get a range of views.

Hubbard’s response makes you think we may be seeing a new opinion blog emanating from The Post soon:

We originally envisioned that The Spot would need both opinion and news content in order to thrive. Turns out, the politics team is more than capable of producing a popular blog with little help from the opinion side of the building.

Several of the posts you point out were done as part “beta testing” for opinion blogging, which I hope to have more to say on soon.

I’d love to see The Post take a serious shot at opinion blogging.  It’s track record (Gang of Four, Spot misfires) isn’t good, but it appeared that those past efforts were never loved and cared for.

I’m looking forward to seeing what’s coming, if anything.

Gardner’s response to The Hill about Dept. of Transportation raises more questions for journos

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

The Hill picked up the ball after KFKA radio host Amy Oliver dropped it, and asked Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO) about his statement on Oliver’s radio show Friday that there are “great ideas” floating around to “basically turn the Department of Transportation back to the states.”

The Hill’s Transportation blog reported yesterday:

“When you listen to whole interview it is clear that Rep. Gardner is simply saying there is a discrepancy in transportation funding and Colorado is a net loser when it comes to the money we get back,” Gardner spokesman Rachel Boxer said in a statement provided to The Hill.  “He believes in letting Colorado keep more of the gas tax it collects therefore cutting some of the bureaucracy between the states and Washington.”

Gardner’s office has yet to return my call, so I’m hoping a journalist, or even Oliver, will ask Gardner for details on this, to fill in the journalistic gap here.

First of all, the statement doesn’t actually say anything about whether Gardner believes that the Department of Transportation should be dismantled. So if Gardner’s office is trying to backpedal, he hasn’t done it.

So, the question remains hanging, “Does Gardner think, as he told Oliver, that it’s a great idea to basically turn the Department of Transportation over to the states?” If so, how would he do it? If not, why not?

And Boxer’s statement to the Hill raises a number of other questions, such as: How much of the gasoline tax does he think should be returned to Colorado and other states? How would he cut the Department of Transportation budget to make up for lost funds? How would he determine how much tax money individual states should keep? Does he support the other functions of the Department of Transportation, as described here? Does he believe the Department of Transportation serves the national interest?

Also when you read a transcript of Gardner’s interview with Oliver, it’s not at all “clear,” as Boxer told The Hill, that Gardner was “simply saying” that Colorado should keep more of the gasoline tax it sends to Washington.

That’s what Oliver, the talk show host was saying.

But Gardner got all excited and one upped Oliver. He told her about great ideas to “basically turn the Department of Transportation back to the states.” That sounds like the entire banana to me. Or basically the entire banana. Maybe leave a bite or the skin in Washington DC.

Was this a misstatement on Gardner’s part, rather than a misreading of his interview on the part of The Hill, me, and anyone else in their right mind who heard him on Amy Oliver’s show Friday?

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.