Archive for the 'Colorado Statesman' Category

Advocacy journalism is expanding in Colorado. Can you trust it?

Monday, November 28th, 2016

While most people were asleep last week, the Colorado Independent’s Corey Hutchins reported Denver Post political reporter John Frank’s view, offered during a panel discussion Nov. 15, that partisan news seems to be expanding in Colorado.

The Colorado Statesman is run by a former Republican lawmaker, The Colorado Springs Gazette started a great new political experiment I’m super excited about but their lead writer on their new political vertical is a former Republican staffer,” he said. “I am very concerned about us moving toward that partisan side of news but I think there’s a reason we’re moving in that direction— it’s because I think that’s where the money is.”

Not only is the Statesman run by a former Republican lawmaker, it’s controlled by Larry Mizel, a major GOP donor and supporter of Trump. (What’s worse, Mizel and the Statesman are mum about who owns the newspaper.)

It’s pretty clear that Frank is right that advacacy journalism is expanding here.

The sad story of the demise of Colorado Health News, as told to me last year by the publication’s former editor, Diane Carman, reinforces the point.

“You step on everybody’s toes when you are an objective journalism organization,” said Carman, who was editor and founder of Health News Colorado. “Everybody got burned a little bit at some point, because we took the role of watchdog seriously. So, when you do that, it makes it really easy for people to say, ‘I’m not so sure we have the money for that this year.’ I never got the impression we were being censored. There was never an impression of that. But I do feel that if we had been willing to cross over into the advocacy world, that we would still be alive.”

It not hard to see that a news outlet of any kind, nonprofit of for-profit, that’s struggling financially is more likely to lower its journalistic standards in order to stay afloat. You don’t have to be much of a media critic to see it happening in Colorado and beyond.

At some point, news consumers will have to trust individual journalists, more than their publications. For example, I trust some reporters at the Colorado Springs Gazette and Colorado Statesman, even though the publications have mostly lost my confidence.

The same goes for advocacy jounalists and bloggers, who come clean about their orientation and/or their funding. Some of them I trust; others I don’t, based not on their claims to be accurate but on their work. Do they admit mistakes and make corrections? Do they respond to questions or have a by-line and contact information at all? Do they seek opposing views? You have to decide whether you trust these types of journalists (and, obviously, I’m one of them).

Coffman, Doty, Woods offer reporters localized election-night Trump material

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016

Doty Tweets from Trump Rally 10-16The story of Trump’s impact on down-ballot races Colorado is unfolding in front of us in the strangest ways, with Colorado Republicans going every which way when it comes to the mogul.

A unique approach to Trump has been taken by Arapahoe County Commissioner Nancy Doty, who’s running against Democrat Daniel Kagan in a Cherry Hills state-state race that Democrats must win to take control of the chamber.

Doty said in June that she’d support Trump, and later called Sarah Palin’s endorsement of Trump “spot on.”

But then she told the Aurora Sentinel last month that her vote is a “private decision.” The Denver Post reported most Oct. 23 that Doty’s not commenting on Trump.

But lo, Doty tweeted a photo Saturday from her apparent appearance at the Trump rally in Golden, without comment, as if to say, “Look! I’m still voting for Trump, but a secret is a secret.”

But in any case, on election night, reporters should reflect on what’s worked Trump-wise for Colorado Republicans in tight races. The Doty approach?

State Sen. Laura Woods’ I-Believe-Trump-Will-“Lead-our-Country-to-Greatness-Once-Again” strategy.

U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman’s strategery of dodge trump (December), then yes Trump (February), then maybe Trump (May and August), then no Trump (October). And possibly no one (October).

We’ll never know Trump’s exact impact in Colorado’s down-ballot races, but that shouldn’t stop reporters from having fun trying to figure it out anyway on Tuesday night, using our abundant local material.

Woods’ long ride on the Trump train could hand the state senate to the Dems

Monday, October 10th, 2016

State Sen. Laura Woods (R-Arvada) first tiptoed onto the Trump train in January, when she called Trump one of her two favorite presidential candidates.

Then Woods jumped fully on board in August, when she called Trump the “people’s candidate” and said “running away” from him wasn’t even a consideration.

In case you’re wondering whether Trump’s shocker room talk, from the Access Hollywood video, will push Woods out of the Trump train, you will want to know that Woods is apparently staying on board.

Over the weekend, Woods, whose race against Democrat Rachel Zenzinger will likely determine control of the state senate and with it state government, liked a Facebook post of Sen. Ray Scott (R-Grand Junction).

Scott, who’s a regional field coordinator for Trump’s campaign, wrote:

I have no intention of dropping my support for Trump. Here’s why.

I’m trying real hard to remember a perfect President or for that matter anyone that has run for political office.

As Alexander Haig once said, no one has a monopoly on virtue. I don’t agree with all of Trump’s positions or comments by any means. I support his economic plan, ending the war on fossil fuels, his stance on defense, immigration, the 2nd amendment and trade issues….

Scott’s Facebook post, which I obtained from a source, has “likes” from about 50 people, including Woods and Peggy Littleton, the failed GOP U.S. Senate primary candidate.

So it looks like Woods is still comfy in her seat on the Trump train. But will voters be comfortable with her in it?

In a news post for Rewire.news today, I discuss one advertisement linking Woods to Trump, and offer an interview with one expert who thinks the tactic could work, helping to push Woods out of office in November.

Woods likes Scott's Facebook post

Under-the-radar race gets TV coverage because… it’s so important

Friday, September 23rd, 2016

If you’re paying attention to politics in Colorado, you know that few people have any clue about the most important political contest in the state: the state senate race in Arvada/Westminster, where Republican Laura Woods is battling Democrat Rachel Zenzinger.

But the importance of the race apparently isn’t a good enough news hook for many reporters to give it the coverage it deserves, which is a lot.

So Fox 31 Denver’s Joe St. George gets our collective thanks for assembling a TV story about, as he labeled it, the state senate race in Arvada that could be “the most important race you’re not watching.” That was his hook! How great is that?

“At first glance this race doesn’t look very important,” says St. George in his piece, showing Woods and Zenzinger knocking on doors. “…the most important race you likely haven’t talked about….if Zenzinger wins this re-match, Dems may be in complete control [of state government]….

“While this race dominates the headlines,” narrates St. George, flashing images of Clinton and Trump. “This one in Arvada may end up impacting your life more come next year.”

Political insiders know this, yet coverage of the state’s most important race remains spotty (unless you get behind the paywall of the Colorado Statesman–or read the Colorado Independent), so few people know about it, much less where the candidates stand on the issues. St. George provided a bit of this info on the KDVR Fox 31 Denver website, listing, among others, these comparisons of the two candidates.

St. George reported:

In terms of the issues:

Abortion
Woods: Pro-life
Zenzinger: Pro-choice

Gun control
Woods: Against
Zenzinger: Supports common sense measures

Minimum wage increase
Woods: Against
Zenzinger: Supports

(For background, Woods is against all abortion, even for rape and incest, and, on guns, she’s against all criminal background checks prior to gun purchases.)

As we get closer to the election, more reporters will almost certainly inform voters just how important this race is. Good to see St. George leading the way.

More bad journalism news with a silver lining

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

Local journalist Corey Hutchins reports in his “Colorado Local News and Media” newsletter (subscribe here) on the recent upsurge in ongoing shifts among Colorado political reporters:

“…Denver Post political reporter Joey Bunch announced he was leaving to join The Gazette in Colorado Springs, which is beefing up its statewide political profile. But then, Gazette political reporter Megan Schrader announced she was leaving The Gazette to join The Denver Post’s editorial board. This comes after Jim Trotter’s recent move from Rocky Mountain PBS to The Gazette, and Woody Paige also leaving The Denver Post for the Colorado Springs paper.

If that wasn’t enough, The Colorado Statesman, a POLITICO-like subscription-based trade journal, effectively laid off its editorial department— just 50 days out from the election. I’m told the paper slashed half its budget. Some of the writers will still write, but on a freelance basis, and they’ll focus more on the weekly print paper than on the website, which was frequently updated. Also on the cutting room floor in Colorado: four people at BizWest Media’s Fort Collins and Boulder offices got laid off and the publication will shift to a monthly print schedule.

Whew, head spinning? Let this stop you. Former Denver Post journalist Tina Griego has returned to Colorado after four years on the East Coast, and is now an editor at The Colorado Independent. Check out her first essay about the new, gentrified, displaced Denver she found upon her return.”

No one in their right mind likes Republican Larry Mizel’s “secret” ownership of the Statesman, but cutting veteran news reporters there is obviously bad and sad.

Usually bad journalism news has no silver lining, but this time the good news is Schader’s and Trotter’s moves and Griego’s return. Also, Post Editor Lee Ann Colaciappo informs me that the newspaper is advertising for a political writer and hopes to fill Bunch’s position soon. So let’s be thankful for that.

CORRECTION: An early version of this post incorrectly stated that The Post’s staff of political writers would be shrinking further due to Bunch’s departure. 

Republican TV star’s policy stances absent from media coverage

Tuesday, July 19th, 2016

What does it take to score national media coverage even before you decide to run for a northwest Denver state house seat? Try being the star of ABC’s hit show, “The Bachelor.”

Bachelor star Ben Higgins has been stacking up the news coverage for his decision to run, as a Republican, for Colorado House District 4, which is an incredibly progressive northwest Denver district. I should know; I live there. Voters in HD 4 sent Democrat Dan Pabon into office with a 78 to 22 percent margin in 2014, and it’s hard to imagine his DUI arrest would turn voters to any Republican.

So how is Higgins possibly going to win in HD4? Is Higgins going to be some kind of anti-Republican Republican?

News coverage of the race didn’t illuminate his specific policy positions. So I called him with questions, and he had time to answer four on my list, leaving 21 queries for later, I hope.

This week, the biggest question for Republicans like Higgins is, will they vote for their party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump?

“How everybody votes is up to them,” said Higgins, declining to answer my question of whether he’d vote for Trump.

It’s a “good thing” that Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, is from Indiana, said Higgins, who’s also from Indiana, but he doesn’t know enough about Pence, a right-wing conservative, to comment on him.

Higgins would not say whether he’s pro-choice.

“My goal as a representative will be to listen to people’s stories,” said Higgins. “We can get in the weeds and the gray areas all the time. When it comes to any social issue, my decisions we be based on my foundation, which is my faith, and I will listen to people’s stories.”

Colorado Statesman referred to Higgins’ Christian faith, but Higgins has not detailed how it would play into the mix in his policy decisions.  From the Statesman:

While producers didn’t emphasize it on the show’s 20th season, fans have flocked to Higgins in part because of his strong Christian faith, demonstrated by a prominent tattoo that has been visible in his shirtless appearances on the show and on social media. “Commit to the Lord whatever you do and your plans will succeed — Proverbs 16:34,” the tattoo reads. (It should read “Proverbs 16:3,” Higgins acknowledges, but the tattoo artist mistakenly added a “4.”)

The business analyst from Warsaw, Indiana, was considered “such a catch” that contestants competed for his affection more intensely than in any previous season, The Bachelor creator Mike Fleiss told E! News in January.

Asked about gay marriage, Higgins said, “I am about everything that makes people happy. I believe love is love.”

In another Statesman piece June 2, Higgins was praised by well-known conservatives Jon Caldara, president of the right-leaning Independence Institute, and former GOP State Sen. John Andrews. For his part, Higgins was vague, according to the Statesman:

“My objective is sparking a movement to engage people in our community, working to find common ground and making a positive impact,” Higgins said, thanking Caldara and Andrews for their advice. “I know with the blessings God has given me, I can provide some of the leadership and support for such a movement.”

“My priority is giving back to my community and serving my neighbors. Since the conclusion of The Bachelor, I have been exploring how I can best be of service,” Higgins said in a statement. “I am definitely not a politician, but I have a lot to offer through my years in the financial services industry and, more importantly, my work in charitable and humanitarian organizations.”

A new reality-tv show, depicting the life of Higgins and his fiancee, is set to air in the Fall.

“In fact, this new TV program would provide the chance for me to talk directly to an expanded number of HD4 residents, rather than face the same obstacle experienced by most candidates — having their message ignored by the news media,” Higgins wrote, according to the Statesman.

 

 

Statesman freelancer calls on Mizel to come clean

Tuesday, July 12th, 2016

Colorado journalist David O. Williams has a great post in RealVail.com today, based on his decades of newspaper-industry experience up there, beautifully illustrating the dangers and weirdness of anonymous political journalism and calling on Republican mega-donor Larry Mizel, who’s been raising cash for Donald Trump, to come clean about whether he owns the Colorado Statesman.

I’ve shown that Mizel, in fact, controls the Statesman, which makes Williams’ post today all the more admirable, because Williams is a Statesman freelancer, whose last Statesman piece appeared in June 15. He’s written a handful of stories for the political weekly this year, one of them co-authored by John Tomasic.

Here’s part of what Williams wrote about Mizel in his post today:

“For me, the issue of ownership now raises the question of what Colorado political stories the Statesman is choosing to cover, and what stories the venerable political journal is ignoring.

And if you’re scratching the checks for a publication these days, why not just put your name on it and end the mystery, even if your agenda really is just about getting one person or a group of like-minded people elected to political office? Then let your readers judge whether your reporting is biased based on your agenda or fairly reflects the views of the opposition.”

You should take a moment to read Williams’ entire post, but it will be interesting to see how Williams is received by the Statesman, now that he’s challenged Mizel. I honestly wouldn’t expect any repercussions for Williams.

But wouldn’t it be nice if Mizel took this issue off the table by laying out his relationship with the Statesman?

Correction: an early version of this blog post indicated that Williams’ last Statesman article appeared in May. It was actually June 15.

The trail of evidence that Mizel, Co-Chairs Trump fundraiser today, owns Colorado Statesman

Friday, July 1st, 2016

It’s no surprise that Colorado Republican kingmaker Larry Mizel is a co-chair of today’s $10,000-per-couple lunch for GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump at the home of former Broncos’ coach Mike Shanahan.

But it inspired me to check out a tipster’s suggestion that I lay out a public trail of evidence showing that Mizel controls the Colorado Statesman, a political weekly that’s inserted as an ad in The Denver Post on Thursdays.

A search on the Colorado Secretary of State website reveals that the “trade name” of the Colorado Statesman is owned by “Mistro, LLC.”

The registered agent for Mistro is CVentures, Inc., and a simple Google search turns up numerous references to Larry Mizel as a director and chairman of the board of CVentures.

In 2008, Larry Mizel of “CVentures, Inc.,” gave $4,600 to Republican senatorial candidate Bob Schaffer, according to OpenSecrets.org. (So keep a close eye on the Statesman if Schaffer jumps into the U.S. Senate race next time.)

CVentures is located at 4350 S. Monaco St., Fifth Floor, which happens to be the corporate address of the giant homebuilding company, MDC Holdings. which Mizel founded in 1972 and for which he currently serves as director and chairman of the board.  MDC Holdings did not return a call from moi, if you can believe it.

A phone message at a number listed for CVentures on a Bloomberg “Company Overview of CVentures, Inc” was not returned either.

Why does this matter if Mizel owns the Statesman? Unlike me, who admits to a progressive orientation, the Statesman is claiming to be a traditional news outlet without any internal pull one way or the other. Playing it straight.

I trust some of the reporters at the Statesman and want to believe editor (and former GOP state legislator) Jared Wright when he says his goal is fairness, though anti-journalistic incidents, like one fill-in reporter doubling as a conservative political operative, have emerged. As well as other strangeness. And Wright doesn’t talk about Mizel.

So, to lesson concerns about Mizel hosting Trump fundraisers and to honor the journalistic ethics it aspires to reflect, the Statesman should tell its readers that it’s owned by one of the most powerful Republicans in Colorado. Better yet, give Mizel a space to explain his intentions with the Statesman. And let readers take it from there.

Special edition of the Colorado Statesman appears in Denver Post as advertising insert on Thursdays

Thursday, June 16th, 2016

Colorado Statesman Publisher/Editor-in-Chief Jared Wright announced last week that a special edition of the Statesman will be inserted in The Denver Post on Thursdays.

Wright wrote in the Statesman June 9 that his newspaper is “launching a new sister publication, The Colorado Statesman ‘Worldwide Edition,’ which, thanks to our friends at The Denver Post, will be inserted in the Post every Thursday. In doing so, we are introducing thousands of Denver Post subscribers to what I believe is one of Colorado’s best kept secrets.”

This is not a journalistic partnership among friends, but a “business deal,” according to Post Editor Lee Ann Colacioppo, who told me in an email that she doesn’t know the details.

“ADVERTISING SUPPLEMENT” is printed on the bottom of the front page of today’s Statesman insert in The Post. There’s no other indication, throughout the 16-page insert, that the Statesman is an advertisement. As such, it’s kind of like the Sunday Parade Magazine insert, which is an ad, and in the same ballpark as outrageous news inserts, like fake news provided by the oil and gas industry, that aren’t labeled clearly enough as ads. Thankfully, the articles in these advertisements don’t appear in searches for news articles on The Post’s website or archive.

I’d like The Post to label the Statesman more clearly as an ad, but, in any case, it’s a creative way for the Statesman to reach an audience that’s literate and interested in politics, and may want to see more political news than The Post is offering these days in the wake of budget disasters. Journalism experiments are good, and you want to see the good journalism at the Statesman survive.

The downside: Readers could easily be confused that The Post is endorsing The Statesman’s content, which this week includes articles on the DA race, Bill Ritter, and the presidential race in Colorado.

Not that I don’t respect some of the journalists at the Statesman. I do. And Wright has assured me that he’s committed to journalistic standards (despite a troublesome conservative hiccup in news coverage I found last month) and despite anecdotal oddities that pop up every now and then in coverage.

But sources tell me the controlling owner is Republican donor Larry Mizel, whose photo is splashed across the cover of last week’s subscriber edition with a big headline “Annual Mizel Dinner, Bringing Denver Together.” Mizel is pictured with Denver’s Democratic Mayor Michael Hancock. Inside, a gushing article, written by Wright, says Mizel “is regularly recognized as being one of the most influential people in Denver,” but doesn’t mention that Mizel apparently owns the newspaper.

To my way of thinking, this type of coverage of the Mizel event, which is newsworthy to be sure, indicates a stealth coziness with Mizel that has potential to influence the political journalism at the weekly.

Wright did not return multiple calls and an email seeking comment for this article.

Still, I want to believe Wright when he writes in the Statesman that his newspaper’s new readers in The Post “will gain a better understanding of the people behind the politics — the same people that craft the laws and regulations impacting you and me at every corner we turn in our daily journeys, whether it’s driving on our morning commutes, working at our offices, shopping at the hardware store, buying groceries, paying a visit to the doctor for a checkup, getting a haircut, taking our children to school — you name it.”

But will Post readers benefit? Or be fooled?

 

Tea Party activist is now “executive editor” at the Colorado Statesman?

Thursday, April 28th, 2016

If all you knew about Jennifer Kerns is her job title of executive editor of the Colorado Statesman, you may have been surprised if you attended last Thursday’s meeting of the North Jeffco Tea Party, where she provided an evening lecture titled, “Brokered Brand: How the GOP continues to compromise its brand and lose elections… and what you can do about it.”

A couple days before her Jeffco speech, Kerns’ Tea-Party conservatism was blaring from KNUS 710-AM, where she subbed for arch conservative Dan Caplis:

Kerns: We can’t forget that we have a big senate race coming up here in 2016, the race against Sen. Michael Bennet, one of the more liberal members of the U.S. Senate, very similar to Mark Udall, except, in my view, there’s one big problem with Senator Bennet, and that is, whereas Mark Udall was concerned about one thing and one thing primarily, your uterus–That was his nickname at least on the campaign trail, given to him by The Denver Post.–Sen. Michael Bennet has many, many interests that he wants to control in your life. And to talk about that a little bit is the executive director of Advancing Colorado, Jonathan Lockwood. … I want to go through some of the attacks you’ve made on Sen. Michael Bennet and rightfully so, given his track record. Let’s start with his support of President Obama’s nuclear deal that gives Iran basically unfettered access to nuclear material… Great work you’re doing, Jonathan Lockwood….

This doesn’t sound like a journalist who, a couple weeks later, would be writing a front-page Statesman article about the Bennet race. But, yes, Kerns authored the April 13 piece, headlined “Bennet will have a fight, but how much of one is TBD.”

The headline was fair enough, but the article hit a low note by repeating an inaccurate conservative attack against Bennet:

“[Bennet’s] initial support of transferring prisoners from Guantanamo Bay detention camps was an unpopular sell to many Colorado voters,” Kerns reported.

Bennet never supported transferring GITMO prisoners here, and Kerns was immediately challenged on Twitter by “MissingPundit,” who pointed out that Politifact found it untrue that Bennet supported bringing Gitmo detainees to Colorado.

In response, Kerns called Politifact a “lefty site,” again repeating a conservative talking point that ignores the fact that Politifact won the Pulitzer Prize in 2009. Kerns tweeted that Politifact is “lefty” in the same way America Rising is “righty.” In reality, America Rising was established to expose the “truth about Democrats”, while the mission of Politifact is fact checking.

In any case, to the Statesman’s credit, the falsehood about Bennet was later removed from the digital version of the article, but, unfortunately, there was no indication that a correction was made.

Asked to discuss this error and her conservative activism, Kerns, who’s also a favorite of KNUS’ Peter Boyles, referred me to Statesman publisher Jared Wright.

First, Wright said, he’s obviously aware of Kerns’ conservative background, and he points to her bio, often printed in the newspaper and online, as proof that the newspaper is being transparent about her:

Jennifer Kerns is an executive editor at The Colorado Statesman. She is an accomplished conservative political writer and contributor to several national publications including The Blaze, The Washington Times, and The Heritage Foundation’s Daily Signal. She also served as the communications director and spokeswoman for the 2013 Colorado recall elections to defend Coloradans’ Second Amendment rights. [and California’s Proposition 8, BigMedia addition]

Calling the recall elections an effort “to defend Coloradans’ Second Amendment rights” is biased itself, but Wright said, “All of her stuff [online and print] goes through another editor and the fact-checking process. And there have been a number of times when we said, ‘You need to go get comments from the other side. You need to make sure the other side has its say.”

Wright said it’s “no excuse,” but his small newspaper has been hit with an overlapping staff crisis and vacations recently. A written correction should have been made on Kerns’ Bennet article, in line with the newspaper’s policy, and he promised to look into it.

The short staffing, he said, was partly the reason Kerns was writing the Bennet article in the first place, said Wright. The executive editor job is “more of an executive officer or an assistant to the editorial department,” he said. But Kerns will “pinch hit” as a reporter, as she did when writing the “Hot Sheet” feature when Wright, who usually writes the informative daily political briefing, was away recently.

Wright believes that advocates can make good journalists at a political newspaper like the Statesman, due to their insider contacts and deep political knowledge.

But, I told Wright, Kerns looks like a conservative operative at work at the Statesman, which, two sources say, is under the majority control of conservative power-broker Larry Mizel.

Wright said expects Kerns’ outside political work to end soon, though she’ll still have her opinions, and some of it was on tap before she started.

“I’m fully aware that Jennifer has her bent, probably more than anyone else on our staff,” said Wright, who’s a former GOP state lawmaker, now a registered independent.

“I want to have people who are opinionated,” said Wright, emphasizing his newspaper will be as transparent as possible. “It’s important to have journalists but also to have people who have been very active in politics, and of course the only place you are going to find those people is on one side of the aisle or the other. So as long as we have a balance of those people on the team, I think we’ll be in good shape.”

Who’s the balance for Kerns, who started last month?

“You know, we’ve also got [Statesman Capitol Bureau Chief] John Tomasic,” Wright said. “John will tell you he’s very opinionated on the progressive side and has worked for progressive publications [like the Colorado Independent].”

Kerns has a track record as an operative; Tomasic is a journalist, I told Wright.

He agreed that the two staffers are not comparable “in the way they are currently operating.” He said he might add a writer with a progressive background to his staff. [If you know someone, please see if they want to apply.]

With respect to Tomasic, he said, “There are times when we have to say, ‘John, you have to go talk to the other side. John, sometimes correctly, doesn’t trust the other side, and doesn’t have those contacts. It’s just all of us, working as a team, and keeping each other on track.”

The question is, given what we’ve seen so far, can the team control Kerns?

Clarification: An early version of this post implied that the Statesman is begging for progressive job applicants. This is not what I meant.  Also, the incorrect statement that Tomasic wrote for progressive causes was removed.