Archive for the 'Denver Post' Category

Exit interview: Lynn Bartels leaves journalism after 22 years as reporter in Colorado

Friday, July 24th, 2015

Lynn Bartels leaves The Denver Post today, ending a 35-year run in journalism, with 22 of those years in Colorado. After starting her career in New Mexico, Bartels joined the Rocky in 1991 as its night cops reporter. In 2000, she started covering the state legislature. The Denver Post hired Bartels in 2009, immediately after the Rocky closed.

This week, Bartels answered some questions via email about the state of journalism in Colorado and her career as a reporter. (See other interviews in this series here.)

Why are you leaving The Post? Would you have stayed on if not for the economic troubles facing the newspaper and the pressure this puts on reporters?

Bartels: Certainly, I wouldn’t be leaving if a buyout hadn’t been offered. In fact, when I went to sign the paperwork, they asked where my package of stuff was, and I said I threw it away because I didn’t think I was going to take the buyout.

I always said, “I can’t leave newspapers. Who would hire me?” It turns out, I had some interesting opportunities. And that made me look at the industry and consider the buyout. I took the offer that made my family the happiest and where my new boss made me laugh during the interview ordeal. I thought, “I could really work for Wayne Williams.” Friends pointed out when I talked about that job I seemed happy. And it’s still politics and elections, which I love.

During the 1960s through mid-1980s, The Denver Post had 11 political reporters dedicated to covering elections and the legislature. In 2010, there were eight. Now that you’re leaving, there will be three, hopefully. No one would say political journalism here is dead, and the transformation of the news media has positive effects too, but what do you think Colorado is losing as The Post’s coverage of state politics shrinks? How bad is the situation? Or are you optimistic?

Quite frankly, the first blow was the loss of the Rocky. It covered politics in a different way. I wish now I had saved all the papers from 2008. We had Mike Littwin’s amazing stories from around the country and the state. M.E. Sprengelmeyer did a lessons learned from previous convention delegates. Burt Hubbard worked his data magic to do stories on how Colorado had voted over the years for president. I think Kevin Vaughan wrote the best lede in the country the night Barack Obama accepted the nomination at Invesco Field.

We had Roll Call and the Stump. When I did a list of things you might not know about Mark Udall, one item was that his youngest sister was an actress who had appeared in Law & Order.

When I arrived in Denver in 1993, both papers had political teams and legislative teams. It’s hard to imagine that now because it’s one and the same. Both papers had two reporters each covering Denver Mayor Wellington Webb and each paper had a full-time DIA reporter. The Rocky had three folks on education: higher ed, Denver Public Schools and suburban schools.

There was just lots more coverage of government.

Diminished resources aside, what are your biggest concerns about how political journalism is practiced in Colorado today? What do you admire most?

I think the coverage of education by Chalkbeat is outstanding.

I worry about the constant pressure to get things in first and fastest and there’s not the proper vetting.

What’s the worst error you made as a Colorado journalist? Can you name a story or two you’re most proud of?

I’ve made some doozies and actually would rather not go through the walk of shame again. The biggest mistake I’ve made overall in journalism, I believe, was too often letting my weight stand in the way of TV appearances. I turned most of them down just because I “felt fat.” Rocky editor John Temple basically had to force me to do the Denver mayoral debates in 2003. Yes, I went on Rachel Maddow twice but I turned her down more times than that. Ask Dominic Dezzutti at Colorado Public Television about my saying “no.”

I’ve had a front-row seat to some of the biggest stories in the state — the Oklahoma City bombing trials, Columbine — and along the way I’ve met some amazing people. Randy and Judy Brown, Rosemary and Wayne Wicks, the Flemings, I count them all as friends.

I loved it when former Rocky reporter Jeff Kass put on Facebook that most people now are talking about politics, my career was much more than that, including Columbine.

Favorite story? Maybe it was when a series of homeless men turned up dead, the Rocky assigned me to write about who these men were. I fought it (a common theme!) but in the end that might be one of my favorite stories. It turns out these people had friends and family, but for a variety of reasons, including addiction and mental illness, they just didn’t’ go home. I was working that Sunday when people called the Rocky about the piece. One woman was crying and said, “He hung outside our building and I never thought of him as a person until now.”

And I remember one night I had my coat on and I was getting ready to leave when I heard assistant city editor Luke Clarke say the pizza will be here in a few minutes. “Food! Free food! What’s going on?” I asked. The Denver Post today had depositions in the case involving the football recruiting scandal at CU, and we need to go through them. “Want some help?” I asked. And that was my life for the next five months. The Rocky won all kinds of awards for our reporting — yes, I have some sports-writing awards on my resume. The best ever was getting the investigative report a day early. We were all over national TV. I heard it was a very unhappy day at The Denver Post.

Colorado’s 2014 Senate race between Mark Udall and Cory Gardner was amazing, and I can never thank the Post enough for assigning me the race and letting me do my thing. I thank the Post for hiring me in the first place. Forever grateful.

I loved the story Tim Hoover and I wrote after the unbelievable civil unions blowup on the second to last night of the 2012 session. And then there was the front page “Has Hickenlooper lost his mojo?” piece that generated lots of e-mails and calls.

It would be so easy to leave the Post if I were miserable there, but I’m really happy right now with our team. That’s what makes leaving so hard.

What would you say to a young person considering a career in Journalism?

Find someone to teach you shorthand. Learn Spanish. Be as technologically advanced as you can be. Read. Read newspapers and not just online.

What will you miss most about your job at The Post?

I loved talking political intrigue with Editor Greg Moore. But I think what I will miss most of all was saying, “with The Denver Post.” That kind of says it all. People weren’t sure what the Rocky was. People in Colorado did. They loved it. Others? Well, they weren’t sure what it was. West Wing did a funny take on that once.

Other comments?

Here are some odds and ends.

In 2007, I won the Public Service Award from the Colorado Press Association for my stories on ethics issues at the Colorado Legislature. I think I was the first reporter in light years to win that award based on breaking news. There was no project editor, no graphics designer, no photographer assigned to the project, no one manipulating reams of data. It was old fashioned beat reporting and I was thrilled to see it honored.

I think former Post reporter Jessica Fender once summed me up better than most when she said something like, “Bartels will never be the kind of reporter who can go through stacks of documents and find the needle, but she’s the kind of reporter who people will pull aside and point her to this box of documents and say. ‘There’s a needle. Don’t tell anybody I told you.’”

Change has always frightened me. When I was first assigned to “the ledge” in 2000, I was miserable the first few weeks. There were many tears that Rocky editor Tonia Twichell and then Colorado Springs Gazette reporter Michele Ames had to deal with. And in 2014 I can remember crying in the women’s restroom in the Post, talking on the phone to Gardner spokesman Alex Siciliano and saying, “Why did they put me on this race? I don’t know federal issues. I don’t know about LMN.” And he said, “It’s LNG, liquified natural gas. I will walk you through it.” In both cases, I ended up loving the assignment.

In other words when you call me at Wayne’s World next month and ask how it’s going, I will say in a tiny voice, “It’s OK.” But later down the road, if you’re lucky, you’ll get to hear the famous Lynn Laugh, the one where interns used to ask, “Should we call 911?”

Lynn Bartels’ good-bye note to Denver Post

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015

A message from departing Denver Post journalist Lynn Bartels, distributed to Denver Post staff this morning:

Dear Denver Post:

Folks, I am taking the buyout, coming two days short of a 35-year career in journalism. The decision wasn’t easy and I have to thank you for providing me a home after the Rocky Mountain News closed.

I appreciate your putting up with my many eccentricities: bloodcurdling screams when moths come near my desk, an almost pathological fear of driving in the snow or at night and turning in stories that say -ffect because I still can’t figure out when to use “affect” or “effect.”

When I leave, I’m going to need a 12-step program in order to break my addiction to writing for The Spot. I appreciate all the encouragement on that front, especially from Dan Petty, the wonderkid we all owe so much to.

I’ll miss e-mailing Paul Soriano late at night and Dan Boniface early in the morning, waking up Vikki Migoya on her day off to help me with Methode at the Capitol, relying on Dale Ulland to catch those grammar mistakes and calling Jim Bates at night or on Saturday about a tip.

Kevin Simpson, thanks for teaching me about the negative factor and for being a podmate for a while. Getting to know you better — after reading you all these years — was a treat.

The photo staff, wow. You guys have been so good to me from the start. Thank you.

I am forever grateful to Greg Moore for taking me on board and sharing my love of political intrigue; Curtis Hubbard and his note after the 2010 election; Chuck Plunkett’s humanity as an editor; Monica Brewer’s help doing payroll and expenses; Dana Coffield, for being able to answers questions about, oh, everything; and Lee Ann Colacioppo, for telling me to take as much time as I needed when my dad was sick.

Linda Shapley, my family loves you. Vince Carroll, I hold you in awe.

Our current political team is so much fun: thank you Joey Bunch, John Frank, Jon Murray and  Mark Matthews for all that dark humor, fixing the typos in my blogs and the technological help (Did you know you can set an alarm on your iPhone? Yes, everyone knows, but you Lynn) .

And a huge shoutout to former Posties Tim Hoover and Jessica Fender, who probably should have felt the most threatened by my joining The Post but were among the most welcoming.

There are so many more people to list, but then I would violate our new rule about shorter stories. Just know I will miss the place.

Here are the comments of Politics Editor Chuck Plunkett, which he sent to the newsroom, along with Bartels’ note this morning.

I’m sorry to announce — I am heartbroken to announce — that Lynn Bartels, long the face of politics coverage in Colorado, has decided to take the buyout and start a new career at the secretary of state’s office.

Just trying to imagine working in this important swing state without Lynn Bartels seems impossible. Her reporting on both the daily grind and the big picture stories is always inspiring. Her ability to consistently break major news is well known. From the first day she joined The Post after the Rocky’s demise, Lynn has been an important, dominant force in our offerings. People who care about politics and policy in Colorado, from the big names to the workers in the trenches to readers whose names we may never know, will miss her. Lynn’s ability to humanize the stories and people she writes about represents one of the finest examples of the importance of the work we are fortunate enough to be doing.

Her encyclopedic knowledge of even the most obscure aspects of Colorado politics is something all of us have relied on for so long now we’ll probably need counseling to recover. Her list of contacts and sources in all the right places alone is priceless. Her many eccentricities helped keep us real in the face of daunting challenges.

And there is the overwhelming fact of her character. Lynn Bartels is one of the finest people I have ever known.

Please let her know how much she has meant to us.

Stop shrugging or laughing at the collapse of The Denver Post and Colorado journalism

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015

I listen to a lot of conservatives and progressives, and, the overwhelming response by both to the troubles of The Denver Post has been either a shrug or a snicker. (After years of devastating staff cuts, the newspaper is laying off another 10 percent of its newsroom staff and shrinking the print even more.)

The shrug comes from people who see the newspaper as useless, even though it still serves as the primary information source for political and other news in the Colorado. And it’s the primary driver of local news that you see on TV and on social media.

I’m floored by how frequently people trash The Post as irrelevant in one breath and then spend an entire meeting or radio show discussing an article that just appeared in the paper–or, even more ironically, talking about stories that have been left out of the newspaper. If only the irrelevant Denver Post would cover [fill in the blank].

The newspaper is so small and weak already, they say, it doesn’t matter if 20 journalists or more are cut, as planned on July 20 or so, joining about 20,000 journalists laid off nationally.

The thing is, even now after all the cuts already made, if you read the print edition of The Denver Post, or just a fraction of its online content, you’ll still get the information you need to function as a citizen in Colorado–to understand the state legislature, to keep up on elections, to follow civic and cultural life. What other media source could possibly make that claim?

The snicker about The Post’s ongoing decline comes from the folks who feel the newspaper gets in their way, unfairly shifting public debate against them and their causes. Conservatives are more likely to feel this way than progressives, because they’re deeply attached to the notion of “liberal bias,” as if The Denver Post has been undermining their agenda, as well as that of the Republican Party, for decades and its disappearance will give them an opening to win over public opinion. This is so outrageous, and unsupported by evidence, that it needs no response.

And it’s not just the people crusading against gay marriage and abortion who feel this way. It’s the fiscal conservatives, too, who repeatedly say how much The Post’s news coverage is biased toward big government and social support networks.

For their part, progressives complain that the newspaper is a slave to big corporate interests, which has some truth to it but is often proven false by the reporting you actually see in the newspaper.

These people love to ridicule the shrinking news pages and say the newspaper’s demise proves them right about its skewed coverage. With the rise of social media, people now see how bad the newspaper is, they say. Well, you have to wonder what garbage these people are finding on Facebook.  Where do you find better local journalism than The Denver Post? Nowhere, except maybe itsy bitsy pieces here and there. Sometimes.

They also say The Post is getting what it deserves, having been so fat and rich for so long that it failed to see the social-media forces that have upended its business model. It’s hard to argue that newspapers screwed themselves by missing the shifting media boat early on, but is this any reason to take pleasure in the demise of an entity that uniquely informs the public and holds government officials accountable?

The truth is, if you’re not sad about the demise of The Post, you really don’t care about the elimination of local journalism, which actually factually helps people make sense of the world and be informed citizens.

I don’t mean to slight the journalism you see at local TV stations or online outfits like this dumb blog, but The Post’s Colorado-based journalism, even now but especially just a few short years ago, makes all the rest of the professional journalism practiced in Colorado look ant-like.

So where’s the discussion of what we can do about the collapsing Denver Post and the gutting of local journalism? It’s absent.

Is there really nothing to say? Can’t grandstanding politicians, maybe a few from each party, spotlight the problem and call on philanthropists to step up and fund local journalism? Or figure out something else to say? Even if it’s just to acknowledge the tragedy unfolding in front of us?

Or how about a state journalism tax, to set aside public funding for independent Colorado-based journalism?

A ridiculous idea that has no prayer, you say? Right. But do you have anything else to suggest?

The alternative, for those of us who care about local journalism, is to stand aside and watch everyone else shrug or laugh.

Singleton calls Hillary Clinton an “outstanding public servant”

Tuesday, July 14th, 2015

On Craig Silverman’s KNUS morning show Saturday, former Denver Post owner William Dean Singleton said Hillary Clinton has been an “outstanding public servant” and would be a good president.

“I believed that she should have been president in 2008,” said Singleton, who’s also a former chair of the Associated Press. “I thought she was the best qualified person running and was disappointed when she lost the nomination to President Obama. I think she would have been an excellent president then, and I think she would be a good president now. She’s not the only good candidate out there, but I believe she would be a very good candidate.”

Singleton, who got to know Clinton as first lady and then when she ran for president in 2008, defended Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state, telling Silverman that Clinton has been an “outstanding public servant.”

“I don’t think there’s anything phony about Hillary Clinton,” said Singleton on air. “I think she’s an outstanding public servant. And she knows how to work across party lines. She knows how to bring people together.”

You may wonder why I’d waste cheap blog space on Singleton, but he still votes on The Post’s editorial board, and I’d say he represents the opinion of mainstream businesspeople in Colorado as well as anyone.

In retrospect, Singleton said he thinks Bill Clinton was an “excellent president on the merits of his work.”

“My two favorite candidates are Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush,” he said, after trashing Donald Trump, saying he’s got the biggest ego he’s ever seen.

On Colorado politics, Singleton said he thinks Walker Stapleton will run for governor in 2018

Media coverage spotlights gay bashing at conservative summit

Monday, June 29th, 2015

Reporters covering the Western Conservative Summit did a good job spotlighting the gay bashing that permeated the event over the weekend.

The Denver Post got the money quote for irony from Sen. Bill Armstrong, president of Colorado Christian University, which sponsored the summit.

“I do think that the homosexual agenda in part is to shut down further discussion of the [morality of the gay] issue. That will not happen,” he told The Post.

Who’s shutting down the discussion? Armstrong is the guy who refused to let the Log Cabin Republicans have its own booth at the event to discuss the issue with participants, saying the pro-gay organization doesn’t fit well with his group.

The Post reported that Rick Santorum, who’s again running for President, shared Armstrong’s views during his Summit appearance.

“Why are we losing the public debate? You can’t win an argument you don’t make,” Santorum said. “We have been bullied into silence, in not standing up for the truth and here’s where we are.”

Of course, the anti-gay side of the discussion was well represented at the event, with presidential hopefuls slamming last week’s Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage.

And, as I reported today for RH Reality Check, the official registration packets for the Summit contained a booklet titled, “Top Ten Myths About Homosexuality,” published by the Family Research Council.

The “myths” included that “homosexual conduct is not harmful to one’s physical health,” “children raised by homosexuals are no different than children raised by heterosexuals, nor do they suffer harm,” and “homosexual relationships are just the same as heterosexual ones, except for the gender of the partners.”

Summit organizers did not shut down the pro-gay side of the debate completely. They allowed the Log Cabin Republicans to share a table with the Colorado GOP, and progressive bloggers covered the event. And The Post reported that younger Republicans at the event supported the Supreme Court’s decision.

Still, if you attended the Summit, and opened you ears, you heard gay bashing.

“I have nothing against gay people,” Ben Carson said at one evening session, adding, “Like everybody else, they don’t get extra rights. And they don’t get to change things for everybody else.”

Roberts’ flawed attack on “liberal columnist” spotlights tragic defeat of LARC family-planning legislation

Thursday, June 18th, 2015

Last month, The Nation magazine’s Katha Pollitt reported that State Sen. Ellen Roberts was opposed to legislation providing funds Colorado’s amazing pregnancy prevention program because Roberts was unconvinced that Obamacare didn’t already pay for the long-acting-reversible contraption (LARC) offered under the family planning initiative.

“Republican Senator Ellen Roberts told me she might have supported the bill if she’d had a good answer for that,” reported Pollitt.

In her column, Pollitt provided the widely-known fact that insurance companies are not currently paying for the services and care provided by the LARC program.

About a month later, The Denver Post’s Lynn Bartels reported that Roberts, who’s a Republican from Durango, was unhappy with Politt’s column:

Roberts said she should have been aware she was talking to a liberal columnist, and explained more clearly that she already had told GOP leaders if the bill made it to the Senate floor, she would support it.

If Roberts was opposed to the LARC bill because she thought Obamacare already covered the program, as reported by Pollitt, how could Roberts possibly have promised GOP leaders that she would support the bill if it came to the floor? No amount of clarifying to Pollitt could explain this inconsistency, whether Pollitt was radical communist or a hatchet-wielding or blackmailing Colorado Republican.

And, not that it matters, but Roberts had no excuse for failing to know that Pollitt is a progressive columnist. In an email prior to her interview with Roberts, Pollitt actually factually told Roberts she was with The Nation–and Pollitt says she has the email to prove it. Roberts had plenty of time to type the name “Katha Pollitt” in Google.

Pollitt told me via email: When I emailed Sen. Roberts I identified myself as a columnist with The Nation magazine. (I have the e mail.) If she didn’t know we are a liberal publication — and if she would have said something different had she known that — she could easily have found out. It’s not a secret!

I asked Pollitt if she quoted Roberts accurately and she politely responded with, “I quoted her accurately.”

Plus, bottom line, after LARC funds were rejected by a Republican-controlled State Senate committee, Roberts voted against a Hail-Mary budget amendment funding the LARC program. It was defeated on the Colorado Senate floor in a 16-19 vote, with Roberts joining all Republicans and Sen. Pat Steadman, in opposition (Here at page 650). Steadman is a member of the Joint Budget Committee, and it’s an unwritten rule that JBC members always vote against budget amendments. Roberts has supported such amendments in the past, meaning it’s not her policy to oppose them.

So it loooks like Roberts was trying to be both for the LARC pregnancy-prevention program and against it at the same time, just like she recently tried to be both “pro-choice” and “never” pro-choice at the same time– until she got called out on it by ColoradoPols, a progressive blog. Roberts, who may challenge Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet next year, then said she’d made a mistake in claiming she was never pro-choice.

But the overarching tragedy is that funding for Colorado’s LARC program, which helped reduce Colorado’s teen-pregnancy rate by a life-affirming 40 percent and lowered our state’s teen abortion rate by 35 percent, was rejected by State Senate Republicans.

Now, with LARC money running out at the end of this month, Roberts’ flawed attack Pollitt only spotlights that tragedy.

 

Reporters need to hold Gardner accountable on his birth-control promise

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015

Yesterday, Senate Democrats, including Colorado’s Michael Bennet, introduced a bill that Sen. Cory Gardner should have co-sponsored as well–at least if you believe what Gardner said during last year’s campaign.

Last year, Gardner repeatedly told reporters that oral contraception should be available over the counter — and be covered by insurance policies.

In one one exchange, Fox 31 Denver’s Eli Stokols specifically challenged Gardner to explain how his proposal for over-the-counter birth control could be less expensive than what’s offered to women under Obamacare, which requires insurance companies to provide birth control for free

Stokols: You say it’s cheaper… Politifact says that’s ‘mostly false,’ that under the Affordable Care Act, two-thirds of women get their birth control for free.

Gardner: Well, they’d still be able to find an insurance policy and use their insurance to pay for it. That’s why we need to fix Obamacare.

That’s what the bill introduced by Sen. Patty Murray of Washington would do. It would not only make FDA-approved contraception available over the counter but mandate insurance companies to pay for it, like they’re required to do now.

But Gardner’s bill, introduced last month, simply allows FDA-approved contraception to be sold over the counter–without requiring insurance plans to cover it. Insurance companies could decide to cover the pill out of their love for women. But not likely.

Or, under Gardner’s bill, women could use health savings accounts and flex accounts, if they have them, to buy contraception. But those are savings accounts, set up voluntarily by individuals!  They are not the insurance promised by Gardner repeatedly.

Reporters need to go beyond allowing Gardner to write off these real-life concerns as partisan politics.

As Gardner told The Denver Post yesterday: “It’s unfortunate they have decided to bring partisanship to an issue that could have brought support on Capitol Hill but we are pleased they are following our lead.”

The substantive differences between what Gardner advocated on the campaign trail and what he’s offering women now should be spotlighted by reporters who allegedly love to hold elected officials accountable.

A comparison o f Murray’s birth-control bill versus Gardner’s tells you all you need to know about Gardner’s broken campaign promises.

 

Reporters should find out why Gardner didn’t deliver on his promised legislation to “fix Obamacare” and require insurance companies to pay for over-the-counter birth control

Monday, June 8th, 2015

Last year, then U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner had a nice-sounding proposal: offer birth control over the counter, easy and quick.

But… more expensive, journalists pointed out, because under Obamacare, birth control prescribed by doctors is free. Insurance companies are required to cover it.

Not to worry, replied Gardner. He promised to fix an “obscure provision” in Obamacare and require insurance companies to pay for over-the-counter birth control.

Women should “still be able to find an insurance policy and use their insurance to pay for it,” Gardner told Fox 31 reporter Eli Stokols Sept. 28 (at 15 seconds in the video).  “That’s why we need to fix Obamacare.”

Women “will have an insurance policy that covers it,” Gardner promised a skeptical Stokols.

“We should change Obamacare to make sure that insurance can reimburse for that over-the-counter contraceptive purchase,” Gardner told reporter Lynn Bartels (at 50 seconds in the video) during The Denver Post debate against Democrat Mark Udall. Gardner even attacked Democrats, telling the Denver Post during the campaign: “If Democrats are serious about making oral contraception affordable and accessible,” Gardner wrote, “we can reverse that technical provision [in Obamacare].”

Once elected, however, Gardner didn’t deliver on his promise. He introduced a bill that simply offers incentives to drug companies to gain FDA approval to sell contraception over the counter.

Nothing in the bill mandates that insurance companies would be required to cover birth control that’s sold over the counter. Instead, the bill allows Health Savings Accounts and Flexible Spending Accounts to be used to purchase over-the-counter medications. Those are savings accounts, with tax advantages, that individuals can set up. That’s not anything like insurance coverage.

News coverage of Gardner’s OTC bill has noted that women’s health groups, including the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, have condemned the freshman senator’s proposal as insufficient and expensive for women. Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado’s statement that the bill is a “sham” has been duly noted.

But reporters have yet to spotlight the fact that Gardner did not deliver on the pledge he made during the campaign. The question is, why? Was he lying? Did he change his mind? Did he determine that his original promise was unworkable?

Reporters should find out.

Partial transcript of Sept. 28 Fox 31 interview with Cory Gardner:

Gardner (@ 15 seconds): We ought to talk about access. We ought to increase access to oral contraception. We ought to make it easier, 24-hours-a-day, around the clock availability. That’s why I’ve supported making it available over-the-counter without a prescription. We need to change the provision of Obamacare that would prohibit insurance to be paying for it. That’s an obscure provision. Those are the things we can do to make it easier to access.

Stokols: You say it’s cheaper that way. Politifact says that’s mostly false, that under the Affordable Care Act, two-thirds of women get their birth control for free.

Gardner: Well, they’d still be able to find an insurance policy and use their insurance to pay for it. That’s why we need to fix Obamacare.

Stokols: How though, if you repeal Obamacare, about 27 percent of women, I believe, actually use the pill. So you make the pill available over the counter. Still, about three out of four women use another form of birth control. If you repeal Obamacare, what happens to their coverage?

Gardner: They will have an insurance policy that covers it.

Coffman does little to promote immigration reform besides create the appearance of support for it

Thursday, May 28th, 2015

In response to my post yesterday urging reporters to spotlight Mike Coffman’s weak advocacy for immigration reform, Coffman’s spokesman Tyler Sandberg told me via Twitter that “Google is Your Friend,” and directed me to an instance when Coffman said he was “deeply disappointed” with House opposition to a resolution allowing young immigrants to gain citizenship via military service.

Google is my friend, and it confirms my larger point that Coffman does little to promote immigration reform besides create the appearance of seriousness without the much substance at all.

Coffman has expressed disappointment, yes, and I regret writing that he didn’t use the word, but he hasn’t seriously challenged Boehner, who’s arguably been the biggest obstacle to immigration reform in the country.

Where was Coffman’s disappointment when the Senate’s bipartisan immigration legislation, with Marco Rubio’s name on it, died in the House. Coffman didn’t even support a vote on the bipartisan and comprehensive bill, despite Coffman’s public statements in favor of comprehensive immigration reform.

And what did he do instead? Nothing on comprehensive reform, except scrub his website of the phrase “comprehensive immigration reform” and to tell the Aurora Sentinel, “What Boehner has said, and I agree with, is that a comprehensive approach doesn’t have to be a comprehensive bill.”

Coffman’s legislation for young immigrants and his alleged support for a guest worker program fall short of comprehensive reform no matter how you wordsmith it, and they’ve failed, in part, because Coffman goes to a fundraiser with Boehner at the Brown Palace and doesn’t talk about immigration on the same day Coffman’s bill is being killed by Republican leadership in Washington.

Via Twitter, I asked Coffman’s spokesman Sandberg to write a blog post explaining how his boss has pushed Boehner for serious immigration reform–and better yet, to show us how it’s done.

There’s no public record of the kind of effort we’ve seen from Coffman on other issues. Nothing close. Google it.

Ambush in the Public Interest

Thursday, May 28th, 2015

In an online Denver Post op-ed yesterday, I urged reporters to seek out and interview hiding politicians. I gave some recent Colorado examples, like Rep. Mike Coffman hiding from reporters after he said he wasn’t sure Obama was an American.

On Twitter, former CU regent Tom Lucero told me I left out instances of Democrats hiding from reporters, but he won’t provide me with any examples, saying he doesn’t want to do my “job.”

Too bad because I’d like to see his examples, and I’m sure they exist. But I couldn’t think of many in recent memory (I mentioned Udall)–and my piece focused on Colorado reporting.

In any case, Lucero should join me, because if journalists did this more often, it would benefit all of us. The ambush interview shouldn’t be relegated to showboaters like Bill O’Reilly and consumer reporters, like (mostly) the investigative units at 9News and channel 7.

In my piece, I quoted Eli Stokols, who told the Columbia Journalism Review in March that among Colorado reporters, “There seems to be a reluctance to hold people accountable for policy positions.”

What’s not to like about that suggestion, regardless of where you sit on the partisan spectrum? But how to do it?

One simple way is to not let public officials hide out and avoid answering questions. Journalists should track them down and force them to respond.

For example, State Treasurer Walker Stapleton is under fire for telling conservative radio-host Mike Rosen he did not support a proposed law to bolster Colorado’s public pension program when, in fact, he did support the legislation.

What are some other examples from any politician in Colorado?