Archive for the 'Denver Post' 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).

Panel discussion: Journalism and the 2016 election

Thursday, November 10th, 2016

Share your love or hatred of political journalism by joining a panel of journalists and media observers Tuesday, Nov. 15, for a discussion of media coverage of the election, particularly in Colorado.

The panelists are:

  •  Lisa Cutter, former president, Denver Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America
  • Hope Elizabeth, Denver University’s Roosevelt Institute
  • John Frank, political reporter, The Denver Post
  • Greg Moore, former editor, The Denver Post
  • Marshall Zelinger, political reporter, Denver 7

It will take place from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at The Denver Post auditorium, 101 West Colfax Ave., followed by further discussion, light appetizers, and cash bar at the Denver Press Club, 1330 Glenarm Pl.

Paul Teske, Dean, University of Colorado Denver, School of Public Affairs, will make introductory comments.

Moderators Laura Carno, founder of I Am Created Equal, and yours truly are soliciting questions in advance of the event—and queries from the audience will be encouraged on Tues.

The event is free and open to the public but register via tapthevote2016.eventbrite.com

You can submit questions in advance to Laura Carno (lauracarno at gmail.com) or me (jason at bigmedia.org).

The event is part of a series of political forums that have taken place at The Denver Post and the Press Club this election season. Sponsors: Denver 7, Denver Press Club, Public Relations Society of America, Roosevelt Institute, and The Denver Post.

Best local journalism of the 2016 election season

Tuesday, November 1st, 2016

Here are my favorite election stories by local journalists:

Denver 7’s Marshall Zelinger of course gets the top prize in both the journalism and entertainment categories. His series of stories showing forged signatures on the ballot-access petitions of former GOP state Rep. Jon Keyser had a game-changing impact on Colorado’s U.S. Senate race and reflected everything you want from journalism, especially at a time when it’s going to the dogs. (Don’t miss your chance to see Zelinger’s Keyser interview again here.)

Without the state-senate campaign coverage by Marianne Goodland at the Colorado Independent and Ernest Luning and John Tomasic at the Colorado Statesman, we would’ve had little reporting—until the final weeks—on the key state senate races that will determine control of Colorado government. Other outlets weighed late, which is great, but these races were so pivotal and important to the entire state this year, they deserved the early and sustained focus they got only from the Statesman and the Independent.

Luning also exposed a Democratic state legislative candidate who basically made up his entire resume and was later defeated in his primary race. In a similar vein, Goodland’s piece revealing the potential jail time faced by state house candidate Tim Leonard also deserves high praise. So does former Post reporter Joey Bunch’s treatment of Darryl Glenn’s legal troubles as a young man.

Denver Post reporter John Frank’s series of inside-view articles on the revolt by Colorado Republicans against Trump at the GOP National Convention informed the national debate on the growing #NeverTrump and plain-old anti-Trump movement among Republicans.  (Frank’s prodigious output generally also deserves mention.)

The Denver media’s political-ad fact-checkers have my eternal admiration because their job is tedious and difficult but really valuable. So, a shout out to Denver 7’s Alan Gathright, The Denver Post, 9News’ Brandon Rittiman, and  CBS 4’s Shaun Boyd. Reporters, like the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Charles Ashby, who dip into this territory, deserve credit too.

She got ribbed by fellow reporters for burying the lede, but former CO Springs Gazette reporter Megan Schrader gets credit for reporting U.S. Senator Cory Gardner’s off-the-cuff comment that he planned to vote for Trump after all. The story generated national buzz and shows what’s lost as we shed campaign-trail journalism.

The Colorado Independent’s Corey Hutchins’ story about anonymous campaign flyers may later play a role, in a small way, in a legislative fix that all sides would welcome.

I thought the debates moderated by 9News’ Kyle Clark and Brandon Rittiman were particularly informative.

It’s the little things that can make politics fun, so hats off to Molly Morrison at KRDO-TV in Colorado Springs for revealing that Trump was rescued by the Springs’ Fire Department after the head-strong mogul had insulted the Springs’ fire marshal. Nice.

Kudos to 9News‘ Rittiman and Denver’s 7‘s Zelinger for asking U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, after he released an ad critical of Trump in August, who he’d vote for. The fallout from his response—that Coffman would still consider voting for Trump or for the Libertarian candidate–got national coverage. And it t turned out to be a harbinger of Coffman’s troubles later, as he’s tried to both support and oppose Trump at the same time, ultimately opposing Trump. We all love it when journalists follow up beyond the canned statements and ads.

Finally, can you beat the editorials in the Aurora Sentinel? No. Even if you like U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO), you still have to love the writing in the Sentinel’s endorsement of his Democratic opponent Morgan Carroll, as well as the fire in its other editorials on any political topic.

Post made the right move to dump manipulative online polls from editorial page

Friday, October 28th, 2016

Yay! The Denver Post is dumping its stupid, manipulative polls from the editorial page.

Editorial Page Editor Chuck Plunkett announced the decision in a column yesterday.

Plunkett: Overall, the problem that I see with the surveys is that the information they allow us to gather is such an untrustworthy representation of reality that any reporter who cited the results as credible in a story would, or at least should, be laughed out of the newsroom.

Any person who read them and decided to change their thinking based on the results would likely be disserved.

When I was on the politics desk, and answered calls about these polls, I couldn’t help but be honest and admit I didn’t think that we should be running them.

Plunkett acknowledged in his column that the polls were offered as click bait, adding a grain of sand to the newspaper’s attempt to shore up its resources. But they run counter to  the truth-seeking mission of The Post.

In the online world, newspapers have the competitive advantage of credibility. (Yes, they still have it!) They can push out light stuff or sports or entertainment or mayhem, but misinformation, which is basically what the online polls are, should be avoided at all costs.

Singleton rips Donald Trump

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

On KNUS over the weekend, former Denver Post owner Dean Singleton called Donald Trump “an intellectual nutcase” and a “demagogue,” who “never had a chance to win.”

“The problem for the country is, [Trump] is going to take the Senate with him…” said Singleton, who nevertheless stated on air he’s voting for his friend Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet. “The Republicans are going to lose the Senate, for certain.”

Singleton said, “I’m voting for Hillary Clinton, because she’s the only competent person running.”

Denver Post likes Doug Lamborn again! But why?

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

I haven’t seen U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn behave any better over the past two years than he has previously, but he’s apparently impressed The Denver Post, which endorsed him yesterday, after eloquently calling for his ouster last time.

The Denver Post in 2014:

Under the headline, “Oust Lamborn, restore dignity to Colorado’s 5th CD,” The Post wrote:

Rep. Doug Lamborn last month demonstrated yet again why he should do Coloradans a favor and find another job…Lamborn was at an event in Colorado Springs recently when someone asked him about support for the military “despite the fact that there is no leadership from the Muslim Brotherhood in the White House.” At which point, Lamborn launched into an astonishing statement.

“You know what,” he said, “I can’t add anything to that, but … a lot of us are talking to the generals behind the scenes, saying, ‘Hey, if you disagree with the policy that the White House has given you, let’s have a resignation. Let’s have a public resignation, state your protest, and go out in a blaze of glory.’ ”

We don’t know what part of that response is more outrageous.

Is it the fact that Lamborn failed to rebuke — or distance himself — from someone who effectively called the president an agent of a foreign Islamist group? Rather than evince concern, Lamborn actually smiled and said, “I can’t add anything to that.” Or is the most distressing part his urging generals to politicize serious disagreements they might have with the president by taking them public in flamboyant resignations?

The Denver Post this year:

Doug Lamborn, who has served the 5th CD in the greater Colorado Springs area since 2006, has been the kind of conservative representative befitting of the district, and voters there have rewarded him in primary challenges. While we like more independent-minded representatives, this is a Republican you can count on if what you want is a reliable GOP vote.

This year’s endorsement not only fails to explain why Lamorn redeemed himself this year, but it articulates why The Post doesn’t like him–as opposed to why it’s endorsing him. Oh well.

Key state senate race starting to get media attention but more is needed

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

With a few of our more bigger badder news outlets (CPR, Denver Post, Fox 31 Denver, and KMGH-TV Denver 7) finally getting around to covering Arvada’s state senate race, which is the most important contest this election, the simple point should be made: follow-up stories are needed.

The candidates, Republican Laura Woods and Democrat Rachel Zenzinger, aren’t being challenged sufficiently on their stances on the issues (See some of their positions, on abortion to guns, here) or on the politics of the race. Some outlets have returned to the races a few times in coverage, which is good, but more attention is required. Some of our state’s most prestigious news entities have essentially dropped the ball on the race.

I’m not saying Aurora’s congressional race, our ballot measures, or other races aren’t important too, but if political journalists want to help voters understand what’s at stake this election cycle, they should turn their attention repeatedly to Senate District 19—and, to a lesser extent, other key state senate races.

Here’s a video to emphasize the point.

Where the candidates in Colorado’s most important race stand on specific issues

Monday, October 24th, 2016

In a welcome Denver Post piece Sunday about the most important election contests in Colorado—the under-the-radar races that will likely determine if Democrats take control of the state senate—State Sen. Laura Woods (R-Arvada/Westminster) is referred to as “one of the most conservative lawmakers in the chamber.”

The Post article links to Post reporter John Frank’s detailed analysis of legislative votes showing how Woods, during her first year in office, voted with seven other GOP state senators on the far right fringe of the GOP, mirroring the marginalized votes of extreme Republicans in the U.S. Congress.

The linked article matters a lot, because Woods faces Democrat Rachel Zenzinger in an Arvada/Westminster race that’s a tossup going into the final two weeks, so voters should know what’s what with these two candidates.

Here’s a few more details on the candidates stands, retrieved from various sources.

Abortion

Woods wants to pass a personhood abortion ban, making all abortion illegal, even after rape or incest.

Zenzinger is pro-choice, favoring the option of abortion for women.

Guns

Woods opposes criminal background checks for gun purchases at gun shows and elsewhere, and she wants citizens to be allowed to openly carry a gun in public.

Zenzinger backs laws requiring criminal background checks prior to gun purchases, and she opposes open carry.

Education

Woods backs vouchers, allowing parents to use public tax dollars to pay for private schools for their kids. (And Woods has been endorsed backed by ousted Jeffco school board member Julie Williams.)

Zenzinger opposes vouchers.

Planned Parenthood

Woods proposes de-funding Planned Parenthood, forcing the organization to turn away about 1,000 patients in Arvada.

Zenzinger supports federal funding of Planned Parenthood.

Teen pregnancy

Woods voted against a successful teen-pregnancy prevention program.

Zenzinger backs the teen pregnancy prevention measure.

Same-sex marriage.

Woods opposes same-sex marriage.

Zenzinger supports it.

 

Post could improve its editorial page by criticizing Coffman more often

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

“Good for Mike Coffman.” That’s the first line of an August Denver Post editorial, and, as it turns out, an excellent summation of the The Post editorial page’s singular stance toward Coffman over many years.

I just finished reviewing five years of Post editorials mentioning Coffman, and, of the 43 editorials citing the Aurora Republican Congressman during that period, including two endorsements, he’s been criticized only four times, while being praised in 34 editorials. The newspaper has lauded him mostly on issues related to the Veterans Administation but also on immigration, Selective Service, Afghanistan, marijuana, the federal budget, and more.

Yet, during these five years, Coffman has run seriously afoul with the broad positions/principles taken by The Post: on Planned Parenthood (Coffman voted twice to defund just last year, after putting the organization’s logo in a campaign ad the previous year.) and on immigration (Coffman opposed a 2013 bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill, and he reiterated his opposition to birthright citizenship, even stating so in an interview with a Post editorial writer.).

In 2013, Coffman threatened to shut down the government instead of raising the debt ceiling. Nothing from The Post. And nothing from The Post when Coffman belittled global-warming science in 2013.

The Post was silent in 2012 when Coffman said Obama was not an American “in his heart,” and Coffman strangely told 9News’ Kyle Clark five times:  “I stand by my statement that I misspoke, and I apologize.”

Coffman’s positions over many years have been at odds with stances The Post has taken. But the newspaper has been mostly silent.

To be fair, a more cursory analysis shows that The Post doesn’t criticize U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet much either, and he was also endorsed by The Post.

The difference? Bennet’s policy positions, on the issues mentioned above and others, align very closely with The Post’s, while Coffman’s do not.

You can’t blame Post editorial page editor Chuck Plunkett for much of this, since he took over the job exactly three months ago, but I called him anyway for his take on whether the newspaper deliberately refrains from criticizing Coffman, even when his positions clash with the newspaper’s editorial views.

“I think this is an election year stunt, not a genuine analysis,” he told me, arguing that there was no news hook for my blog post and I was not focusing on The Post’s treatment of other elected officials. “You’re picking Mike Coffman, when Morgan Carroll is struggling. Why is that? It looks like you’re trying to aid Morgan more than you are legitimately trying to critique an institution.”

I explained to Plunkett that as a progressive media critic, I look for instances where news outlets tilt rightward. That’s my bias, and with the election coming up, now is a valid time to analyze The Post’s editorial-page approach to Coffman, which I found inexplicable.

“As a journalist, I think trying to analyze a newspaper’s position over time is very tricky, especially if you only look at one particular angle,” Plunkett told me. “There are all kinds of things that go into thinking about an editorial or an endorsement or what have you.”

“You’re right,” Plunkett acknowledged, “when a newspaper endorses someone, that same board is going to be, understandably, more protective of that person.”

“But one the things I like about our business is, we don’t make friends and we don’t make promises,” he said. “And if someone crosses us, or crosses what we believe is a reasonable line, we call them on it.”

I told Plunkett that he was making my point exactly, that The Post should have been more critical of Coffman over these five years, even if the newspaper endorsed him.

“That’s where you’ve got me in a rough spot, because I wasn’t on the board over the past five years,” Plunkett responded. “I had absolutely zero influence on those pieces.”

I told Plunkett that I understood, and would make it clear I wasn’t blaming him for The Post’s love affair with Mike Coffman. Why would I blame Plunkett? In fact, the pattern even goes back further than the tenure of former editorial page editor Vincent Carroll.

I’m hoping this changes. It’s bad editorial writing. The Post is missing an opportunity to influence Coffman and advance the issues the newspaper cares about.

Why act as a PR mouthpiece for a Congressman, ignoring his faults and blunders, even if you’ve endorsed him? That’s my point.

 

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.