Archive for the 'Denver Post' Category

Exit interview: Joanne Davidson answers questions about journalism and her 29 years at The Denver Post

Wednesday, August 12th, 2015

Last month, Joanne Davidson took a buyout from The Denver Post and left the newspaper after a 29-year run, serving as society editor since 1985. Prior to The Post, she worked for U.S. News and World Report. Davidson’s coverage of social gatherings, fundraisers, and nonprofit events was a benefit to our community, beyond what many people understand. Her work will be missed.

Davidson kindly accepted my request to answer a few questions about journalism and her career at The Post.

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?

I left The Post, after 29 years and eight months, not because I wanted to but because I was afraid of what might happen if I did not accept the buyout that was made available to 20 employees. When the buyout was announced, it was made clear that even if 20 people were to accept, there was a chance that further belt-tightening would be necessary. Which I interpreted to mean getting laid off without the financial cushion that the buyout provided.

You were known for writing about fundraisers and “society” events. Do you know if The Post will continue covering this beat after your departure—and it seems no other media outlet in town covers this stuff? What’s lost for Denver if your beat is eliminated or scaled way back?

I don’t know what the plans are, although I would be very surprised if the coverage is discontinued. It may continue in a different format, such as pictures only, or it might continue with general assignment reporters or interns taking turns covering the events. I just don’t know.

It would be a huge loss if it was discontinued. Nonprofits count on the exposure to build awareness and attract new supporters. And people new to town can learn about the various worthy causes by reading about the organizations that I covered.

But society coverage is much more than shooting pictures of people all dressed up in their party clothes. (And by the way, I need to emphasize how much I dislike the term “society coverage.” It implies a focus on rich white people when in fact I worked very hard to be as inclusive as possible).

Many years ago I did a story that outlined the “trickle-down theory of society economics.” It pointed out the financial reach a fundraising event has: the graphic artists who design the invitations, printed programs and souvenir journals; the printers who print them; the venues who rent the space for the events; the purveyors who sell the meat, veggies, breads and whatnot to the chefs who prepare the meals; the waiters and bartenders who staff the event; the florists who provide the flowers; the valets who park the cars; the event planners hired to make sure everything runs smoothly; the boutiques, department stores and tuxedo rental shops where those attending the events buy or rent something to wear; the musicians and speakers who are booked to entertain or inform; hair stylists and manicurists who have an uptick in business the day of the benefit …

Diminished resources aside, what are your biggest concerns about how political journalism is practiced in Colorado today?

My biggest concern is that without a newspaper adequately staffed with inquisitive and knowledgeable reporters, too many things that need to be brought to the public’s attention will pass unnoticed. Reporters need to be watchdogs, unafraid to hold any decision-maker’s feet to the fire.

What do you admire most?

How well my colleagues are able to keep on keepin’ on despite the challenges with which they are saddled.

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

The worst error came about a week after I started at The Post.

I was covering a holiday party put on by the president/ceo of The Denver Dry Goods. I had just walked in the door when a guest approached and asked, “Have you met our host yet?” I said that I had not. So the guy says, “Well, his name is Joe Davis. He’s surrounded by people right now, but let me see if I can break him away for a minute so the two of you can chat.” Long story short, I had another event to get to that night, so I could only stay at that party for roughly a half-hour and wound up having to leave without having been introduced to the host. But, in the story I wrote, I described in great detail the party that Denver Dry Goods president Joe Davis had hosted. The ink was barely dry on the paper when a barrage of angry phone calls began. Joe Davis, they pointed out, was president/ceo of the Denver Dry’s arch rival, May D&F! Tom Roach was the boss at The Denver Dry Goods.

Needless to say, both the editor, publisher and vice president of advertising were not pleased. Joe Davis and Tom Roach, were able to laugh it off, thank goodness. But not before I hand-wrote letters of profuse apology that were delivered by courier, along with very expensive bottles of their favorite adult beverage.

As for stories of which I am most proud, I would have to say no one story in particular but the fact that I made it a priority to get to know and write about people from all of Denver’s ethnic and income communities. Years ago I read an obituary for New York Times society columnist Charlotte Curtis that recalled the answer she had given when someone asked what her definition of “society” was. To her, “society” was the entire human race.

That’s how I define it, too.

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

Go for it. It’ll be the best job you will ever have.

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

The people, the long hours, the pressure … swear to God, I loved it all. But the landscape has changed and it’s time to move on.

Anything else you’d like to say?

Stay tuned. You haven’t seen the last of me yet!

[See more in this series of "Exit Interviews" with journalists here.]

Coffman and Rubio’s path away from immigration reform

Tuesday, August 11th, 2015

A good way to understand (or get further confused) about Rep. Mike Coffman’s illusive position on immigration is to compare it to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s. And reporters should consider using this comparison to help explain Coffman’s (non)position to voters.

Back in 2013, Rubio was part of the “Gang of Eight” Senators (including Michael Bennet) who pushed a comprehensive immigration bill that, miraculously, passed the U.S. Senate. It offered major border security, along with a long path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in America.

Despite claiming to be for “comprehensive immigration reform,” Rep. Coffman opposed the Rubio bill and its path to citizenship. And House Republicans, with Coffman’s blessing, never voted on the Rubio bill, and it died a truly tragic death.

Asked why he wouldn’t support the comprehensive-immigration-reform legislation, after he’d thumped his chest in The Denver Post in favor of the idea, Coffman said he didn’t want it all in one bill.

Instead, Coffman said he wanted a “step-by-step,” multiple-bill strategy, telling the Aurora Sentinel that a “comprehensive approach doesn’t have to be a comprehensive bill.”

And Coffman scrubbed the phrase “comprehensive immigration reform” from his website.

Now Rubio is running for President and facing Republican voters who are hostile to immigrants entered our country illegally. And so he’s given up on his gang-of-eight, comprehensive bill and is now favoring of a vague “three-step” dance that ends with a “further discussion about whether they’re allowed to apply for a green card.” The path to citizenship is gone.

In its place, Rubio has advocated Coffman’s position to give “legal status” to adult undocumented immigrants, creating a taxation-without-representation underclass of America workers.

With this new stance, Rubio is no longer considered a moderate on immigration. He’s joined Coffman and the Republican right in opposing serious reform. At this point, with his position such as it is, Rubio would vote against his own immigration bill of 2013.

For his part, Coffman hasn’t even said which parts of Rubio’s vague “step-by-step” process he favors, since Coffman has never outlined the steps—even in bare bones terms–much less identified specific bills that he actually factually would vote for.

So Rubio’s flipping and flopping sheds some light, such as it is, on Coffman’s immigration mushiness. It’s a useful trip back, and, for reporters, there will be more opportunities like this to review policy stances of local politicians as the presidential campaign drags on.

 

Media omission: Brauchler denies “ego” or “political ambition” as he goes on the radio attacking the Aurora murderer’s parents and The Denver Post

Monday, August 10th, 2015

George Brauchler leaped onto conservative talk radio this morning to deny that his decision to pursue the death penalty in the Aurora-shooting case, instead of saving big bucks and major trauma by accepting a plea deal of life in prison, was driven by “ego” or “political ambition.”

“People who are opposed to the death penalty are going to find reasons to accuse me or any other prosecutor for seeking it,” said Brauchler on KHOW’s Mandy Connell show this morning. “And the most likely targets are, ‘Oh, it must have been ego, or it must have been political ambition.’

Brauchler denied this, but there he was leveling his harshest tone and barbs on conservative talk radio. Home base of the Republican Party, on the morning after the verdict. You respect Brauchler for taking questions about the case, but why jump on conservative talk radio circuit and sound like a conservative talk-radio host?

At one point  on KNUS’ Craig Silverman Show Saturday, Brauchler attacked the parents of the shooter for not talking to him directly during the trial.

Then he slammed not only a Denver Post editorial as “strident” but The Denver Post editorial board itself as becoming irrelevant.

First, here’s Brauchler’s comment to Silverman, lambasting the murderer’s parents for not calling him up and begging, as Brauchler put it, “Please, God, don’t kill my son….”

To his credit, Silverman pointed out that the parents were likely just following their lawyers’ instructions not to talk to a guy who’d successfully sought the death penalty in the past and was crusading to put their son to death.

Brauchler (below at 11 minutes): There is something that sticks out to me that I find completely unusual, and that is, at no time during the pendency of this case have the ever reached out to me. In fact, I had people call them throughout the pendency of this case, and they continued to hide behind an attorney. And while I get there are legal reasons for them to maybe not talk, but as a parent myself, and I’d ask anybody listening to this, if your son or daughter was facing the potential of a death penalty, what could stop you from calling the DA and saying, ‘Please, God, don’t kill my son or my daughter.’ Instead, they went to The Post and did an op-ed piece coincidentally timed with three days after the juror summonses went out. And then mom published a book of thoughts—or whatever they were—calling into question, of course, our motives, and saying a bunch of things about mental illness coincidentally timed with the middle of jury selection, right before opening statements. I mean, again, they are not at fault for what happened here, but I can’t, as a parent, envision taking the path that they took.

Silverman: Bob and Arlene [the murderer's parents] were in the courtroom. I imagine they were following the instructions of the public defenders, their son’s attorneys. …

Later, Brauchler turned his attention to The Denver Post, saying its “strident” Friday editorial against the death penalty is evidence, along with polls showing 2-1 support for the death penalty in Colorado, that the newspaper’s “editorial board continues to demonstrate some irrelevance.”

Brauchler (@ 50 minutes 20 seconds): The Post op-ed piece [sic] was striking in how over-the-top it was to me. And I get that they had been opposed to the death penalty from the word go. But the strident language that they used to suggest that somehow I had seriously misjudged the jury. It sounds like there was one juror, and the other jurors were on board with moving forward through the rest of the trial, as was even that juror. I wonder what that their tone would have been had that one juror gone the way of the others and they had imposed death. I’m sure it would have been critical. And I think the point that The Post missed, and maybe this is the part of how this editorial board continues to demonstrate some irrelevance, is this Quinnipiac poll showing Coloradans are two-one in favor of the death penalty.

Lashing out at the murderer’s parents? At The Denver Post? On conservative talk radio? Why is Brauchler behaving like this? Hmmm.

Brauchler on KNUS’s Craig Silverman Aug. 8, 2015:

https://soundcloud.com/bigmedia-org/george-brauchler-attacks-denver-post-and-murders-parents

Brauchler on KHOW’s Mandy Connell Aug. 10, 2015.

https://soundcloud.com/bigmedia-org/da-bruachler-discusses-holmes-verdict-and-the-death-penalty-with-mandy-connell-khow-630am-81015

Exit interview: Claire Martin answers questions about journalism and her 31 years at The Denver Post

Wednesday, August 5th, 2015

After over 31 years at The Denver Post, Claire Martin departed from the newspaper last month, along with 18 other staffers who accepted a buyout offer. Martin was mostly a feature writer at The Post, and her obituaries received national acclaim. Her writing at The Post will be missed.

Last week, Martin kindly accepted my request to answer a few questions about her career and journalism. Here are her answers, provided via email:

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?

I am not leaving because of the paper’s economic troubles. The Denver Post is actually profitable, as I understand it. It’s just not profitable enough for the hedge fund company that owns The Denver Post.

I started writing for newspapers in the early 1970s, when I was still in high school, and newspapers were doing well enough to pay for high school correspondents. I don’t know what the profit margins were then, but there was never a general consensus that it was the newspaper’s job to be extremely profitable. The watchdog role was more important. This was when the Washington Post was breaking the Watergate scandal, and the New York Times had published the Pentagon papers, and the culture in newsrooms definitely reflected the watchdog sensibility, not expectations of high profits.

Part of the reason I took the buyout was because it was the first time a buyout was offered at a time when the newspaper was profitable. In my 30-plus years at the Denver Post, I have accepted a wage freeze, a pay cut and other measures we were told were necessary to keep the paper going. It’s kind of exasperating that when the newspaper IS making money, the owner wants to make even more.

I have had a great run at the Denver Post. They liked my idea when I suggested in 1985  that we host a cross-state bicycle tour, and Ride the Rockies became a genuine boon to many of the Colorado towns who hosted the tour for a night.

The editors typically have been open to the other ideas I have had, and I deeply appreciated that support.

In terms of feeling pressured to produce, that has not really been a problem for me. I have more ideas for stories than I have time to write, and nearly always I become absorbed in researching and telling those stories.

How does the upheaval in journalism affect feature writing? In a place like Denver, do you think there will be fewer jobs for feature reporters than, say, political reporters?  Or will everyone be writing about sports?

I do not know, but I think that one possibility is that the lines between features, business, news and even sports will become blurred. I would not be surprised if there were different categories, maybe breaking news, in-depth articles, and briefs — and that would cover news, business, features and sports. I think people in general like sports sections to be distinct from the news, even though technically that line is awfully blurry sometimes — Tom Brady and the deflated football for instance.

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

The problem is that there are not enough reporters to adequately cover it. I think there should be much closer examinations of the fracking industry, and the relationship between the fracking interests and lobbyists and the legislators who champion them.

I think Lynn Bartels will be sorely missed, in part because her institutional memory is exhaustive.

The most worrying political reporting-related incident I experienced at the paper was when a reporter — no longer at the paper — was on the phone with a source, and I overheard the reporter reassuring the person on the other end of the phone, *Not to worry, we will get that bastard.*

I was appalled. It is NOT a newspaper reporter’s job to get the bastards. It is our job to research a situation that looks problematic, and to report the facts of that case. If anyone is going to get the bastard, it should be through the legal system. I know there are bastards out there, and God knows there are some I’d certainly like to see suffer the consequences of their behavior. But it’s not my job to catch and punish them.

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

When I was writing obituaries, easily my favorite gig in those three decades, a woman called and asked if I would interview her BEFORE she died. It was a weird situation. I said I’d need to talk to some of her friends as well. Wound up meeting her in a hospice, along with a couple who’d known her a long time. We chatted, and I asked about her life and took notes. She emphasized the last three decades or so of her life, and when I asked about children and family, said she had none. The couple confirmed that, but they acted weird about it. I should have paid attention to that.

Time passes. The woman dies. The obit runs. My phone rings. On the line, a furious daughter who asked whey she was not consulted for the obituary. The woman had not mentioned a family, but it turned out that she’d estranged herself from her children and former husband. While what she told me at the hospice was not untrue, it also was not the full story.

I go over how I could have figured out the deception, but still can’t see where I could have caught it. I ran a criminal check on everyone I wrote about, to avoid an obit about someone who was a thief or worse, and that hospice patient was clean.

My favorite beat was writing obituaries, but it was also fun writing about how to train for Ride the Rockies, and the odd stories I ran into when I edited the short-lived Colorado Sunday section. Maybe my favorite story is one I wrote in 1989 about an avalanche that crashed into a condominium parking lot at Mt. Crested Butte, trapping three children and suffocating one of them.

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

I would advise learning programs like Final Cut Express, and thinking about following the example of the Center for Digital Storytelling’s model of 2-4 minute videos that tell a tightly-focused story. I also would suggest doing a lot of reading, and going into different communities to ask what is NOT being covered that ought to be getting attention.

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

The eccentric, charming people who were my coworkers, getting unlikely PR pitches, that kind of thing. I am working now on projects I describe as helping to make the world a better place for the aging. I am as excited about some of those projects as I was about stories I worked on.

Do you think you’ll be alive to see The Post close, and, if so, will you write an obituary for the newspaper?

I hope very much that the newspaper will not close during my lifetime. I think the city would be poorer without it, although the readers who think The Denver Post is either too conservative or too liberal would disagree.

As for writing its obituary — wow. An honest obit would require a book, and different Denver Post veterans would tell that story different ways. Dick Kreck would tell one story. Mike McPhee would tell a different one. I would tell yet another. It would be like the blind men trying to describe an elephant. Each would be accurate, as far as his hands and senses could go, and each would be inaccurate. It’s a tricky beast.

Recalling Coffman’s proposal for English-only ballots, as the Voting Rights Act turns 50

Monday, August 3rd, 2015

Over the weekend, I enjoyed reading Jim Rutenberg’s piece in the New York Times magazine on how conservatives have methodically dismantled the Voting Rights Act, which turns 50 on Thursday, culminating in the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013 decision gutting major provisions of the law.

Here at home, one conservative who’s been throwing his congressional spear at the Voting Rights Act, widely credited for finally giving African-Americans actual factual access to the voting booth, is Rep. Mike Coffman of Aurora.

Coffman, you recall, introduced legislation in 2011 repealing the law’s requirement that bilingual ballots be provided in areas with large numbers of voters don’t speak English very well.

In other words, Coffman wanted to leave the decision about whether to provide bilingual ballots to local authorities, and if you take the time to read Rutenberg’s article, you’ll see that, as much as we’d all like to believe otherwise, local politicians are apparently still trying to keep black Americans from voting. That’s why we need federal requirements for stuff like bilingual ballots–to make sure everyone can participate in democracy, such as it is.

But Coffman, who once suggested that immigrants “pull out a dictionary” if they’re having trouble understanding an English ballot, doesn’t see it that way.

Coffman: “Since proficiency in English is already a requirement for U.S. citizenship, forcing cash-strapped local governments to provide ballots in a language other than English makes no sense at all,” Coffman told the Denver Post in 2011.

Last year, Coffman doubled down on his support for English-only ballots, saying during a Univision debate that he still opposes the Voting Rights Act’s requirements for mailing Spanish-language ballots, because it’s expensive.

But Coffman said it in a more friendly way, “I would hope that every voter will be able to get the information that he needs in a language he can understand.”

Again, most of us have to share Coffman’s hope, but there’s also reality lurking out there, embodied in politicians who care more about self-preservation than democracy. And you can read about it in the New York Times.

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.”