Archive for the 'Denver Post' Category

Dear Digital First Media, please hire a replacement for Denver Post opinion writer, Alicia Caldwell

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015

You’d be excused for assuming, from all the talk about The Denver Post being in free-fall, that the newspaper is shedding writers like a cat in springtime.

But it turns out, when you do the bean counting, that The Post has pretty much maintained its editorial staff over the past year or so. If you count two positions that are apparently waiting to be filled, the departed staffers equal the hired/filled positions.

Many veterans have left, leaving serious memory loss, but some excellent reporters have been hired as well (e.g., the newish politics reporters: John Frank, Mark Matthews, Jon Murray.)

You can argue that the journalistic stability at The Post, such as it is, is the owner’s, Digital First Media, transparent attempt to prop up a sick business that’s currently for sale.

Against a backdrop of stability, even if it’s manufactured, you wonder whether the newspaper has plans to replace opinion writer Alicia Caldwell, who left last month. I asked Post Editorial Page Editor Vincent Carroll about this.

“The position that Alicia vacated has not been filled, and I am not currently looking for a replacement,” Carroll told me via email on Thursday. “Alicia was a valuable colleague and I regret that she moved on, but her new job sounds like a great opportunity for her.”

If you look below at the Post’s editorial jobs that have been filled over the past year or so, it’s hard to comprehend why the newspaper wouldn’t hire a replacement for Caldwell, given the impact the opinion page continues to have on civic affairs in Denver. Would you argue with my estimate that 90 percent of political elites, even Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt (here’s proof), read The Denver Post’s political coverage, including its opinions,despite the paper’s serious circulation drop overall.

It’s not feasible to expect other staff on the opinion page to pick up Caldwell’s work. Her position is essential.

So, please-oh-please, Digital First Media, whoever and whatever you are, please add another writer to The Post’s opinion page to allow it to continue to produce informed opinion, with meaningful input from the community.

List of Denver Post Departed and Hired Editorial Staff over the Past Year or So

Departed (15)

Kristen Browning-Blas from features
Alicia Caldwell
Karen Crummy
Adrian Dater from sports/hockey
Mary Idler, an editorial assistant
Nancy Lofholm
Kurtis Lee
Kristen Painter from business
Ryan Parker from police
Howard Pankratz from business
Tim Rasmussen, photo editor (replaced from within by Meghan Lyden)
Allison Sherry in D.C.
Zahira Torres from education (replaced from within by Eric Gorski)
Andy Vuong in business
Kyle Wagner from features/travel

Hired/Filled (13)

Dave Krause (filled the opening when Dana Coffield was named business editor)
Molly Hughes for DPTV
John Frank, politics
Jon Murray, politics
Mark Matthews, (replaced Allison Sherry)
Alicia Walace (replaced Pankratz)
John Aguilar, general
Noelle Phillips, general
Jesse Paul, general
Tamara Chuang in biz (replaced Andy Vuong)
Jean Fields, Features
Brent Lewis, Photography
A replacement for Mary Idler

Denver Post editorials contradict each other on necessity of new law

Monday, April 20th, 2015

At the heart of Thursday’s Denver Post editorial supporting a personhood bill introduced by State Sen. Bill Cadman is the argument that Colorado needs a new law to penalize people like Dynel Lane, who faces over 100 years in prison for her alleged attack on Michelle Wilkins, who was pregnant and lost her fetus.

But just last year, The Post argued that existing Colorado law, specifically addressing crimes against pregnant women, was sufficient for cases like Wilkins’. The 2013 Crimes Against Pregnant Women law balances severe penalties for crimes harming fetuses with the preservation of abortion rights and the protection of pregnant women from criminal investigation.

Here’s what The Post said last week in its editorial endorsing Cadman’s bill:

A 2013 law made it a felony to unlawfully terminate a pregnancy, but it is a Class 3 felony with a sentencing range of 10 to 32 years unless the mother dies — when it becomes a Class 2 felony. The Class 3 felony is utterly inadequate.

But when The Post opposed last year’s personhood amendment, the newspaper argued that even a “horrific incident” did not justify a new law because “the state legislature already made the necessary statutory fix.” Here’s what The Post wrote last year:

The horrific incident laid bare a gap in Colorado law that did not allow authorities to charge the drunken driver with anything for the loss of Brady [an eight-month-old fetus].

The Yes on 67 campaign attempts to capitalize on this circumstance, saying the amendment is needed to protect pregnant mothers from violence. Proponents conveniently ignore the fact that the state legislature already made the necessary statutory fix.

It’s because of this 2013 “statutory fix” that Lane faces the 100-year prison term, because the 2013 Crimes-Against-Pregnant-Women law allows charges to be added on top of one another, over and above the Class 3 felony.

This severe penalties of Colorado’s 2013 law were apparently good enough for The Post last year, but now the statute is suddenly inadequate? What gives?

Clearly, both Cadman’s bill and Amendment 67 are attempts to take advantage of nightmarish incidents to pass different versions of “personhood.” Colorado’s 2013 law, considered the gold standard in balancing women’s rights with criminal justice, was a good argument against Amendment 67, as The Post understood at the time.

Newspaper editorials are supposed to be consistent and above-the-fray, so you’d expect The Post to point again to the 2013 Crimes Against Pregnant Women law and argue against Cadman’s personhood bill. But, alas, no, and the logic of the inconsistency escapes me.

Reporters should call bill giving legal rights to fetus “personhood,” not “fetal homicide”

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015

In response to the March 18 attack on a pregnant women in Longmont, state Senate Republicans have introduced legislation expanding the definition of “person” in specific state laws, including Colorado’s murder statute, to include an “unborn child at every stage of gestation from conception until live birth.”

If that sounds like personhood to you, giving legal rights to zygotes (fertilized eggs), that’s because it is a form of personhood. It establishes the fetus as a person, opening the door to possible bans on abortion and the arrest of pregnant women for crimes (e.g., child abuse) against their own fetus. And that’s what concerns Senate Democrats, who are opposing the legislation and saying Republicans are taking advantage of the horrific crime against Michelle Wilkins to pass personhood legislation.

“I am disappointed that the Republicans are choosing to use what happened to the Wilkins family to get ‘personhood’ into law,” said state Sen. Pat Steadman (D-Denver) in a statement after the GOP bill was introduced Tuesday afternoon.

Steadman, along with pro-choice advocates, point out that Colorado’s 2013 law, the “Crimes Against Pregnant Women” act, allows for severe penalties for crimes like the one Wilkins endured, while protecting abortion rights and preventing prosecutors from arresting pregnant women, for example, for abuse of her own fetus–which has been done even in states with laws specifically prohibiting prosecutors from doing this.

“What occurred in Longmont was horrible, and the perpetrator deserves to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, which if found guilty could result in a sentence of over 100 years in prison,” said Steadman. “Using this tragedy to promote new laws that Colorado voters have soundly rejected is out of bounds.”

Reporters should be clear that the bill introduced yesterday and sponsored by state senate Bill Cadman and 14 other Republicans, is a variation of personhood legislation, even though it excludes from prosecution acts “committed by the mother of her unborn child,” “a medical procedure” performed by medical professionals or doctors, or the “administration” of legal medicine.

This vague language, like “medical procedure” puts abortion rights in jeopardy–particularly because “abortion” is not mentioned at all in the text of Cadman’s bill.

In contrast, similar laws, like a one in Kentucky, very explicitly exclude the performance of an “abortion” from possible persecution. Kentucky’s law states that prosecution would not be allowed for “any abortion for which the consent of the pregnant woman has been obtained or for which the consent is implied by law in a medical emergency.”

So I don’t understand why some personhood activists, like Jennifer Mason, say the language in Cadman’s bill affirms abortion. It’s too vague to do this.

“We are urging a reconsideration of this bill – it can be written to ensure justice for victims like Heather Surovik and Michelle Wilkins, without going out of its way to protect abortion,” said Mason. “The overt inclusion and protection of abortion is not only wrong, it’s extremely inappropriate considering the tragic circumstances that call for fetal homicide laws in Colorado.”

Even when abortion is specifically excluded, pro-choice advocates say laws like Cadman’s, ironically, tread on the rights of pregnant women.

“Our research shows that in the current U.S. political environment, there is no way to put one of these laws in place without it becoming a tool for controlling and punishing pregnant women themselves,” said Lynn Paltrow, director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women.

 

Exit interview: Veteran Denver Post opinion-page writer Alicia Caldwell leaves journalism

Monday, April 6th, 2015

Creating yet another gaping hole at Denver’s leading news outlet, Alicia Caldwell ended a twelve-year run at The Denver Post Tuesday, when she left the newspaper for a job as communications director for the Colorado Department of Human Services. Caldwell started in 2003 as a news reporter and joined The Post’s editorial board in 2006. Prior to joining The Post, she spent 16 years at the St. Petersburg Times in Florida.

Before her departure from The Post last week, Caldwell answered a few questions via email about journalism,The Post, and her new job.

Why are you leaving The Post?

Caldwell: The opportunity to become communications director for the state Department of Human Services was too good to pass up. Many of us get into journalism because we are drawn to important issues and care about the condition of society at large. This job gives me a more direct way of contributing on both those counts. The work CDHS does is really difficult, yet the agency is making headway on a number of fronts. I’m not sure there is a broad appreciation of that progress.

Do you agree with me that as journalism shrinks, opinion-writing jobs at newspapers, like yours at The Post, are even more endangered than jobs on the news side? If you agree, what will be lost in a place like Colorado, as jobs like yours disappear? If you disagree, please explain why.

Caldwell: I both agree and disagree with your premise. Yes, I think that the loss of voices on the opinion page diminishes breadth and depth of debate on issues of public importance. Love us or hate us, well-researched opinions on the topics of the day, especially the complex ones, bring value to the public sphere. Where I might part ways with your supposition is that opinion positions are more endangered than those on the news side. The newspaper has been cutting everywhere, unfortunately, due to shrinking revenues. It makes me profoundly sad, I will tell you, to see the diminution of the staff and the coverage we’re able to provide readers.

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

Caldwell: Well, I think all of my concerns are directly tied to diminished resources and the many effects that has on how journalism is practiced. As budgets grow thinner, it’s not just that journalists are losing their jobs, it’s that the business can no longer afford to pay for experienced hands who generally produce the most sophisticated stories. It also means the more subtle stories that might take time and research fall to the bottom of the priority list. Journalism will survive, but I worry that at regional newspapers, it will turn into a low-wage profession. And hey, I understand the need to balance the books, the need for revenues to cover expenses, but I do think that changing financial landscape will inevitably change the nature of the workforce and the product. As for admiration, I very much admire those who are carrying on despite all of these challenges because they have passion for their work and respect for the mission.

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

Caldwell: Keep your eyes open going in and don’t expect it to go back to the way it was even 10 years ago.

What do you think you’ll miss most when you leave The Post?

Caldwell: Being on the editorial board has been a profound honor. I have appreciated every day the freedom I’ve had to write on a broad range of topics. Working with Vincent Carroll, the editorial page editor at The Post, has been a pleasure. Vincent is a true professional who is always willing to consider opinions that differ from his own. I have to tell you, I think America would be less politically polarized if more people would sit down and rationally discuss the merits of an issue with people who they might not initially agree with. That piece of common ground that many of us long for is actually bigger than one might think.

Thanks, Alicia.

NOTE: See other “exit interviews” with Denver journalists here.

Let’s appreciate The Post’s coverage of city council races–while we can

Saturday, March 28th, 2015

God love The Denver Post for actually factually covering Denver’s city council races with a little bit of breadth and a little bit of depth.

You can find a story here and there by other news entities, including the neighborhood newspapers. But to understand what’s happening  city-wide you have to turn to The Post. It’s apparently put Jon Murray, one of its top political reporters on the beat. And he, along with other reporters, are offering real coverage of the election, at the end of which we will have six of 13 new faces on the council. So it’s a big deal.

The Post is running a series spotlighting the major issues and candidates in the races, including, so far, District 1, District 2, and District 3.  The newspaper is dutifully following the money, as well as major developments.

The Post, for example, reported details this week of possible campaign-finance violations by District 10 candidate Wayne New, who admitted to omitting information from his official signs and not reporting in-kind donations .

But Wayne New denies that he is required to report the obvious advertising value of large campaign signs he’s placed in parking lots owned by Buzz Geller, a businessman who supports New.

Luis Toro, director Colorado Ethics Watch, which filed a complaint against Wayne New, says the failure to disclose the value of the use of parking lots is a “real, substantive violation” of Denver’s campaign finance laws. Toro told The Post his group’s action against New has nothing to do with the fact that New has donated to Republican candidates Mitt Romney and John McCain. [Disclosure: I support one of New’s District 10 opponents, Anna Jones, though I live outside the district.]

Anyway, wouldn’t it be great if the media were full of blow-by-blow accounts of low-level political battles like these? The best we have is The Post. And you wonder, who’s gonna do it when/if The Post is gone? It’s something that should not go unappreciated today, while we still have it.

Post closes last Colorado bureau and loses reporter Nancy Lofholm

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015

Another in a string of highly regarded journalists to leave The Denver Post in the last few years, Nancy Lofholm walked away from the newspaper Feb. 6, after The Post closed its Western Slope bureau, which Lofholm directed.

Before coming to The Post 17 years ago, Lofholm worked for several Colorado newspapers, including the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel and the Montrose Daily Press. She’s freelanced for, among other publications, the New York Times, USA Today, and the LA Times.

“At the risk of sounding like a news Neanderthal,” Lofholm told me via email, “I will reveal that my life in journalism really began in 1968. I was the editor of my high school newspaper and was invited to ride through Nebraska on Bobby Kennedy’s campaign train. It was a smoke-filled, highball-sloshed, bloodshot-eyed scene. I was utterly hooked. My life’s mission became peeking behind curtains and describing for readers what I saw. ”

Here are Lofholm’s answers to questions I emailed her.

Jason: Why are you leaving? Will you continue as a journalist?

Lofholm: The powers-that-be at The Denver Post decided to close the Western Slope bureau and focus coverage on the Denver/metro area. I opted  to not transfer to Denver. I had been covering news on the Western Slope for more than three decades (17 of those years for The Post).  I had no desire to leave my home, friends and significant other behind to start over in Denver at the age of 64. After a brief bike-riding and sunset-savoring breather, I will continue in journalism. Some good opportunities are opening up and I intend to take advantage of them to keep up some coverage of this side of the state.

Jason: What are a couple of your best memories of The Post? Worst?

Lofholm: My best memories are of the early years when The Post created six bureaus around the state. It was part of a “We Are Colorado” campaign.  Top executives and editors at The Post traveled around the state in a bus and handed out coffee, cookies and tchotchkes to trumpet The Post’s commitment to being a strong statewide newspaper. Having that as a mission gave us in the bureaus so much opportunity to be creative in our coverage.

We had supportive state editors, like the exceptional Joe Watt, who really understood and appreciated the color and diversity of rural Colorado. We had a great cohesive team of talented reporters who could come together on wildfires, fugitive chases and plane crashes. Our team also was encouraged to produce the lively dailies that took readers along as we explored every interesting nook and cranny of Colorado, from a snowplow on Red Mountain and a gold mine near Victor to a corn factory-on-wheels at Olathe and a rodeo chute in Leadville.  At least one of us was on Page 1 nearly every day.

The hours were long. The deadlines were demanding. But it was all centered on the best of newspaper reporting and storytelling and on delivering what readers valued. I loved every bit of it. I will always feel incredibly lucky to have been a part of that.

And the worst: Seeing those bureaus shuttered one by one and The Post’s interest in news outside of Denver dwindle. The last few years had been very painful because of that lack of interest. I was forced to ignore so much news from this side of the mountains and was told the slice-of-life stories from over here were “too west slopey” for The Post.

Jason: One of your beats is immigration. Any advice for reporters trying to do a fair and accurate job on this topic?

Lofholm: Ignore the extremists on both sides of the issue. And get to know the real people at the heart of this difficult topic – the Dreamers, the farmworkers, the detained, the deported and the newly minted citizens.  Only through understanding and telling their stories can you illustrate why the immigration system is so badly in need of a fix and why so much of the emotional rhetoric is off-base.

Oh, and never expect ICE to give you a straight or timely answer to your questions

Jason: Would you advise a young person to pursue journalism?

Lofholm: Absolutely. I advise that all the time – with the caveat that they shouldn’t expect to get rich or to relax.

If young people have a passion for journalism, they can deal with whatever an industry in huge flux will throw at them. The demand for solid reporting and lively, well-written stories won’t go away. It may seem to be lost at times in the constant shuffle of priorities, the new instant nature of news  and the dazzle of digital platforms, but it will always be important. My advice is to keep that at the core of journalistic ambitions.

And, of course, be able to tweet, shoot videos, upload stills and text updates to editors – all while reporting and observing news events.The young do that so well!

Jason: Anything to say about the future of journalism in Colorado?

Lofholm: It will be very interesting. I say that knowing that ‘interesting’ is entirely too weak a word for what might happen in Denver. Will the Rocky revive? What will the hedge funders do with The Post? What is Phil Anschutz up to? What about that scrappy upstart, the Colorado Independent?

As all that sorts itself out, I think the small papers around Colorado will hold their own. Talented and dedicated people at papers like the Silverton Standard & Miner, the Dove Creek Press, the Durango Herald and many more will carry on, and their communities will be the better for it.

Jason: Or on The Post’s decision to close what appears to be its last in-state bureau?

Lofholm: Sad. Colorado needs a statewide newspaper, but The Post has not filled that need well in this half of the state for some time. Home delivery is nearly non-existent, and the busy digital product has some readers in areas of slow connectivity throwing up their hands in frustration. Those who are still dedicated to The Post are wistfully asking  “What about ‘Denver & the West’? Will it now be ‘Denver & the Metro’?”

Jason: Anything you want to add?

Lofholm: I would have liked to have continued working for The Denver Post for a few more years. I still have that fire, curiosity and energy to devote to journalism. I see good stories everywhere. I leave with a fat file of story ideas that certain editors at The Post had nixed but that I know will  be the basis for some freelance opportunities.

At this point I feel like I have new freedom to produce some good work.

Losing a Denver Post paycheck has not caused me to lose my passion for journalism.

Media omission: McInnis resurrects political career with election as country commissioner

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

It appears that the entire front-range media missed one of the most exciting election stories of 2014: the resurrection of failed GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis!

McInnis, who was taken down by wizard Dan Maes in the 2010 Republican primary, won a seat in November on the Mesa Country Board of Commissioners.

If you call his office, you get a message saying:

“Thank you for contacting commissioner Scott McInnis. Although he is unavailable to take your call, your call is important. Please leave your name, phone number, and a brief message. Thank you.”

A quick check revealed that this exact phone message (except the name “Scott McInnis”) was plagiarized, but McInnis probably had nothing do do with it, as the message was delivered in a woman’s voice.

Back in 2010, McInnis was caught by The Denver Post for plagiarizing portions of short articles he wrote on Colorado water issues, commissioned for $350,000 from the Hasan Foundation.

The price tag prompted Post columnist Ed Quillen to write that he wanted to engage McInnis as “my literary agent, since he knows how to cut some sweet deals.”

He blamed his water-article plagiarism on his ghost writer, Rolly Fisher, but McInnis eventually took some measure of responsibility for it.

Last year, during his county-commissioner race, McInnis washed his hands of any wrong-doing for the plagiarism, telling the Grand Junction Sentinel he regretted admitting to any mistakes about the plagiarism.

“I’ve used ghost writers my whole career. I would have said I didn’t make the mistake. I wasn’t dishonest then and I’m not dishonest now.”

Barring any recalls for un-commissioner-like behavior, which may or may not include plagiarism, he’ll serve until 2019.

Reporters shouldn’t let gun misinformation or hyperbole slide by at state legislature

Monday, February 2nd, 2015

ColoradoPols did us a favor yesterday by trotting out some of the ridiculous misinformation delivered in 2013 by opponents of gun safety laws. And Pols pleaded with local reporters to correct such falsehoods if they pop up this year.

As a example of what should be done, I direct your attention to a 2013 Post editorial that corrected GOP Sen. Kent Lambert’s statement, cited in the Pols post yesterday, that that lawmakers had “effectively banned gun ownership.”

Labert’s statement, The Post wrote, was “not supported by the facts.”

Dahh, you say, but as Pols pointed out, that’s what we need when our elected leaders stray from the obvious facts.

And it’s also what we need when elected officials stray into wild hyperbole, that may not be demonstrably incorrect, per se, but should be called out as… wild hyperbole.

Last time around, for example, we heard this from respectable people under the gold dome:

Lambert: And now, you know, with everybody having their guns confiscated or taken away here over the next couple years, almost completely overturning the Second Amendment, what’s going to happen to our crime rate? [BigMedia editorial comment: two years have passed! Every legal gun owner still has her gun.]

And this in 2013:

State Rep. Kevin Priola compared banning some ammunition magazines to putting Japanese-Americans in internment camps during WWII.

And this in 2013:

Rep. Kevin Lundberg said on the radio that Colorado is getting “so close” to the point where he’ll be having his gun pried away from his “cold, dead hands.”

It’s bad when a guy like State Sen. Randy Baumgardner claims falsely, as he did in 2013, that “hammers and bats” killed more people in America in 2012 than guns did.

His facts should be corrected.

But the scare tactics about gun confiscation should be confronted as well,  with the simple fact that it’s been two years now and not a single legal gun holder has lost her weapon.

“I don’t owe people who are here illegally anything.”

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

“I don’t owe people who are here illegally anything.”

That’s Republican Rep. Ken Buck, making us proud just hours before he was sworn in today as a U.S. Representative from Colorado.

One wonders if Buck would have said the same thing about my interred illegal immigrant Italian inlaws (IIIII), but it doesn’t matter because Buck is in Washington now, not a hundred years ago.

Buck told The Denver Post’s Mark Matthews that he wants to establish a kick-ass guest-worker program for immigrants and then move on, piecemeal, to deal with the 11 million undocumented immigrants already in our country.

But how will he do this for people to whom he owes nothing?

Does Buck feel he owes undocumented human beings no respect? No compassion, not even some level of honor for the work they do in our country–and for the contributions they make to our communities? Apparently not. Nada.

How about a vaccination or two for the undocumented kids? Does Buck owe them that?

Owing nothing to the undocumented people in Colorado amounts to hating them. What else to call it?

Maybe I’m skewed from too much talk radio, but the hate toward immigrants from respectable people in Colorado, like Buck and State Sen. Vicki Marble (who said they spread “the disease”), seems to be on the rise.

Yet, I don’t see reporters noticing. Marble’s ugly comment stunk up my blog post and went nowhere else. Buck’s line was at least reported, which counts for something, but was left hanging. Ugh.

Fact Check: Police officers were leaving East High protest when struck

Saturday, December 13th, 2014

Denver talk-radio host Dan Caplis implies in a Denver Post op-ed today that an East High School protest should be blamed for the serious injuries suffered by a Denver Police officer struck by a car near the demonstration.

KNUS 710-AM’s Caplis writes that the officer, John Adsit, “was horribly injured while trying to protect the lawbreakers.”

In fact, Adsit was hit by the car as he was returning to his beat after escorting the protesters on their march. The protest was still happening when Adsit was hit, but Adsit was going back to his 16th Street Mall assignment.

This fact was reported by Denver Post reporter Jesse Paul and Tim McGhee, who covered the accident December 3.

Paul’s reporting isn’t crystal clear on the matter, so I emailed him Saturday to confirm that my interpretation was correct. (Disclosure: My kids goes to East.)

Paul confirmed that, yes, Adsit was returning to his beat as the protest continued.

Not that it matters anyway. Adsit was struck by someone experiencing a medical problem. It had nothing to do with the protest. It was a random tragedy.

In any case, Caplis should set a better example for East students and the rest of us by making sure he gets his facts correct. And, of course, he should apologize for the error.