Archive for the 'Denver Post' Category

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. 

Glenn’s baseless attack on The Denver Post

Monday, August 29th, 2016

The days when journalists wouldn’t respond to officials who insult them, lie about them, degrade them, or otherwise slam their professionalism are fading.

Case in point: Republican U.S. Senate candidate Darryll Glenn’s ridiculous attacks on The Denver Post.

Glenn said last week he would no longer talk to The Post, explaining on KFKA radio that the newspaper had called him a “liar” and journalists there had become “advocates,” which he finds “totally unacceptable.”

Rather than ignore the unsupportable attack, The Post’s Joey Bunch responded on Twitter:

Bunch: I applied facts to his words until he, not I, said his words were not correct.” [here]

The Post’s John Frank then reported over the weekend:

Glenn did not explain why he is blacklisting Colorado’s largest newspaper, but in an interview Thursday with KFKA talk radio, he appeared to link his decision to the Post’s coverage of his conflicting explanations of a 1983 charge for third-degree assault, which was later dropped…

The coverage of the incident did not call him “a liar.” A campaign spokeswoman did not immediately respond to questions Friday…

Glenn’s decision — which drew criticism from Republicans and Democrats — and other missteps are disturbing to GOP strategists in Colorado, but many still hope he can regain his footing.

The correction of Glenn is good, but I’d like to see journalist call out officials whenever they attack the press, even if they do so in sweeping terms, like leveling bogus accusations of “liberal media bias.”

This year, GOP Senate President Bill Cadman did so and slid by. U.S. Senator Cory Gardner did it a few times in recent years, with no response from the media.

Glenn also appears to have had a Mike-Coffman moment, when he repeated the same line over and over. Local reporters have been good at spotlighting this behavior. (See this video.)

“My press secretary back there will handle all Denver Post questions,” Glenn told Frank four times when questioned.

You recall, Coffman infamously wondered in 2012 whether Obama is an American, and then he offer a sedcripted and unapologitic apology to 9News Kyle Clark five times in a row.

Fact Check:  Gardner opposed comprehensive immigration reform and backed government shutdown

Monday, July 25th, 2016

Update: After seeing the comments attacking Denver Post editorial page editor Chuck Plunkett, I asked him to comment on my blog post below. I regret not seeking comment from him before posting, but here’s what Plunkett said via email:

Gardner has called for acting on immigration reform. He stood and clapped when Obama asked in is SOTU in 2014 calling for Congress to get it done. He’s for a path to legal status. Yes, he says the border situation has to be secure, and I understand that some use that condition to dodge real reform, but Gardner has for the last two years been more friendly to the issue than others.

I include this piece from Mark Matthew’s in 2014 to show what I mean.

I get it that the use of the word “comprehensive” is too much of a buzzword and it isn’t specific enough. And were I writing specifically about immigration I would have had to have been more detailed. But in the context of a broader editorial about leadership styles, a 10,000-foot view comparison between Gardner’s approach and Cruz/Trump, Gardner is much different. Cruz called for deporting 12 million people in the country illegally, for example.

——-

In an editorial this weekend holding out U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner as the model of the way forward for the Republican Party, The Denver Post claimed Gardner “supports comprehensive immigration reform.”

In fact, Gardner opposed a 2103 comprehensive immigration reform bill, which died in the Republican-controlled House, after it passed by a bipartisan 68-32 vote in the U.S. Senate.

Gardner said at the time immigration reform has to start with border security, and he called for  “additional personnel on the border,” an “e-verify system,” and “additional security, a fence, you name it, on the border.”

Sounds much like Trump, even though The Post’s editorial, titled “How will the GOP rebuild after Trump,” aimed to contrast Gardner with Trump.

Since then, Gardner has called for immigration reform, but the issues section of his website doesn’t list immigration at all. There’s no indication that his position has changed or that he’s for comprehensive immigration reform, in any real sense of the term.

Rep. Mike Coffman, who also opposed the bipartisan U.S. Senate bill in 2013, uses the phrase “comprehensive immigration reform,” but his website says it “must first begin with the comprehensive enforcement of our immigration laws.”

To my way of thinking, if you demand undefined border enforcement first, leaving out the other elements of comprehensive immigration reform, like a path to citizenship, you’re really not for comprehensive immigration reform. It’s not comprehensive.

The Post also claimed Gardner was against the 2013 government shutdown. In fact, 9News’ political reporter Brandon Rittiman determined that in 2014, even though Gardner voted to end the shutdown once it started, “Gardner did vote in line with the Republican strategy that led to the government shutdown.”