Archive for the 'Exit Interviews: Conversations with Departing Denver Journos' Category

An interview with Michael Booth about his recent departure from The Denver Post

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

Reporter Michael Booth left The Denver Post this month after a 24-year run at the newspaper, starting in 1989 as a maternity fill-in for reporter Ann Schrader. He did many things there, covering the Senate race in 2010, the 2008 Democratic Convention, Denver City Hall, films, and much more. Most recently, he was on the health-care beat. His departure is more bad news for Colorado journalism.

Booth wrote The Denver Post Guide to Family Films, and he’ll be signing his new book, written with Jennifer Brown and titled Eating Dangerously: Why the Government Can’t Keep Your Food Safe . . . and How You Canat the Tattered Cover East Colfax, 7:30 p.m. March 14.

Booth answered a few questions via e-mail today:

Why are you leaving journalism?

I’m shifting from one form of journalism to a form of advocacy journalism. I’ll be writing, editing and consulting for The Colorado Health Foundation, as we develop better methods to provide interesting and useful information to policymakers and decision-makers on some of the most important issues of the era. Health care, health coverage and healthier living are enormous fields, but also based on some fundamental needs and principles that all of us could do a better job explaining and reducing to a level we can grasp.

What are some of your favorite memories at The Post?

Covering the Amendment 2 gay rights debate all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court fulfilled my ideal of what journalists could and should do, from the time I was a middle-schooler reading the Minneapolis Tribune as I walked every afternoon from the school bus down to my parents’ lake in northern Minnesota.

The chance to discuss capital punishment and challenge the status quo with Gov. John Hickenlooper after his “temporary” reprieve for Nathan Dunlap was another highlight. What could be more useful than that, to be an engaged messenger for the people on a life or death issue — at least, that’s how it felt. But the Post gave me so much freedom and opportunity to tell all kinds of stories, I’ll share some of what I told colleagues when I left:

“My favorite romantic was Tim Linhart. Tim built himself an igloo at 11,000 feet, in the woods above Beaver Creek. Every morning at 10 below zero, he’d crawl out of the igloo, build a fire to melt snow, and resume building an orchestra of instruments made from ice. He shaped handfuls of slush into ridiculously elegant S-curves and sounding boards, rubbing and shaving and rebuilding until he’d made an 8-foot-tall standup bass, a cello and the rest of a string quartet. Then he hired players from the Colorado Symphony Orchestra to ride the ski lift and tramp through the snow to his clearing in the woods, and they played Mozart and Bach and Beethoven on his ice quartet while this big bear of a man closed his eyes and smiled and listened to the notes float up through the snow-covered spruce and on up into the bluebird Colorado sky. Then his instruments started to melt, and Tim still had his smile.

Tomorrow and the next day and the day after that, all the romantics in news journalism will get up and start building something, shaping all the right words, and then it will melt away and you’ll have to start all over again. The right people might hear the notes and then do something good with them. It’s a great job, and it’s a wonderful thing to do.”

What are your biggest concerns about Colorado journalism today?

That journalists find a way to get paid for the hard work they are doing every day, every hour. All the journalists I know are agnostic about the way their work gets seen, so old criticisms are irrelevant — we’re happy to write and talk for print, for web pages, for blogs, on Twitter, on Facebook, in professional and amateur video. We’ll Snapchat the news and happily disappear a few seconds later if that’s what you want, but you need to pay us something for it. The world needs professional fact-finders, who will always be imperfect but who will always try harder the next time.

So, to the public, I want people to be willing to pay something for that, and recognize that it doesn’t flow out of the ether of somebody’s vague and misinterpreted Facebook post; and to the leaders in journalism, I’d want them to put a value on what they do and make sure that everyone using the work is helping to pay for it. Journalists respect other peoples’ copyrights, and they should respect ours.

Would you discourage a young person from going into journalism?

Never — it’s a great thing to do, the rare combination of useful and fascinating. Come on in, find us some great stories, and while you’re at it, whiz kids, help us find some revenue.

Any other thoughts as you head out the door?

One of the rules in life is Always Bring Something to Read. For me, I hope that can be a folded-up newspaper for many decades to come. Also, you could do worse than to bring a book my colleague Jennifer Brown and I have coming out in mid-March, Why the Government Can’t Keep Your Food Safe . . . and How You Can, from Rowman & Littlefield. It’s an investigation of what’s wrong with our food safety system in America, and how consumers can arm themselves to eat safely; it tells the story of Colorado’s cantaloupe listeria deaths and all kids of other outrageous food safety violations across the nation.

An interview with Patrick Malone, who’s leaving the Ft. Collins Coloradoan Friday

Monday, December 9th, 2013

Investigative and legislative reporter Patrick Malone leaves the Fort Collins Coloradoan Friday for a job at The Santa Fe New Mexican, giving us another reason to grieve for the state of journalism in Colorado.

After starting his journalism career at the Chronicle News in Trinidad, Malone wrote for the Pueblo Chieftain for 15 years, from 1997-2012, holding numerous positions including Denver bureau chief/political reporter. He moved to the Coloradoan a year-and-a-half ago, and now he’s headed to Santa Fe to work at the New Mexican.

He answered a few questions via email last week.

Why are you leaving the Coloradoan?

Malone: Being from Trinidad in extreme Southern Colorado, New Mexico has always held a special place in my heart. My wife was a photographer at the Coloradoan and looking for a change that would allow her to explore more creative projects instead of running from one quick-hit assignment to the next, so we looked first to New Mexico. A couple of months ago I was offered a job at the Albuquerque Journal and turned it down in favor of staying at the Coloradoan. That led to some conversations with the new regime at The Santa Fe New Mexican. I learned it is in the very early stages of an intriguing renaissance, and I actively sought to be a part of it. Their reporting staff is a stellar mix of veterans, including Daniel Chacon whom Colorado readers will remember from his great work at the Rocky Mountain News and the Gazette in Colorado Springs, and some young rising stars. That impressed me, but the real sell for me was the New Mexican’s new executive editor, Ray Rivera. He’s most recently worked at the New York Times and before that at the Washington Post as an investigative reporter. Amid all the noise about shifting media paradigms and attention to the new way – things we certainly can’t ignore if we want to survive as an industry – Ray remains committed to the hard-core journalistic principles that led people like me to fall in love with newspapers at a very early age. I can learn a lot from him, and the opportunity to grow as a reporter, even 18 years into my career, is what really lured me to Santa Fe. Plus it’s a great city where my wife and 1-year-old daughter should be very happy. My beat will involve staffing the legislature when it’s in session, health care policy and investigative projects. My wife will freelance in Santa Fe, including for the New Mexican.

What are a couple of your favorite memories of news reporting in Colorado?

Undoubtedly my 15 years at The Pueblo Chieftain were the most memorable. Many of my best friends still work there, or were recently laid off by The Chieftain. Pueblo is uniquely newsy for a city of 100,000, and it has an oversized voice for its circulation because of its geographic reach. To me, my work on the decades-old sexual abuses committed by Catholic priests and covered up in Pueblo meant the most. I spoke to dozens of grown men who were victimized in childhood. They’d lived their whole lives with shame and fear of telling anyone, because nobody would listen. It could never undo what they suffered, but I hope those stories provided some measure of justice.

Beyond that, covering politics and the legislature for a few years at the tail end of my tenure with The Chieftain was a great experience. It plucked me from my comfort zone and taught me exactly how little I know about anything. We all need that periodically to continue growing as journalists. The camaraderie and competition of the capitol press corps is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. You have the tight-knit friendships that develop in newsrooms, but at the same time, you want to kick their asses on a daily basis. Case in point: When I broke the story of the House approving a spending package that included increased per diem reimbursement for lawmakers, Lynn Bartels from the Denver Post refused to talk to me for about two weeks. We helped each other when we were all working the same stock stories, but I’m not exaggerating when I say we’d lock ourselves in bathrooms at the State Capitol to conduct phone interviews we didn’t want the others in our shared office to hear. I’m looking forward to rejoining that kind of competitive environment when I cover the legislature in New Mexico.

You’ve had a diverse ride in journalism in Colorado. Can you briefly describe your different jobs and offer your thoughts on some of the strengths and weaknesses of Colorado political journalism now versus when you started?

By the time I arrived at the capitol I had covered courts for about a decade, been the weekend city editor at The Chieftain, covered education, features, senior citizen issues and crime, in addition to starting as a sports writer at The Chronicle News in Trinidad. None of it prepared me for day-to-day life at the capitol. It’s a complete rat race with more news to cover than any one reporter – or two-person team – can cover adequately. The loss of the Rocky Mountain News harmed political coverage in the state immeasurably. That’s not to say that the Post, AP and others don’t do a good job. They do. But the more competition, the better the coverage is going to be. It breaks my heart that The Chieftain abandoned its long-standing tradition of staffing the capitol when I left. That further erodes accountability in state government. Every time a paper ends its year-round reporting at the capitol, citizens suffer. Thinking back to the congressional redistricting trial in 2011, there was a day early on when all the testimony focused on Fort Collins, Greeley and Boulder and what their congressional boundaries should look like. Witness after witness spewed the essence of their communities and almost vitriolic emotion about which cities should be paired together and which shouldn’t. There wasn’t a reporter to be found in the courtroom from the newspapers in any of the affected cities. That was a pretty sick feeling, and at that moment I recognized where we stand as a state in terms of commitment to covering politics. It’s fallen a long way from the days of virtually every paper having a presence in the Statehouse. Point a finger of blame at the newspaper brass who’ve made these decisions, not the reporters that remain in the trenches or relegated to their mothership newsrooms.

In terms of strengths in Colorado political journalism, you’ve got some reporters in the capitol press corps that understand the chess match and the implications of officials’ decisions in peoples’ lives like no one else. Full disclosure: These are my friends, so I’m naturally going to say nice things about them as people. But professionally, they deserve mention as well. Charles Ashby of the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel covers state politics as well as anybody, regardless of era. Joe Hanel of the Durango Herald artfully distills the true meaning of any smokescreen for his readers and, for my money, could work anywhere in the country. The Associated Press team of Ivan Moreno and Kristen Wyatt catch everything, and increasingly are the only link many communities in the state have to what’s happening under the dome. Bartels is the best-sourced reporter I’ve ever met and can get lawmakers to talk about anything, regardless of how much they don’t want to.

Do you think your new position in Santa Fe is more stable? Was this a factor in your decision to leave?

I’m confident it will be stable because I believe that when you let the purest journalistic principles guide a paper’s course, readers will respond. There’s no gimmick in Rivera’s vision for sustained success. It all grows from a fundamental core of producing the kind of journalism readers can’t put down.

The Coloradoan is sort of an oasis of stability in the turbulent Gannett sea. When layoffs were happening throughout Gannett this fall, the Coloradoan was spared, largely because of its success selling the online product (thanks to a very strong ad department) and because the executive editor, Josh Awtry, analyzes data to a painful degree and constantly tweaks the news lineup recipe accordingly to appeal to local readers. The Coloradoan is uniquely positioned in a web-reliant market perfectly suited for its online pay subscription model that yields decent revenue returns for practically no overhead. The top of the news and advertising food chains at the Coloradoan have adeptly maximized it.

the New Mexican is family-owned, so I have no doubt that it is totally committed to its market. The New Mexican’s ownership has shown a commitment to adding reporting muscle as a vehicle to drive subscriptions and motivate advertisers. When I arrived at the Coloradoan 18 months ago, they were embarking on a similar strategy and got the response they wanted. Having worked at both a family-owned paper (The Chieftain) and for a corporate giant (Gannett), I see pros and cons to each. One of the more profound examples of the differing philosophies between corporations and family operations can be found in their lobbies. In Fort Collins, I can walk downstairs and touch a cardboard cutout of any number of the reporters on staff. The same space in Santa Fe is occupied by Thomas Edison’s desk. I think Rivera embodies the merger of the New Mexican’s traditional journalistic values and the recognition that there’s a contemporary, digital track to success. Ownership aside, the ultimate key to stability is having the right leaders in place from top to bottom. Trust and accountability for every rung on the newsroom ladder give you the sense that together you can accomplish spectacular things. I believe the New Mexican has assembled the right team. It’s genuinely inspirational.

What advice would you give to a young person who wants to be a journalist?

Regardless of the industry’s undulations, remember you’re carrying the mantle for journalists that came before you and those that will follow. You have an immense responsibility, and it’s one of the cornerstones of democracy.

I’d tell them that the only measure of control journalists have over the news they cover is the effort that they put into it. So work hard. Remember that you’re asking the questions all of society wants answered, but doesn’t have the luxury of time to ask for itself. So channel your readers when you ask questions. Write to them and for them, not for yourself or the subjects of your stories.

Adapt to the changes in the industry, but don’t do it at the expense of what has always been and always will be great journalism – namely telling people how the subject you’re covering affects their lives, the factors driving it and clearly identifying any resulting conflicts. Pay attention to the contemporary tools we have to measure success. They can tell us a lot about what we need to do to survive as an industry. But be careful not to become so preoccupied with analytics that you ignore the quality of the underlying journalism. Everybody wants a million web clicks on their story. But who wants a million people to see they’ve written a crappy story?

Read as much as you can. Write as much as you can. You will never be as ashamed of the story that you tell as you will of the story that you don’t tell.

You’ve got to be committed in principle to journalism, or you’ll never last. If you follow this path and find out that it’s not for you, get out of the way. Someone else is waiting in line for the opportunity.

An interview with Tim Hoover, who left The Denver Post Friday

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

After a six-year run at The Denver Post, as a reporter and editorial writer, Tim Hoover left the newspaper Friday to be Communications Director for the Fiscal Policy Institute. It’s a certainty that Hoover’s fair-and-accurate writing will be missed by reasonable progressives and conservatives alike.

This week, Hoover answered a few questions via email.

How long were you at The Post? And at previous journo jobs? How long were you in journalism?

Hoover: “I was at the Post just short of six years, having started in January of 2008. I worked at The Kansas City Star for seven years as a statehouse reporter. Before that, I worked at the Tulsa World and The McAllen (Texas) Monitor. All told, I was a professional journalist for 20 years. My experience does go back further, though. I was an intern at The Albuquerque Tribune (which is how I know Lynn Bartels from 20-something years ago), an intern at The Daily Oklahoman and an intern for the Oklahoma Capitol News Bureau. I was also once a stringer [freelance writer] for The New York Times. And, of course, I worked at my beloved school paper, The Oklahoma Daily, at the University of Oklahoma, where I was a reporter and eventually the editor.”

Why would you leave such a prestigious position at The Post? Were you worried about the future at the newspaper?

Hoover: “I left the Post because I had to think about the future. I will have to work for at least another 20 years before I can retire. It was time to start thinking long-term about the path forward. I enjoyed being on the editorial board. It is a position of great responsibility, and you get to rub elbows with U.S. senators and occasionally foreign dignitaries and all manner of world-class minds. I was also treated well on the board and have great respect for my colleagues. My decision to leave transcended all that.”

What are a couple of your favorite memories of news reporting or opinion writing at The Post?

Hoover: “As with a magician’s code, we don’t reveal publicly who wrote which specific editorials. It’s supposed to be a consensus process and involves collaborative writing at times. I will say, however, how amusing it is when people think certain writers pen specific editorials because of their supposed political leanings and it happens that the piece was completely conceived and written by another writer with diametrically opposite political views. Editorial writers, like all people, are three-dimensional.

“I can say, however, that I especially enjoyed writing one blog piece with my byline about a very overwrought TV report on a state-owned airplane. It was fun to dissect the TV story, and it got a big reaction in the world of state government and politics.

“As for stories as a reporter, I think my best work was done scrutinizing claims made about the state budget, whether it was asserting that Gov. Bill Ritter had hired thousands of government employees when he hadn’t or claiming that certain businesses would be harmed by the removal of special tax breaks when in fact they admitted either they weren’t hurt at all or weren’t even affected by the changes. I enjoyed writing stories about a candidate for governor who embellished his past career as a small-town police officer and then backpedaled when put under the spotlight. I had a lot of fun reporting at the Post, and I’d just note that it followed stints at several other newspapers where I worked on lots of great stories. I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to cover state politics and government at two major American newspapers, though my career covering many beats spanned two decades at multiple newspapers, small and large.”

What’s your response to conservatives who are saying that your move to PR proves you’ve been biased all along?

Hoover: “I didn’t really give it much thought. I am on good terms with many conservatives, and a number of them were very congratulatory about my move. It all comes down to the individual class a person has. You make some people angry as a reporter if you are doing your job correctly. It’s all part of the package.”

What advice would you give to a young person who wants to be a journalist?

Hoover: “That is a tough question. I don’t know if I could honestly encourage someone to go into the industry if they are not already pursuing journalism. I think I would tell them that they should only pursue journalism if they are so passionate about it they don’t think they want to do anything else. And if they do go into the business, do not do it in a half-assed way. We live in a time when anyone can be published, and so it has given rise to ‘pseudo-journalists,’ wannabe bloggers’ and hacks who work, if they get paid at all, for partisan operations or stealthy partisan donors. Many of these people couldn’t find a courthouse a block away with a map, couldn’t cover a fire, flood or shooting, have never had to write a story about a zoning hearing, school board or city council meeting or sit through hours of legislative committee hearings and floor work. They have not ever had to be real reporters. They don’t do quality research nor is their work scrutinized heavily by editors above them. They are lazy and sloppy and biased, and it is all the more reason why there need to be actual, trained journalists to go out and gather the news. If a young person still wants to be a real reporter despite all of the hardships they will face, then I would encourage them.”

Who will win: Romanoff or Coffman?

Hoover: “I would say Coffman is very vulnerable because of his newly drawn district and the fact that he has had to do a tightrope act on so many issues that has not pleased either side of the political spectrum. But so much of this could depend on what happens nationally. The Democratic brand has suffered greatly in the last several months because of the Obamacare rollout fiasco. It’s hard to say how that translates here in Colorado, and it is a long way to November.”

Any other thoughts?

Hoover: “My former colleagues still in the newspaper industry work far harder and under far more stressful conditions than most people realize. I would ask that readers and the public at large give them some well-deserved recognition at times. It’s almost Thanksgiving. Let’s be thankful we still have newspapers covering public affairs. And remember, some poor group of reporters and editors has to work on Thanksgiving and Christmas. The news doesn’t stop for the holidays.”

Follow Jason Salzman on Twitter @bigmediablog

Channel 12’s Rowland talks to BigMedia about journalism and his upcoming retirement

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

The word “visionary” is over-used, especially for people who are retiring, but it’s truly an accurate description of Wick Rowland, who announced last week that he’s stepping down in March as President of Colorado Public Television (Channel 12, CPT12).

In 1999, Rowland left his job as Dean of CU’s journalism school to run Channel 12, and he quickly turned it into the go-to TV station locally for public affairs programming, creating content that KRMA Channel 6 did not offer. See more on this topic here.

Rowland built a lineup of shows that broke from the ponderousness that defined public affairs TV here at the time. Channel 12’s flagship program, Colorado Inside Out, is consistently the best public-affairs show on Denver TV and Internet, mixing information with provocation and entertainment. Under Rowland’s leadership, Channel 12 has also been a major player in election-year debates and forums, adding depth that spilled into the political discourse, beyond the unfortunately small audience that tunes to public television.

I liked bumping into Rowland over the years because he’d inevitably remind me how narrow the debate about journalism is in America, pointing out, as he does below, that advocating for increased public funding for journalism isn’t wacko, despite the gross suggestion someone had of taking an ax to the neck of Big Bird.

After you talk to Rowland, you kind of shake your head and say to yourself, “Hell no. We don’t have to settle for the market-driven mayhem and fluff that overwhelms you on commercial TV. And we don’t have to rely on nutcase bloggers or partisans.”

A reasonable model to support thoughtful journalism, as Rowland likes to say, is to provide more public funds for it, like they do in most industrialized nations. If only more people were out there like Rowland pushing for this.

Talking to Rowland is like chatting with a kind professor, which he is, but he also reminds me of an admiral, who’s seen many a battle. He’ll be missed way more than our community knows.

Here are excerpts of a conversation I had with Rowland Monday:

What’s your primary concern about journalism in Colorado?

It’s my primary concern about journalism, and you’re talking to an old journalism dean and someone who really believes in the disciplines of journalism education and training and the practice. My fundamental concern, and it’s not novel to me, and it’s the loss of what I call disciplined reporting. I very much believe in a meritocracy of work in the media. I feel that any kind of profession requires standards and a process and a mechanism for holding feet to the fire for those standards…We have had historically an editorial structure, and I just want to have the feeling the someone oversees a particular piece of work, and subjects it to fact checking and the normal protocols of editing, pushing back and keeping a reporter on his or her toes. One of the great threats of the blogosphere, frankly, is the loss of that. And we need to find ways of maintaining that.

Could public funding save journalism?

Public broadcasting could be a pilot project for what the future could look like. It’s very difficult in these United States of America to have this debate. And even on the public broadcasting side of it, we are funded on a very mere pittance by comparison with the way in which public-service media are funded in every other advanced industrial democracy. There is no comparison. That’s because we have a difficulty articulating in the United States a case for tax-based for public culture generally. It’s not an argument about public broadcasting alone. It’s about arts and culture. We just don’t put the tax-based resources into it. It’s based on the misbegotten hyper-democratic notion that the public will support it if it’s important, and, of course, we know that not to be necessarily true.

Your prediction on The Denver Post?

I’m very concerned. I’m seeing it ready to cut back to maybe three or four days a week. That worries me. Like many people I was disappointed that when the Rocky folded, The Denver Post did not grow bigger. It actually began to shrink. I’m in part an ink-stained wretch at a TV station, and I very much enjoy reading newspapers and take three or four.

What are the high points of your time at Channel 12?

Negotiating excess bandwidth opportunities that helped establish an endowment for the station…raising money and guiding the transition from analogue to digital…purchasing the building where the station resides…starting a systematic planning process and building on the success in public affairs and cultural programming. The community better understands what we’re about.

What’s the biggest problem with public television?

The worst thing is we’re being forced out on the commercial market—where were forced to worry too much about sponsorships and branding in ways that are not appropriate for public media.

Why are you retiring?

I’m 68-and-a-half years old. I’m at the stage of life where I’ve got people falling left and right around me, many of them younger. I lost my mother-in-law this year, and two or three other friends. It’s been kind of sobering for me as well. My grandkids are not getting any younger. They’re growing up fast. There’s this cliché about he’s going to spend more time with family and so on. There’s a little piece of that that’s true, probably in a lot of cases and certainly in this case. If you had asked me about the prospects of my stepping away even three of four years ago, I would have been much more reticent about stepping away, with the assault on public broadcasting…but I feel in the wake of the elections, and from a number of other things that I’m participating in nationally, I feel a little more confident than I did even a few months ago that this is a good time to step back… I do a lot of writing. I continue to publish, as if I were still at the University…I’m not finished with my discourse with the public about public media. I’m not done with that yet.

Follow Jason Salzman Twitter @bigmediablog

Coloradoan and Colorado are losers with departure of Exec. Editor Moore

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

Colorado journalism is taking yet another sad blow Sept. 30 when Bob Moore departs for a job in, I’m sorry to say, Texas. He’ll be Executive Editor at the El Paso Times. Moore is clearly one of the state’s leading journalists thanks to his fair-minded and detail-oriented reporting, as well as his sincere concern for the community. He has the respect of all types media figures. Even bloggers like him. And he’s president of the Colorado Press Association.

Moore started his journalism career as an intern at the Pueblo Chieftain in 1983. He landed his first job in 1984 at the Fountain Valley News in El Paso County, CO. After a few months, he went to the Colorado Springs Sun. When it closed in 1986, he moved to the El Paso Times, where he was, among other things, executive editor. He left there in 2005 to become Executive Editor at the Coloradoan.

Q: Why are you leaving the Ft. Collins Coloradoan?

A: The opportunity to return to El Paso is a great professional and personal opportunity. I spent almost 20 years there before returning to Colorado in 2005. The Mexican border is one of the most interesting places in the world from a journalistic viewpoint. El Paso is a city going through a unique transformation as the violence in Mexico drives middle class Juarenses to El Paso, where they are setting up businesses and setting down roots. This current exodus is reshaping the U.S.- Mexico border like no event since the Mexican Revolution. I’ll also get the opportunity to work with seven newspapers in New Mexico. Finally, my wife and I have family in El Paso.


Q: You were the Executive Editor of the El Paso Times previously. Do you hope to be a better journalist at the El Paso Times? If so, how so?

A: As executive editor, I was the No. 2 in the newsroom. In my new role, I’ll be the top editor. I think my six years in Fort Collins has definitely made me a better journalist. I’ve had to reimagine approaches to news coverage, utilize new technologies, and be more creative in deploying resources.

Q: Do you see a dim future for your style of serious journalism at the Coloradoan [owned by Gannett] or Gannett newspapers generally? Does MediaNews [owner of the El Paso Times, The Denver Post, and many other newspapers] look like a better or more stable company to work for?


A: I think both Gannett and MediaNews are committed to journalism that aggressively informs communities and acts in the greatest traditions of the First Amendment.  I have very much enjoyed my 25 years with Gannett.  I’ve known Dean Singleton for about eight years, and very much respect him. Obviously, MediaNews is going through significant changes as John Paton moves in as CEO. Gannett’s also undergoing significant changes, as is the entire industry.

Q: As a long-time journalist in Fort Collins and as President of the Colorado Press Association, you have a good perspective on Colorado journalism, as you head out the door. What do you think are its biggest strengths and weaknesses?


A: The biggest strength in Colorado journalism is the journalists. We’ve got a lot of really good people plying their trade. Obviously, the numbers are down significantly from when I returned to Colorado in 2005. But there’s a lot of remarkable work being done. My biggest concern is how thin we are in the ranks of younger newspaper journalists. We’ve got some good ones working in Fort Collins, and there are others throughout the state. A few years ago I hired a great young reporter named Jason Kosena. He did a lot of good work in the political realm, but he’s now out of the business because he felt he needed something more stable.

Q: What would you say to a young person who wants to be a political journalist?



A: I still think it’s a good and important career, though I doubt there’ll be many people spending 25 years with the same company like I did. You’ll need to be entrepreneurial, flexible, and curious.

Q: Do you think political reporting in El Paso could possibly be as interesting as it is in Ft. Collins?

A: I don’t think Texas politics takes a back seat to politics anywhere. And sitting on the Mexican border, we’ll actually get to cover two presidential elections next year. And here’s my favorite piece of meaningless political trivia. No Republican since 1988 has been elected president without first appearing in a debate I moderated. The only candidate who fits that bill this year? Rick Perry.

Q: Do you have a couple favorite moments during your career here in Colorado?

A: The 2008 4th Congressional District campaign between Marilyn Musgrave and Betsy Markey would have to top the list. It was one of the more important House races nationally, and it had interesting dynamics. Even though I was covering it part-time in addition to my editor duties, I think we were able to bring a lot of depth to our coverage that you didn’t see in House races across the country. Covering the recent problems with the Larimer County Republican Party was also interesting.


Then there was Balloon Boy.


The most important impact the Coloradoan has had during my tenure is the consistent reporting we’ve done since 2007 looking at rising poverty rates in Fort Collins and Larimer County. This had been going on since the early part of the decade, but policy makers and the general public really didn’t notice it. Beginning with a seven-day series in August and September 2007, and continuing since, the Coloradoan has documented how rising poverty and declining incomes have altered our community. Our reporting managed to awaken the community to the problems, and spurred the creation of a program called Pathways Past Poverty, which is working to address a number of the root causes of rising poverty. This work constantly reminds me of the impact that newspapers can have on a community when we focus our storytelling.


Two stories from last year also come to mind. The Coloradoan documented that a negligent Department of Human Services bureaucracy had failed to complete 10 of 11 required child fatality reviews in the deaths of children who died while under state supervision. The purpose of these reviews is to identify systemic problems, and fix them. The Coloradoan’s stories were a huge embarrassment to the state and prompted a number of reforms. It was an example of how a small newspaper can have statewide impact.


The other story was our discovery, using open records laws, that the Poudre School District had decided not to notify parents when employees were charged with felonies involving student victims. Our reporting prompted change at both the state and local level.

Q: How will you live without the Colorado Rockies? [Moore’s followers know he’s a big sports fan.]

A: One of my great personal memories of my time back in Colorado was being able to go to every Rockies playoff game in 2007, including the play-in game against San Diego. That was a thrill. And I had tickets to Game 5 of the World Series. Of course, that never happened. I’ve now had tickets to two World Series games — Game 3 in 1989, which was the earthquake game, and Game 5 in 2007. Still haven’t seen a World Series game. And thanks to Josh McDaniels thinning out the waiting list for Broncos season tickets, I finally got season tickets this year. It’s hard to give those up.

An interview with 9News’ Adam Schrager, who’s leaving Denver in Feb.

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

You’ve probably heard by now that political reporter Adam Schrager is leaving 9News Feb. 9 take a job with Wisconsin Public Television, as first reported on ColoradoPols.

Schrager came to 9News in 1999, after working for CBS News in London and three TV stations in Wisconsin. He attended the prestigious journalism school at Northwestern University, and he’s won numerous journalism awards.

Schrager is also producer/host of YourShow, an innovative public affairs program on Channel 20 that solicits show topics, questions, and guest suggestions from viewers.

Once in a Rocky column evaluating public affairs shows in Denver, I gave Schrager’s YourShow a grade of “B” because I thought it was too serious. Schrager matter-of-factly pointed out that for years I’d been criticizing local TV news for its excessive fluffy content. I regretted the column but appreciated Schrager and YourShow all the more.

I thought Schager’s many admirers would like to know more about why he’s leaving and his reflections about journalism and his job here as he departs. So I asked Schrager to answer a few questions, which  he kindly answered below:

J: Why are you leaving?

A: It’s been hard raising kids away from grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins and now, we have some health issues with my dad which are only going to get worse. Hopefully not for a while, but we figured since both sets of our parents are in their 70’s, if we’re being honest, we needed to get back soon if we wanted our kids to have those relationships. We love Colorado but sadly could not convince everyone else to come out here.

J: Did you see a dim future for your style of political reporting at 9News?

A: No.

J: Were you being pressured more often to do things at 9News that you did not want to do?

A: No.

J: Why are you leaving the local TV news biz? Do you think your style of serious political reporting is going out of favor in the industry?

A: Honestly, I am fortunate to be able to stay in the industry but I was prepared to get out if that’s what I needed to do to get back to the Midwest. We just had to get back asap for family reasons. I’ve been doing this 20 years now and I’m a bit tired. As I think you can discern from your conversations with me the last few years, I’ve been testier and a little more on edge as the volume surrounding what we do ramps up and the anger associated with politics rises. That’s just not my personality and it hasn’t been nearly as much fun as it’s been in the past. I’m very much looking forward to doing long-form journalism and reconnecting with my craft in a way I haven’t been able to do over the last few years. That’s just a result of an industry becoming more and more driven by the immediate as that’s what the public seems to want. Maybe I’m old-school, but I like to think a little bit more than I’m afforded the opportunity to in life these days. I always like to cover the Capitol outside the Capitol and I used to be able to go find the people, places and things affected by the policy being proposed. It kind of morphed into me asking those folks questions to policy-makers, but I didn’t get out into the field as much as I would have selfishly liked to. The Wisconsin Public TV folks are part of the longest-running civic journalism project in the country, We The People Wisconsin, which teams up with Public Radio, the CBS affiliate in Madison, the Wisconsin State Journal and the leading on-line political news site in the state. They want to expand it, to do much of what we have done at 9NEWS (i.e. Teach people how to do truth tests, ask voters’ questions to candidates, etc.) and I’d imagine I’ll be a part of that.

J: Do you have doubts about giving up your big audience for the relatively small number of people who watch public TV in Wisconsin?

A: No doubts at all. I don’t look at ratings now, haven’t in the past, and don’t imagine I ever will in the future. I can’t do anything about them so why worry about it? I can control what I can control and that’s to produce the best stories I can. If more people watch them, that’s great, but it doesn’t define whether I’ve been successful or not.

J: Would you advise a young journalist who cares about politics to pursue a career in local TV news? What would you suggest he or she do?

A: You’ve heard me quote my dad before on this. He likes to say you’re a lot happier in life if you associate with people who speak in commas and question marks than periods and exclamation points. Sadly, politics has become all about the latter. If a young person wishes to focus on the former, they can make a great difference in the process. If they decide to pursue the latter path, I’d argue they need to hold their breaths because there are a lot of blowhards out there who are going to be talking in front of them.

J: Is there any chance that Wisconsin political reporting will be as interesting as what we have here?

A: I worked in Wisconsin for eight years before moving out here, covering their State Capitol and federal delegation. It’s a fascinating state, rife with the same kind of apparent historical contradictions that Colorado has. The same state that brought us Robert LaFollette and the progressive movement produced Joseph McCarthy. People there vote people before party, just like Colorado, which will always make the elections fascinating and of national interest.

J: Do you have plans to write about the progressive infrastructure in Wisconsin? How about the Wisconsin conservative infrastructure?

A: Haven’t thought about it. Just finished an epilogue to The Blueprint called “The Western Firewall” that chronicles how the progressive infrastructure helped John Hickenlooper, Michael Bennet and Harry Reid withstand the Republican tidal wave of November. As for future book projects, I have two in mind and neither are directly political in nature. As I mentioned earlier, I need a bit of a break mentally from the political grind.

J: Will you continue writing about Colorado Politics?

A: One of my book projects involves Colorado history which inevitably includes politics, but if you’re asking if I intend to become a blogger, columnist or some type of advocate, I can tell you I don’t intend to do that. I need to spend more time with my kids, not less. More time with my family, not less. More time with my friends, not less.

J: Will YourShow continue? Truth Tests?

A: Hope so on both accounts.

J: Who will do political reporting at 9News?

A: For the short-term, my colleague Chris Vanderveen will be handling the General Assembly when I leave. Another colleague, Matt Flener, will be the point person on the Mayoral race.

J: What are a couple of your favorite moments during your career here?

A: My favorite moments are not at all political in nature, unless you think being inspired by the triple amputee who comes down to the Capitol to lobby for other amputees. I have been so moved by so many, it’s hard to narrow it down to just a few great moments. I think you know I love what Gov. Carr did. I’m happy to have met him in the figurative sense and more importantly, to have been able to share the story of Japanese American internment to an audience that sadly doesn’t know anything about it. I could really just ramble here about person after person who’s moved me, but that would be dull to your readers and take me way past my bedtime which is early these days since our 16-month-old son still has trouble sleeping through the night.

J: Anything else?

A: Thanks for your interest in what we’ve tried to do.

More from Bill Menezes on the state of CO journalism

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

Last month, I asked Bill Menezes for his thoughts on the state of journalism in Colorado. (See his response here.) A few questions came up later that I thought were legitimate. So I tossed them to Bill, and he was kind to take time to answer them below, via email.

Bill is a former reporter and editor for local and national news media and former editorial director of Colorado Media Matters. He’s known to be open and willing to answer questions directed to him in the “comments” sections of blogs like this. So if you’ve got a question or criticism, fire away at him below…-or at me.

1.       In the first part of your response, you wrote that there was “a lot to be optimistic about” in the Colorado journalism landscape, including the Colorado Springs Gazette getting to the Pulitzer Prize finals. Why didn’t you mention The Denver Post’s actually getting the Pulitzer for photography this year? As you know, the project included great writing as well on an unbelievably important topic.

That’s as may be, and the Post photo staff certainly deserves the honor, but we were talking about news reporting and political news reporting specifically. A Pulitzer for feature photography — the paper’s first prize in a decade — doesn’t address how what arguably is the state’s leading newspaper is dealing with the epic changes sweeping the Colorado news media in areas I believe are the most important to its readers: News, in-depth news reporting and real insight from its huge political/state government reporting team.

The Gazette has suffered wave after wave after wave of withering newsroom cuts over the past decade; for it to compete at a Pulitzer level is a miracle. The Post has had all the advantages — size, demise of its primary competitor, infusion of Rocky newspeople — and still hasn’t mustered a news Pulitzer in a decade. My perspective is that in the current upheaval in Colorado media, optimism gets sparked more by the news talent displayed by the Gazette’s nomination, that’s all.

2.       While ignoring the Post’s Pulitzer, you came down hard on The Post’s blog, the Spot, and The Post generally. You wrote that “neither the bloggers nor the newspaper break much significant political or public policy news and rarely engage with the blog’s audience. Instead we get Lynn Bartels …blogging’ about Dick Wadhams’ wedding, thus giving the Post the distinction of having no full-time science writer but three full-time gossip columnists.” I like harsh criticism, but it’s not fair to offer only one example of a single fluff story, which you’d expect to be in the mix, without acknowledging that around the time of the post on Wadhams’ wedding, the Spot also had blog posts about lots of substantive issues, like immigration, Ryan Frazier, Jane Norton, uncovered Ritter bill signings, developments in minor political races, and more. It seems to me like the Spot is trying feed political insiders relevant and factual information, without losing credibility by posting gossip and/or regurgitated information that you find on most blogs. The downside of this approach is that the blog is less free-wheeling. So, can you be more specific about why you think the Spot is under-achieving?

After our initial exchanges on this, I had a very lengthy, very nice e-mail exchange with Chuck Plunkett, who essentially asked the same question. My perspective — in a nutshell, rather than getting into all of the details Chuck and I discussed — was that given the resource of about a dozen journalists focused on politics, state government and public policy, the Spot’s content appears to lean very heavily on day-to-day news nuggets and trivia, rather than really leveraging that brainpower to provide readers with meaningful information and insight they’re not going to get from other blogs. (Not from other newspapers, but from other blogs. We’re talking about The Spot, remember?) That’s a news feed, not a blog. What The Spot does run is a lot of stuff (including the examples you cited above) that charitably can be characterized as news release fodder, from campaigns, from polling organizations, from the governor’s office, etc. Do you really need a “blog” to report a prepared statement from Jane Norton or Ryan Frazier? It’s a news brief, putting it on something you call a blog doesn’t change that. Also, based on my anecdotal stopwatch it took quite some time after McInnis tweeted that he was staying in the race for the Post to have something of its own online, either on its blog or elsewhere. Mind-boggling, in several respects.

Is that really the best use of a news blog? My argument to Chuck was that it is not. However, he provided some very clear insights into the decision-making governing Spot content and why it functions more as a news feed than a real blog (that’s another criticism — virtually no real interaction between Spot “bloggers” and the audience with which it allegedly is having a “conversation,” which is what a real blog does) and we tend to agree on more than we disagree regarding the blog and its potential. Chuck sees the same opportunity that I’ve pointed out, but he’s the one who must live in the real world as far as executing it, with all the headwinds that might entail… Remember, my criticism is not that The Spot never would amount to anything, just that it had not lived up to what I considered its short-term potential so far. Chuck clearly agrees they’ve got a way to go, although understandably he mounts a spirited and very reasonable defense of what the site is right now.

3.       You wrote that The Post has no science writer. But it has a health reporter and, I think, an environmental writer. Do you really think a newspaper like The Post should have a science writer these days, especially if it has a health reporter?

Ah…yeah, I do. Ask a climate scientist or a wildlife biologist if a health writer can cover his or her field the way a science writer might. The two beats are pretty different unless you’re talking about areas related to health science. Meanwhile, the Post operates without a science writer (which both major Denver daily newspapers used to have) in a state with one of the world’s foremost climate SCIENCE organizations in Boulder, as well as a huge amount of alternative fuels SCIENCE research taking place in Boulder and Fort Collins, and the state of Colorado itself engaging in wildlife biology SCIENCE as it tracks the impact of climate change…you get the idea.

4.       Your statement that The Post “doesn’t break much significant political or public policy news” is way broad. Do you really think this is true?

Well, last week’s reporting notwithstanding…I actually do. If anything the McInnis stuff seemed to me to highlight how few and far between such reporting triumphs appear in the Post. They broke the story that McInnis had a paid fellowship with the Hasans but YOU and others took the ball and ran with it until they finally caught up with the plagiarism hit, weeks later. Odd no one else thought of that angle, and it’s still unclear whether the Post had the idea or if someone told them to look into it (you’ve probably seen such speculation in some of the blogs that the Hasans themselves could have blown the whistle). When’s the last time the Post came up with such an impactful political or public policy news story? The Schaffer-Marianas stuff two YEARS ago?

Further, the Post’s political and public affairs reporting still is bogged down on the same, tired “he said, she said” mode that produces a preponderance of lies and rebuttals. For example, nowhere in the entire Post report on the legislative debate over repealing the sales tax exemption on candy and soda …• as I recall …• was there ANY empirical analysis or evidence about the likely impact of such a move on the businesses that were lobbying against it. What we instead got was he said (Engstrom’s going to have to cut jobs if this passes) she said (cuts are necessary to help balance the budget) BS. The freaking tax increase amounted to three cents on a $1 candy bar or soda! How hard would it have been to track down research showing the impact on sales in other states/municipalities where a similar sales tax rise occurred? Never saw it in the Post. Oh, and given the amount of ink it gave to the tax exemption repeal debate, has the Post followed up with the opposing businesses to get hard evidence of whether what they warned about has come to pass?

I firmly believe most of the people who cover this beat for the Post are completely capable of such reporting. But something is missing and as a result Post readers are getting a daily politics/public policy report with less depth and bravado than the newspaper provides on the Broncos and the Rockies.

What happened to Mike Saccone?

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

In my “What happened to them?” series, I’ve been asking Denver journalists 1) what they’ve been up to since leaving the Rocky, the Post, or some other news outlet in Colorado…-and 2) what they think of the state of Colorado journalism these days. Lots of journalists in recent years have been on our doorsteps one day and then gone the next. I thought it would be interesting to find out what happened to some of them.

Mike Saccone was a writer and blogger at The Daily Sentinel in Grand Junction from Jan. 2006 through the end of Feb. 2009, first covering mostly criminal justice and then politics. Prior to working at the Sentinel, he wrote for Cox News Service in Washington, DC, and The American Lawyer Magazine, among other publications.

 Here are his answers to my email questions:

1. More than a year ago, I left my perch as chief political writer and blogger for The Daily Sentinel in Grand Junction to become communications director for the Colorado Department of Law. I am responsible for coordinating our public relations efforts as well as responding to the daily needs of the media throughout Colorado. Having covered the legal profession in New York and our nation’s capital, I have always been fascinated with the law. My current job allows me to continue to learn about the law and to see state government from the other side …- the inside …- of the fishbowl.

2. All things considered, I think Colorado’s journalism scene actually is all-in-all fairly healthy. Though larger newspapers might be going through a rough patch, smaller, local outlets such as my former newspaper, The Daily Sentinel, along with The Durango Herald, The Longmont Times Call and too many others to mention are doing great local and regional coverage that at times bests the work of their larger peers. For example, Bob Moore at the Fort Collins Coloradoan blows his competition out of the water when it comes to covering the 4th Congressional District.

Colorado broadcast media also is doing some really strong work. From the investigative pieces coming out of the Denver market to the local and regional coverage of outlets like KUNC in Greeley, KREX in Grand Junction and Aspen Public Radio, Colorado’ broadcast outlets do some great work, even if the smaller stations don’t get the notice they deserve. Just as an example of broadcast media expanding, Colorado Public Radio stationed one of its reporters at the Capitol this year to cover the legislative session.

On top of all of this, Colorado’s online media also is flourishing. From the Colorado Independent to Face the State to the work Westword is doing with its blogs, there is decent competition emerging for the traditional print and broadcast media. Do I think they will eclipse the traditional media? Probably not in my lifetime, but they do add another layer to Colorado’s journalism landscape. That can’t hurt.

Will every print, broadcast or new media outlet still be here in five years? Probably not, but Colorado overall is in great shape. Obviously losing the Rocky was a major blow to Colorado journalism, but the show goes on. From The Denver Post, 9 News and KOA on down, there’s still great journalism being done. And from my perspective, I think great journalism will continue to be done in Colorado, even if it’s coming from new outlets or existing outlets being repurposed or reoriented.

What happened to Bill Menezes?

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

In my “What happened to them?” series, I’ve been asking Denver journalists 1) what they’ve been up to since leaving the Rocky, the Post, or some other news outlet in Colorado…-and 2) what they think of the state of Colorado journalism these days. Lots of journalists in recent years have been on our doorsteps one day and then gone the next. I thought it would be interesting to find out what happened to them.

Bill Menezes doesn’t exactly fall in this category, because he worked at both the Rocky and The Post quite a while ago. (He was a business reporter at the Rocky in 1995, a deputy business news editor at The Post in 2003, and he spent nine years at the beginning of his career at The Associated Press.) But as Editorial Director Colorado Media Matters, he falls in the category of people in the journalism world who abruptly disappeared or made big changes recently. For Bill, this happened in March of 2009 when Colorado Media Matters was closed after a three-year run critiquing Colorado media.

 Here are his answers to my email questions:

 1. What I am doing now: After Media Matters for America closed the Colorado office, I spent most of the summer looking for permanent employment while doing freelance projects in public relations and in media. One such project with Center for Independent Media was a detailed “mapping” of the Colorado news media landscape, to get a quick sense of the coverage gaps that had emerged or were widening in the wake of such events as the shutdown of the Rocky Mountain News and major cutbacks among other mainstream media outlets. Since last September I’ve been working as a director with VisiTech PR, a boutique, tech public relations agency based here in Denver, covering companies involved in wireless, cable and broadband technology — almost a flashback to the sectors I covered for years as a tech journalist back in the day.

2. State of Colorado journalism: The Center for Independent Media research project I mentioned earlier gave me a great opportunity to get a sense of the journalism landscape in Colorado at a time of wrenching change. There is a lot to be optimistic about, primarily the continued wealth of talented or up and coming journalists we have in this state and their willingness to adapt to — or even create — the new world in which they will be practicing their craft. One example is the new Colorado Public News operation that my longtime friend and former Rocky colleague Ann Imse is developing at KBDI, creating an entirely new outlet for reporting on areas of importance to Coloradans — healthcare, environmental issues, science, to name just a few — that the mainstream commercial media by and large no longer cover in-depth and on a regular basis. KBDI’s willingness to provide a platform for Colorado  Public News reinforces my impression that journalism isn’t dying, even if the old-fashioned news media businesses are; it’s evolving. I’m also encouraged by the work of some mainstream news journalists such as Bob Moore of the Fort Collins Coloradan, who despite having had to make withering cuts in his newsroom is producing perhaps the best political reporting — on newsprint, on Twitter and in his blog — in the state. Finally, you see people in the newsroom at one of the most battered daily newspapers in the state — the Colorado Springs Gazette — getting to the Pulitzer Prize finals and you know somebody’s still doing something right.

The other side of the coin is the rather disappointing way in which some of the major old and new media have failed to seize the day at a time of great opportunity. For example, the Denver Post has remade its political “blog” presence into The Spot and lists about 10 full-time political/government reporting staff, but neither the bloggers nor the newspaper break much significant political or public policy news and rarely engage with the blog’s audience. Instead we get Lynn Bartels “blogging” about Dick Wadhams’ wedding, thus giving the Post the distinction of having no full-time science writer but three full-time gossip columnists.

It’s also amazing that local broadcasters such as KUSA/9news are touting the huge expansion of their news airtime, but typically are filling most of those extra hours with content that even generously can’t be described as news. KUSA has one of the top political/public policy journalists in this market in Adam Schrager but I’ve yet to see the station fully leverage this asset with all that added “news” airtime.

I believe the weaknesses in Colorado journalism have created a competitive void, one that ominously is filling up with what can only be described as “astroturf” new media outlets. The right-wing think tank Independence Institute alone accounts in one way or another for three of them — Colorado News Agency, Complete Colorado and Face the State. None of these three profess to adhere to a standard journalism code of ethics and their “work” sometimes gets aggregated by other “news” organizations such as State Bill Colorado that do not routinely identify the political and financial ties the three have with conservative donors. A State Bill reader who sees a Colorado News Agency article has no idea it’s being produced by a right-wing organization which actively is promoting and campaigning for its own political agenda.

With luck the tide will again turn and legitimate journalism organizations eventually will crowd out the pretenders much as healthy grass eventually will crowd out dandelions.

An interview with Westword’s Michael Roberts

Friday, May 14th, 2010

I’ve been interviewing journalists via email who’ve disappeared from the local media scene…-or who are doing very different things than they were a few years ago.

Westword’s Michael Roberts hasn’t disappeared or switched employers, but I thought it would be interesting to interview him anyway, about his own situation these days, since he’s chronicled the upheaval in local journalism, more than any writer in town by a long shot. He used to be the alt weekly’s media columnist, and now he’s in charge of Westword’s Latest Word blog.   (He doesn’t write all the posts, but coordinates the blog)

He’s still Denver’s number-one media critic, writing frequently about journalism, but he’s now writing on many more topics, even more so in last year or so, since the Rocky closed and the drama surrounding its closure subsided.

I asked Roberts via email if I could email him five questions, like the news feature they tried and quickly abandoned at the Rocky toward the end.

“Could you call instead of e-mailing questions?” he emailed me back “I write over 3,000 words per day on average; it’s nice for a change of pace just to have a conversation.” He makes the same request of his Westword colleagues in the office, he later told me. He asks them to use “human speech.”

I asked him what he’s doing:

Roberts: “My goal is 10 blogs per day of which a minimum of three are reported, meaning I’m actually making phone calls, getting quotes from people…. [The Latest Word publishes about 15 posts per day, sometimes more, with five posts written by other writers.] The idea is that it is a wide ranging mix of things. We do have other blogs here. We have a blog that focused on music and popular culture, and we have a food blog, and we also have an outdoors blog called On the Edge about participatory recreation. Everything else falls under the Latest Word blog, so I’m covering news of every description, sports, crime, lots of different topics. And so for me, media remains an interest of mine, and it’s part of the mix, but it’s certainly not a dominant part of the mix.

I asked if he was happy doing less media criticism.

Roberts: It’s a different world. There aren’t that many positions in journalism where you can just sit and focus on one thing. We are required to be multi-faceted in journalism these days and produce a lot more copy than we could have ever imagined before. Let’s say 10 years ago when I was focusing on being the media columnist as a full time job but also supplementing my media writing with other writing, including music, which I should say as an aside I don’t have time to do any music right now. I’ve been asked not to write about music and instead focus on news. Back then I probably wrote about 3,000 words a week. And that made me one of the, if not the, most prolific writers at Westword at the time. Today I am averaging over 3,000 words a day.

Does that make him one of the most prolific at Westword?

Roberts: There’s not a competition anymore, and there’s also not a prize. That right there gives you an indication of how much things have changed.

Do you find it less fun to be a media critic when news outlets are struggling so much, less fun to take shots at the media? Is it less interesting?

Roberts: I don’t think that’s the case. I think there are so many more aspects to it… all kinds of interesting questions about what constitutes journalism, what constitutes a journalist, what constitutes original work, what’s an investigation, how can we find time to do an investigations. So it’s not that media criticism is less interesting. It’s expanded and there are so many more angles to it than people would have thought a decade ago-.

I asked what had changed since he was assigned to the Latest Word blog.

Roberts: What’s changed is the volumes that they want us to put out and the focus on actual reporting. The vast majority of people who are doing online stuff are not doing their own reporting. And while it can be exhausting to turn out that level of material, philosophically I am 100 percent behind the idea that we need to actually generate original content instead of contributing one more echo to the echo chamber.

Is that supported by data?

Roberts: One of the theories is that more people will come to our blog and make it a regular stop if we give them something that they can’t get anywhere else. And there’s no question, at least here at Westword, our numbers have been growing very steadily. The overall page views for the paper as a whole have been in the range of three million a month. We exceeded that last month. Last month, which was our best news-page view performance ever- we almost hit a million just on our own. .. Of that million, the Latest Word portion of it was 800,000, something like that. The news section includes feature articles, and articles that also run in the paper and slide shows, and stuff like that. Those numbers are growing, and hopefully it means people are coming to it because they recognize they are getting original material instead of a re-hash of a re-hash.