Archive for the 'Local TV News' Category

Political TV talk show airs five days a week through Election Day in Denver

Friday, July 18th, 2014

For those of you who used to complain about the shrinking length of TV sound bites, but now you’re grateful for any political blip on TV at all, take this: A local TV public-affairs show that airs five days a week.

That’s what Aaron Harber, who’s hosted public affairs programs here for years, in a unique partnership with The Denver Post, is bringing you this election season. That’s about 100 shows, some of which may be candidate debates like Harber has moderated in past elections.

The “Aaron Harber Show: Colorado Election 2014″ launched about three weeks ago, and the string of guests continues to impress: Ryan Call, Scott Gessler, Ken Buck, Diane Carman, Dick Lamm, Tom Tancredo, Steve Welchert, John Andrews, Mike Littwin, among others. (Okay, maybe they’re all not so impressive, but still.)

You can catch former State House Speaker (and impressive to boot) Mark Ferrandino on the show Monday. The show is available in the morning (and first) on The Post website, and then broadcast on Denver commercial TV station KCDO-TV Channel 3 at 6:30 p.m. (3 p.m. next week) through Election Day. Below, see how else it’s being distributed.

Harbor is particularly excited about the partnership with The Post, which he hopes will push the show out to a much wider audience than you’d expect for a local TV public affairs program, like others produced locally.

The show “is the nation’s first daily political news show on a commercial over-the-air broadcast television station in conjunction with a major newspaper,” according to the show’s promotional materials, and, as such, “could be a model for the country to promote civil and mutually-respectful debate.”

“Can you have a partnership with a television station and a newspaper, where the newspaper gets the program first?” asks Harber. “In this case The Denver Post gets it in the morning and the television station gets it at 6:30 p.m. (3 p.m. next week). Can we make this work? The newspaper loves having the content first, and will that actually help viewing when the television broadcasts the show later? We think it can.”

“We are excited about the opportunity to work with Aaron and provide our readers and viewers with additional information for evaluating candidates and issues this election cycle,” Post Editor Greg Moore said in a Post article about the series. “We are impressed with Aaron’s ability to get political players to come to the table and discuss their views and we look forward to what we can create together.”

“Viewers get to see the guests in a more in-depth manner than they do on an average TV news program, where the average sound bite is 9 seconds,” Harber told me. “We’re trying to present people with a fact-based program that allows them to see various candidates and representatives of ballot initiatives.”

Harber says he’s gotten positive feedback on the show so far, but he’s tweaking it as it goes along, He’s had suggestions for improvement, like “maybe a new host,” he joked.

One possible show in the future, or a segment of future shows, might involve assembling a panel to critique political ads, kind of like the fact-checks on local TV stations but done in a discussion format, said Harber.

Here’s a summary, provided by Harber, of where you can catch the program:

The program will be highlighted in the morning newspaper every weekday and broadcast first on The Denver Post’s Website and made available 24/7 thereafter on DenverPost.com through the General Election.

After each daily premiere on The Denver Post, the show will be broadcast over-the-air as well as on cable and satellite from 6:30 pm to 7:00 pm by KCDO-TV Channel 3 (K3 Colorado).

COMCAST Entertainment Television has agreed to carry the entire series statewide (with two broadcasts daily after the KCDO-TV Channel 3 broadcast).

To ensure even broader availability to voters, ION Television has agreed to carry the best shows of the series.

K3 will preempt the regular Sunday morning program 11:00 am time-slot for “The Aaron Harber Show” (right after most of the national political news shows) and re-broadcast the “best” program from the previous week to give the series even more exposure.

COMCAST also will make the entire series available 24/7 at no charge via its XFINITY [Video] on Demand service so all Colorado COMCAST customers can view the programs in HD at their convenience.

In conjunction with the Colorado Press Association, full-length programs and short segments also will be available to the 44 Colorado print and electronic participants in the Publishers Advantage Initiative (representing an additional 625,000 readers and viewers).

In conjunction with the Colorado Broadcasters Association, full-length programs and short segments also will be available to the every radio and television station in Colorado at no charge for use on their Websites (potentially representing an additional 1,725,000 viewers and readers).

 

Fed falsehoods by Coffman spokesperson, Univision should air videos of Coffman’s admiration of Tancredo

Friday, June 20th, 2014

Last month, Univision Denver’s news show requested an interview with Republican Mike Coffman to get his reaction to Democrat Andrew Romanoff’s accusation that Coffman’s immigration policies reflect those of former Congressman Tom Tancredo. Coffman sent his spokesman, Tyler Sandberg, to talk to Univision, and here’s an excerpt from the piece that aired.

Univision reporter Karen Vega: … We asked if, in reality, Coffman shared the anti-immigrant opinions and practices of his predecessor, the former Congressman and current state gubernatorial candidate, Tom Tancredo.

Sandberg: Absolutely not. On the issue of immigration, Tom Tancredo and Mike Coffman represent two different extremes of the Republican Party. As such, with all respect to Tom Tancredo, Mike Coffman does not have the same anti-immigrant policies.

Left out was a reference to Romanoff’s point that Coffman introduced Tom Tancredo as his “hero”at a 2010 Tea Party Rally:

Coffman: “It is a great honor for me to introduce somebody who is my hero, someone who has served this country with honor and integrity and courage… and that is former Congressman Tom Tancredo.”

What’s more, Coffman endorsed Tancredo in the 2010 gubernatorial election. (And vice versa here.) Apparently aware of this, Vega asked Sandberg about the “admiration that Coffman supposedly has for Republican Tom Tancredo.” Sandberg replied to Vega by saying that Coffman respects Tancredo for his views on economic issues and not at all for his views on immigration. Too bad Vega didn’t have this video of Coffman’s introduction of Tancredo in 2010, when Coffman offered hero-like praise for Tancredo’s extreme opposition to Republican-led immigration reform in 2006.

Coffman: “In 2006, I was a disillusioned Republican because of what was going on in Washington DC when Republicans had the White House, when Republicans had the House and the Senate, and they ceased to govern by the conservative principles that they ran on. But there was one Republican in Washington who refused to stand with them, who stood on the same conservative principles that he ran on, and that was Tom Tancredo. When Republicans in the Congress ceased to govern by the values that got them elected, when the Republican President of the United States, with the Republican leadership and their Democrat allies, came up with a so-called immigration reform bill that did nothing to secure the borders of the United States and provided amnesty for those who had broken our law, Tom Tancredo refused to stand with those Republicans.”

If Coffman, or more likely his spokesman, appears again on Univision, let’s hope he gets time to explain why he thinks his boss is so far apart from Tancredo’s immigration positions, when in fact they share both an anti-immigrant record and fighter’s posture on the issue.

CORRECTION: A early version of this post incorrectly stated that the piece aired on Telemundo Denver.

Fox 31 Denver takes new public-policy show out of the “stuffy confines” of a TV studio

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

Local TV public affairs shows are usually shot deep inside TV stations, where the light of day and the reality of everyday life can be hard to find.

Fox 31 Denver’s Eli Stokols has dispensed of this problem by staging his new public affairs TV program at The Source, which is a collection of restaurants and food markets with a fresh and local thread.

“We’re trying to do a show about local issues, local politics, local ideas,” Stokols told me. “We want it to be a public conversation. It felt right to locate that conversation in a public space outside the stuffy confines of a TV studio. We want the show to be accessible and more appealing than people in a studio.”

With sides of local beef dangling behind him, Stokols will give newsmakers and others a chance to talk about public policy “outside of the two-minute construct of a TV package.” Sometimes he’ll take the show further on the road, possibly for debates or other relevant events. (Above, Stokols interviews Rep. Ed Perlmutter at The Source.)

“I don’t know that there’s a need for another show with three of four people sitting around talking about the news of the week,” said Stokols, adding that Denver already has a good one on Channel 12.  His half-hour weekly show, which debuts Sunday at 9 a.m. on Fox 31 and is called #COPolitics from the Source, might have that format sometimes, he says, but “what we’ll do more often is take a policy area, bring in some people, and even if it’s not politics per se, have them engage.”

#COPolitics is a Twitter hashtag followed by people interested in Colorado politics, and using #COPolitics in the title is a signal that the show is “an extension of the conversation that takes place on that Twitter feed,” says Stokols, who, among other journalistic activities, is a weekend anchor on Fox 31.

Stokols credits KDVR Fox 31 General Manager Peter Maroney for pushing the idea of a new public affairs show, but convincing the station to get behind an off-site concept took some work, especially because there’s no sponsorship dollars in it for KDVR. But the bosses came around, and station staff stepped up, says Stokols.

Having dumped Zappolo’s People, with the departure of longtime anchor Ron Zappolo, Fox 31 is now jumping into a surprisingly crowded market of local television public-affairs programs, mostly on public television, but also on commercial competitor 9News, which has just re-committed to a monthly show called Balance of Power. The latest installment, airing Saturday at 6 p.m. on 9News and 9:30 p.m. on channel 20, features a debate on fracking between Rep. Jared Polis and oil-and-gas-industry leader Tisha Schuller.

“This is a notoriously difficult area of programming, and it’s only getting harder because of the expanding media landscape, with newspapers jumping in, streaming content available from different providers, and the bread-butter-guys who have been around for a long time,” said 9News political reporter Brandon Rittiman, who moderates Balance of Power, along with 9News Anchor Kyle Clark.  “On the other hand, there’s a greater demand for original content. And media companies are realizing that too.”

The 9News show  will most often focus on one topic, broken down into segments, including at least a few minutes of analysis by “political experts” Ryan Frazier (Republican) and James Mejia (Democrat), says Rittiman, adding that 9News is trying hard to make the show look good and keep it “interesting, entertaining, and informative at the same time.”

9News has officially retired the public affairs program YourShow, which solicited topics and questions from viewers and was launched by former political reporter Adam Schrager. “The concept of YourShow was ahead of its time but quickly, with social media, has become part of what we do every day, reaching out to people and making sure they can have their say and get their questions in.” said Rittiman. “That’s worked its way into all aspects of news coverage.”

Public affairs shows on public television include: KBDI Channel 12′s Colorado Inside Out (Hosted by Dominic Dezzutti), KRMA Channel 6′s Colorado State of Mind (Hosted by Cynthia Hessin), Aurora municipal TV Channel 8′s Dateline Aurora, and the Independence Institute’s Devils Advocate (which ludicrously presents libertarian Jon Caldara as moderator).

The Denver Post produces a sporadic video interview show called Spot Live, which is currently being revamped from a square-off between pundits, moderated by a reporter, to one-on-one interviews with newsmakers.

Of the non-commercial TV shows, my favorite is still Colorado Inside Out, even though I have to excuse myself and barf on occasion, which is proof I don’t fall asleep as I watch. In spite of the simple talking-heads format, the show doesn’t bog down as it moves through the views of regular and rotating panelists.

“We all know how much money will be coming into Colorado for issues and campaigns,” said Colorado Inside Out host and producer Dezzutti via email. “Most of that money is spent on ads that are not meant to educate voters, but rather persuade by any means necessary. The only way Colorado voters can cut through the fog of incessant attack ads is to look to quality public affairs programs that are willing to go beyond the 30 second sound bite. Fox31’s new show affirms that need and shows that Colorado voters are ready for more alternatives to the constant 30 second ad bombardment. As the producer and host of Colorado Inside Out, now in its 22nd season, we are excited that another Denver TV station is stepping up and providing this kind of critical analysis that Colorado voters need and deserve.”

Colorado Inside Out’s panelists have a sense of humor, which goes a long way.

That’s a quality Fox 31′s Stokols admires in two of his favorite interviewers CNN’s Jake Tapper and CBS’ Bob Schieffer.

“Those  guys to me don’t take themselves too seriously,” says Stokols. “They take their job very seriously. They don’t take themselves quite as seriously. And that’s the way I try to approach it. When I anchor the news, I do it with a smirk on my face. Journalism is very important, but you don’t have to be a pompous fake to get your point across.”

That is, as long as anyone is watching.

Messenger Shoots Messenger

Friday, October 11th, 2013

With the growing influence of alternative media platforms like Twitter, is this kind of “peer review” a growing trend?

Good thing?  Bad thing?

We’ll be looking for data points to track this trend.  Please feel free to contribute!  Send us your entries.

PR bonanza awaits TV station that invests some political-ad revenue in one lonely reporter

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

What happened to all the money television stations got for airing the nonstop spew of political ads right up until Election Day?

You’d think television stations, whose news departments at least try to lay claim to an aura of public responsibility, would take a bit of their campaign windfall and give back.

The most obvious way to do this would be to beef up their political reporting on the news, as an excellent article in the current issue of the Columbia Journalism Review points out.

After all, local television stations rake in millions of dollars in swing states across the country with poisonous ads that are at best horribly deceptive and at worst outright false. TV reporters themselves acknowledge how sick-and-tired they are of the ads, and some stations actually fact-check some of them and document the deception.

So how about taking a little bit of the money from the ads and spending it on more local journalism, year-round, to help equip citizens with information needed to sort through political fact and fiction?

Democracy would certainly benefit, but more importantly from a TV station’s perspective, hiring a reporter with money from the political could be a PR bonanza, directing public attention at one brave station that recognized its own greed and decided to give back an itsy bitsy bit.

What would this look like?

Denver stations earned a total of $67 million from election-related ads last year, according to an analysis by The Denver Post. Meanwhile, the national average yearly salary of a TV news reporter is now about $40,000.

Let’s assume you could hire a decent reporter in Denver for about $50,000.

If you do the math, $67 million buys you 1,340 well-paid reporters to inform the public about politics.

As it is, Shaun Boyd, the political reporter at one of Denver’s CBS4, has stated that she is essentially the only staffer who covered the 2012 campaign at her station, KCNC. And she alone covers the majority of political stories for the outlet.

What if the top news executives at Boyd’s station told their audience, and the community, that, hey, as journalists, we’re as sick as you are of gross political ads manipulating our elections?

Just imagine them announcing that to give back to the community we’re going to add one new reporter with the mission of helping people be less vulnerable to manipulation by political ads.

They could afford this. If you assume Boyd’s station’s share of the election-year ad spending spree to be about $15 million (there are four stations in the market and hers is No. 3), then we’re talking about giving back just one-three-hundredth of its gross political-ad revenue, leaving plenty of money to pay for other company priorities.

If they view it through their usual profit-driven lens, which is how local TV news operates, they could easily justify the decision based on bottom-line PR value alone.

It would almost certainly be a local and national story, separating the station a bit from the bottom-feeding (and weather-hyping) TV news pack.

At a press conference, station executives could emphasize the public-interest aspects: As a very small gesture toward healing our political culture, they could say, we’re taking a small portion of our obscenely huge election haul and hiring an extra political reporter to hold public officials accountable and to help you sort through the political spin.

How great would that be? Who knows, it might also boost their ratings.

A version of this article was originally distributed by the OtherWords syndicate. Follow Jason Salzman on Twitter @bigmediablog.

A list of the best political journalism in Colorado so far this election cycle

Friday, October 12th, 2012

Compared to the 2010 election in Colorado, this one has been mostly a snoozer, journalistically.

But the 2010 election wasn’t really an election. It was a dramatic comedy show, with so many stories to tell and scandals to uncover that journalists almost couldn’t help but be stars.

Still, reporters have turned out some excellent work this time around, and I’ve listed my favorite reporting below. I’m hoping to see more great work in the next few weeks, but this list is inspiring.

9News Kyle Clark: “Coffman won’t explain Obama ‘not an American’ comments” Rather than let Coffman hide, Clark went out and found him.

Fox 31′s Eli Stokols:FOX31 Denver goes one-on-one with Paul Ryan” Stokols shows how an informed journalist can challenge a candidate’s spin.

The Denver Post’s Lynn Bartels and Tim Hoover: “Anarchy, chaos behind Colorado civil unions bill may have long-lasting effects” They dug deep to show, among other things, how the upcoming election influenced the legislative debate on civil unions.

The Denver Post’s Tim Hoover: “Noncitizen ID’d fraction of those first alleged by Gessler” No matter where you sit on the political spectrum, to understand Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s behavior and priorities, you have to understand the blizzard of numbers Gessler tosses around. Hoover did a great job clarifying Gessler’s figures in this piece.

Associated Press’ Ivan Moreno: “Voter Purges Turn Up Little Evidence Of Fraud Despite Republican Insistence” Like Hoover, Moreno gets to the heart of the voter “fraud” issue by looking at the details.

Fox 31′s Eli Stokols: “Colo. girl registering ‘only Romney’ voters tied to firm dumped by RNC over fraud” Stokols quickly connected the dots from Colorado to a scandal that was developing nationally.

CBS4′s Shaun Boyd: “Romney Loses Cool When Questioned About Marijuana, Gay Marriage” Boyd keeps her cool and sticks to her questions even as Romney flips out.

KBNO radio host Fernando Sergio’s interview with President Obama, which makes the list because Sergio almost certainly got the first interview with a sitting president on Spanish language radio in Colorado.

Colorado Statesman’s Judy Hope Strogoff: “Perry campaigns with friends in Colorado” I love this scoop, with the photos. An illuminating and fun piece.

The Denver Post’s John Ingold: “GOP’s VP candidate, Paul Ryan, emphasizes contrast with Obama’s vision” I like how Ingold gets at the candidates’ underlying view of government, as he reports on a campaign stop.

Local TV news fact checkers Shaun Boyd (CBS4), Matt Flener (9News), Brandon Rittiman (9News), and (sometimes) Marshall Zellinger (7News). I don’t always agree with them, but what they do is really important, especially on local TV.

Fact checking the TV fact checkers: mostly accurate analysis of ads attacking Romney’s positions on abortion

Friday, August 31st, 2012

Two Denver TV stations so far have fact checked political ads attacking Mitt Romney’s positions on a women’s right to choose.

The ads were aired and checked a while ago, in early August, but I thought I’d spotlight them today, because women’s issues will come up again and again and again, we can be sure.

The two ads, analyzed by 7News’ Marshall Zelinger and CBS4′s Shaud Boyd, were slightly different, but the ads mostly made the same allegations.

AD:  “Mitt Romney opposes requiring insurance coverage for contraception.”

CBS4 Reality Check (scroll down to abortion ad): TRUE

Channel 7 Truth Tracker: TRUE

Bigmedia.org: Both stations got it right.

AD: “Romney supports overturning Roe Vs. Wade.”

CBS4 Reality Check: TRUE

Channel 7 Truth Tracker: TRUE

Bigmedia.org: Both stations got it right.

AD: Romeny would cut federal funding for Planned Parenthood

CBS4 Reality Check: TRUE

Channel 7 Truth Tracker: This fact wasn’t included in the ad checked by Channel 7.

Bigmedia.org. Channel 4 got it right.

AD: “Romney backed a bill that outlaws all abortion, even cases of rape and incest.”

CBS4 Reality Check: MISLEADING

Channel 7 Truth Tracker: MISLEADING (but it also found the “even-cases-of rape-and-incest” part to be “MOSTLY UNTRUE”)

Bigmedia.org: First, both Channels 7 and 4 point out that there was not an actual bill. The ad shows a clip of Romney saying he’d back a bill outlawing “all abortions,” if, hypothetically, such a bill came to his desk. That’s not enough to call the statement misleading, more like “MOSTLY TRUE.”

But the addition of the phrase “even cases of rape and incest” makes the statement more complicated. Channel 7 separated out this phrase and deemed it “MOSTLY FALSE,” arguing that even though the hyopothetical bill would have banned “all abortions,” the bill didn’t mention rape and incest specifically.

In addition, both Channels 4 and 7 aired video of Romney saying that he supports abortion in the case of rape and incest.

But Romney told Mike Huckabee just last last year that he “absolutely” would have supported an amendment to the Massachusetts’ consitution defining life as beginning at conception, otherwize known as the zygote or fertilized-egg stage.  (Video here at 6:25)

And if you define life as such, like personhood backers do, and you do so in a state constitution, you give legal protections to zygotes created as a result of rape. So it’s fair to conclude that Romney opposes abortion for rape victims, though obviously it’s a Olympic flip from what he’s said elsewhere.

Romney also told Huckabee:

“Would it be wonderful if everybody in the country agreed with you and me that life begins at conception, that there’s a sanctity of life that’s part of a civilized society, and that we’re all going to agree that we’re not going to have legal abortion in the county? That would be great.” (Video here at 8:15)

Against this backdrop of Romney’s own dueling positions, I don’t understand how Channel 7 could conclude that it’s mostly false to say that Romney opposes abortion, even in the case of rape and incest. It could be true or false. Take your pick.

You have to conclude, like Channel 4 did, that Romney’s obviously a flip flopper on abortion. And you certainly can’t say it’s untrue for Obama to tell us Romney opposes all abortion, even in cases of rape and incest.

So Channel 4′s take-away comment, which it calls the “bottom line,” hit the mark:

“The ad says women, a key voting bloc, should be troubled by Mitt Romney’s position on abortion.  And they should, because it’s changed so many times. Mitt Romney brought this one on himself.”

Reporter Shaun Boyd discusses CBS4′s “Reality Check”

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

When Channel 4’s Shaun Boyd sits down to fact check a political ad, for her station’s “Reality Check” feature, the first thing she does is ask for documentation from the people that produced it.

“Sometimes they send it before the ad starts running,” Boyd told me. “They drown me with information.”

Boyd sits at her desk sifting through the documents and doing other research.

So while most TV reporters spend their time shooting footage and writing stories, she says, with Reality Check, she spends most of her time as a researcher.

“Some days it’s brain damage,” says Boyd. “But my hope is I give people information they use to make informed decisions.”

She gets criticism from all sides. “It’s amazing they’re looking at the same piece,” she says.

Most often the criticism is directed at the final portion of her analysis, which is called the “Bottom Line”

Here’s Boyd’s “Bottom Line” for two anti-Romney  ads:

Bottom Line: This ad is trying to channel our resentment over high oil prices to Mitt Romney.  But if Romney is a tool for Big Oil, this ad fails to make the case.

Bottom Line: “The ad says women, a key voting bloc, should be troubled by Mitt Romney’s position on abortion.  And they should, because it’s changed so many times. Mitt Romney brought this one on himself.”

You can see why these conclusions could piss off people. It’s not as if all fact-checking isn’t interpretive to some degree, especially when stuff like “What You Need to Know” is added, but the “Bottom Line” makes the interpretation more obvious.

“The ‘bottom line’ [segment] is, here’s what’s really happening,” says Boyd. “It could be, ‘here’s why they’re doing this.’ It could be, ‘here’s the take-away.’”

Boyd says the “bottom-line” comment is what separates CBS4’s “Reality Check” from the other stations’ ad-checks. So despite the blowback from the campaigns, she says it’s worth it.

Reality Check airs on CBS4 during the 6 p.m. broadcast because, Boyd told me, they “require people to think” and “viewers at 10 p.m. are sometimes tired and don’t want to think more.”

So far this year, Channel 4 has analyzed more political ads than any other station in Denver (all are doing it), but as the election approaches, she predicts she’ll spend more time on the campaign trail and less behind her desk.

“People start to tune out the political ads toward the end,” says Boyd, who’s been doing Reality Check since 2010 and has been at Channel 4 for 15 years. “By the time we get into September, Reality Check becomes less effective. It’s something we’ve learned.”

Boyd will not repeat an analysis of an ad that makes a claim that she’s already addressed in a previous Reality Check. As the election nears, she expects to see fewer and fewer ads containing new allegations, meaning she’ll focus her political reporting elsewhere.

“I try to apply a Reality-Check veneer to every story I do,” She told me, “rather than reporting that this candidate said this and this candidate said that.”

“The vast majority of people, their eyes glaze over when a political story comes on,” Boyd says. “My challenge is to make it matter to them.”

Should journalists decline interviews if questions are banned?

Friday, August 24th, 2012

Talking Points Memo reports that the Mitt Romney campaign told an Ohio TV station yesterday that it preferred not to answer questions about Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin.

“They were chatting and it came up and I believe [a Romney staffer’s] wording was that they prefer not to talk about it,” [WHIO-TV] assistant news director Tim Wolff told TPM. “But we didn’t care because we were going to talk about Ohio stuff.”

If I’m a journalist, and a campaign tells me it prefers not to talk about something, that’s immediately what I want to ask about.

But Wolff told me that the preference was expressed by a low-level logistical person in the Romney camp, and so it didn’t matter to the station, which wasn’t interested in the topic anyway.

I asked Wolff if his station would have conducted the interview, with some questions banned outright.

“We’ve never agreed to any kind of stipulations and never would,” he said. “So it wouldn’t be an issue for us.”

Dave Price, a reporter at WHO-TV in Iowa who also interviewed Romney yesterday, told Talking Points Memo that he also would not have agreed to the Romney interview, if he’d been told that Akin questions were banned.

I asked Wolff what he’d do if forced to reject an interview, due to unacceptable preconditions.

Would Wolff report that the interview invitation was declined?

“I’m not sure, just because I’ve never had it happen,” he said. “There are many variables in how it can happen. We may or may not report, depending on how big a deal it was, that we did not do the interview because of these circumstances.”

Normally, I’d think a reporter should tell us, if he or she doesn’t accept an interview because of banned questions or the like.

Transparency is key, and that’s why CBS4 did the right thing by going ahead with the Romney interview and reporting the ban on Akin/Abortion questions.

Rejecting the interview would have been an over-reaction, because, as CBS4 News director Tim Wieland tweeted, there’s a lot of other questions that can be asked–and you can still report that certain questions were banned, as CBS4 did.

But, at some point, and I’m not sure where it is, an interview gets so restricted that a reporter has to say no, and report what happened.

Or if a topic was so important at a particular moment, a reporter might decline an interview, just because one topic was banned.

So I think it just depends, but CBS4 made the right call yesterday.

 

 

With Channel 4 leading the way, four Denver TV stations to fact-check political ads this election cycle

Friday, August 24th, 2012

Channel 4 has jumped ahead of other Denver TV stations in fact-checking political ads so far this election cycle.

CBS4 has already aired segments analyzing 20 ads, over twice as many as 9News, its closest competitor among the four stations analyzing ads.

Sorry for the horse-race media criticism, but the numbers are worth pointing out, because Channel 4’s early analysis of the ads has undoubtedly been appreciated by regular people (none of whom read my blog), who’ve been trying to sort through all the political spots that have aired so early this election season.

“In the past, the ads didn’t start coming in nearly so soon or so often,” Denver Post Politics Editor Chuck Plunkett told me via email. “I’ve talked with national players who have visited Colorado this summer who couldn’t believe the number of ads that already were up and running.”

So it was a smart move for CBS4 to start dissecting the ads early, as part of its excellent “Reality Check” feature, led by “Political Specialist” Shaun Boyd. (Look for a post tomorrow with more on Boyd and Reality Check.)

“We’re committed to it,” said CBS4 News Director Tim Wieland. “We have a system in place that allows us to begin when the ads start rolling in. People are frustrated, and they want something that cuts through the BS. That’s the intent of this project.”

For its part, 9News is ramping up its ad-checking segments, called “Truth Tests,” with an idea that other media outlets may want to copy, straight up.

“Due to the sheer volume of political ads, 9NEWS has hired a team of three graduate students from the University of Denver to work as researchers for Truth Tests,” wrote 9News Political Reporter Brandon Rittiman, who’s the station’s primary Truth-Test reporter. “With the extra help, we hope to be able to tackle more ads than ever before this political season.”

9News, Denver’s NBC affiliate, will also work its newspaper partner, The Denver Post, according to Post Politics Editor Plunkett, with reporter Tim Hoover directing the coverage.

Channel 7’s “Truth Tracker” series is spearheaded by Producer/Presenter Marshall Zelinger, who’s scrutinized four ads so far and is scaling up the project now. Channel 7, Denver’s ABC affiliate, actually introduced the ad-checks to Denver TV viewers in the 1990’s, with reporter John Ferrugia’s “Truth Meter” series. It was later revived by Adam Schrager at 9News.

“I wanted to start a month earlier, because so many ads were rolling in,” Zelinger told me, adding that he plans to dedicate a significant amount of his time to Truth Tracker going forward, focusing on new ads and the ones airing the most.

For the first time, Fox 31, an independent station that’s become known as the local TV news leader in day-to-day political coverage, will produce a regular ad-check segment, called “Fact or Fiction,” anchored mostly by political reporter Eli Stokols. This might air once or twice weekly, Stokols emailed me, with a focus on “the most controversial ads and those airing the most frequently in Denver and around the state.”

Even though he’ll be fact-checking ads himself, Stokols is skeptical of his new endeavor, emailing me that, “especially now in this post-Citizens United world, [it] seems like a losing game of Whack-a-Mole — as soon as you finish checking one spot, it’s yesterday’s news and there are a dozen more popping up.”

“While campaigns are quick to cite such fact-checking spots in their effort to discredit opposition advertising, the campaigns we call out for blatant falsehoods don’t seem to care at all,” Stokols wrote. “And why should they? In a campaign that could see close to $1 billion in campaign spending, it’s inevitable that any TV ad, however false or misleading, will air hundreds of times, overwhelming any news outlet’s fact-check that might air a couple of times. Today’s campaign finance landscape enables political advertisements to have a reach that’s far wider than any fact-check — until, perhaps, the fact-check itself becomes part of a countering ad, just more noise in a never-ending echo chamber of allegations and attacks.”

Daily campaign-trail coverage and investigative journalism obviously had more of an impact than ad fact-checks in the last plagiarism-ridden election here, but political advertising can overwhelm all journalism, not just the stories fact-checking political ads. And the elucidation of facts can have an impact on the campaign trail, shaping the debate there, at press conferences and debates, for example, where they’re sometimes cited.

CBS4′s Boyd says in her normal reporting duties, covering events and such, she’ll often “turn a story and you don’t feel like you’ve influenced anyone.”

“Reality Check influences voters,” she told me. “I know that from the emails I receive.”

TV audiences pay attention to it.

“It’s the most popular thing we do in political coverage,” CBS4′s Wieland told me.

Maybe that’s because viewers don’t get enough day-to-day political journalism on local TV, like what you find in a newspaper, to get hooked on it. So the fact checking fills the void?

In any case, when you watch the ad-checks on TV, you can see why they work so well.

The ads themselves are usually already branded, if you will; they’re familiar to viewers. And the process of stopping and starting the ads, and analyzing segments with sharp graphics and simple analysis, is gripping, in its way.

The text-based fact-checking you’ve traditionally found in newspapers, without the video, doesn’t carry the same impact, at all.

The format for the fact-check segments at Denver TV stations varies a bit, but the basics are similar. Channel 7 provides a rating system with six options for the “facts” analyzed, including “misleading,” and “opinion.” 9News and CBS4 use a wider range of descriptions for the facts in question. And CBS4 concludes with a “Bottom Line” statement, which often offers a broader interpretation.

When Adam Schrager was at 9News, he actually taught people how to check ads themselves.

If you try it, you know how difficult it is to do. It’s hard to label the facts, found in a deliberately vague advertisement, as false or true, and partisans can almost always find something to get mad about.

But with an expanding sea of misinformation coming at us, the effort to shed nonpartisan light on political advertising is worth it. And the earlier the TV stations get started at it, like CBS4 did this election season, the better.