Archive for the 'News 4' Category

Journalists express frustration during discussion of election news coverage

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

The Columbia Journalism Review’s Rocky Mountain Correspondent, Corey Hutchins, has posted highlights of a panel discussion Tuesday, moderated by Compass Colorado’s Kelly Maher and me, on local news coverage of the 2014 election.

Here are three of Hutchins’ eight highlights:

Bored on the Bus

KDVR’s Eli Stokols on covering the modern professional campaign:

“Unfortunately there were very few days where I sat there and I said, ‘Absolutely have to shoot this today,’ because it was so rare that these candidates were actually available, putting out public schedules, doing public events… I rode on the Udall bus, I went up to Fort Collins and Greeley a couple times to find Cory [Gardner] when he was speaking to Republicans there, and you know, you would get the same rehearsed, trite lines from all of them. And when you sat them down in an interview you got the same rehearsed, trite lines from both. And so maybe it is incumbent on us to be better, to push them out of their comfort zone a little bit … I think that’s the tough part of the modern campaign. Campaigns with money are so not reliant anymore on mainstream media to get their message out, especially in a market like this [in Colorado] where there is not such a critical mass of media.”

The Denver Post didn’t want to cover ‘scripted theater’

Post politics editor [Chuck] Plunkett said his paper didn’t want to fall into the trap of covering what he called the “scripted theater” of the campaigns. So in the early spring, he said, he gathered staff for multiple substantive discussions about issues they wanted to address this election season, so they weren’t just “having to chase the Twitter around, having to chase the horse race around.” Some of the issues they decided to focus on were immigration, the ground game, and money, and how candidates evolved on issues. Also, for the first time, the paper held its own recorded debates in its auditorium instead of partnering with a TV station….

Didn’t approve this ad

CBS4’s [Shaun Boyd] provided some levity when she spoke of how she’d recoiled at seeing her on-air reporting appear in a political ad on TV. To her dismay, her station ran the ad on its airwaves. But, she said, other TV stations in Denver didn’t air it because they didn’t want to highlight the reporting of a competitor.

In his post, Hutchins discusses the journalists’ frustration with the scripted answers from the candidates. Riccardi, in particular, talked about how closely the professional candidates stay on their talking points, and he said he hoped to walk away from the campaign trail more often in the future and write about the election from an outside-the-box perspective.

That’s a good idea, but I thought local journalists could have at least tried to break the campaign script more often during the last election on many issues. And even if they didn’t break it completely, they could have spotlighted candidates’ manipulative or repetitive talking points more clearly for voters, like Eli Stokols did in his interview with Senator-elect Cory Gardner.

This would have required more aggressive follow-up questioning by journalists, and it could have been done at more of the public events where reporters questioned the candidates.

The frustration of the journalists on the panel Tuesday was mostly not evident at the candidate debates and interviews, where journalists, with some important exceptions here and elsewhere, took a passive role, without much follow-up.

Here’s part of Tuesday’s discussion about how to address the talking points.

PLUNKETT: We do break the script. A good journalist can get people to talk about more than sometimes we give them credit for. I think when you start to think about the election in general, you remember all those scripted moments, and you’re frustrated by it. It’s annoying. You wish people would just answer the question. And that creates a very human reaction in you, and you react to it, in a hostile kind of way. But I do think, if you think back, there were tons of stories written by lots of people on the campaign trail, and we did get into issues. We did look at important moments.

STOKOLS: I think as a journalist you have to draw out and just explain to people when somebody’s not answering the question, sometimes. Whether you show that in a TV format or in a print format, you just say, you know, “…has refused to answer this question repeatedly throughout the campaign,” or, whatever it is. I think that should be revealing to people, you know, like Chuck said. Sometimes, there’s not a lot more you can do.

Durango Herald’s Peter MARCUS: Yeah, I agree. And I also agree that it is tougher in print. I mean, when I was pushing Cory Gardner on, you know, what the difference is between the state Personhood initiative and the federal bill, you know, it’s weird to write that into the story. It’s like, “The Durango Herald pushed Gardner on…” You know, and how many times can you write that? And are people even understanding what’s going on in the exchange, that you’re on the phone, or conducting your interview in person, we’re just asking the same question over and over in different ways? It gets hard to write it into a story. But more importantly, you can’t make them break the script. I STOKOLS: Well, you know, we have to be a little analytical. I mean, we can’t just sit there. we’re not stenographers.

MARCUS: Right

STOKOLS: So, you know, when you sit there on a campaign bus, and Mark Udall and Michael Bennet are sitting there, and the national reporters are asking, you know, like, “President Obama, he’s not here. Is he killing you?” And they’re like, “Oh, no! It’s fine!” Whatever. And then, you know, they go on background, and they’re like, “Jesus! The President is killing us!”

MARCUS: Right! What do you do? Yeah, what do you do?

STOKOLS: It doesn’t take a lot of analysis to understand, one, what the reality is, and two, why they can’t explicitly say that, or admit that, doesn’t mean we can’t write it, and explain that to the reader or the viewer, that, look, this is a fundamental reality of this campaign, whether it is admitted to or not admitted to, you know, by the candidate.

MARCUS: Yeah, you may not get them to break the script. You can write it in, because of what people tell you on background and everything. But you’re not going to quote them on it,

RICCARDI: Yeah, I totally agree. If you’re just waiting on these guys to tell you something, the yield-to-effort is minimal.

Asked why more of gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez’s extreme comments were not covered, some of the journalists on Tuesday’s panel explained that it’s difficult to address an issue if the campaign isn’t focusing on it.

RICCARDI: I also think this is a great example of how campaigns define a lot of what you end up covering. Hickenlooper ran a positive campaign. Hickenlooper did not put these past statements of Beauprez in the public light repeatedly, therefore there were other things that reporters had to focus on with their limited time. Look at how much ink we spilled over Gardner on two measures that will probably never become law. Right? And that’s a direct reflection of the fact that the Udall campaign and their allies put a lot of time, attention to creating points behind those issues. And I think you’re seeing the opposite of it in terms of what happened on the governor’s side. Hickenlooper did not want to make that an issue, and guess what, it didn’t become a big issue. I agree with Chuck, it’s a balancing act [on how much coverage old candidate statements should get]. There’s no—there’s no clean formula for anything in this business. But I also think this is a great example of how a lot of our coverage reflects the choices being by campaigns, for better or for worse.

STOKOLS: Yeah, the governor’s race was about the Governor because the Governor made it that way. I mean, he didn’t come out and do a lot of campaign events, but when he went to the sheriffs, and Kelly’s folks got that on video, that was a huge pivot in the campaign. And there were other things that he did —the comments to CNN earlier in the year, in answering a hypothetical question. There were mistakes that he made that we were sort of forced to cover. Whereas, some of these [Beauprez] statements, they matter on some level, but they have a shelf life. And so, when, you know, you’re running ads based on a 2006 statement, it does seem harder sometimes to rationalize going back and covering this, just because you’ve got a, you know, a 527 or somebody calling you and saying, “Hey, you know, did you see these statements? You should cover these. You should do a story.” Sometimes, you need more than that to be pushed off the ledge, especially when you look around and your colleagues aren’t doing it. It’s not like we all run around in packs, but when you’re going to go out and do a story yourself, and you’re going to be first, and you’re going to rationalize something that is just really aimed at putting another campaign or a candidate on the defensive, you have to be pretty careful about that, I think, in terms of, you know, have we covered this before, right? I don’t know what the exact formula is but–

MARCUS: There is no formula, but I think, for me, a component is also gauging, you know, interest, from outside groups, from the public…You know, at the beginning of the campaigns, a lot of the outside groups were really trying to push these 2006 talking points and comments and things like that. And you could just see, it wasn’t gaining traction — forget in the media, it wasn’t gaining traction on twitter — it wasn’t gaining traction. And it wasn’t because, I’m pretty sure, that these outside groups—and I know some of you are in the room, so I’m sorry — but, you didn’t have that much. The fact that you were going back to 2006, back to 2008 shows that it was—it was all you had. And it wasn’t gaining traction, not because we weren’t covering it—perhaps maybe possibly a little bit, but it really had to do with people’s interests. I didn’t see these statements coming back up. I think the closest we got was “Both Ways Bob” came back for a short minute, there. But, I was just looking around. I wasn’t seeing it gaining traction. It seemed like people were looking to move on, find out what this election was about, and I think that plays into how much attention it gets with the media, as well.

The event, which was sponsored by the University of Colorado Denver’s School of Public Affairs, Compass Colorado, and BigMedia.org, was attended by political operatives and others from both sides of the political divide. There were about 40 people in the audience.

It’s the media’s fault! Or is it?

Saturday, November 8th, 2014

It’s easy to complain about journalism among friends. But what do you get out of it? Echoes.

Here’s a chance to talk back to the media directly. On Tuesday, a panel of top local journalists will discuss the highs and lows of media coverage of the 2014 election—and take questions from the audience.

The panel features Shaun Boyd, Political Specialist, CBS4, Peter Marcus, Denver Correspondent, Durango Herald, Chuck Plunkett, Politics Editor, The Denver Post, Nicholas Riccardi, Western Political Reporter, Associated Press, and Eli Stokols, Political Reporter, Fox 31 Denver.

Any question about local news coverage of the election is fair game. Why so few stories about Bob Beauprez’s wild birther ideas? Were John Hickenlooper’s gaffes underplayed? Did reporters allow senatorial candidate Cory Gardner to bury his Tea Party past? What about Benghazi, ISIS, and Obama?

The panel will cover the spectrum of opinions in part because moderators come from the left and right on the political spectrum: Kelly Maher is director of the conservative Compass Colorado, and yours truly is a progressive blogger.

The event takes place Tuesday, Nov. 11, from 7:30-9 a.m. at 1380 Lawrence Street in the 2nd-floor Terrace Room.

It’s free, and even includes coffee and continental breakfast. Doors open at 7:30 a.m. and the discussion runs from 7:45 – 9 a.m. Please RSVP to tips @bigmedia.org. You can also email questions, if you don’t want to ask them yourself.

Paul Teske, Dean of University of Colorado Denver’s School of Public Affairs, will offer introductory remarks. The University of Colorado’s School of Public Affairs is sponsoring the event, along with BigMedia.org and Compass Colorado.

Media omission: With House adjourning, Gardner faces last chance to withdraw his name from federal personhood bill

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

It’s a big week for senatorial candidate Cory Gardner, as the clock ticks down on his opportunity to withdraw his co-sponsorship from a federal personhood bill, which aims to ban all abortion, even for rape and incest.

To get his name off the legislation, Gardner is required to make a speech from the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, which is expected to adjourn as early as this week. And it would not meet again prior to the election. So this is Gardner’s last chance.

Fact checkers in Colorado (here and here plus yours truly) and nationally have concluded that the Life at Conception Act, which Gardner cosponsored just last year, is substantive legislation, written and promoted by its sponsors to end a women’s right to choose.

But, inexplicably, both Gardner and his spokespeople, like Owen Loftus,  have told reporters that the bill is symbolic. Most recently, Gardner told 9News’ Brandon Rittiman, “There is no federal personhood bill.” The bill he cosponsored “says life begins at conception,” Gardner told Rittiman. Loftus once said, “The Democrats like to say that it is personhood but it’s not.”

Given these statements by Gardner, who’s challenging pro-choice Democrat Sen. Mark Udall, you wouldn’t expect Gardner to withdraw his name at this point, because he’d have a mouthful of explaining to do–like why he thinks his legislation is symbolic when no one else does.

Reporters should put that question to Gardner regardless of whether he removes his name form the bill in the coming weeks.  Why is he repeating the documented falsehood that the Life at Conception Act is symbolic, given the text of the legislation and the fact checks. With the deadline approaching, now would be a really great time to ask him.

Who will be first reporter to get Gardner (and Beauprez) to explain why they support federal personhood?

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

It’s not just senatorial candidate Cory Gardner who’s taken the endlessly puzzling position of being opposed to personhood at the state level but supportive of the federal version.

Gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez draws a false distinction between the two as well, saying he’s opposed to the state amendment but supportive of federal legislation. Even though they aim to do the same thing, according to yours truly and, more importantly, Factcheck.org.

Despite the obvious relevancy of personhood on the campaign trail, I can’t find a local reporter who’s asked either one of them the simple question of why they favor federal personhood legislation over the state version.

Instead, multiple reporters, including Mark Matthews at The Denver Post and Bente Birkeland at Rocky Mountain Community Radio, listened to Gardner’s spokespeople tell them that that federal personhood legislation is essentially a toothless symbol–without asking for an explanation. On Tuesday, the Hill’s Elise Viebeck reported Gardner’s position, apparently without seeking an explanation. So did The Post’s Anthony Cotton.

CBS4′s Shaun Boyd taped Gardner himself implying that there’s a distinction between federal and state personhood legislation, without asking him why.

At least Politico’s Paige Winfield Cunningham asked the Gardner campaign about the discrepancy. But she got no response, and she’s apparently let it drop.

A question about the federal personhood bill was reportedly put to Gardner on KRDO radio’s Morning News March 24, but, again, he wasn’t pressed for an explanation when he said it’s a “Democratic talking point” and an “incorrect characterization of the federal legislation” to call it a personhood bill.

So does anyone detect a hole in the reporting here?

Who’s gonna be the first reporter to get the details on why Gardner (and Beauprez) support one personhood bill and not the other?

Politico is latest media outlet to let Gardner slide on personhood inconsistency

Saturday, August 9th, 2014

The latest reporter to ask senatorial candidate Cory Gardner about why he’s un-endorsed the state personhood amendments but has yet to un-cosponsor a proposed federal personhood law is Politico’s Paige Winfield Cunningham, who reported Wednesday:

Gardner now says he was wrong to back personhood because it could ban some forms of contraception. He’s even urging the Food and Drug Administration to make birth control pills available without prescription. But he is still listed as a sponsor of a federal personhood bill. His campaign didn’t respond to questions about the discrepancy.

In the absence of a response by Gardner, or his spokespeople, Cunningham should have cited the Gardner campaign’s previous erroneous statement that the federal personhood bill, called the Life at Conception Act, is simply a declaration that life begins at conception, and it would not ban abortion, even for rape and incest, like Colorado’s personhood amendments aimed to do.

Here’s what Gardner spokesman Alex Siciliano told The Denver Post’s Mark Matthews July 15.

“The federal proposal in question simply states that life begins at conception, as most pro-life Americans believe, with no change to contraception laws as Senator Udall falsely alleges.”

And here’s what Gardner himself told untold numbers of TV viewers in an advertisement last month, ostensibly stating that he’s against all personhood legislation, state and federal:

Gardner: “They’re attacking me for changing my mind about personhood, after I learned more and listened to more of you.”

But did he change his mind on personhood? Before he made the ad, Gardner was careful to say he opposed personhood in Colorado, leaving open the possibility that he supports it at the federal level. He told CBS4′s Shaun Boyd:

Gardner: “In the state of Colorado, the personhood initiative I do not support.”

But prior to this, on KNUS radio April 22, shortly after he backed off Colorado personhood amendments, Gardner said he stood behind his anti-abortion record in Congress, which includes his co-sponsorship of the federal personhood bill.

Gardner: “I remain a pro-life legislator who believes that my record actually speaks for itself while I’ve been in Congress.”

I like to fill in media gaps, left open by reporters, but Gardner’s office doesn’t return my calls, and so all I can do is look at these inconsistencies and speculate about what’s going on in Gardner’s mind.

A reporter who happens to be speaking with Gardner should straighten things out.

Media omission: Gardner un-cosponsored legislation in 2011, showing how how can un-cosponsor personhood legislation now

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

One of the biggest election-year hypocrisies hanging out there, waiting for a civic-minded reporter to jump on, is the fact that senatorial candidate Cory Gardner remains a cosponsor of federal personhood legislation, even though he’s told the world, both in interviews and even in a paid advertisement, that he’s “learned more” about “personhood” and changed his mind about supporting it.

To un-cosponsor the federal personhood bill, the Life at Conception Act, Gardner must give a speech from the floor of the House of Representatives. Why hasn’t he done this?

Now is the time for the aforementioned civic-minded reporter to jump in and remind Gardner that he’s trotted down to the floor of House and un-cosponsored at least one bill before.

Back in 2011, Gardner, along with fellow Colorado Congressmen Coffman and Tipton, cosponsored legislation offering tax credits for natural-gas-powered vehicles.

But the oil-loving Koch brothers caught wind of the legislation, and pressured co-sponsors of the bill to withdraw their names.

As the Sunlight Foundation reported at the time:

But some companies, led by the oil refining conglomerate owned by the politically influential Koch brothers, have campaigned against the legislation, according to a report in The Hill newspaper. Their efforts have resulted in 14 members of Congress withdrawing their support for the bill.

Gardner, Coffman, and Tipton apparently felt the Koch pressure, and speaking from the floor of the House, one by one, they asked that their cosponsorship of the natural-gas bill (HR 1380) be ended. Click at the bottom of the page here, on “Show cosponsors who withdrew.”

Here’s C-Span video of these exciting acts of remorse and regret. In the first video, Gardner is not pictured, but you hear Gardner say:

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: For what purpose would the gentleman from Colorado like to address the House?

GARDNER: Thank you Mr. Speaker. I ask unanimous consent that my name be removed from [H.R.] 1380.”

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Without objection.

Then you see Rep. Scott Tipton make the same request. In the second video, you see Rep. Mike Coffman do it.

WATCH: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oj7VRXfTKg0&feature=share&list=UUSj-lO7VwQBYZBK-56FXN7w

WATCH: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WMq3Ya_OjFw&list=UUSj-lO7VwQBYZBK-56FXN7w&feature=share&index=2

If Gardner can do this in 2011, why won’t he do it now?

During an interview on with CBS4′s Shaun Boyd in April, Gardner went out of his way to distinguish between state and federal personhood proposals, as gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez has also done, indicating that he may not take back his support of federal personhood, even though the state and federal measures would do the same thing. And Gardner has defended his anti-abortion record on the radio.

It was only June of 2013 when Gardner first added his name to the list of cosponsors of the Life at Conception Act. Maybe he’s fine with it. It’s a question that deserves to be asked.

Double-speak becoming part of the required context for reporting on Gardner

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

In her “Reality Check” spots about political ads, CBS4′s Shaun Boyd doesn’t just render verdicts on the truthiness of political advertisements but also offers contextual information for viewers, telling us, “Here’s What You Need to Know.”

Evaluating the veracity of an ad stating that Gardner sides with big oil because, as the ad states, he’s voted “to keep billions in handouts for big oil companies, even as they make record profits,” Boyd reported last week that Gardner indeed “opposed repealing tax breaks that have been in place for oil-and-gas producers for more than 100 years.” But she found the statement that Gardner is on the side of big oil “misleading” because Gardner has also supported wind energy.

Here’s What You Need to Know:  Last year, on a talk radio show, Gardner suggested last eliminating the Energy Department altogether:

Gardner: “In fact, Energy Department is something we ought to look at and see whether or not they are actually justified to be there anyway.”

I couldn’t believe it when I heard Gardner say it, but no one else seemed to care at the time, except radio-host Amy Oliver, who lapped it up lovingly.

And that points to the context that Boyd should have added to her piece on the League of Conservation Voters’ ad: Gardner talks about energy policy in radically different ways depending on the audience.

You say, all politicians pander. Okay, but eliminating the Energy Department? Who besides former GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry tries to say that.

What if Gardner had been speaking to employees at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), which is funded by the Energy Department? Would Gardner have talked to them like he did to Oliver, KFKA’s anti-wind-energy radio host, who doubles as a staffer for the libertarian Independence Institute? Would he go there and say we need to have a conversation about how to save money, and junking the Energy Department should be part of it?

Double-speak is something reporters naturally look for. With Gardner, it’s getting to the point where it’s part of the context for whatever he’s talking about, starting with personhood, of course, and heading out from there to global warming, taxes, immigration, and more.

To un-endorse federal personhood, Gardner must speak from House floor

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

Rep. Cory Gardner un-endorsed Colorado’s personhood amendment last month by telling The Denver Post’s Lynn Bartels he changed his mind.

But if Gardner is going to un-endorse federal personhood legislation, which he cosponsored nine months ago, he’ll have to trot down to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives and ask for “unanimous consent” to have his name removed from the legislation, which would ban all abortion, including for rape and incest.

“A member has go to the House floor and technically ask for unanimous consent to remove their name as co-sponsor of the bill,” said Sarah Binder, a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution. “And you can do that up until the point at which the committee reports the bill to the floor.”

If you’re completely bored and you feel like reviewing the “Life at Conception Act,” which is a federal personhood bill, you’ll find Gardner’s name is still listed as a cosponsor, having signed up nine months ago.

So it appears Gardner hasn’t un-endorsed the bill yet, but calls to the Gardner’s office and to the office of the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) were not returned.

Gardner still has time to remove his name, because the House committee hasn’t reported on the bill, which means the committee hasn’t voted on it.

During an interview on CBS4 Friday, Gardner suggested that he may not take back his support of federal personhood legislation. And he defended his anti-abortion record in Congress during a recent radio interview as well.

“In the state of Colorado, the personhood initiative, I do not support,” Gardner told CBS4 Political Reporter Shaun Boyd.

Boyd should have asked Gardner if he has plans to withdraw his cosponsorship of federal personhood and, if so, when.

“It’s somewhat rare for members to feel compelled to take their names off bills,” said Binder, but she could understand how the pressure of a state-wide campaign would put “heat” on Gardner.

But if you Google the phrase, “I ask unanimous consent to remove my name as a cosponsor,” you find examples of Congresspeople doing this. Here’s an example.

“By and large, people cosponsor bills to take a position in support, either because something’s bothering them or because a colleague has said, ‘I’d like to demonstrate support for the bill; I need you to sign on,’” Binder said.

If a change of heart occurs, a Congressperson can’t just announce the switcheroo in writing, according to Donald Wolfensberger, Congressional scholar with Woodrow Wilson Center. A short speech on the House floor is required, he told me.

Wolfensberger’s and Binder’s views comport with House rules I ploughed through.

One congressional document, titled “House Practice: A Guide to the Rules, Precedents and Procedures of the House” states:

Before the bill is reported, Members may remove their names as cosponsors by unanimous consent. Manual Sec. 825. Alternatively, a cosponsor may announce withdrawal of support for a bill, or a statement indicating that an error was made in the listing of a cosponsor’s name may be made on the floor for publication in the Congressional Record. Deschler Ch 16 Sec. Sec. 2.5, 2.6.

Reduced Staff of Political Reporters at Denver Post Reflects Decline in Colorado Journalism

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

You hear complaints about The Denver Post’s reduced coverage of politics, but the newspaper still has more political reporters than any other news outlet in Colorado. And it’s still the state’s leading source of political news.

So, to show what’s happened to political journalism in Colorado recently, I thought I’d compare the number of Post reporters covering elections and the legislature today to the numbers in recent decades.

The most shocking comparison is the Post’s staffing today versus 2010, when Colorado had senatorial and gubernatorial elections, like we do this year. This November, like 2010, Colorado also has state-wide races for state treasurer and secretary of state, plus state legislative elections and one of the most competitive congressional races in the country.

Just four years ago, The Post had double the number political reporters dedicated to elections and the state legislative session (four versus eight). The newspaper had about eleven in 1960s, 1970s, and mid-1980s.

“I would like to have more resources at my disposal when it comes to covering politics in swing state Colorado in an election year while the legislature is in session,” Denver Post Politics Editor Chuck Plunkett told me via email. “Presently I’m asking Kurtis [Lee] and Lynn [Bartels] to do double duty. Lynn’s tracking the governor’s race while Kurtis tracks the Senate race. For the much-anticipated 6th DC contest, Carlos Illescas, recently assigned to focus on Aurora, is following Coffman and Joey Bunch is following Romanoff. Joey also does a mix of other stories. Obviously, on the national races we lean on Allison Sherry to help out from Washington. [Note: Since I corresponded with Plunkett, Sherry has announced her departure.]

“This is our present configuration. As the races heat up, that configuration could change. Change, of course, has never been a stranger to newsrooms. Being adaptable is what we’ve always been about.”

Curtis Hubbard, who was The Post’s Politics editor in 2010, described the political reporting staff he oversaw.

“Best guess is that, at a similar moment in time [in 2010], I had at least 8 reporters available to cover the statehouse and state and federal elections (though that number increased the closer we got to Election Day),” Hubbard emailed.

“During the primary phase, Karen Crummy covered the governor’s race; Michael Booth and Allison Sherry were pulled from other jobs in the newsroom to cover the U.S. Senate race; Michael Riley covered the delegation and congressional races from our D.C. bureau; Lynn Bartels, Tim Hoover and Jessica Fender covered statehouse races, the state treasurer’s race and congressional races; and John Ingold covered the Attorney General’s race, the Secretary of State’s race and general issues pertaining to elections and turnout.

“In my time there, The Post’s leadership team always understood the important role the publication played in informing voters on the issues and never shied away from adding reporters to the politics team as warranted. Additionally, The Post continually sought out ways to help bring understanding of the issues to voters, whether that was through launching online Voter Guides, which proved to be among the most popular online offerings each election season, or on-camera interviews with candidates.

“Despite the ongoing ‘right-sizing’ that has depleted the ranks of reporters and editors at The Post in recent years, the organization continues to dedicate more people to politics than any other news outlet in the state.“

During the 1960s and 1970s, when former Denver Post reporter Fred Brown started covering the Colorado Legislature, the newspaper assigned six reporters to election campaigns, plus five to the legislature, according to Brown. Brown wrote that the numbers were slightly reduced in the mid-1980s, when he returned to the beat.

The Denver Post used to assign about half a dozen reporters, or more, to election campaigns,” Brown told me via email. “Senatorial and gubernatorial campaigns had a total of four: One for each major party’s candidate. The congressional candidates usually were covered by suburban or regional reporters. Sometimes suburban reporters covered more than one congressional district, but they always covered both major-party candidates. Other state offices, and the legislative races, typically were covered by the chief political writer (me or others who had that role before and after).

“The dwindling staffing of election coverage reflects what happened to legislative coverage. The first dozen or so years I was part of the legislative team, there were five reporters and one photographer regularly assigned to the session. Leonard Larsen, Tom Gavin and Charles Roos joined me (the regular statehouse reporter) and one other general assignment reporter (assigned ad hoc) on the legislative team during the session. Duane Howell’s full-time assignment as a photographer was to cover the legislature when it was in session.”

Although they’re a useful measure and symbol of the decline of Colorado journalism, The Post’s staffing numbers don’t tell the whole story, which is obviously much more complicated.

So-called “computer-assisted reporting” allows reporters to be more efficient in many ways than they used to be.

And the experience and skill of individual reporters can make a huge difference. One good political reporter, whether at The Post or a regional newspaper, radio station, or other competitor (some of which have good political journalists on staff), can do the work of many lesser journalists.

Also, the long competition between the Rocky Mountain News and The Post affected staff levels at the newspapers and the quality of Colorado political journalism until the Rocky closed in 2009. In an email, former Rocky Editor John Temple described, in broad terms, the Rocky’s approach to coverage in the early/mid 2000s:

“Typically, as I recall, we had a reporter for the House and a reporter for the Senate,” Temple wrote. “I also liked to have a free-floating reporter, but I can’t tell you with any confidence that we did that every session. In addition, Peter Blake spent most of his time at the Capitol. We then would send in beat reporters as required. In other words, we wanted the higher ed reporter to cover education issues and take them out of the Capitol and provide perspective, or the environment reporter. As for political races, typically it is difficult to cover them during the session. But what we did was assign reporters to the different races. So each race or group of races would have someone responsible for it. Typically one of our legislative reporters would be responsible for legislative races, as I recall. Burt Hubbard would cover money and help other reporters with that type of data journalism. Every reporter would be responsible for money in his or her race/races.”

Political reporting on local TV is not filling The Post’s gap. As has been the case for decades, we’re lucky if a Denver TV station has one dedicated political reporter, even though, for example, the stations earned a combined total of $67 million in political advertising dollars in 2012. Only Fox 31’s Eli Stokols offers day-to-day political coverage, like a newspaper reporter, but 9News and CBS4 both have political reporters and contribute quality political journalism.

And new technology allows for the contribution of progressive and conservative journalists. (See the Colorado Independent and the Colorado Observer.) Bloggers and trackers and everyday people with cameras are also part of “journalism” in the state.

I’m not saying that The Post’s staffing levels are the definitive measure of political journalism in Colorado, but they’re a serious indicator of the state’s journalistic health. And so it’s hard to be anything but depressed about the current situation.

Peter Boyles Critiques Local Coverage of the Hudak Recall Effort, as only Peter Boyles can

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

by Michael Lund

 

In the heated battle and drama surrounding the efforts to recall Colorado State Senator Evie Hudak, accusations of malfeasance and misrepesentation have been thrown back and forth, a gubernatorial candidate has proffered obscene gestures, and local news outlets have entered the fray to parse out the truth and report on the contentious issues raised by the two sides.

Never the wallflower, KNUS radio talk show host, Peter Boyles, has become the media point man for the Recall organization, hosting the organizers Mike McAlpine and Laura Waters in daily appearances  for updates and rallying cries.   As you might guess, the tone of the show these days is combative and loud.

When KDVR Fox 31′s reporter Eli Stokols and KCNC CBS4 Denver’s Shaun Boyd ventured into Arvada and Westminster to report on the Recall and efforts to thwart it, they were not spared from Mr. Boyles cutting criticism and confrontation.

We’ve provided some audio clips from The Peter Boyles Show for you to hear exactly what Peter Boyles thinks of their journalistic efforts:

1. Peter and Joe Neville, lobbyist for Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, respond to Eli Stokol’s report identifying paid signature gatherers for the Hudak recall effort as having criminal records, which supports claims purported in door hangers and robo-calls by Hudak supporters.  The root of Mr. Boyles’ complaints seem to lie mostly with the organizations defending Hudak against the recall, whose methods to investigate recall works Boyles refers to as “underhanded”, “Brownshirt technique” “gestapo-esque” and “very, very KGB”.  Misters Boyles and Neville accuse the Democracy Defense Fund as ‘gift-handing’ information to Stokol’s for his report.  Further criticism from Neville and Boyles refers to Stokols’ reporting that DDF “fundraised” $30,000 to fund their efforts when it appears the money was donated in large amounts by few donors.  Finally, Boyles charges Stokols for not forwarding information concerning the potential crime of threatening phone calls from someone associated with the Hudak recall.

2.  Boyles calls Stokols’ piece “bad journalism”, claiming that DDF gave Stokols information critically important to the report, while refusing to return Boyles’ phone calls requesting answers to his questions.  Further criticism from Boyles falls to Shaun Boyd’s report on the recall in which she interviews Hudak.  Boyles mocks Hudak’s appearance in the piece a, saying that “Evie is now part of ‘Shaun’s people’”.

3.  Boyles facetiously adopts the song “Eli’s Coming” to mock Stokol’s supposed failures in his report.  Also in this segment, Boyles lays out his case against Shaun Boyd’s report, which reported that Hudak claimed that she had nothing to do with the organized opposition to the recall.  Peter calls “BS” on that claim, but doesn’t back up his assertion.

4.  This clip includes audio from Shaun Boyd’s interview with Evie Hudak, complete with Peters peanut gallery commentary and editorializing.