Archive for the 'News 4' Category

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.

Channels 4 and 9 should have credited Denver Post for breaking story about GOP bid to host 2016 Republican convention in Denver

Friday, November 15th, 2013

On The Denver Post’s Spot Blog yesterday, I was happy to find political editor Chuck Plunkett being a media critic.

He called out CBS4 and 9News for running stories about the State GOP’s bid to host the 2016 Republican convention in Denver–without crediting The Post for breaking the story earlier in the same day.

Plunkett wrote:

Few journalists can say that they have never failed to mention that a competitor broke a story or broached aspects of a story before they published or broadcast their reports. But it ought to be a journalist’s good-faith rule of thumb that she try to point out when another journalist or newsroom did the hard work of informing the public.

The argument is both an ethical and an economic one.

The Post, like many newsrooms, has faced repeated downsizing in recent years. The livelihood of its journalists depends on the success of our brand.

So when newsrooms with large audiences take our work for their own, we are disenfranchised.

9News responded to Plunkett’s post with a tweet stating that 9News attributes stories to the source that confirms the information. In this case, 9News turned to Colorado GOP Chair Ryan Call, who spoke about the topic on camera.

“Journalists get tipped to a story in a lot of different ways, and it’s our job to go out and confirm it ourselves,” 9News News Director Patti Dennis told me this morning, adding that this is the reality of how the news business works. “We love the guys at The Post, but if we can confirm our own stories, that’s what we’re going to do.”

But Kelly McBride, Ethics Faculty at the Poynter Institute, told me Dennis’ approach conflicts with the journalistic ethic to be transparent, which, she argues, is increasingly important to today’s news consumers.

“The audience is really wondering where all of your [story] ideas come from,” McBride told me. “It’s not just when you get it from a competitor. They want to know, ‘Hey, our beat reporter found this out from a source on the beat.’ Or, ‘We stumbled upon this while perusing public documents.’ Or, ‘This is on the agenda of this politician’s schedule today.’

Why are you choosing to tell us this story now, because the reality is, most stories don’t have a news peg, even though we think they do. This is a classic example. If you’re in the news market, you’re wondering, ‘Why is everybody in my news market suddenly writing about the possiblity that the Republican convention is going to come here. What is the event that caused this to happen? Well, the event was that The Denver Post stumbled upon it.”

It’s ethical to be transparent, McBride said, partly because when you are, the “audience finds the information more helpful and useful.”

Ethics aside, McBride thinks that, especially in today’s news environment, news outlets will lose credibility over time, if they don’t credit news outlets that break information, like Plunkett requested.

“What’s interesting now, because the audience can track where they get their information from, because of time stamps on the internet, people can see the news process much more clearly, the audience is starting to request a little more intellectual honesty from the news providers,” McBride said. “This isn’t a big thing, like, ‘Hey, you stole that story from the newspaper.’ It’s more of a little thing that adds up over time to either add credibility to an organization or undermine credibility.”

And so, over time, if you’re constantly doing that, more and more of your audience members are going to notice it,” said McBride, who just finished editing a book called The New Ethics of Journalism. “And they are going to notice that you get beat on a story, and then miraculously you have the story, and you never acknowledge that someone else turned up the information first, and they’ll start to see you as someone who’s not completely honest about where your ideas come from. And it’s so easy to be honest. You dont’ have to say in your first line of the story, ‘as originally reported in.’ You can acknowledge it half way through the story or at the end of the story

As a blogger, I definitely appreciate it when The Denver Post or 9News or CBS4 gives me credit for information I find. It’s the nice thing to do, especially if you care about saving newspapers and journalism generally–not just about saving yourself (though McBride argues it’s in your own self-interest too).

So I come down on Plunkett’s side on this one, even though, as Dennis point out, it’s not necessarily the way the journaism world works. But it should be.

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.

Brownie’s idea to honk horns around State Capitol shows how talk-radio shows launch ideas and actions

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

All the cars honking in front of the State Capitol on Monday became a symbol, in the media, of the angry opposition to gun-safety legislation.

I’m not the first to report this, but the idea for the honk-athon came from Michael “Brownie” Brown, who was doing a “heck’ve a job” during Hurricane Katrina, in George W. Bush’s humble opinion.

Last Thursday on his KHOW radio show and on his blog, Brownie first started encouraging listeners to drive by the State Capitol and lean on their horns:

We can spend all day Monday driving by…laying on that horn until it’s driving you crazy. I want to hear horns honking all day long at Colfax and Broadway…So are you in or not? I have no clue if this will work or not…but i think if all of you think about this, it’s a pretty easy thing to do….All i am suggesting is you drive around, you lay on your horn, you make as much noise as possible.

Brown then took his horn campaign deeper into the conservative echo chamber, apeearing on other talk shows and promoting it to his friends.

And his idea took off, as Brownie reported on his blog Monday:

Little did I realize how impactful that suggestion [of honking horns] would be for decent, ordinary citizens around the nation. First, the Daily Caller picked up the story. Then, Erick Erickson at Red State picked up the story. You can read those here and here. Both are great stories and I’m grateful for their coverage.

Some people write off radio, but Brownie’s stunt shows how conservative talk shows can launch an idea or an action, using the media connectons and pseudo “celebrity” qualities of the hosts, as well as the networks of their fringe audiences.

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.

Denver TV interviews with Paul Ryan leave a trail of good information for voters

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

When a politician makes himself available to the press, and reporters, in turn, ask good questions, everyone benefits.

Case in point, GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s interviews with Denver TV stations.

He’s now sat down for one-on-one conversations with Channel’s 7, 9, and 31, and what’s left on the table? A trail of information that’s actually useful for voters on both sides of the aisle.

In his latest Denver TV interview, aired yesterday, Ryan was interviewed by New7′s Theresa Marchetta. Here’s a segment of her report:

“For women voters who are fiscally conservative.. but pro choice.. what do you say to those voters?” Marchetta asked.

“People may not agree with us on these social issues [Ryan is against all abortion, even in the case of rape and incest]. Let’s just agree to disagree and be respectful of each other at that time. But right now, we’ve got to get people back to work,” Ryan said.

9News’ Brandon Rittiman covered lots of ground with Ryan, including high ground like Ryan’s alleged 14er climbs. He pressed Ryan for specifics on the tax loopholes he and Romney say they’d close, for example, and got this response:

Ryan: “We’re actually saying, “Don’t lose tax revenue, but don’t have a massive tax increase, and restructure the tax code so that it is fairer, simpler, and more internationally competitive to create jobs.”

Fox 31′s Eli Stokols had a sharp conversation with Ryan as well, covering, among other things, the wind energy tax credit, the Ryan budget cuts, and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

From the Fox 31 website:

The noted deficit hawk who is the author of the controversial House GOP budget plan blamed President Obama for adding to the country’s ballooning deficit because of the 2009 stimulus package and Obamacare, which was signed into law last year.

“It’s actually the economy that’s given us the deficit we have and the massive deficit spending and domestic spending we’ve seen under President Obama,” Ryan told FOX31. “Yes, the wars are a small part of it.”

Actually, the Iraq war, which Ryan voted to authorize, will cost the nation more than $3 trillion; and the Bush tax cuts, which Ryan also voted for when they first took effect in 2001, will ultimately cost the nation $3.2 trillion if extended again through 2021. The stimulus, by comparison, came at a price tag of $787 billion.

If you take time to listen to these interviews, you leave with solid information.

That’s how the process is supposed to work, if only reporters (and politicians) made it happen more often.

CBS4 reports that Romney speaker at Hispanic event isn’t “much of a policy expert” but fails to report Romney’s policies on immigration

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

Mitt Romney’s son, Craig Romney, was in town Tuesday to meet “with some Latino leaders in the Republican Party, talking about Hispanic support and small business,” as reported by CBS4.

Romney has a “daunting task,” Channel 4 told us, to “pick up votes from the Hispanic community which, in most polls, is vastly in favor of President Obama.”

You wonder whether Craig Romney is up for the job, because, even though he speaks Spanish, he “admits he’s not much of a policy expert.”

“The youngest Romney says it’s his job to hear from voters and take their concerns back to his father,” Jeff Todd reported for Channel 4.

Channel 4 should have asked Craig Romney why his ability to speak Spanish qualifies him to be his father’s “kind-of ambassador,” even though he has little policy expertise. (And it does make you wonder about the criteria his father would use in appointing real ambassadors, if Romney is elected prez.)

But, anyway, Channel 4 did the right thing journalistically and reported the thoughts of someone in the crowd, effectively bypassing the messenger pigeon and finding someone to articulate a concern directly to papa Romney.

Channel 4 reported:

“We talked to a Latino community member at today’s event, and he said he has been contacted by the Romney camp to try to drum up support, but he said what he wants to hear first is true solutions from the candidate about real issues, like true comprehensive immigration reform.”

You can’t blame this guy for wanting to hear directly from the candidate, since the Spanish-speaking ambassador doesn’t know policy.

Media outlets can fill the void by questioning Romney on immigration next time he swings by Colorado.

Meanwhile, to answer the gentleman who spoke to CBS4, the most impartial observer could not call Romney’s immigration position “comprehensive.”

Nicely summarized here, it’s rooted in border enforcement, opposition to the Dream Act, and in a concept known as “self deportation,” which Romney has described as:

Romney: “The answer is self-deportation, which is people decide they can do better by going home because they can’t find work here because they don’t have legal documentation to allow them to work here.”

One Spanish-language outlet in town, KBNO radio, has been trying to get an interview with Romney, during which comprehensive immigration reform would certainly be discussed.

But unlike Obama, who was interviewed by KBNO’s Fernando Sergio, Romney has yet to appear on the show, despite Colorado GOP chair Ryan Call’s pledge to do his best to land him for Sergio.

With Romney in hiding, at least partially, CBS4 made the right move in covering his son, who, did I mention, speaks Spanish.

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.”