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Good news: State Republicans aim to improve their relations with Colorado journalists

Thursday, February 9th, 2017

Republican leaders at the Colorado State Capitol are trying to improve their media relations, with off-the-record happy hours, weekly press briefings, and more, according to Feb. 6 report by Rocky Mountain Community Radio’s Bente Birkeland (included below).

That’s great news! I’m serious, because journalists can actually help facilitate good policy making, if Democrats and Republicans help them do their job.

Rep. Chris Holbert (R-Colorado Springs) says he and Senate President Kevin Grantham (R-Canon City) want to be more “open and inclusive” and get to know the press better.

Rep. Justin Everett (R-Littleton) told Birkeland that Republicans “think there’s a liberal media bias, and then when you kind of see it in little things” it reinforces the perception. But Everett thinks better personal relationships lead to better stories.

He’s right!

Here are a four tips for Republicans. Obviously these are offered from a progressive perspective, but I don’t think serious conservatives would disagree with me on this (plus I wrote a book about it):

  1. Don’t make sweeping generalizations about journalism, as some Republicans do when they complain openly about “liberal media bias” when they see a story they disagree with. There’s no study or proof of any “liberal media bias” at the local level, and making the accusation is rude. So be very specific about your complaints about coverage, and you’ll find reporters will be receptive to your criticism.
  2. Be factual. This is key. Journalists look for the truth, supported by facts. They don’t want to hear unsupportable statements like blaming Obamacare for Colorado budget woes.
  3. Don’t be boring. Think about your visual appeal.
  4. Don’t blow up your long-term relationships over a disagreement. Today’s news is history tomorrow.
  5. Don’t compliment Trump’s media-relations strategy, as Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling) did in Birkeland’s piece, when he expressed admiration for Trump for calling journalism fake news. As wrote in a post yesterday, don’t insult reporters by calling their work “fake news,” even if they make a mistake.

Oh, and can progressive journalists attend those happy hours?

Don’t call professional journalism “fake news,” even if it’s wrong

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

Is an error committed by a professional news outlet “fake news?”

In response to Time Magazine’s Jan. 24 note to readers, in which the news outlet apologized for its erroneous report that an MLK bust had been removed from the Oval Office, conservatives cried “fake news,” even though Time corrected the error within an hour of committing it–and apologized to the White House.

Here in Colorado, conservatives have trotted out the “fake news” label when they criticize the news as well.

Calling errors by real reporters “fake news” is obviously a cheap attack on journalism, because it conflates the fake-news phenomenon, as it’s been debated since late last year, with inevitable errors committed by professional reporters–errors that are usually corrected as soon as possible.

The term “fake news” refers to a specific category of false information: falsehoods that are packaged to look like journalism and spread on social media, especially Facebook–which has agreed to try to eliminate “fake news,” not journalism, from its platform.

It’s not just Facebook executives but also conservatives and progressives who want to fight fake news.

So can we agree to see “fake news” as a problem that’s not caused by professional journalists? And can we agree that professional journalism should not be called “fake news?”

Don’t get me wrong. Journalists should be held accountable. God knows, reporters deserve criticism. But let’s not throw the “Fake News” salvo at Colorado journalists.

I know that’s not going to happen soon, with Trump leading the fake-news attack on journalists, but still, we can do better in Colorado.

Journalist would re-start real-estate blog if the right sponsor materializes

Friday, December 16th, 2016

After a six-year run, John Rebchook has shuttered his Denver Real Estate Watch blog, but he’d fire up the platform again if the right sponsor makes the right offer.

Rebchook posted Dec. 13, “With only one sponsor it does not make financial sense to continue to publish DREW, given the huge commitment of time and effort it requires.”

A former Rocky Mountain News reporter, Rebchook practiced independent journalism under a for-profit business model, funding his blog through sponsorships.

He told me that in his blog posts, he “looked at issues objectively,” and at times “some people didn’t like that, frankly.”

Does he think, based on his experience, that the for-profit model is unworkable for journalist like him covering real estate or related issues?

“My experience shows it’s tough,” he said. “I did it for almost seven years. I never made a whole lot of money at it. I went the sponsorship route, but perhaps it would have been better to have individual adveristing. But that’s tough too.”

“Somebody could do it better than I did,” he said. “It was time consuming. I was a one-person show.”

Asked about remaining real estate coverage in metro Denver, Rebchook said there’s a handful of news entities still covering beat, which, he pointed out, has wide interest.

“There’s more coverage of real estate than the marijuana business,” he said.

Rebchook is working part time at the Colorado Real Estate Journal, a trade publication for commercial real estate.

Pueblo Republicans see reporters doing “anything and everything” to make Trump look bad

Monday, November 21st, 2016

Trump today called respected journalists “liars,” continuing an unprecedented attack on journalism that’s reflected in GOP circles across the country.

In an email last week citing an NBC story about Trump dodging reporters, the Pueblo County Republican Party claimed that the “liberal news media” tried to “submarine” Trump during the election, and it urged Republicans to “be even more skeptical” of the news in the coming years, because reporters are doing “anything and everything to try to make [Trump] look bad.”

“A word to fellow Republicans,” wrote Pueblo Republicans. ” A leopard doesn’t change its spots. The liberal news media did everything they could to submarine President Elect Donald Trump’s campaign.  Now they continue to do anything and everything to try to make him look bad even if it’s a lame report on going to a steak dinner without notifying them.  We have been skeptical of the liberal news media, both printed and televised, in the past but especially during the election.  We should be even more skeptical for the next four (eight) years.”

Reached by phone to discuss the comment, Pueblo County Republican Chair George Rivera said he believes news consumers should “always follow up” and “do background reseaarch” to make sure what they are reading or hearing is accurate, “whether it be on CNN or Fox News.”

Rivera, who served briefly as Colorado state senator after a Democrat was recalled in 2013, said he believes that media are often biased against the “conservative side,” based his own observations.

Debate-watch panels at Regis University will address media coverage of presidential race

Monday, October 17th, 2016

Public affairs TV host Aaron Harber will moderate two debate-watch panels at Regis University Wed., discussing media coverage of the presidential campaign and the Oct. 19 presidential debate.

The panelists are former Denver news anchor Tamara Banks, Editor of The Denver Post, Lee Ann Colacioppo, KNUS Radio Host Krista Kafer, and yours truly.

A 6 p.m. panel, in the Mountain View Room of Peter Claver Hall at Regis, will address media coverage of the presidential race to date, as well as what can be expected going forward. An 8:30 p.m. panel will discuss the debate itself, which will be shown at 7 p.m. on a large screen with live tweeting.

The event is free, and questions from the audience will be encouraged. Doors open and 5:30.

A livestream of both panels will be carried by Regis and made available to members of the Colorado Broadcasters Association.

A news release about the event quoted CBA President Justin Sasso: “We’re very pleased to work with Aaron and his team as well as Regis University to bring this nonpartisan public affairs educational opportunity to Colorado television and radio stations across the state right at such a crucial juncture in the election cycle when citizens are receiving their ballots.”

The release also quoted Colorado Press Association CEO Jerry Raehal: “Given the prominent print journalists on the panels and the fact many Colorado publications have Websites which can offer the live-streaming of the event, this is a great public service for everyone in Colorado.  Colorado publications exist to serve their communities so we’re delighted to partner with Aaron, a CPA member, to bring these discussions to our members’ readers across the entire State.”

John Hickey, Regis University Associate Dean and Chair of the Communications Department, stated via a news release: “This is a wonderful opportunity for Colorado citizens to hear from and interact with some of the best-known and most insightful journalists in our state. We are especially grateful to have someone of Aaron’s caliber — who is known for his balanced and effective moderating skills in challenging debate situations — leading this effort.”

Moderator Aaron Harber stated, “We’re delighted to work with Dean Hickey and everyone at Regis University to bring this opportunity to as many people as possible.  By live-streaming the event, Regis is making this as accessible as possible to millions of Coloradans. I’m also honored by the incredible line-up of journalists that we have on our two panels.”

Harbor is moderating a in-depth series, called Your Decision 2016, on aspects of Colorado’s upcoming election.

 

TrumpWatch: Where do Colorado Republicans Stand on Trump These Days?

Tuesday, October 11th, 2016

I’ve previously chronicled the various positions of Colorado Republicans on Trump, but this time I ran into problems categorizing their stances.  As you’ll see below, there’s Never Trump, Dumped Trump, Maybe Trump, Love Trump, and many more.

It’s confusing to be the bean counter (me), but it’s undoubtedly far more taxing to be them, trying to figure out where they stand on their standard bearer.

In any case, below is my handy guide–and please send me new information and updates, as the list is changing rapidly with each debate and video tape.

I haven’t seen a tally like this in the Colorado media—though it’s been good to see numerous outlets reporting on the shifting loyalties of top GOP officials toward Trump.

Elected Officials Who Jumped Aboard the Trump Train, AND Affirmed Support after The Release of Trump’s Pussy Comments

State Sen. Laura Woods (In January, she called him one of her two favorite presidential candidates. In August, she called him the “people’s candidate,” and last week she affirmed her support and agreed that no presidential candidate is “perfect.”)

U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton (affirmed support here)

El Paso Country Commissioner Peggy Littleton

U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn (affirmed support here)

U.S. Rep. Ken Buck (affirmed support here)

 

Elected Officials who Backed Trump, Dumped Him, but Haven’t Said Whom They Will Vote for

U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman (His spokeswoman said her boss would “absolutely” back the GOP presidential nominee, but Coffman later hedged, and now Coffman says he won’t vote for Trump.)

SenCory Gardner (once called Trump a “buffoon,” then said he’d vote for him (after being asked seven times), and then dumped him.

 

Candidate Who Jumped OFF the Trump Train, But Is Now Reconsidering

El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn

 

Elected Officials Who’ve Expressed their Support for Trump but Not Necessarily Confirmed it since the Pussy Video

State Rep. J Paul Brown

Former State Rep. Greg Brophy  (if Trump is nominee)

State Sen. President Bill Cadman (if Trump is nominee)

A reporter characterized State Rep. Don Coram as a Trump fan

State Sen. Vicki Marble (Facebook)

State Rep. Patrick Neville.

State Sen. Tim Neville.

State Rep. Clarice Navarro (here and here and elsewhere)

State Rep. Dan Thurlow.

 

Elected Officials Who Were Undecided Along the Way

State Rep. Kathleen Contiwho’s said, “I’m hearing growing support for [Libertarian] Gary Johnson.”

State Rep. Justin Everett

State Sen. Kevin Grantham.

State RepYuelin Willet

 

Former Elected Officials Backing Trump

Former Colorado Senate President John Andrews

Former Rep. Bob Beauprez

Former Rep. Jon Keyser (He reiterated  his support here.)

Former CU Regent Tom Lucero

Former State Rep. Spencer Swalm (an “out-of-the-closet” endorser)

 

Former Elected Officials Who Will Not Vote for Trump

Former State Sen. Shawn Mitchell (also left GOP, posting on Facebook, “Whores don’t merit unwavering loyalty.”).

 

Candidates Backing Trump

George Athanasopoulos (Running against Perlmutter)

Arapahoe County Commissioner Nancy Doty

House District 1 candidate Raymond Garcia

Casper Stockham, who’s the Republican challenging Rep. Diana DeGette.

House District 14 candidate Jeff Williams

 

Notable Republicans Who said, “We May Be Seeing the Final months of the Existence of the Republican Party”

Former Rep. Bob Schaffer

 

Colorado GOP Officials Who’ve Left Republican Party

Vice Chair of Rio Grande County GOP Patrick Crowder

Chair of House District 43 Republicans Craig Steiner.

Activist Jennifer Raiffie (Facebook)

GOP Congressional candidate criticizes Coffman ad

Friday, August 5th, 2016

Republican  Congressional candidate Casper Stockham thinks it was “wrong” for U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman to produce an ad critical of GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Coffman says he still may vote for Trump, which is not surprising since Coffman’s actual factual positions on abortion (opposed to a woman’s right to choose), immigration (opposed to birthright citizenship), Obama (questioning his citizenship), the debt ceiling (opposed to increasing it), and others are in line with Trump.

“If you are going to be a Republican, be a Republican,” said Stockham. “I’m voting for Trump, absolutely, because I’m the party nominee. I’m running for Congress on the Republican ticket. I find it fascinating what goes on in politics.”

Stockham is challenging U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette to represent Denver, a dense Democratic district, even more anti-Trump than Coffman’s Aurora district.

So I asked Stockham if he thought about distancing himself from Trump.

“I understand why [Coffman] did it, but I think it was wrong for him to do that,” Stockham said. “You would never find any Democrat Congressperson running a negative ad against Hillary Clinton or any nominee. And the reason is, the Democrat Party has its act together and the Republican Party does not.”

Stockham said he’s running “to serve the community.”

Another election year, another journalist exposes a Republican Senate candidate talking in different directions on personhood abortion ban

Monday, August 1st, 2016

If you look at the Colorado Right to Life website, you’ll see that Colorado U.S. Senate candidate Darryl Glenn is labled “pro-life.”

What does that mean, if you’re Colorado Right to Life? It means Glenn answered questions on seven “pro-life issues,” revealing his position “through specific language with no weasel-room.”

Colorado Right to Life states:

No candidate who supports abortion for any reason is “pro-life.” Regardless of what they may say, any truly pro-life citizen/candidate believes that government has an obligation to protect all human life from conception forward, and therefore pledge to oppose all abortion (with the understanding that a doctor may take action to save a woman’s life while also trying to save the baby’s life, even if the baby’s survival is doubtful due to other factors) – every innocent human being has an inalienable Right to Life at every age or stage of development.

But as the Durango Herald’s Peter Marcus reports today, Glenn appears to have described his abortion stance differently to different audiences.

Marcus quotes Glenn in an appearance on “Devil’s Advocate,” a television show sponsored by the conservative Independence Institute.

Glenn told Caldara: “As a person who has two adult daughters, I put myself in that situation. And I want to make sure that when we’re talking about health care, you want to make sure that women have the ability and access to health care, so that they understand all the different options that are out there. And at some point in time, maybe they might have to make that decision. But that is a personal decision that they have to make between them and… God.

Marcus’ report included a reaction to the Caldara interview from Colorado Right to Life:

“I’m willing to say on behalf of our organization that his comments were not nearly as strong as we would hope,” said Susan Sutherland, vice president of Colorado Right to Life. “He was just trying to play a little bit of political maneuvering there.”

Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner ran into a similar situation in 2014 when he defeated incumbent Democrat Mark Udall. To defeat Udall, Gardner walked more to the middle on the abortion issue, attempting to distance himself from personhood.

Glenn proudly leaned to the right during the primary, which helped propel the relatively unknown El Paso County commissioner to success in a crowded GOP field.

And, of course, before Gardner, there was 2010 Republican U.S. Senate candidate Ken Buck, who, after the GOP primary, oops, took back his support for a personhood abortion ban  because, he said at the time, he didn’t understand the proposed amendment.

Like Buck, U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman was cozy with the poor folks at Colorado Right to Life, before he jumped ship and took back his personhood support a couple years ago–though he’s never offered up much detail on why and how his position evolved on the issue.

I woudn’t be feeling very good if I were in the shoes of Colorado Right to Life, but we all agree that it’s better to have journalists expose the buckpedaling than leaving it buried in candidate questionnaires few people bother to read.

Reporters should continue to reference Coffman’s pledge to back Trump — and seek explanation for shift

Monday, August 1st, 2016

Last week, the Aurora Sentinel became the latest media outlet to point out that Rep. Mike Coffman’s spokeswoman told the Colorado Statesman in February that Coffman would “obviously” support Trump over Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.

Coffman originally endorsed Florida Sen. Marco Rubio for the GOP presidential nomination and has not publicly endorsed Trump, though a Coffman campaign spokeswoman in February told the Colorado Statesman — when asked if the congressman would support the GOP nominee over Clinton or Bernie Sanders — that “the answer is obviously yes.”

Back in May, when Coffman shifted and stated he wasn’t sold on Trump, 9News political reporter Brandon Rittiman also referred to Coffman’s previous pledge to back the celebrity mogul over Hillary.

Both the Sentinel and 9News are doing the right thing not to let Coffman hide behind his spokesperson and then, later, to contradict what his spokesperson said.

Trouble is, reporters have yet to ask Coffman for an explanation. Why was his spokesperson so adamant that Coffman would back the GOP nominee?

And what’s changed about Trump since February, assuming that Coffman’s spokesperson wasn’t spreading misinformation about her boss?

Some have speculated that there were 11 GOP candidates in the race when Coffman promised to endorse the nominee. Does that mean he’d support all of the rest of them if they’d been selected as the nominee, but not necessarily Trump? Which ones might have Coffman rejected?

And since Coffman himself is backtracking on a previous pledge to support the GOP nominee (and now saying Trump has to “earn” his support) it’s also a completely legit question to ask what Coffman will do with his vote if he doesn’t give it to Donald.

Journalists should note lawyer’s $50,000 dark-money donation to group backing Carrigan

Thursday, June 16th, 2016

If you like summer election mysteries, you’ll enjoy pondering why personal injury attorney Frank Azar gave $50,000 to a committee backing Denver District Attorney candidate Michael Carrigan. And why would Azar run the money through a Texas entity?

The Colorado Independent’s Marrianne Goodland first reported the donation last month, but Azar, whose ads are a well-known blight on TV, wouldn’t tell Goodland why he made the donation.

This week, Azar’s money was behind an ugly mailer attacking Carrigan’s Democratic primary opponent, former State Rep. Beth McCann.

See the Carrigan mailer attacking Beth McCann here.

In response to the mailer, McCann wrote in an email to supporters, “This mailer is the perfect example of why we need to get dark money and Super PACs out of our democratic elections. The public has no way of knowing why Mr. Azar contributed $50,000 to elect my opponent.”

Beth McCann for Denver District Attorney campaign manager Daniel Aschkinasi added in a statement, “We have all become too familiar with this circus of dark money trying to influence important political races.  This group has one purpose, and that is to smear the record of a dedicated public servant. At a time when our nation looks to solve gun violence issues, we have an opportunity to elect the woman who stood up to the NRA and passed universal background checks three years ago.”

Goodland reported May 19:

Donors [to Fair Public Advocate, an independent expenditure committee] include Denver personal injury attorney Michael Sawaya, with $5,000. Another $1,000 came from attorney Norm Brownstein of Brownstein, Hyatt, Farber & Schreck, one of Denver’s best-known and most politically-connected law firms.

The biggest donation, $50,000, came in February from a Texas holding company, FDJR Holdings, Inc. of Houston.

According to the Texas Secretary of State, FDJR Holdings is one of a group of holding companies owned by Azar and/or his wife, Jeanette Renfro Azar.

Carrigan gave Goodland no explanation for the Azar donation, except to say that individuals and groups who “agree with my platform” are free to donate, but he will not be “beholden” to them. And he attacked McCann’s donations, even though she has no comparable donation to a group backing her.

Good journalism frequently starts with a good question. In this case it is this: Why is big bad personal injury attorney Azar spending 50K to back Carrigan? What is he hoping to get out of Denver’s next district attorney?