Journalists express frustration during discussion of election news coverage

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.

Gardner’s refusal to take government shutdown off the table is a lesson for DC journalists

November 12th, 2014

Warning to Washington DC reporters: Here comes Senator-elect Cory Gardner!

Gardner tried to slither past Colorado reporters by answering questions with falsehoods (See personhood.) or responding to queries with predictions about the future, instead of answers to the actual questions (See immigration.).

Now Gardner is trotting out his trademark “answer-a-question-by-saying-two-things-at-once” for Washington journalists and getting away with it!

Asked by ABC’s “This Week” anchor George Stephanopoulos Sunday if Gardner’s promise to be serious about governing means “taking things like shutting down the government off the table,” Gardner replied:

“The government shutdown is a bad idea anytime, anywhere.”

Translation: I won’t answer your question because I don’t want to rule out a government shutdown, but I want to make reporters think I won’t vote to shut down the government (winky, wink to the Tea Party).

If you’re thinking, give me a break, Republicans like Gardner won’t shut down the government again, you should read Sen. Jeff Sessions not-so-veiled threat to shut down the government to prevent Obama from stopping the deportation of some immigrants, as he’s apparently planning to do this year. Talking Points Memo’s Sahil Kapur reports in a piece titled “Top GOP Senator Hints at Government Shutdown Fight over Immigration:

In an op-ed Monday for Politico magazine, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), currently ranking member of the committee, said it would be “unthinkable” for Congress to pass a long-term spending bill that doesn’t block funding for Obama’s expected actions to free some immigrants from the threat of deportation.

“President Obama’s executive amnesty … cannot be implemented if Congress simply includes routine language on any government funding bill prohibiting the expenditure of funds for this unlawful purpose,” wrote Sessions, a longtime foe of immigration reform.

This strategy is similar to the one that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) persuaded Republicans to adopt in 2013 in a quest to defund Obamacare. It did not work: Obama held firm, the government shut down, and 16 days later Republicans backed down and agreed to fund Obamacare along with the rest of the federal government.

So, yes, shutting down the government again sounds crazy, but it’s still on the table, with the apparent blessing of Gardner.

It’s the media’s fault! Or is it?

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: Tancredo launches “Stop Chris Christie PAC”

November 6th, 2014

If you follow Tom Tancredo you know he makes it clear where he stands on people, like Ryan Call (dislikes him), and places, like Mecca (bomb it).

So, even as Republicans are still warm from hugging each other, it’s no surprise that Tancredo is launching a new campaign to stop New Jersey Gov. Chis Christie’s presidential aspirations.

Tancredo doesn’t like Christie, and you can’t blame him. You recall Tancredo’s promising path to the Colorado governor’s office was upended this summer by his own party, through a vicious ad campaign orchestrated surreptitiously by the Republican Governors’ Association, which is chaired by… Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey.

Tancredo is fighing back now with his “Stop Chris Christie PAC.”

Speaking with Grassroots Radio Colorado (KLZ 560-AM) host Kris Cook Oct. 27, Tancredo said he’s already “filed papers” to create the Stop Christie PAC, allowing him to do “everything” he can to prevent Christie from securing the Republican nomination for president.

“He is no more a Republican than the man in them moon,” Tancredo told Cook. “He is a left wing, east coast liberal.”

TANCREDO: “You know, to be absolutely fair here, and clear, I have a bone to pick with him in particular, because of what he did during our primary,” Tancredo said on air. “You know, although, I must ad– we have never gotten along. We’ve always argued, especially about immigration. We did so publicly. I have never liked the guy. I have certainly never supported him for anything, and because he was concerned that I would, in fact, go against the [United States] Chamber o f Commerce position on immigration and make it a big deal, and I might win, he chose to spend a quarter of a million dollars of Republican money – Governors’ Association money—

COOK: Right.

TANCREDO: –to attack me, here, in Colorado. And, launder the money through Attorneys General Association.

COOK: And five other organizations.

Tancredo held off promoting his Stop Chris Christie PAC until after Tuesday’s election to avoid hurting Colorado Republicans.

“I don’t want to do anything that’s going to hurt Bob Beauprez or any other Republican in Colorado during–or before this election,” said Tancredo on the KLZ show, which aired before the election on Oct. 27. “But when it’s over with, I guarantee you, I’m going after him.”

https://soundcloud.com/bigmedia-org/grassroots-radio-colorado-octo

Partial Transcript of Oct. 27 KLZ-560 Grassroots Radio Colorado Interview with Tom Tancredo. See longer transcript here.

HOST KRIS COOK: Oh, goodie! We’ve got Jeb Bush, going to run for President

FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN, GOP GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE, AND GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE, TOM TANCREDO: Yeah. Yeah, Jeb Bush and Chris Christie, what a pair to draw to.

COOK: It will be a delightful field. My goodness, we have got to do something about this.

TANCREDO: I agree completely, and I intend to.

COOK: [chuckles] Good.

TANCREDO: I totally intend to.

COOK: Good.

TANCREDO: I’m not going to let this one go by and everybody – you know, when — how many times have you said this? “Oh, my gosh! We just don’t have any good ones to pick from, and I don’t like — .” Well, okay, that – probably very true. And if it’s Chris Christie or Jeb Bush either one, let me tell you, I think it’s a debacle in the making for the Republican Party.

And so, I have started – I filed papers a couple of weeks ago, now – probably ten days ago, anyway, –for a Stop Chris Christie PAC . And I’m going to do everything I can to do just that: stop Chris Christie. He is no more a Republican than the man in them moon. He is a left wing, east coast liberal. He masquerades, to the extent that there’s any – even attempt to pretend – any attempt –anything that comes out of his mouth that sounds relatively conservative. It’s a masquerade, because he now is seeking the Republican nomination, he is actually – I read the other day, that he is actually so afraid of the governor of Wisconsin –

COOK: Scott Walker.

TANCREDO: –Scott Walker—that he has almost purposel—well, almost entirely, kind of subverted his campaign. They are not giving him the money he needs, and why? Why? Because, of course, he is a competitor for that presidential nomination.

COOK: [sarcastically] Yeah, Mr. Christie, that is exactly the way to use your position at the RGA

TANCREDO: Yeah.

COOK: I mean, he has proven that he is absolutely unworthy of that role, and any other role in power.

TANCREDO: Well, you know, to be absolutely fair here, and clear, I have a bone to pick with him in particular, because of what he did during our primary. You know, although, I must ad– we have never gotten along. We’ve always argued, especially about immigration. We did so publicly. I have never liked the guy. I have certainly never supported him for anything, and because he was concerned that I would, in fact, go against the [United States] Chamber o f Commerce position on immigration and make it a big deal, and I might win, he chose to have – spend a quarter of a million dollars of Republican money – Governors’ Association money—

COOK: Right.

TANCREDO: –to attack me, here, in Colorado. And, um, and launder the money through Attorneys General Association.

COOK: And five other organizations.

TANCREDO: Five other organizations. You, — God bless you, you were the best interview we ever had on that issue, because you had done your homework and you knew what they had done. Uh, I’m telling you, it’s, I think, unconscionable and I definitely want to make an issue of this, but I want to add somebody to it, and that would be,–let’s – I might start another 527, saying, “Let’s, you know, stop Jeb Bush.” Let’s try to do this before they get a foothold in the–

COOK: Right.

TANCREDO: And get out–get to people, — let them know who they really are. And I mean, I’m totally going to do this. I certainly am for Christie.

COOK: good.

TANCREDO: Um, and we will take our – we will do our first whatever we’re going to do right after the election. I mean, I don’t want to do anything that’s going to hurt Bob Beauprez or any other Republican in Colorado during–or before this election. But when it’s over with, I guarantee you, I’m going after him.

COOK: November – the 2016 election season starts on November 5th, 2014.

TANCREDO: That’s right. That’s right.

COOK: And if you don’t get that, if you don’t understand that, you’ve got to wrap your brain around it. Because if –we cannot do what Republicans always do, which is disappear after the midterm general, and not show up again until the day of the – or the two weeks leading up to the primaries in 2016, that is not the way that this works. If we’re going to win, and if we’re going to win for conservative principles, we have to be out there on the ground. We have to be making those touches with unaffiliated voters. We need to make sure that stuff is happening, and that they understand what the Republican Party really stands for, and what conservative principles are.

TANCREDO: Yeah, well, and our job is to make the Republican Party stand for something.

COOK: [chuckles] That’s right.

TANCREDO: And then—

COOK: It’s a two way street, yeah.

TANCREDO: Absolutely. But, if we win this election, –generally speaking, I’m saying, both in national elections and Colorado elections,– if we do well, if we end up winning — winning control of the Senate, and if we do nothing to actually change the direction – not just slow down the movement to the precipice, –

COOK: Right.

TANCREDO: –but change the direction of this country, if we just watch it, for fear that if we really did change it, we’d all get thrown out of office again, well, I’ll tell you, if that’s it, then there’s no need–. Why should we work hard—any of us–for the status quo to be slowed down? We have to see in these people who are running, the willingness [and] the desire –and the ones who win—the desire to change. Because, oh, I tell you, I can—this is the –my nightmare, is a Republican Senate that refuses to either impeach, repeal Obamacare, um, repeal whatever he’s going to do to us in a few months, with regard to immigration.

Media omission: Personhood leader shows how Gardner stabbed him in the back

November 3rd, 2014

Here’s my favorite Halloween costume. I only wish I’d actually seen it.

Keith1Mason's avatarKeith Mason @Keith1Mason
@BigMediaBlog what do you think? My costume this year is a knife in my back with a “cg” on the side….

We all know senatorial candidate Cory Gardner stabbed the personhood movement in the back, but who would think Keith Mason, the co-founder of Personhood USA, would illustrate the point so brilliantly by inserting a Cory-Gardner monographed knife in his own back?

I offered to buy Mason a beer if he’d send me a photo of his costume. Then I realized he’d probably want harder stuff, so I said I’d buy him shots in exchange for the pic. No response yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he sent me the photo.

Mason hasn’t held back expressing his feelings about Gardner, telling Cosmo a few months ago, for example, that “[Cory Gardner has] built his entire political career on support of personhood. I think he’s just listening to some bad advice, and he’s playing politics.”

Or, put another way, Gardner stabbed Mason and his hard-working personhood colleagues in the back, after they stood with Gardner throughout his political career.

Reader: Jeffco parents and students have an obvious interest in school board AP review

November 1st, 2014

In response to my recent post about KLZ talk-radio host Kris Cook calling Jeffco students “pawns” of the teachers’ union, I received the email below from an Arvada parent of two teenagers in JeffCo schools, one who took APUSH class and passed the exam with a 4, and the other teen who is on track to take it in coming years. The writer asked to remain anonymous due to fear of possible repercussions.

Dear BigMedia:

To support her contention that students are “pawns” Kris Cook asks and answers herself: “who has something to gain by mobilizing the students to protest a censorship that hasn’t even been proposed? The only answer that makes any sense is the union” since “students have nothing to gain from this” and “the parents have nothing to gain.” Based on these perceptions — and nothing else — she concludes the students are acting as pawns of the teachers union.

From her self-Q&A, it appears likely that Cook did not take AP classes, has any children who took these classes and the associated AP exams, or has children who might be eligible for these classes. Now, to be clear, there is nothing wrong with that, as AP classes are not for every student and plenty of students who don’t take/pass AP classes/exams go on to be quite successful and vice versa. Because if Cook had some experience with the AP subject matter, she would see the flaw in the assumptions upon which her conclusion is based.

Parents and students have a direct financial interest in whether a school offers AP classes, and whether an individual student learns enough in an AP class to then pass the AP exam. If a student passes an AP exam, he or she may receive full credit at their undergraduate college. This reduces the tuition cost for that semester by a substantial percentage and depending upon the college, that may be thousands of dollars. In cases where a college does not apply an AP exam as full course credit for tuition and graduation requirement purposes, that college may still allow a student to skip an intro level class, which frees him or her up to take more advanced classes while receiving their undergraduate degree. Finally some colleges may factor in passage of AP exams into admission and/or scholarship offers.

In response to Julie Williams’ initial proposal and subsequent statements to the press/TV, the College Board that oversees AP certification put Jefferson County School District on notice that too much tinkering with the AP curriculum could affect its certification, and thus the availability of APUSH to students in the district. The Williams-College Board dust-up put in play the financial benefits of APUSH for students and parents throughout Jefferson County.

From that moment on, students and their parents had compelling rationales and powerful motivations to oppose the JeffCo majority, independent from the interests of the teachers unions (who might be concerned with salaries and job security, etc). Unfortunately for Williams, Newkirk, and Witt, and their supporters, the interests of students, parents, and teachers are now aligned. For better or worse, the very students who are eligible and take AP classes, and their parents, skew towards the more affluent and educated. These demographics define some of the most potent of political adversaries, at least at the citizen-level. While it is true that teachers and student/parents may have different reasons and incentives for scrutinizing and opposing the actions of the JeffCo majority, the alignment of their respective incentives makes it natural that the efforts of one might leverage and amplify the political message of the other. For achieving each group’s political objectives, there is little downside for doing so, only upside: bigger crowds, reinforced messaging, and a broader range of individuals to represent multiple faces of opposition. This seems like Politics 101, right?

As to whether “censorship” is an accurate, much less fair, way to characterize the initial Williams proposal, that ship has sailed. There was enough ambiguity and ideological phrasing in the original language to make this a plausible-enough interference, at least from a messaging perspective. Without those elements, a cry of censorship would have fallen flat, but among Williams owns words there was enough fodder to attract media coverage from the angle of that most un-American of values — censorship. While “indoctrination” or “nationalism” might be more accurate one-word substitutes, those are a bit more abstract and don’t resonate in the same universal way, across the full political spectrum. This is why there is such an effort to explain why this is -not- censorship. Which of course only serves to keep that word on-the-air, or in-print…only helping to continuing to cast doubt on the motivations of the School Board majority, in a vicious or virtuous circle, depending on your position. In either case, this was a gift served up on a silver platter by Williams herself, and students/parents (and yes, teachers too) cannot be faulted for gratefully putting her gift to use.

Which finally leads to a less flattering chessboard analogy: Julie Williams’ clumsy introduction of the curriculum design committee proposal in the midst of the Board’s ambitious effort to revamp teacher compensation, was like her agreeing to add an extra rook and bishop to the side of the teachers, while announcing to the world that at least a few pieces on the Board/supporters’ side are checkers.

Best Local Journalism of the 2014 Election Season

October 31st, 2014

Here’s my list of top election-season journalism by local reporters:

Fox 31 Denver’s Eli Stokols didn’t take Cory Gardner’s falsehood for an answer on personhood. And, and in the same five-star interview, he tried harder than any other journalist to get a straight answer from Gardner on the details of his health insurance plan.

Only the Colorado Independent’s Susan Greene offered a comprehensive look (with Mike Keefe cartoon) at the extreme right-wing comments of gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez. See Bob Beauprez’s Last Eight Years: Conservatism at its Extremes.

The Associated Press’ Nick Riccardi explains why senatorial candidate Cory Gardner says he favors immigration reform. And he points out that that Gardner’s actual support for reform proposals is limited and illusive.

Corey Hutchins, who writes for a variety of outlets, broke the shocking story on Medium about Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs) urging a military revolt against Obama. (Reminder: Our country is at war.)

9News’ Brandon Rittiman was the first local journalist to press senatorial candidate Cory Gardner on the hypocrisy of his withdrawing support for state personhood measures but remaining a co-sponsor of a federal personhood bill. Other journalists, besides Stokols and Rittiman, deserve credit for challenging Gardner on this: 9News’ Kyle ClarkThe Grand Junction Sentinel’s Charles Ashby, The Denver Post’s Lynn Bartels, and The Durango Herald’s Peter Marcus.

Stokols wrote the definitive piece on Rocky Mountain Gun Owners toxic impact on Colorado Republican Party’s election prospects. See The New Front in Dudley Brown’s War: Jefferson County.

Colorado Community Media’s Vic Vela provided the first comprehensive look at the Republican turmoil in all-powerful Jefferson County. See Jeffco Limps Forward in Races.

The Denver Post’s John Frank wrote an insightful piece on the potential impact on the election of the school-board protests in Jefferson County.

They err themselves, but local TV news fact checkers Shaun Boyd (CBS4), Brandon Rittiman (9News), and sometimes Eli Stokols make a huge contribution to rational electoral debate with their Reality Check, Truth Test, and Fact or Fiction pieces.

Freelance journalist Sandra Fish filled a media gap with detailed reports on election-ad spending, mostly written for Colorado Public Radio (e.g., here and here).

The Associated Press’ Kristen Wyatt was quick to expose Gardner’s hollow claim of being a leader of Colorado’s new energy economy. See Senate candidate in Colo. touts a failed measure.

The Denver Post’s Mark Matthews wrote intelligently about how the outcome of the Coffman-Romanoff race, in district whose demographics reflect America’s, could portend how well the GOP does in 2016. See GOP incumbent in Colorado 6th CD in a Race with Implications for 2016.

The Denver Post’s Lynn Bartels told the story of how the grand fracking compromise was reached, with its implications for the upcoming election. See Let’s Make a Deal: How Colorado Came to a Fracking Compromise.

Finally, and I’m a progressive media critic being completely objective here, the Colorado Independent‘s Mike Littwin has been brilliant over the past few months, writing with humor and insight that you can’t help but appreciate, even if you love the people he lampoons or shreds.

All in all, at a time when everyone complains about the demise of local journalism, we saw some great stuff. Of course, there were epic lapses, but I’ll get into those later, or perhaps at our (bipartisan) Nov. 11 panel discussion on media coverage of the 2014 election.

Media omission: Coffman’s desire to offer “bilingual ballots” contradicts his proposal to eliminate federal requirement to provide them

October 31st, 2014

Yesterday, during what was apparently Colorado’s first candidate Spanish-language debate, hosted by moderators Vanessa Bernal and Juan Carlos Gutierrez on Denver’s Univision TV affiliate, Rep. Mike Coffman said:

Coffman: “The federal government has obligated local governments to send bilingual ballots to everyone. I think that bilingual ballots should only go to people who need them. It’s a question of saving money. I would hope that every voter will be able to get the information that he needs in a language he can understand.”

But back in 2011, when Coffman proposed repealing the section of the Voting Rights Act requiring ballots to be printed in multiple languages, Coffman said nothing about making sure those who needed translated ballots get them.

Coffman: “Since proficiency in English is already a requirement for U.S. citizenship, forcing cash-strapped local governments to provide ballots in a language other than English makes no sense at all,” Coffman told the Denver Post at the time.

I went back to the archive, and I couldn’t find a single instance in 2011 where Coffman said everyone who needs a bilingual ballot should have one. The best I could find was an acknowledgement that some voters have “legitimate needs,” but he suggested second-class solutions, like making a sample ballots available to voters somehow, without any guarantees that they even get this.

His 2011 proposal, by turning ballot-translation decisions over to local authorities and releasing local jurisdictions from the federal requirement, contradicts Coffman’s statement yesterday that he wants to provide a “bilingual ballot” to “people who need them.” That’s not consistent with his actual 2011 proposal.

What if local officials decide that Coffman’s dictionary idea is better and cheaper?

So after his debate yesterday, I asked Coffman if he’d offered a new position on English-only ballots.

He said, “No.”

Coffman: “I think I was always opposed to them because the way the Justice Department took it. And they have backed away. But it wasn’t just to the voters that needed them. It was going to be to every voter, an unfunded mandate by the federal government. I just thought that that was ridiculous. And there are all kinds of ways that are cheaper than that to disseminate the information. Obviously the county clerks got to make the decision, but right now it’s, if they can reach a certain threshold of population. But what about the people that English isn’t their language and they are below the threshold. And so we just need a different system that’s smarter and certainly can be more cost-effective.”

The Voting Rights Act requires ballots in multiple languages only in areas with large populations that are nonproficient in English

So if Coffman truly believes that Spanish-language ballots should be provided to those voters who need them, he’d support the requirement to do so in the Voting Rights Act, despite the cost. Sure, it could be tweaked, but he’d support the mandate.

Instead, Coffman is saying the expense is more worrisome to him than the possibility of excluding voters who aren’t proficient in English.

Unfortunately, reporters covering the debate between Coffman and his Democratic challenger Andrew Romanoff, missed this key point.

Colorado Bishops declare “neutral stance” on personhood amendment. But how neutral?

October 29th, 2014

Colorado’s Catholic Bishops, speaking through the Colorado Catholic Conference, announced their “neutral stance” last week on Colorado’s latest personhood measure, Amendment 67.

The Bishops’ announcement came in a news release denouncing an anti-personhood media campaign by Catholics for Choice, a national organization that challenges the “Vatican on matters related to sex, marriage, family life and motherhood.”

A spokeswoman for Catholics for Choice points to tacit support by Colorado Bishops for Amendment 67, despite their professed neutrality on the measure, by allowing congregations to organize in support of it. You can find more details on a post of mine today on RH Reality Check.

You wonder what the bishops are thinking and how they justify it. And a trip back four years sheds some light on the matter.

The bishops’ statement of neutrality this year doesn’t get into the details, but back in 2008, when the personhood initiative first appeared in Colorado, they articulated their belief that a personhood amendment, if successful, could undermine the church’s goal of bestowing legal rights on zygotes or fertilized eggs.

The 2008 statement by Colorado Bishops Charles J. Chaput, Arthur N. Tafoya, Michael J. Sheridan, argues that a state personhood amendment is the wrong tactic to achieve personhood, because the federal courts could use it to affirm Roe v. Wade:

We admire the goals of this year’s effort to end abortion, and we remain committed to defending all human life from conception to natural death. As we have said from the start, however, we do not believe that this year’s Colorado Personhood Amendment is the best means to pursue an end to abortion in 2008…

Constructive alternatives to reduce abortions and advance the ultimate objective of ending abortion, however, do exist at the state level.

In the last two years, state level legislative strategies to protect life have included: increased penalties for attacks on pregnant women which result in the death of the unborn child; informed consent and ultrasound legislation which would have required a woman to be notified of her right to receive an ultrasound before an abortion was performed; and a complete abortion ban.

The Catholic Church in Colorado has a long and active history of working, through state legislative efforts and other community initiatives, to protect life from conception to natural death. We will continue through every realistic means to work toward this end. [BigMedia emphasis]

Maybe that’s why Gardner opposes personhood at the state level but supports in in Washington. He thinks it’s a more realistic way to ban abortion and common forms of birth control. That’s speculation, but with Gardner apparently lying about personhood, what else can you do?

After all, like Beauprez, Gardner has said his position is the “same” as Archbishop Chaput’s.

Reporters continue to object to Gardner’s apparent personhood lie

October 29th, 2014

The Denver Post’s Lynn Bartels wrote yesterday:

“Almost everyone but Congressman Gardner agrees that the federal bill is similar to state “personhood” measures that Coloradans overwhelmingly defeated and Gardner supported until just weeks after entering the Senate race in February.

More proof came the night before, when Gardner’s told 7News’ Marc Stewart  (at the 50-second mark here) that the federal personhood bill is an empty symbol, instead of the extreme anti-abortion bill that it is.

Stewart: But your name is still, though, on the personhood legislation, correct?

Gardner: Well, that’s just a statement that I support life.

Gardner’s apparent lie here completes a trifecta of false statements to Denver TV stations, including Fox 31, Channel 9, and now, Channel 7–in addition to all the other news outlets that have endured this falsehood and objected to it, rightfully, sometimes in the strongest possible terms.