Archive for April, 2008

Sprengelmeyer and Abramoff

Saturday, April 26th, 2008

You may by intrigued by Republican Senate candidate Bob Schaffer’s ties to corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff, as reported in the Denver Post here, here, and elsewhere.

But the Rocky Mountain News has a reporter who’s in Abramoff’s pants.

That would be M.E. Sprengelmeyer, the long-time Washington DC correspondent for the Rocky.

Sprengelmeyer told the strange story of how he acquired Abramoff’s exta-large pin-striped suits in a 2006 Rocky article

It’s a convoluted story, but here’s the gist of it: Abramoff is a unusually-sized man whose expensive suits were made by a fancy tailor.

Abramoff ordered a couple suits when he was making big bucks ripping off American Indians and others, but he couldn’t pay for the suits because he went bankrupt when authorities caught him.

The Rocky’s Sprengelmeyer, who was roughly the same size as Abramoff, snapped up Abramoff’s suits at a bargain rate from the fancy tailor in Washington DC.

So, situated in Washington and possibly even wearing Abramoff’s clothes, Sprengelmeyer is in a great position to find answers to troubling Abramoff-related questions that have popped up lately in Denver.

Was Schaffer or his staff doing Abramoff’s bidding in defending the immigration policies of the Marianas Islands that resulted in forced abortions and other worker abuse?

I hope Sprengelmeyer does everything he can to find out. The Rocky has some catching up to do.

Who’s the fairest? Rosen or Maher

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

Denver KOA talk show host Mike Rosen made it a habit of ridiculing former Denver Post columnist Diane Carmen for not accepting his kind invitation to appear on his radio show.

So I was surprised to hear Rosen admit April 14 that he’s refused invitations from Bill Maher to appear on his show. He doesn’t think Maher is fair to his conservative guests.


I asked Rosen about this via email, and here’s our exchange:


Hi Mike …•


I was surprised to hear you say you won’t go on the Bill Maher show because you think he’s not fair to conservative guests. You said April 16 that the show is stacked against folks like you.


How many times did you ridicule Diane Carman for not talking with you on your show? Lots of times.

How do you explain this apparent inconsistency?


Thanks. Jason






Easy.  And there’s no inconsistency. 


Diane — or any other liberal — and I would be one on one.  I wouldn’t have three other guests and a studio audience all on my side ganging up on her.  And she’d have an equal share of an entire hour to make her case.  If I did Maher’s show, I might have a total of three minutes over the course of the whole program to make my case — interrupted with snotty one liners.   What a waste of time.




PS. Just curious – what did you imagine was the “inconsistency?” 




Thanks for the response.


Well, your radio audience is on your side. And you are more partisan than Maher. Maher is more likely than you to attack liberals and conservatives on his show.


So, maybe it’s not exactly the same, because of the other guests on Maher’s show, but the deck is stacked against liberals on your show. It’s not so different from the imbalance against conservatives on Maher’s show.


I still think liberals should come on your show, as you may know anyway, and I criticized Cindy Rodriguez for declining all those talk show invitations. I think media people should defend themselves.


If Diane can handle you and your audience, you can handle Maher and his. And I really believe this. You’re capable of defending yourself on Maher’s show and most anywhere, and so is Diane. I mean, Coulter does quite well, and Maher respects his conservative guests. So you trash Diane and then refuse an invitation from a liberal show…-that’s the inconsistency I see.


I’m surprised you disagree, actually.








It’s very different from the imbalance on Maher’s show.


There’s no inconsistency.  You’re being illogical.


My listening audience wouldn’t be in the studio cheering me on and jeering Carman.  Surely, you can see the difference.


I could defend myself on his show but I wouldn’t bother.  I don’t like his format or the lefty showbiz idiots he often features.  It’s all about smug, cheap shot one-liners.  And it wouldn’t be worth my time for the paltry three minutes I’d get to make my point over the interruptions from his one-sided panel.  


On the other hand, I’d be perfectly willing to go one-on-one with a liberal like Charlie Rose on his show. 

And I’d have no problem going one-on-one with Maher.






Well, Mike, your callers would attack Carman.


Maybe it would be less fair for you to be on his show than Carman to be on yours, but the point is the same. You should go on the shows of your opponents, even if the show is stacked against you, if you say they should go on your show, which is stacked against them.





When I have an oppositional guest on the air for a one-on-one, I generally don’t take calls, especially if the guest prefers that I not. If I do take calls, they come in from both sides.  My listeners may skew right, but I tend to give priority treatment to callers from the left.  Unlike Limbaugh, I prefer debates on my show.


My show isn’t “stacked against” a liberal guest in anything approaching the same format or degree as Maher’s.  For whatever reason you appear to be ignoring significant differences.  I’ve been a guest on shows hosted by opponents.  I’ve even done the Lou Dobbs show, a populist demagogue whose on air act I can’t stand.  Maher’s circus show is just more than I would choose to endure, and as I’ve already explained it’s not worth my time to be a conservative prop for a small fraction of a full program.  I like head-to-head debates, especially with someone like Maher. 






Mike …•


You’ve convinced me, sort of.


But on the air, you said it was about fairness. Your other points you’ve made in our exchange (just a few minutes, celebrity emphasis, etc.) make more sense.





What does it mean to name names?

Tuesday, April 15th, 2008

In my column Sat, I complimented one of Denver’s local TV news stations, CBS 4, for promising not to release the names of men who may have been soliciting prostitutes from a high-end escort service, catering to lawyers, pro athletes, businesspeople and such.

Here’s CBS 4’s policy: “CBS4 is not identifying the customers without the clients confirming the information or law enforcement releasing the names.”

Ironically enough, CBS 4 announced this policy at the conclusion of a sleazy story about the alleged prostitution ring–a story based on an interview with a prostitute who described orgy-like parties at a fancy Denver club.

The story had little credibility, because the only source was the prostitute, who inherently lacks credibility. You wouldn’t expect any journalist to release the names of Johns simply on the basis of a prostitute’s interview. CBS 4 didn’t do this, even though the prostitute named three guys.

But strangely enough–or predictably enough for local TV news–CBS 4 couldn’t resist senationalizing an already sensational story by reporting the prostitute’s allegation that a robe with the name of Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper was used by partygoers, including prostitutes, at the Denver Club.

CBS 4 not only announced this, but actually asked Hickenlooper about it. He denied any connection to the prostitution ring, through his spokesperson. He plays squash at the club, along with many other Denver muckety mucks.

Given that the prostitute interviewed by CBS 4 did not say Hick was involved in the sex parties, and CBS 4’s information that many high-profile men attend the club, I don’t think CBS 4 violated its own policy by releasing Hick’s name in this context. Still, it was a stupid and potentially damaging way to add star appeal to the story.

Another CBS 4 story, broadcast later, actually comes closer to crossing the station’s own ethical line. The station reported that federal agents were searching email accounts of Brenda Stewart, the owner of the Denver Players escort service, which allegedly provided prostitutes for high-profile Denver men and for the sex parties at the Denver club.

In this story, CBS 4 actually named a man who told CBS 4 that he loaned money to Brenda Davis, but he told News 4 that “he had no idea she may have been involved in a prostitution ring.” He also denied knowing anything about Denver Players.

This wasn’t a violation of CBS 4’s own standard but it did violate the spirit of it–because you are left wondering if the guy who allegedly loaned money to Davis is lying. And what’s the news value of informing us that this man lent money to an accused prostitute. There’s little or no public interest benefit to doing this, just like there’s no public interest value, as CBS 4 says, in releasing names of Johns linked to Denver players–unless their names are released by law inforcement or they confess. An exception to this rule may apply if elected officials are involved.

CBS 4 definitely deserves credit for its policy on releasing the names of Johns, but it’s not above rushing to the gutter on this story either.

Regular substance on local TV

Monday, April 7th, 2008

I trash local TV news a lot, for obvious reasons, but I know you get good reporting there sometimes.

The trick for local TV is to find ways to deliver substantive information on a regular basis, not just dramatic substance, as in the investigative stuff they do, but the run-of-the-mill information that citizens need to function in a democracy.

That’s why I like regular features like Denver’s KCNC (Channel 4) “Good Question,” which I mentioned briefly in my last column.

Here’s more from KCNC anchor Alan Gionet (his response to my emailed questions) about the feature:

Hi Jason, 
    We do them as time allows.  Good Question is what we call a “franchise.”    It’s my full-time assignment when I’m not anchoring.  There are only a few exceptions when they need me to fill a regular reporting role. 
   Videographer Steve Fedoriska and I are a team.  He’s a very talented young gun and we try to figure out ways to impart information that is outside the box.  Sometimes we’ll just sit there and try to figure out how to creatively tell a story and say, “That just might work.”  I think viewers pretty much know the formula they often get with overly-consulted TV.  It can get like rote.  The advent of the internet requires us to change that.  
     I always assume the viewer is intelligent enough to know the basics, so we don’t waste their time.  My rule is, “Tell ’em something they don’t know.”   We try to answer the question we design – or that a viewer suggests, rather than leave it open ended.  I try to put myself in the place of the viewer and think what it is they really want to ask.  That’s not always the most delicate question.
   We meet some fantastically intelligent people and go to places like NCAR, NREL and the National Ice Core Lab.    It’s been a lot of fun refining the franchise as we go along and I really am appreciative to Tim Wieland for designing and supporting it and putting Steve and I together.   I’m one of the people in television news who truly loves his job.  After 20 years in the business, that’s a great thing to be able to say.
Let me know if I can be of any additional help.