Archive for February, 2009

Sad day for Rocky

Friday, February 27th, 2009

How classy of E.W. Scripps to give the Rocky an extra day to publish a last edition.

Scripps could have shut down the paper yesterday and saved a little money. After all, if the 150-year old newspaper had been printed for, say, a week longer, to give itself and its readers time to reflect about journalism and their community, think of all the money Scripps would have lost. Anyway, the point is, the Rocky is a business, and that’s the way it is. But unlike other outfits, its death leaves an information gap that’s widening as other news outlets cut back too. 

It’s a blow for coverage of the day-to-day stuff of our community, especially our local government. There are still lots of sources of national news, but local news is in serious decline. 



So, as a condolence gift for the Rocky’s death, don’t send flowers to Editor John Temple or Mike Littwin or Vince Carroll.

Do something to support a Denver news outlet that actually gathers local news, not just aggregates it or opines about it.

Donate to nonprofit news outlets that are still covering our local community:  This means nonprofits like: Colorado Public Radio; community radio station KGNU (1390 AM); online news outlets and (sort of); and public television stations KBDI (Channel 12) and Rocky Mountain PBS (Channel 6). Read Westword and even the Denver Daily News. Try out the Colorado Statesman or the Denver Business Journal. 

Complement Denver’s local TV news shows and KOA when they air good local journalism, which thank god they still do.   


But most important, subscribe to the Denver Post. And buy a subscription for a friend. There’s no better way to support local journalism. It’s actually a great cause, even if the Post’s owner, MediaNews, is no less greedy than E.W. Scripps.



Anyway, to mark the death of the Rocky, do something to support local news reporting.

Will DNA’s March 1 date be real?

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

Remember in early Feb., a letter leaked from the Denver Newspaper Agency pinpointed the death of the Rocky Mountain News as occuring on March 1, 2009.

The letter drafted for Rocky and Post advertisers stated, “Effective March 1, 2009, only one major daily newspaper will serve the metro Denver market — The Denver Post.” The DNA letter even had a new DNA logo, without the Rocky on it.

A DNA spokesperson said the March 1 date was just a “placeholder,” and the letter was drafted for contingency planning only.

Today, you have to wonder, with rumors of Scripps execs in town and Dean Singleton scheduled for Peter Boyles’ show tomorrow morning.

Caldara discovers I’m an activist!

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

I bumped into Jon Caldara at his stimulating anti-stimulus rally last week. I asked him if his pig reminded him of anyone. He said it reminded him of himself, with more hair.


He wasn’t so good humored later when he seemed to think it was a giant scandal that I’ve worked for Progress Now Action.


Later on his radio show (spotlighted by Colorado Media Matters), Caldara accused me of being an activist like him. Can you believe it?


How could I write a freelance media-criticism column for the Rocky and be an activist at the same time, he wanted to know. The same way he’s a talk show host and an activist. The same way his employee Dave Kopel is an activist (paid by Caldara’s own activist group, the Independence Institute) and is also a media commentator for the Rocky.


I think I’m beginning to understand why all these conservative talk show hosts think the reporters are lefties. Caldara’s fellow conservative talk show host Gunny Bob was also flabbergasted to find out I’m biased.


They must not be reading the newspaper very closely.


I have to admit, I thought Caldara was smarter than Gunny, but maybe they both don’t make the distinction between an opinion column like mine, found in the commentary section of the newspaper, and the news section, which is found in the front and is more popular.


Maybe Caldara reads the newspaper backwards, and so he thinks the commentary is actually the news?


At the Rocky, in my media column, I’m hired to critique the news from a leftist’s perspective. I try to be fair, and I write a disclosure when a client’s positions touch on something I’m writing about.


But I’m supposed to view the news from the perspective of the political left. Just like Caldara’s employee, Dave Kopel, critiques the news from his right-leaning perspective.




Caldara on swastika coverage

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

The Independence Institute’s Jon Caldara is outraged that the Rocky Mountain News and The Denver Post covered the “swastika guy” hugging nationally syndicated columnist Michele Malkin at Caldara’s anti-stimulus rally at the Colorado Capitol yesterday.


“The idea that the media would take this spun story, about some guy who stands up next to Michele Malkin, somehow that’s a story?” Caldara told me. “I looked at the photos, and there was a photo of [the swastika guy] standing next to another guy holding a sign that also said Obama but instead of a swastika, it had a hammer and sickle. That one didn’t seem to rile anybody even though many fold more died under the symbol of a hammer and sickle than a swastika. But that doesn’t get the same sort of media rage, and if you’re looking at this from a media point of view, I would hope in all honesty you would criticize the media for biting on such a transparent attack ploy.”


Reporters at Caldara’s rally saw some weird things. They saw a live pig. They saw a roasted pig. They saw a swastika. All these things are of note, and reporters were right to include them in their stories about the rally. That’s what The Denver Post did in its article.


The Rocky, according to Caldara, got its story about the swastika guy later, after ProgressNow Colorado and others posted the Malkin photo. Caldara makes this conclusion because the Rocky reporter tried to reach him after the rally had ended. The Rocky’s story references the Malkin photo on the blogs.


Should the Rocky have written 200 words about the photo? Yes.


I mean, if you see a photo of a prominent person hugging someone with a swastika in his hands, you have to wonder what’s going on. The Rocky contacted Penry, and he gave a response. The Rocky tried to reach Caldara. And the Rocky tried to reach Malkin as well, to find out the circumstances of the hug. It’s a valid question and a valid story, handled fairly and accurately by the Rocky.


Caldara disagrees. “It seemed like a low-blow story and a low-blow tactic of personal destruction that has [ProgressNow Colorado’s] Huttner’s marks all over it. To say, ah, we got a picture of some idiot next to Michele Malkin. Instead of addressing the stimulus package, let’s go after a swastika. It might be working for a certain crowd, but it certainly seems petty.”


I attended the rally with Huttner, and I don’t think it was petty to promote the Malkin photo.


Sure, as Caldara says, you could see ugly things at a rally of progressives, just like you saw at Caldara’s rally of righties. And if a person was holding a swastika and was caught on camera hugging a prominent lefty, reporters would have the right to ask questions about it.


As for the politics of personal destruction, take a look at what the Republicans tried to do to Barack Obama in the last election. Does William Ayers ring a bell?  

JOA expert quoted in Rocky article defers to law professor

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

The most obvious way that the Rocky could avoid death would be if a buyer emerged.

But MediaNews hates this idea. In fact, it announced that if the Rocky is sold, MediaNews would exercise its right, as written in the joint operating agreement, to buy the Denver Newspaper Agency, the company jointly owned by E.W. Scripps and MediaNews. If it were not a partner in the DNA, the new buyer of the Rocky would not have access to printing presses and other business services provided by the Denver Newspaper Agency.

This might scare off a buyer, if it’s legal for MediaNews to do it, that is.

In Thursday’s Rocky, Mark Fitzgerald, an editor at Editor and Publisher, was quoted as saying he thought the Justice Department could not force MediaNews to accept the new owner of the Rocky Mountain News as a partner the JOA, because the Justice Department “approved the agreement that allows MediaNews right of first refusal.” Fitzgerald also said he didn’t think the Justice Department had “standing to say that you’ve got to be a partner with somebody you don’t want to.”

I asked JOA legal expert Stephen Barnett via email what he thought of Fitzgerald’s opinion, as you can see below, he did not agree with Fitzgerald. Barnett, who’s written about numerous JOAs, emailed me:

“I think Justice would have ‘standing’ to require sale of a publisher’s interest in the JOA, and Justice pretty much did that in Honolulu. But as a practical matter — and maybe a constitutional one — it does seem wrong to require a publisher to partner with someone against its will. BUT when the partnership is imposed automatically by a right of first refusal, I think that’s a special case; that amounts to giving one paper control of both, and I think enforcing such a right would be invalid under the Newspaper Preservation Act. This question was raised in the Salt Lake City case, and Justice seemed reluctant to enforce a right of first refusal, although the question wasn’t faced.”

I then called Fitzgerald, a highly respected newspaper expert himself who knows how to size up his sources, to find out whom he believes has more knowledge about the legal intricacies of JOAs. Is it Barnett or him?

Fitzgerald said of Barnett, “He’s more of an expert on it than I. There’s no doubt about that.” He added, “He’s certainly more of an expert than I am on these matters.”

So the Rocky’s source, who came down on the side of MediaNews, has deferred to my source.

But it doesn’t mean lawyers will agree on all this, of course. I’m sure MediaNews has a lawyer on the payroll who’s ready to argue that MediaNews can refuse to accept as a JOA partner any new owner of the Rocky, thanks to the MediaNews’ right of first refusal that’s in the JOA.

But I’d like to find a legal expert, if there is one, who will differ with Barnett, who may be the most credible expert on this topic, and say so on the record.

No matter how you look at it, the first phrase that comes to my mind is, see you in court.