Were the mum ones contacted?

I’ve been lambasting The Denver Post for not talking directly with Colorado Senate Candidate Jane Norton.

And I was ready to lambast The Post again this afternoon, after reading its coverage of last night’s caucuses and the Colorado Senate race. Neither Jane Norton nor Michael Bennet were directly interviewed.

Instead, The Post’s article stated that U.S. Senate candidate Jane Norton’s quote came from “prepared remarks.” And Michael Bennet’s quote came from “a release.”

This was a major political event–and you’d expect The Post to interview the major candidates directly or–at least–to tell us that the candidates declined a request to be interviewed.

But I asked Post reporter John Ingold, who wrote the caucus article along with Jessica Fender, about the story, and his response provides a window into the complicated world that reporters operate in–versus the simplistic one occupied sometimes by a media critic.

Both Jessica and I tried last night to get live comments from the candidates themselves. (It was a bit of a complicated process because we needed comments for the first-edition story before results were in, then we needed new quotes for the final-edition story after results were released.)

 In the mini-chaos of the evening …• both for us and the candidates …• we weren’t always able to get direct quotes. I can’t say for the candidates we didn’t speak to whether that was a conscious choice on their part, but we ultimately felt it was better to use prepared statements from the candidates themselves rather than live comments from their spokespeople. Of course we would much, much rather speak directly to the candidates. 

As for why we didn’t say that we tried and failed to get live comments from the candidates, I didn’t feel it was worth the space in the story to make that point. We had only 25 inches to cover a lot of ground on three significant contests, and we had to do it on a tight deadline. To the extent readers are inclined to draw a distinction between direct comments and prepared statements, I think the story provided them with enough detail to do so.

So in this light, I can see why the controlled information by Bennet and Norton (statements and news releases) was used in the newspaper, and the approach makes sense. I also understand why Ingold and Fender did not write that the candidates “declined comment.” It sounds like the candidates never really declined the interview request, but neither did they make themselves available. So the reporters went with what they had. That’s what happens on deadline. Ingold rightfully didn’t want to speculate about the candidates’ motives, but it looks like they were just manipulating deadline-driven journos.

The Post’s piece on the caucuses and the Senate race last night did include direct quotes from Ken Buck, Andrew Romanoff, pollster Floyd Ciruli, and political analyst Steve Welchert.

It’s still a mystery to me why The Post hasn’t quoted Norton, directly in a two-way conversation, in 23 weeks. Her releases and spokespeople have been quoted in 13 articles.

But I’m thinking this will change as the campaign gets going.

Bennett has been quoted directly, about campaign matters, in 12 articles in a two-way conversation with reporters during the same period, with his last quote on campaign matters appearing seven weeks ago. His releases and spokespeople have been quoted in 12 articles.

Andrew Romanoff has been quoted directly in 13 articles, and three quotes have appeared from releases and spokespeople.



Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.