Reporters should give us more facts about specific redistricting issues and less he-said-she-said confusion

If you’re a political reporter, when it comes to redistricting, there’s allegation after allegation after allegation, and you probably wonder if, by reporting on it, you’re confusing readers rather than helping them understand things.

One obvious way to clarify the debate is to correct false accusations, if they’re actually false. An outsider might think that’s easy, but as we know, the facts in politics are often in dispute, leaving even the best of reporters as frustrated as the rest of us.

Another way reporters can shed light on allegations is to add factual information to help readers gain a broader perspective.

A case in point is Frank McNulty’s allegation that Democratic maps were designed to further the political careers of Senate President Brandon Schaffer and Sen. Morgan Carroll.

McNulty’s allegation was reported in The Denver Post, Durango Herald, Longmont Times-Call, and elsewhere.

In The Post, a response to McNulty’s allegation was offered by Sen. Rollie Heath (D-Boulder). Heath was quoted as saying he resented McNulty’s remark. In a second Post story, in which McNulty’s allegation was repeated, The Post reported that Schaffer was not thinking about a run for Congress now.  The Post also reported that Schaffer said the proposed Democratic districts were competitive.

The Time-Call, in a longer article specifically on McNulty’s allegation, offered a number of responses to it, including Health’s statement that the 4th District would “still be very heavily weighted Republican” and Shaffer’s view that Democratic proposals are “fair and competitive.”

The Herald stated categorically:

“Under Heath’s map, voters in Shaffer’s 4th congressional district would be 27 percent registered Democrats and 37 percent Republicans.”

As the redistricting debate moves ahead, I hope journalists include specific facts in their reporting to put allegations  like McNulty’s in perspective, even if those allegations can’t be proven wrong per se.

In this McNulty case, to my way of thinking, the Herald’s numbers were the most informative, though an entire article could, and should, be dedicated to different types of voting numbers.

Overall, we’ll benefit more from in-depth coverage of specific aspects of the redistricting debate than he-said-she-said reporting and more he-said-she-said reporting after that.

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