Archive for November, 2011

Denver news outlets lie there as Gardner, Gessler, and Whitman abuse them

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

When a public figure attacks journalism, reporters should see it as an opportunity to help people understand what reporters do and why they should continue to exist.

I mean, if journalists don’t defend themselves, who will? Academics? Maybe, but who cares?

And if only the marginalized and irrelevant characters are defending journalism, you have to think the profession will sink even faster than it is now.

In July, for example, Rep. Cory Gardner said on Grassroots Radio Colorado that “the media” is biased against people like him who believe in smaller government, but as far as I know, no journalist has reported why Gardner believes this, much less responded to it.

Last week, Secretary of State Scott Gessler said “a lot of the mainstream media” are “fine” with Republicans as long as they “don’t make waves.” But if Republicans, presumably like Gessler himself,  “challenge the status quo,” then then the media get upset.

Here’s a chance for journalists to explain 1) whether they’ve been “upset” at Gessler, and 2) why their coverage of him has been in the public interest.

But no such stories have been written, even though Gessler’s attack on the media appeared in The Denver Post’s Spot blog.

Then over the weekend, The Post served up a story about Gerry Whitman lashing out at the media during a farewell news conference, saying the news media’s portrayal of his department was “just ridiculous” and stories about excessive force have been overblown.

Another opportunity for journalists to stand up for themselves! But I noticed little or no such self defense in the article.

So I emailed Post reporter Kirk Mitchell, who wrote the Whitman article, and told him that when a public official attacks the media, I think reporters should treat the accusation as they would in any other news story, and present readers with a response from the entity that’s attacked.

Why didn’t he offer a quotation from a Post editor or another journalist about whether the media’s police coverage was fair.

He wrote back, “The story did mention that there were 10 police firings since March.”

True, that’s indeed a response, but let’s face it. It’s weak (and it was left out of the online edition). Here’s the graf Mitchell refers to:

[Whitman’s] comments came during a year in which 10 of his officers have been fired since March, six after lying about excessive-force complaints.

The Post could have fired back at Whitman with more force, if not excessive force. An editor might have blasted him with something like:

It’s a newspaper’s job to inform the public about lying and violent-happy cops, especially when they get fired. That’s why we’re here. That’s how journalism holds public officials accountable. Rather than attacking us, Whitman might advise his own police force to behave better under the next chief, so that the Police Department’s problems won’t be in the newspaper. Until then, we’ll continue to give our readers the truth, to the best of our ability.

You probably won’t see anything like this in The Denver Post anytime soon, though I’m glad to see Post Editor Greg Moore defending the newspaper’s coverage more often on high-profile stories, including his newspaper’s handling of Mayor Michael Hancock’s alleged use of prostitutes and Scott McInnis’ non-use of a plagiarism checker.

You’re more likely to find outfits like “Fair and Balanced” Fox News get self rightious about what it does, even though it’s far less likely to be fair and accurate than the mainstream media in Denver.

Unfortunately, it seems that the more serious the news outlet, the less likely it is to get mad and defend itself, as if this is beneath it or something.

My advice is, fight back, while you still can.

When Hick budget director defends suspending tax break for seniors, reporters should note that he made same proposal when he worked for Bill Owens

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

In its coverage of the release of  Hickenlooper’s proposed state budgetThe Denver Post predicted a partisan battle in the state legislature next year over Hick’s proposal to suspend Senior Homestead Exemption, which gives some seniors a property-tax break and costs the state around $100 million in tax revenue.

As it pointed to signs that the GOP will fight Hick on the Homestead Exemption, The Post noted, as it has in the past, that Republicans themselves previously voted to suspend the same Homestead tax break to seniors.

That kind of context is always a must for journalists, but even more so today with partisanship gone wild and voters baffled by it all.

And in the case of the Homestead Exemption, you can argue that another contextual tidbit is useful to pass on to readers:  Hickenlooper’s current Budget Director, Henry Sobanet, quoted extensively in The Post piece, first proposed this same thing in 2003 when he was Bill Owens’ deputy budget director.

 As The Post had the good sense to report when this issue arose in July, Republicans voted for the suspension in 2003, and then they reversed themselves in 2009 and 2010. This is important background whenever Sobanet gets mentioned. He was proposing the same thing, for the same reasons, when he was working for a Republican governor.

And it’s likely we’ll be hearing a lot for Sobanet, as he’s the wonk assigned to deliver the Hick Administration’s view that suspending the Homestead Examption is the only option left, if you don’t want to raise taxes or make further cuts. As he told The Post:

“There are only a few places to find money to balance the budget,” Sobanet said, “and half the budget goes to K-12 education and higher education. And so, $98.6 million to senior homestead means you have to find budget reductions most likely in K-12 or higher education.”

The Post’s prediction of partisan fight over the Homestead Exemption looks right, given that Evergreen Republican Rep. Cheri Gerou, Vice Chair of the Joint Budget Committee, told The Post that she was “concerned” about suspending the tax break for seniors for another year.

“While we appreciate many of the proposals the governor has made, the governor’s budget does raise some points of concern, like increasing taxes on seniors who have been hit so hard by this recession,” said Rep Cheri Gerou, R-Evergreen, vice chairwoman of the Joint Budget Committee. “House Republicans are committed to working with the governor and Senate to pass a responsible and honest budget.”

On Tuesday, The Post quoted from a July statement by House Speaker Frank McNulty, in which, it’s fair to say, he put clamped his teeth down on the Homestead Exemption and promised not to let go:

“The days of balancing Colorado’s budget on the backs of seniors are over,” McNulty declared in a statement in July in the face of improved state revenues. “Tough budget times led to the suspension of the senior homestead exemption. That meant less money for seniors to spend on medicine and food during this economic crisis. This is money we can now get back to them.”

The Post also reported previously, as it did again Tuesday, that House Republicans didn’t specify furtehr budget cuts that they would make if the Homestead Exemption were not suspended, as proposed by Hick. More cuts? Tax increases? The Post has responsibly asked, if you don’t like suspending the Homestead Exemption, what gives?

Showing radio’s value in airing out issues, Gardner said on KFKA that providing stand-alone disaster aid wouldn’t have been fiscally responsible

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

Talk radio serves an ever more useful role in being a venue where public officials comment on their votes and other activities, often for the first time.

I’m late in spotlighting it, but such was the case Sept. 22 on KFKA radio, when Rep. Cory Gardner explained, apparently for the first time, what he thought of  legislation passed by the U.S. Senate providing $7 billion in disaster-relief aid to ensure FEMA had enough money for victims of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.

In response to a question on KFKA’ s morning radio show, AM Colorado, Gardner said the Senate’s bill was not fiscally responsible. 

AM Colorado: You guys are also looking at the disaster aide bill. It didn’t pass yesterday. Is there something in the works that you are going to be looking at the next couple of days on that?

Gardner: I think that will continue to be a focus of activity on the House floor. The Senate passed a stand-alone bill that would provide $7 billion in off-budget money for disaster aide- meaning that’s money that would…just additional $7 billion in spending. The House yesterday attempted to really change that narrative by providing responsible and needed emergency aid but doing so in a fiscally responsible manner as well. To meet the needs of the people who are suffering. I think that is the differences of opinion in the House and the Senate right now.