Archive for January, 2014

An interview with Michael Booth about his recent departure from The Denver Post

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

Reporter Michael Booth left The Denver Post this month after a 24-year run at the newspaper, starting in 1989 as a maternity fill-in for reporter Ann Schrader. He did many things there, covering the Senate race in 2010, the 2008 Democratic Convention, Denver City Hall, films, and much more. Most recently, he was on the health-care beat. His departure is more bad news for Colorado journalism.

Booth wrote The Denver Post Guide to Family Films, and he’ll be signing his new book, written with Jennifer Brown and titled Eating Dangerously: Why the Government Can’t Keep Your Food Safe . . . and How You Canat the Tattered Cover East Colfax, 7:30 p.m. March 14.

Booth answered a few questions via e-mail today:

Why are you leaving journalism?

I’m shifting from one form of journalism to a form of advocacy journalism. I’ll be writing, editing and consulting for The Colorado Health Foundation, as we develop better methods to provide interesting and useful information to policymakers and decision-makers on some of the most important issues of the era. Health care, health coverage and healthier living are enormous fields, but also based on some fundamental needs and principles that all of us could do a better job explaining and reducing to a level we can grasp.

What are some of your favorite memories at The Post?

Covering the Amendment 2 gay rights debate all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court fulfilled my ideal of what journalists could and should do, from the time I was a middle-schooler reading the Minneapolis Tribune as I walked every afternoon from the school bus down to my parents’ lake in northern Minnesota.

The chance to discuss capital punishment and challenge the status quo with Gov. John Hickenlooper after his “temporary” reprieve for Nathan Dunlap was another highlight. What could be more useful than that, to be an engaged messenger for the people on a life or death issue — at least, that’s how it felt. But the Post gave me so much freedom and opportunity to tell all kinds of stories, I’ll share some of what I told colleagues when I left:

“My favorite romantic was Tim Linhart. Tim built himself an igloo at 11,000 feet, in the woods above Beaver Creek. Every morning at 10 below zero, he’d crawl out of the igloo, build a fire to melt snow, and resume building an orchestra of instruments made from ice. He shaped handfuls of slush into ridiculously elegant S-curves and sounding boards, rubbing and shaving and rebuilding until he’d made an 8-foot-tall standup bass, a cello and the rest of a string quartet. Then he hired players from the Colorado Symphony Orchestra to ride the ski lift and tramp through the snow to his clearing in the woods, and they played Mozart and Bach and Beethoven on his ice quartet while this big bear of a man closed his eyes and smiled and listened to the notes float up through the snow-covered spruce and on up into the bluebird Colorado sky. Then his instruments started to melt, and Tim still had his smile.

Tomorrow and the next day and the day after that, all the romantics in news journalism will get up and start building something, shaping all the right words, and then it will melt away and you’ll have to start all over again. The right people might hear the notes and then do something good with them. It’s a great job, and it’s a wonderful thing to do.”

What are your biggest concerns about Colorado journalism today?

That journalists find a way to get paid for the hard work they are doing every day, every hour. All the journalists I know are agnostic about the way their work gets seen, so old criticisms are irrelevant — we’re happy to write and talk for print, for web pages, for blogs, on Twitter, on Facebook, in professional and amateur video. We’ll Snapchat the news and happily disappear a few seconds later if that’s what you want, but you need to pay us something for it. The world needs professional fact-finders, who will always be imperfect but who will always try harder the next time.

So, to the public, I want people to be willing to pay something for that, and recognize that it doesn’t flow out of the ether of somebody’s vague and misinterpreted Facebook post; and to the leaders in journalism, I’d want them to put a value on what they do and make sure that everyone using the work is helping to pay for it. Journalists respect other peoples’ copyrights, and they should respect ours.

Would you discourage a young person from going into journalism?

Never — it’s a great thing to do, the rare combination of useful and fascinating. Come on in, find us some great stories, and while you’re at it, whiz kids, help us find some revenue.

Any other thoughts as you head out the door?

One of the rules in life is Always Bring Something to Read. For me, I hope that can be a folded-up newspaper for many decades to come. Also, you could do worse than to bring a book my colleague Jennifer Brown and I have coming out in mid-March, Why the Government Can’t Keep Your Food Safe . . . and How You Can, from Rowman & Littlefield. It’s an investigation of what’s wrong with our food safety system in America, and how consumers can arm themselves to eat safely; it tells the story of Colorado’s cantaloupe listeria deaths and all kids of other outrageous food safety violations across the nation.

Stephens: “I don’t know if they were getting a tattoo.” What?

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

Conservative activist Kelly “ish” Maher, who was a guest host on KNUS’ Kelley and Company Friday, asked gubernatorial candidate Amy Stephens a question that’s been an obsession on conservative talk-radio lately:

Maher: “Potentially, let’s say, you make it out of the primary. And you are in a primary with some people whom many here consider to be friends. But once you get to that point where you are theoretically running against Udall, how are you going to separate yourself from him and create a contrast because a lot of people are putting the exchange creation on you. As soon as you announced that you were running, Twitter blew up and called it Amycare. So that’s an important contrast. How are you going to clarify that for people.”

Stephens: “…I’m not sure with my opponents–I don’t know if they were tweeting. I don’t know if they were getting a tattoo. Or whatever. I was in the weeds, you know, with John Suthers and others, trying to make the best decision for the people of Colorado.” [BigMedia emphasis]

If you know Maher, you know she self-identifies as a seeker of the lighter moments in politics, and so you have to be surprised that Maher didn’t jump all over Stephens’ “getting-a-tattoo” line.

Does Stephens think her Tea-Party opponents, like KLZ talk-show hosts Ken Clark and Jason Worley, are tattoo-covered? Is there a correlation between tattoos and Tea Party types?

Or was it simply the tweet-tattoo alliteration that Stephens was going for? It sounded like Stephens may have been reaching for a joke. But why tattoos?

Maher missed a chance to have some fun with Stephens, with acid undertones, but maybe KLZ morning show host Randy Corporon (560 KLZ-AM 5-7 a.m.) can pick up the baton.

At a meeting of the Arapahoe Country Republican’s Men’s club in early January, Stephens told Corporon, who chairs the Arapahoe County Tea Party, that she’d appear on KLZ’s morning show to discuss the issues, Corporon said on air Friday.

Corporon: “As her time was ending, I told her she’d be welcome to come to the Arapahoe Tea Party and speak, and that anyone who was rude of vile would be asked to leave–and that she would be welcome to come in to the studio and sit down and for an interview on the morning show on KLZ. And she said that she would do it. Now, when I went and gave my card to her scheduler, he didn’t seem quite so sure. We’ll see how that plays out.”

..It will be very,  very interesting to see if Rep. Stephens follows through and comes to speak to you at the Arapahoe Tea Party and comes in here to talk to us, where we can really get her to try to explain her decision-making on Amycare and on some of the other bills and statements that she has made.”

Listen to KLZ’s Corporon Discusses Amy Stephens 1.24.14

During her speech, Stephens said she’d been treated “vilely” by Tea Party members, according to Corporon. So if Stephens comes on Corporon’s show, they’ll have a lot more to discuss than tattoos.

On radio,Tancredo brags about trying to shut Dept. of Education. What would he do to CO State Gov?

Monday, January 27th, 2014

You knew Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s famous Oops Moment would hurt Perry himself, because it made him look so stupid, but I really thought the substance of Perry’s incomplete thought–that is, which federal departments should be shut down–would become more of a recurrent theme in conservative GOP primary circles.

I mean, it separates you from the crowd: Shut down the Commerce Department! The Education Department!

This comes up, just not so often.

For example, last week on KLZ 560-AM’s new “Wake Up” show with Randy Corporon, Rep. Tom Tancredo, who’s running for governor, boasted about his efforts, when he was a regional director of the U.S. Department of Education, to shut down the Department of Education:

TANCREDO: I was elected to the State Legislature in 1976, re-elected two more times.  I was appointed by Ronald Reagan to run the U.S. Department of Education’s regional office here, in Colorado – six state region.  I did that for him and Bush I [one].  Our purpose was to try and implode the whole thing, because we wanted to get the federal government out of education, as much as possible.  We couldn’t even get a Congressman to introduce the bill to abolish it, so we tried to do it administratively, and, um–.

HOST RANDY CORPORON:   Starve the beast.

TANCREDO:  Starve the beast.

CORPORON:   Cut back the budget.

TANCREDO:  Exactly.  So, I found out that that’s what you had to do.  That’s the only way you could actually get rid of people that were extraneous – let’s put it that way.  [chuckles]  I had 22o people employed at the U.S. Department of Education, in the regional office.  Two hundred and twenty-two.  Now, I emphasize the word ‘employed’.  Some of those people were working there, [but] not many.  And, um, it took me four years – and as I say, I had to go back to Washington every year and ask for a budget cut in order to actually work through the process of reducing the staff.  And I — and there were other reasons why we ended up moving downward, but we got to the point that we had sixty people left, when I left, out of 222.

Left hanging here is, what departments would Tanc cut, wholesale, from state government? That would’ve been a more relevant direction for Corporon to steer the conversation, given that Tancredo is running for governor.

Perry, you recall, had three federal departments he’d shut down. You get the feeling, when it comes to state government, a guy like Tancredo can top that. Maybe we’ll hear about it next time he’s on KLZ.

Kudos to Aurora Sentinel for noticing that Coffman’s vote against Dreamers undermines Coffman’s own legislation

Friday, January 24th, 2014

One of the ways Rep. Mike Coffman has been trying to boost his appeal to Hispanic voters is by waving around his legislation offering a path to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants, if they enlist in the U.S. military.

Coffman’s been talking a lot about his bill, which stipulates that, before being accepted by the U.S. military, undocumented immigrants should be screened and possess documents obtained through the President Obama’s “deferred action” program, established through executive order.

Under Obama’s order, law-abiding undocumented immigrants, who were brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents, are issued work permits, and their deportation from the U.S. is officially deferred.

But in June, Coffman voted to defund Obama’s deferred-action program, potentially undermining Coffman’s own bill.

This inconsistency went unnoticed, as far as I can tell, until yesterday, when the Aurora Sentinel’s Aaron Cole pointed out in a news story:

In June 2013, Coffman voted alongside other House Republicans to defund a key program in the Obama administration’s plan for young immigrants. Coffman joined Colorado and House Republicans in voting to lift the executive order for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status. Coffman’s plan for military service as a path to citizenship for enlisted military members relies first on the applicant to receive DACA status.

“I think that what the president … did exceeded the boundaries of the Constitution,” Coffman said. “These things have no basis in law and the President doesn’t have the ability to legislate.”

As one of the most endangered members of Congress, Coffman has been under scrutiny by local and national reporters. But until yesterday, no journalist, including me, apparently noticed that if Coffman had his way and Obama’s deferred-action program was eliminated, Coffman’s proposed law couldn’t be implemented.

Kudos to the Aurora Sentinel for its scoop on this.

Coffman-Romanoff comparison on immigration has to include their positions on immigration bill stalled in Congress

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

In a good article Monday, Denver Post reporters Joey Bunch and Carlos Illescas preview the upcoming battle between Rep. Mike Coffman and his Democratic challenger Andrew Romanoff.

A  chunk of the article was dedicated to comparing the candidates’ history and positions on immigration reform, which is certain to come up during the campaign, and a couple points deserve clarification

The article omits a comparison of the most important immigration issue of our time: the effort in Washington to pass comprehensive immigration reform. It’s also the most relevant for two candidates running for Congress.

Romanoff supports a comprehensive-immigration-reform bill, passed with bipartisan support by the U.S. Senate and backed by President Obama. Romanoff is circulating a petition calling on the CO congressional delegation, including Coffman, to “endorse” the Senate bill.

Coffman, on the other hand, refuses to support this measure, and what’s more, he refuses to specify the amendments he’d add to the Senate bill to enable him to support it. He’s said he’s not happy with the bill’s plans for border enforcement, but he’s never explained what he wants.

This hasn’t stopped Coffman from saying he supports “comprehensive immigration reform,” like Romanoff does, but unlike Romanoff, Coffman has no actual factual comprehensive-immigration reform plan. He just talks about it.

Bottom line: Reporters shouldn’t compare the immigration positions of these two candidates without highlighting their differing positions on the historic immigration reform bill that’s currently stalled in Congress.

Talk-radio host should fact check Stephens’ statement that GOP would rally around Stephens but not Buck

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

KNUS talk show host Dan Caplis sat silently behind his microphone last week while his guest, GOP Senate candidate Amy Stephens, said the Republican Party would not get behind her opponent, Ken Buck, if he wins the Republican nomination to take on Democratic Sen. Mark Udall. But Republicans would rally around her, she said.

Stephens: “I also believe nationally, and I have heard this in my travels, that there is not going to be — You know, when somebody wins a primary, people rally, come around. The party goes, whatever. I do not believe that’s going to happen should Ken be the nominee. I do believe this would happen should I become the nominee, because I think  there will be a lot more interest in this race and a lot more support.” [BigMedia emphasis]

You wish Caplis had asked for the names of the folks who’ve been telling Stephens, during her national “travels,” that they won’t back Buck, even if he were the one left standing. Presumably it wasn’t anyone associated with the rainmakers at the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and it’s likely Stephens wouldn’t have told Caplis about her sources, if he’d asked.

But, at least, Caplis could have fact-checked Stephens on her statement, delivered during a Jan. 15 interview, that “people would rally, come around” and support her if she gets the nomination.

So, to fill in the media gap left by Caplis, I decided to see if Stephens was correct. I didn’t think so, because I thought I’d heard Ken Clark, co-host of KLZ 560-AM’s flagship Tea-Party talk show, Grassroots Radio Colorado, say that he would not only never support Stephens but would never vote for her as well.

“I will never under any circumstances vote for Amy Stephens,” Clark said via email when asked about Stephens. “She is the epitome of what the GrassRoots despises in some Republican Party candidates and elected officials.  She is a big government, statist Republican and does not represent Conservative Values.  Her arrogance is beyond measure, and I really don’t see much difference between her and Udall. The Party had better come up with a candidate that is more palatable to the GrassRoots, or they will deliver yet another loss.”

Before I had a chance to ask him about the veracity of Stephens’ statement, Randy Corporon, who’s hosting a new “Wake Up” show on KLZ (5-7 a.m.) announced Jan. 17 on air that he wouldn’t vote for Stephens. 

“Amy Stephens is running for Senate in Colorado on the Republican ticket, but she is the mother of Obamacare in Colorado,” said Corporon. “I cannot support her. I have said publicly, and I will say again: If she is the Republican nominee, I will find a Libertarian. I won’t  vote for the Democrat.  But there are certain lesser-of-two-evils choices that I am no longer willing to make.  Is the Republican Party paying attention to that? 

Does the Republican Party understand that they cannot win without the Liberty Movement, without those of us who knock on doors and make phone calls, and write small checks regularly and consistently to try and support the candidates that we believe in?  Do they understand that they can’t win without us?  And if they promote—if they attack our people, the constitutionally principled conservatives that are running, if they promote the big government, establishment Republican-type candidates over our own, they’re not going to win, because they can’t win without us.  Amy Stephens should just get out of the race.” Listen to KLZ host Randy Corporon explain why he won’t vote for Amy Stephens (1.17.14)

Certainly Stephens could be correct that Republicans will get behind her if she wins the nomination, while Buck would repel fellow Republicans away from him, if he’s the nominee. But if you’re tuned in to talk radio, and Caplis certainly is, you know there’s two sides to that story that deserve to be aired.

Norton’s loss doesn’t come up when Stephens points to Stapleton as GOP model of success

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

In her appearance on KNUS’ Dan Caplis show last week, Rep. Amy Stephens, who’s running for U.S. Senate, said she “would not be able to go the assembly route” and “win a statewide election and to take on an incumbent.”

Stephens pointed to State Treasurer Walker Stapleton as her poster child of a Republican who petitioned on the primary ballot and won. And she named Rep. Doug Lamborn, even though he didn’t win statewide.

Absent during the conversation, however, was the name of Jane Norton, whom Caplis should have mentioned as having successfully petitioned onto the U.S. Senate primary ballot in 2010 before losing to Weld County DA Ken Buck.

Arguably, Norton serves as a better poster child for why Stephens should participate in the caucus process than Stapleton does for why she should petition on.

Stephens @ 5 min: “We had a very contentious 2010 Senate race that we should have been won against an unknown. And I was on the receiving end of that, because we were trying to take the House Majority. And we saw our numbers, as the top of the ticket begin to go down, down, down, down, when my opponent, Ken, exploded, and then we had the governor’s debacle…

“I have understood, and the team that is with me, we believe that in order to win statewide and to take on an incumbent, that I would not be able to go the assembly route. I am going to petition onto the ballot through the petition process. Walker Stapleton did it. Others have done it. Doug Lamborn.  My reasoning here is to reach a broader audience. You know you have to get a minimum of 1,500 signatures per congressional district. Let’s just say you’re getting 14,000 for the sake of the argument, out of 7 districts. That’s 14,000 you’ve reached versus, in the case of our assembly, which is good, but we have 4,000 very committed Republicans. If you come out of this, and then you get on the ballot, what you do is you target this on a broader level. I believe that has to been done to take on an incumbent. Others may not. It’s a strategy issue.”

On KNUS 1-15-14, Rep. Amy Stephens explains why she’s skipping the GOP caucuses

Asked  by Caplis why she has the best chance to win, whatever ballot route she takes, Stephens said:

Stephens @6 min: “Because I know what it is to win. I win. I was in the most-watched primary in the state, as you know, through redistricting and re-apportionment, with a fellow Republican, which was awful. And  I was outspent 3-1, and I won by 20 points. And I did that by working smart and disciplined and really reaching out to people. I think we’re going to have to have the same thing this time.”


Media omission: Stephens touts her gender as asset but she shares Buck’s extreme anti-abortion stance

Friday, January 17th, 2014

In an article yesterday, The Denver Post’sKurtis Lee reports Rep. Amy Stephens’ response to Ken Buck’s comment Monday comparing pregnancy with cancer:

“It’s Ken again being Ken,” Stephens, who is among several Republicans vying to unseat U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, insisted Thursday. “Just like in 2010, we have high-heels comments, we have alcoholism and homosexuality, now we’ve got cancer and pregnancy.” Buck in 2010 was the nominee for U.S. Senate against Democrat Michael Bennet. His statement on “Meet the Press” comparing homosexuality to alcoholism was considered the turning point in a campaign he had been expected to win.

Before telling Lee about “Ken again being Ken,” Stephens was on KNUS’ Dan Caplis Show Wed., where she made her opinion of Buck’s candidacy even more clear, saying she does not believe Colorado Republicans will unify around Buck if he wins the nomination, and saying, based on what Buck’s offered so far, it would be the “definition of insanity” to run Buck again.

Stephens @10 min: I am not convinced Ken has given us an argument as to why we should go down this path again. And I call the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over with the same results.

I also believe nationally, and I have heard this in my travels, that there is not going to be — You know, when somebody wins a primary, people rally, come around. The party goes, whatever. I do not believe that’s going to happen should Ken be the nominee. I do believe this would happen should I become the nominee, because I think  there will be a lot more interest in this race and a lot more support. [BigMedia emphasis]

Listen to Rep. Amy Stephens tout herself as a woman and slam Buck on KNUS 1-15-14

On the radio, Stephens went on to say that she’d be better able to “take on Sen. Udall on issues that they normally love to hit our men with, and I think as a woman, I have a very strong voice to speak about.”

But as Caplis should have pointed out, Stephens’ anti-abortion record, including ten years on the staff of Focus on the Family, sets herself up for  the same criticism Buck has faced.

Stephens voted in favor of last year’s version of an anti-abortion bill that’s under consideration again this year in the Legislature. (This year’s bill has the exact same summary as last year’s.)

In his article about Buck’s pregnancy-cancer comment, The Denver Post’s Lee pointed out that Buck and Stephens both “oppose abortion.” He also reported that Buck’s wife, Perry Buck, is a co-sponsor of this year’s abortion-ban bill, sponsored once again by Rep. Stephen Humphrey, but Lee did not include the fact that that Stephens voted for it last year. In 2012, she also supported a Colorado Right to Life-backed“fetal homicide” bill that could have banned abortion in Colorado.

Asked by Caplis directly whether she thought she had an advantage as a woman in her Senate bid, Stephens cited her position on “the life issue,” saying:

Stephens: “I do. I actually do, because of the time and the year in which were are, and because of the issues that Democrats bring up. I think  I have a unique ability to speak to that. I have a unique ability to speak to the life issue and/or family and other issues such as health care, public safety, all the things I’ve advocated for. So, yes, I do. In this election, I think it’s going to matter.”

But it looks like Buck’s and Stephens’ extreme records on abortion are about the same.

Media omission: Tancredo says Republicans “will not beat Hickenlooper” on gun issues

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

On KNUS radio this morning, host Dan Caplis said it was “legitimate” for Sen. Greg Brophy to spotlight Tom Tancredo’s post-Columbine vote for a House resolution limiting, among other things, the size of magazines to 10 rounds or fewer,  the same limitation put on magazines by one of Colorado’s new gun-safety laws.

In response,  Tancredo, who’s battling Brophy for the chance to take on Gov. John Hickenlooper in November, downplayed the importance of the gun-safety issues in the upcoming general election, saying, “We are not going to win an election on this.”

Here’s part of Tanc’s response, as heard on KNUS:

Tancredo: “I’ll tell you that if, indeed, anybody believes that the Republican nominee, whoever that might be, can win the general election on this [gun] issue, or a couple of others that are fairly focused, they’re wrong. We will not beat Hickenlooper, I don’t care who it is, we will not beat Hickenlooper on this issue… We are not going to win an election on this. …

The NRA has always supported me. These things are essentially frivolous attacks that do not help in the long run. And as I say, I do not agree with you that this is something that the other side will use. Do you really believe that Hickenlooper would be attacking me for being soft on guns?”

Caplis: I think it would come up. And I think you’d handle it well…. Here’s how I would definitely see it coming up in the campaign. You’re running against Hickenlooper. You’re the nominee. You’re bashing him…he tried to restrict Coloradans’ gun rights. And then Hickenlooper turns around with their 527s… ‘Wait a second. Tom agrees with Hickelooper on this.’

Listen to Tancredo on Caplis saying GOP won’t beat Hick on Guns

Radio host should have questioned Buck when he compared his bout with cancer to pregnancy

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

Apparently trying to connect to women voters, who arguably cost him a U.S. Senate seat in 2010, Ken Buck appeared on a Denver radio station Monday and discussed the differences and similarities between pregnancy and his recent bout with cancer.

Asked by 560-AM KLZ talk-show host Randy Corporon about his abortion position, Buck, who’s running again for U.S. Senate this year, said:

Buck: “Yes, I am pro-life. While I understand a woman wants to be in control of her body.–it’s certainly the feeling that I had when I was a cancer patient, I wanted to be in control of the decisions that were made concerning my body–there is another fundamental issue at stake.  And that’s the life of the unborn child. And I hold that life dear and precious and believe we have to do everything we can to protect the life of the unborn.” 

So Buck is saying that his successful battle with cancer is like pregnancy insofar as they both require decisions affecting a human body. But for a cancer patient like Buck, they are personal medical decisions, and Buck was glad to be able to make them. But for a woman who is pregnant, difficult as it may be, she shouldn’t be afforded the same freedom to make decisions affecting her body.

In 2010, Buck made no secret about his strong anti-abortion position, enthusiastically repeating his opposition to all abortion, even for rape or incest. In one radio interview, he expressed his opposition to abortion, even for a girl raped by her teen brother.

Now Buck drives his anti-abortion point home in the starkest of language by saying how happy he is that the government didn’t dictate his health decisions when he had cancer. But pregnant women should have no choice.

I was waiting for Corporon to offer a peep of an opposing view, to bring up the complexities surrounding a decision to have an abortion, and to ask Buck about all the women who don’t see this as a one-size-fits-all issue.

I’m still waiting.

On the political side, Corporon could have asked Buck if he’s worried, by comparing his cancer to a woman’s pregnancy, of looking like Todd Akin, whose thoughts about “legitimate rape” sunk his 2010 bid for a Senate seat in Missouri. But Corporon moved on, leaving listeners wanting more explanation from Buck.

Listen to Buck on KLZ 1-13-14 say he wants state control over women’s bodies but not his body