Archive for the 'Blogs' Category

Journalists’ “likes,” “friends,” “retweets,” etc. on social media don’t reflect favoritism or bias

Friday, December 7th, 2012

On his profile on his Facebook page, Denver Post Politics Editor Chuck Plunkett writes:

Please note. As a journalist using social media, my following or friending or liking — and in some cases even retweeting or reposting — is not always meant as an endorsement.

This is a shorter version of a post Plunkett wrote shortly before the election on Facebook:

Friends. I’ve been asked about this a couple of times in recent days, as we are now fully in the final throes of the Election season. The question is whether as a journalist who covers politics it is correct for me to “like” the Obama page or the Romney page. (And I “like” them both.) The problem is that is how Facebook defines what you have to do to follow a page. That’s not — in most cases — how I would describe my interest. I might genuinely “like” a band, for example. But a politician? It’s not the same thing. I’d like to expand on what I have long indicated on my Facebook profile — which probably not everyone reads. For years now, since my earliest origins with Facebook, I have contained in my profile the disclaimer that as a journalist using social media I “friend” and “follow” and “subscribe” and “like” and “retweet” and etc. all manner of people, groups, media, politicians, movements, companies, nonprofits, etc. But my doing so is NOT meant as an endorsement. Rather, I do so in order to see their posts in order to watch for news and whatnot. Increasingly, politicians use social media in the place of the old-school press release or statement. To not follow risks missing something — not that I don’t miss things even when I follow, given what has become the enormous success of these kinds of sites. I hope this makes sense. Bottom line: I do not endorse any politician or political party and do not advocate for any of them either. I have much better things to do with my time.

To me, that’s common sense, but it’s good Plunkett spells it out for us.

You say, still, what if a guy like Plunkett “likes” or “friends” 100 right-wing groups and 25 lefty ones? What if he re-tweets Scott Gessler (as if Gessler doesn’t tweet his own horn often enough)? Does it mean he favors the right?

It means little or nothing. You don’t know what Plunkett is up to or where he’s getting information, unless you’re a mind reader, and mind readers are the worst kind of media critics–though they are a common kind.

Re-posting, retweeting, even “likes,” by other public figures, like politicians, invites questions, however.

The bottom line is, for journalists, if you think they lean one way or the other, evaluate their actual factual work. Is it fair? Is it accurate?

Will Colorado’s conservative media entities survive post-election?

Friday, November 30th, 2012

After the recent Republican setbacks, I’ve been wondering about the fate of those conservative groups that have been pushing out all that video and verbiage over the last year in Colorado.

So I visited their websites this morning to see what they’re up to, post-election.

It looks like business as usual at Complete Colorado, which is run by Independence Institute staffer Todd Shepherd. It tries to be Colorado’s version of the Drudge Report.

The Colorado News Agency is also a project of the libertarian Independence Institute. It appears to be in tact after the election, “covering Colorado’s State Capitol” and offering its articles to all takers.

The lights are apparently still on at Colorado Observer, which bills itself as providing information from a “fresh perspective,” which fair-minded observers would actually call conservative.

Colorado Peak Politics, the conservative blog, apparently rolls on.

Colorado Watchdog, which is a chapter of a national organization with financial ties to the right-wing Franklin Center, published Colorado-related material this week.

Media Trackers, which describes itself as “a conservative non-profit, non-partisan investigative watchdog dedicated to promoting accountability in the media and government across Colorado through cutting edge research and communications initiatives,” has posted nothing since Election Day. Prior to that, it posted short videos on a regular basis. No contact information is available on its website.

No sign of recent activity at Revealing Politics, whose short videos, mostly of political events and interviews, reflect a conservative “free-market paradigm.” Its focus is mostly Colorado but it also operates in other states. “Fearless Leader” Kelly Maher did not immediately return an email inquiry.

WhoSaidYouSaid is another conservative entity promoting videos shot at political events in Colorado and elsewhere. It’s still going, for now.

I’ll keep watching these and other conservative “messaging” groups in the state, along with conservative talk-radio shows, and report back on if they survive, as conservatives evaluate what worked and what didn’t this year.

Tracker who misrepresented himself is no longer working for RevealingPolitics, ND blog reports

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

Last week I reported that the bio and name of Josh Hursa had been removed from the website of the conservative blog RevealingPolitics after Hursa was accused of misrepresenting himself while tracking North Dakota Senate candidate Heidi Heitkamp.

Now, the North Dakota blog that broke the story about Hursa’s misrepresentation, has reported that RevealingPolitics sent two new trackers to North Dakota to video Heitkamp.

The trackers, Caleb Bonham and Drew McCullough, allegedly told that Hursa no longer works with them at RevealingPolitics. So it looks as if Hursa was fired, but we still don’t know for sure.

RevealingPolitic’s Kelly Maher declined again to comment on Hursa’s personnel matter yesterday, adding that she took issue with the NorthDecoder’s assertion that her organization’s funding comes from the Koch Brothers. Maher emailed me:

I’m saddened to read this recent piece as it continues a narrative that is patently untrue regarding our funding and structure. In terms of personel issues, I have to reiterate that we will not comment.

In terms of Drew and Caleb, the fact they were totally transparent, respectful and asked simple and straightforward questions yet Mrs. Heitkamp refused to answer makes it clear she is hoping to run with as little known about her actual stances on issues as possible. It’s sad for the people of that state of North Dakota that Heitkamp chooses not to embrace an attitude of transparency.

Maher is right that Bonham and McCullough are apparently exhibiting the kind of transparency you want in a tracker, unlike Hursa who apparently lied as he tried to gain access to Heitkamp’s inner circle.

When confronted by the NorthDecoder at a Heitkamp event, the trackers readily identified themselves.

The NorthDecoder’s Chad Nodland reported his encounter with Bonham and McCullough, whom he referred to as RevealingPolitic’s “junior varsity team,” on July 3:

On my way to take my 2 year old to the rest room, I encountered two young men sitting in the grass, sort of hiding behind a gazeebo near the picnic shelter. I stopped and visited with them. They told me they were trackers from Colorado. I asked if they worked with “Josh.” They both kind of chuckled and said, “No, Josh doesn’t work with us anymore.”

So it appears that Bonham and McCullough readily answered questions about who they were. If so, that’s the baseline level of ethical behavior you want from trackers.

Conservative tracker’s name disappears from RevealingPolitics website after he’s accused of lying and misrepresentation

Friday, June 29th, 2012

Flip-camera-carrying trackers are seen by some as shadowy and slimy, but why? All they do is collect video of candidates saying stuff like, “I am pro-life, and I’ll answer the next question. I don’t believe in the exceptions of rape and incest.” 

Some video captured by trackers is taken out of context, but so is the work of traditional journalists. In fact, today’s trackers are sort of  filling a gap that’s been left by the depletion of reporters, who used to spend a lot more time on the campaign trail with state candidates, gathering information.

So I’m pro-tracker. I prefer journalists, but I’ll take trackers if I have to.

Unless trackers lie and misrepresent themselves, and make all innocent trackers look bad. And in the process deceive public figures and degrade politics.

That’s allegedly what conservative tracker Josh Hursa did on a recent field trip to North Dakota.

Hursa, who’s gotten more media attention than a typical tracker might want, was the guy with a camera glued to Rep. Sal Pace, whom Hursa tracked as part of his job for the National Republican Congressional Committee earlier this year.

Then he joined up with conservative blogger/tracker Kelly Maher’s RevealingPolitics, where he was featured on the website as a contributor.

Until yesterday. Now his name has been removed.

That happened after I told Maher about a blog post about Hursa in, a progressive North Dakota blog.

The post, written by Chad Nodland, recounted what Hursa allegedly did in North Dakota:

A young man showed up at a parade in Linton, North Dakota (pop. 1,020), on Thursday of last week (June 21st) and approached a campaign staffer for Heidi Heitkamp.  Linton is a small town about 70 minutes south and east of Bismarck.  At some point in the conversation the young man indicated he was unemployed, he said he was from Billings, Montana, and was staying with his brother in Bismarck for the summer.  He said things complimentary to Sen. John Tester (D-Montana), and said things complimentary of Heidi Heitkamp.  He was given a volunteer card by the staffer.

Hursa wearing campaign t-shirt of ND Democratic Senate Candidate Heidi Heitkamp. Photo:

The next day — Friday, June 22nd — the same young man showed up at the Heitkamp campaign headquarters in Mandan, North Dakota, and asked if anyone was making volunteer calls. He apparently wanted to volunteer to make calls.  No calls were being made that day, so he left. On Saturday, June 23rd, the same young man showed up at the parade in Beulah, North Dakota, (pop. 2,900).  Beulah is about 80 or 90 minutes north and west of Bismarck.  The young man asked to get a volunteer t-shirt and was given one. He put it on. He was asked whether he would sign up to volunteer for the campaign and declined.  At about that point, this young man pulled a “flip-cam” out of his pocket, turned it on, and he got all up in Heidi Heitkamp’s grill, asking her questions. I don’t know what the questions were, but — based upon what I’ve been told — they were pretty much the sorts of typical right-wing garbage you’d expect to get from a script prepared for a fake attack “journalist” like Shawn Hannity or Bill O’Reilly. I’m sure you’ll be watching the video some time soon.

He was asked to identify himself and identified himself only as “Josh” and said something about “Revealing Politics.” He continued his bullying, antagonistic tactics, trying to elicit a response, following Heitkamp through most or all of the parade route. He wore a “Heidi” shirt the whole time he harassed her.

Told of this blog post, Maher initially had no comment on the specifics, because she hadn’t seen it, but she couldn’t say enough bad things about trackers who “affirmatively” misrepresent themselves.

“Our job is to tell the story, not be the story,” she told me. “I want to tell the story. I will never instruct or suggest that anyone misrepresent themselves affirmatively. That’s never acceptable from my perspective.”

By “affirmatively,” Maher means actively misrepresenting yourself (e.g., telling a public figure that you’re something you’re not), as opposed to simply observing (videotaping a progressive candidate even if you oppose that candidate) or asking questions.

Progressives and conservatives and anyone else would agree with Maher, right?

I sent Maher the NorthDecoder blog post, and asked what she thought of it, and what she’d do about Hursa, assuming the allegation was true. She replied:

Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I am very concerned to see this post.

Due to the nature of this piece what I can say is two-fold:

1) This author clearly is playing fast and loose with “facts” asserted. He clearly confuses my previous project [WhoSaidYouSaid] and an entirely different one. He makes conjecture about funding and structure without proper evidence or clarity. Based on what I read here about myself, it brings all assertions elsewhere about others in to question. [Editor’s note: This is in response to a portion of Nodland’s blog post about Maher’s current and previous work.]

2) Due to our organizational policies I cannot comment on personnel issues.

I couldn’t find contact information for Hursa, but if he responds to this blog post, I’ll include his comments immediately.

The upshot of this strange story is that, it seems, there’s a code of ethics emerging among the tracker class, possibly among both progressives and conservatives, just like a journalistic code of ethics evolved within journalism as it matured.

The baseline ethical standard, as Maher says, is to refrain from affirmatively misrepresenting yourself, if you’re a tracker out there at events. We don’t know what disciplanary action Maher took, if any, in Hursa’s case, but Hursa’s name is gone from her website.

Maybe someday the American Society of Professional Trackers, which will undoubtedly be formed by this growth industry by the year 2015, will issue a detailed ethics code, but the baseline standard is a good start.

If someone says they’re flattered to be accused of violating IRS rules, a reporter should explain the accusation

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

The right-leaning Colorado Observer reported last week that Jessica Peck was “outraged, stunned–and strangely flattered” when her organization was named in a recent Colorado Ethics Watch complaint to the IRS.

The Observer piece didn’t explain why Peck was “outraged and stunned,” but it did say that Peck was flattered because her organization is considered important and powerful enough to be taken seriously by Colorado Ethics Watch.

If I’m a reporter, and someone tells me they’re flattered to be accused of violating IRS rules, I’d present an itsy bitsy bit of detail about the alleged violations.

But the Observer’s reporter, Valerie Richardson, didn’t offer any information about the substance of Colorado Ethics Watch’s complaint against Peck’s organization, the Open Government Institute.

Richardson deep-sixed the details and wrote:

Whatever the merits of the complaint, Peck’s biggest crime may have been her Republican registration, according to CEW’s legion of conservative critics.

I’m glad to know what the legion of conservative critics think, but why not present more information about this case, since it frames the entire Observer story about Colorado Ethics Watch?

“I seriously pondered doing that,” Richardson told me. “But the story was getting too long, and I thought, at this point, that’s a separate story. One of the things I am going to do next is write a story about the details of that complaint. It was already getting so long that I was afraid no one would read it.”

I’ll provide a few details here, to fill in the gap until Richardson writes what I hope will be a longer analysis.

Colorado Ethics Watch wrote a letter to the IRS after posted a video on its website showing Peck, the Open Government Institute’s Executive Director, stating:

“Congressman Coffman, we’re working on some things that may, in a very non-partisan way, benefit you in your endeavors in November, so I’ll talk a little about that. So, I come here as a partisan Republican…”

On its website, Colorado Ethics Watch writes that this “can be interpreted as stating that OGI [which bills itelf as nonpartisan] has already taken specific actions to ‘benefit’ U.S. Rep. Coffman’s ‘endeavors’ in November, i.e. his reelection. Ms. Peck’s remarks also allude to future activities that will be conducted by OGI between now and Rep. Coffman’s November election.”

In its complaint to the IRS, Colorado Ethics Watch wrote:

As set forth more fully below, it appears that this organization is currently involved in activities, and planning for future actions, which constitute political campaign intervention in violation of federal tax law governing 501(c)(3) organizations. Accordingly, Ethics Watch requests that the IRS closely examine the activities of OGI before determining of OGI’s pending application for 501(c)(3) status.

This is a serious accusation, raising questions about the legitimacy of OGI’s claim of nonpartisanship and non-profit status, allowing for tax-deductible donations.

In a telephone interview, Peck dismissed the charge, saying:

“We have not heard back from the IRS. We believe we’re in complete compliance with laws governing nonprofits. Anyone can file a complaint.”

She added that Colorado Ethics Watch “does a lot of great work.” But not this time, she said.

One of the critics of Colorado Ethics Watch, cited in the Observer article, was Mario Nicolais, an attorney at the Hackstaff Law Group.

I asked him if he’d advise a client to say the things Peck said about Coffman.

“The Open Government Institute was a client of mine, prior to any of this happening, so I’m not going to be able to comment,” Nicolais told me, adding that he represented them for “about a month when they first were opening up.”

“Anyone who’s been a client, I’m not going to comment without their direction.”

In Richardson’s upcoming article about Colorado Ethics Watch’s complaint, I hope she asks the aforementioned “legion of conservative critics” the same question I asked Nicolais, as she lays out more detail about the IRS complaint against the Open Government Institute.

Kaminsky’s departure may help conservatives

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

Ross Kaminsky wrote this morning that he’ll mostly stop posting on his blog,, but he’ll continue writing for the American Spectator and hosting his occasional weekend KOA talk-radio show.

Kaminsky took the occasion of his Rossputin announcement to predict a Romney victory in 2012.

He should have spiced up this boring prediction by adding that his own departure from the daily Colorado blogging scene might help Romney win, despite Kaminsky’s conservative leanings.

Here’s a Kaminsky blog post, titled Si se puede indeed, that illustrates my point:

Just what does it say about Colorado elections when, as Senator Mark Udall, stood up at noon in Denver today to introduce newly elected (formerly appointed) Senator Michael Bennet, the chant of the crowd behind him was “Si se puede!”?

When our elections are being determined by people who think it appropriate not to speak english at an event surrounding the election of an American to the highest legislative office in the nation, we have a problem.

So Kaminsky, who refers to himself as “one of the most influential pro-liberty bloggers” in Colorado, isn’t the kind of guy Colorado Republican Chair Ryan Call, who’s promised to make Mitt Romney available for two appearances on Fernando Sergio’s Spanish-language radio show in Denver, wants to cite when he tries to say the GOP is respectful to Hispanics.

Romney could also do without Kaminsky’s advocacy of water-boarding as punishment, which earned him a recent nomination for Andrew Sillivan’s Malkin Award.

Here’s the choice Kaminsky paragraph inspired Sullivan to nominate Kaminsky:

“At least Hayes had the courage to offer a sincere-sounding apology, though I’m certainly not alone with my suspicion that he truly believes everything he said, and everything his co-religionists in the cult of anti-Americanism said alongside him to besmirch our soldiers — living, dead, and fallen — on this Memorial Day weekend. Our soldiers take an oath to defend America against enemies foreign and domestic. Clearly, domestic enemies are in MSNBC studios, though I don’t suggest they be punished or harmed. They have every right to be idiots, though one would prefer that they at least recognize who is risking life and limb to protect that right. While I understand the temptation to waterboard Chris Hayes, the right answer is to understand that he represents today’s Democratic Party. The proper punishment for Mr. Hayes and his ilk is to make sure their TV ratings are as low as possible (which may already be the case when it comes to Mr. Hayes’ show) and to vote against Democratic candidates, other than those who (unlike John Kerry) have served with honor, at every opportunity,” – Ross KaminskyAmerican Spectator.

Here’s Sullivan’s comments about Kaminsky’s thoughts:

The most revealing thing about this rant is its understanding of waterboarding. It is, in Kaminsky’s eyes, an instrument of punishment. Every now and again, the far right shows its hand. The adoption of torture was as much about revenge and payback as it was a misguided, illegal, desperate attempt to get intelligence by methods never designed (by totalitarians) to get intelligence.

So I have to say, Ross Kaminsky, may you go far, wherever that is for you.

New media can inform us about small-time candidates like legacy media never did

Monday, April 30th, 2012

Even in their heyday, the big urban news outlets almost never covered state legislative races very well, much less school board, city council, and other local elections. Small-time election campaigns were seen, for the most part, as boring to the mass audience, especially on local TV news.

New media offer great ways to get to know local candidates in depth, if you have the tiniest bit of inclination dig it up with few clicks of a mouse.

One such new-media platform is internet-only radio, where even the lowliest candidate for the lowliest race can shine.

“Art’s Place,” which aired on BlogTalkRadio Saturdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. (and is available 24/7 via podcast) is one such example.

The host of “Art’s Place” is Art Carlson, who’s running in the Republican primary for Senate District 28.

Last Saturday, April 21, for example, Carlson had Art “Skip” Carlson on his show. (Yes, they have the same name, but Art Skip Carlson is running for House District 50.)

The interview, covering a wide range of topics, compliments and expands on information on his campaign website and elsewhere.

I won’t present the entire interview here, because you should just listen to it if you’re interested.  But I’ll pull out a few highlights:

ART CARLSON: Let’s find out a little bit more about you.  Why are you running for State House, Skip?

ART “SKIP” CARLSON:  Well, Art, I’m a fourth generation Coloradan.  In fact, I’m a fourth generation Weld County person. We’ve been active in politics, we’ve been active in the community for my whole life.  My parents were. My great uncle was governor of the state of Colorado.  We’ve had representatives from my family – my ancestry in the statehouse ever since Colorado became a state.  And you know, we had to vote on our constitution four times before it was ever actually accepted as a state.  We would not, had we been successful in our first run at the state, would not have been the Centennial State but would have indeed been in two years before.  So, with all of that background, I just thought  I needed to give something back to the community and the country that has been so great to me, full of opportunity.  I didn’t succeed at all things.  But I’ve had an opportunity to do things, and it’s been a great place to live and a great place to raise a family, and I just want to protect that.

ART CARLSON: All right. And what are your main issues that you’re going to tackle down at the capitol?

ART “SKIP” CARLSON: [chuckles] Well, you know, Art, that’s one thing that so many people ask me!  [inaudible] says, “Well, what are you going  to go down there and …”  I said, “you know, I don’t know that I’m going to go down there and do anything other than get rid of a bunch of things that don’t belong there.  I think, all of these people going down and saying, “I’m going to pass this law for this and, I’m going to pass this for that…” without thinking of the ramifications and looking into the past and seeing, well, if we got rid of something, maybe, your goal would be accomplished by getting rid of some of the encumbrances that we have in the Statehouse now.  But, what I’m going to have is opportunity.  My by-word is ‘Opportunity to succeed for all.’  Forget about some of these government regulations … some of this stuffI’m tired of governments – state, local, and so forth, giving these significant tax credits to huge corporations to come in and build their buildings, and go to work, and put our small businesses out of work, and we can’t work with our small businesses which is the backbone of Colorado, and the backbone of this country, to help them be successful and to flourish, because that is so much better.  So, that’s basically what I’m after, is getting back to local – as local as you can on anything and making sure that everybody has an opportunity to succeed….

ART “SKIP” CARLSON: …the past four years when the democrats controlled both houses and we had a really liberal governor, and they decided to put in these taxes.  And they figured out a way to get around TABOR.  But they don’t call them taxes. They call them fees.

ART CARLSON: [laughs]

ART “SKIP” CARLSON: … The FASTER thing that came in, where people just to go register their cars had to pay additional funds, is nothing but a huge, terrible tax on those who could least afford it, and that’s the low income, and those people who are on Social Security — on fixed income.  It hurt them significantly and it didn’t raise that much money.

ART CARLSON: That’s right!  I had two cars and I had to get rid of one because I just couldn’t afford the insurance and the taxes on it.

ART “SKIP” CARLSON: … We certainly need some money for road and bridge and so forth.  But we ought to think about working some deals, having a consumptive tax, perhaps raise the tax on the gas, on a exchange for getting rid of some of the things that the oil and gas people have to do, and to get rid of FASTER, would be far, far more fair, raise significantly more money, and be much, much better off for the entire community.

ART CARLSON: That’s right.  If we just grow the economy, that will bring in more revenue too.

ART “SKIP” CARLSON: Oh, absolutely!….

ART CARLSON: What are your thoughts on vouchers and charter schools?

ART “SKIP” CARLSON: “I love charter schools. My grandson is in a charter school.  And as I’m going down to the  Statehouse, I don’t think that I should have that responsibility, although I will have because that’s who it has deferred to. I think the local community should handle that stuff the best they possibly can. We put some new charter schools in here in Greeley, and they are doing extremely well. The public school is having a little bit of a tough time, but as it ends up, all and all, we’re doing a little bit better and I think if we do more of those things.

And I’m for vouchers. Vouchers are nothing more than competition, competition based on who’s doing the best job. If my grandson, who is one that we sent to a private school, and we sent him there only because he needed that, and that was the best place we could find for his education. We didn’t wake up one day and say, we got a bunch of money we want to waste. Let’s see, where can we waste money today. No, because we didn’t have the money to waste, but we invested it in my grandson’s education as well as a number of other people did here in Greeley. And that education he has gotten from that school has been just tremendous. And now it’s part of the Greeley system as a charter school, and they are doing very well…

ART CARLSON: …I really love living here in Colorado….

ART “SKIP” CARLSON: …Colorado is a wonderful place. We’ve got to keep working at it. I’ve  got another meeting that I have to run off to here, Art.

ART CARLSON: Well, it’s been great having you, Skip. It was an honor having you on the show. It’s so much fun talking to you. You have such knowledge of the state, and I really like to pick at your brain more. Unfortunately, next week is the last episode of Art’s Place since I have to devote more time to the campaign… I think it would be amazing at roll call when they have to announce two Art Carlsons.

ART “SKIP” CARLSON: …That would be a good thing.

ART CARLSON: Yes it would.

If you look around the web, you don’t find as many radio blogs in Colorado, like Art Carlson’s, as you might expect. And, as he said, he’s suspending his show. Carlson seems like the kind of guy who will help you get one going, if you want to pick up the slack.


What did Tipton campaign tell the Colorado Observer?

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

I’m going to name three political figures, and you tell me how they became embroiled in mini-media frenzies over digitally altered images or websites.

Marc Holtzman

Scott McInnis

Andrew Romanoff

Here are the answers: GOP gubernatorial candidate Marc Holtzman’s photo was altered in 2006 to make him look taller than Reagan. GOP gubernatorial candidate McInnis’ 2009 website portrayed the Canadian Rockies as our own. And Romanoff doctored a photo on his 2010 Senate campaign website to make a crowd look more diverse.

If you got any of the right answers, and you should have, it’s because of all the media attention they got in Denver.

And deservedly so. Maybe they aren’t the biggest deal in the world, in the mix of all the ways political candidates are polished and handled, but digital alterations are tangible acts that can get real people, none of whom read this blog, thinking about politics and the real issues involved.

Same with expensive hair and mustache cuts by candidates.

Such an opportunity presents itself today, in an article broken by the Colorado Independent, a progressive news site

It reported yesterday that the Colorado Observer, a conservative website, posted a story Saturday with the following quote from Rep. Scott Tipton’s campaign Manager, Michael Fortney:

“With gas prices doubled, the national debt doubled, and unemployment has barely moved, we feel good.”

Then, after the Washington Post spotlighted the Fortney quote, it was changed on the Observer website to:

“Voters in the 3rd District are rejecting Obama’s policies that have led to gas prices doubling, the national debt doubled, and unemployment has barely moved. We feel good about our chances.”

Fortney told The Post that the Observer originally quoted him out of context. He told The Denver Post:

“I was not out talking to him about policies,” Fortney said this morning. “I was talking to him about electoral prospects, how the campaign was going to go in 2012 … Scott is voting for a budget that will rein in the deficit, rein in high gas prices.”

Fortney told The Post that the phase “about our chances” had been left out of the Observer article, and as you can see, it was  added to the Observer’s corrected quotation, along with other changes.

So what’s up with the Observer? What exactly did Fortney say? How did the changes to the quote come to pass?

I can hear skeptics, two of which read this blog, saying that the fact that the Observer changed the quote, and not the Tipton campaign, lessens the news value of this story.

But we’re talking about the Observer, a right-leaning entity, here. If The Denver Post had changed or altered a quote, the political significance would not be the same (and a correction would have been written). As it is, there could be more to this story than meets the eye.

The Observer remains mum about the incident. The Colorado Independent reports that it did not return e-mails, and its website provides no enlightenment.

I was able to reach Observer Valerie Richardson, who told me:

“I’ve got to tell you, I was completely out of the loop on that,” she said I hear. “It wasn’t my story. I probably know as much as you do, if not less. Max would be the one to ask.”

She was referring to Mac Zimmerman, who’s listed as the copyright agent for the site. He did not respond to my email seeking comment. He’s in Malaysia, Richardson told me, but she had been in touch with him via email an hour before I tried. I wanted to confirm that he is the former chief of staff for Josh Penry and worked for Tom Tancredo, but I haven’t heard back from him.

More local reporters at the legacy news outlets should cover this story, and try to get an answer from the Observer on what happened and why. What’s the relationship between the Observer and Tipton?

This is the kind of political story that sheds light on how political campaigns operate nowadays.

As traditional media continue to decline, it’s time for bloggers to step up

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

[Update: This post originally stated that Westword’s Michael Roberts is responsible for eight blog posts per day, written by himself and other staff, on the Latest Word blog. Due to poor reporting on my part, I got this wrong. He is actually responsible for eight posts himself, Roberts kindly tells me, adding that Westword aims for at least 12 posts per day on Latest word, eight by Roberts and four or more by others.]

As The Denver Post sinks and shrinks, there’s no getting around the fact that, even if you hate them, bloggers become more important as opinion (and information) providers.

So I thought this would be a good moment to offer up some tips on blogging from Colorado bloggers, to inspire more and better blogging

For some reason, it took me about 15 minutes to write those two lousy sentences, which is around 14 minutes more than Westword Latest Word blogger Michael Roberts would have probably required.

“I’d love to write more slowly and linger over words and phrases, but in this context you have to open up the channel, receive and send. It’s not like you have the luxury to spend 10 or 15 minutes on a sentence.”

I called Roberts at about 1:30 p.m. Friday. He’d posted 10 items during the day, but he said, “I’ll be damned if I know how.”

“At the end of the day, if I were asked to tell you every post I wrote, I would be unable to do so.”

If you follow Roberts, you know he’s in a league by himself, among Colorado bloggers, in terms of productivity. He told me that being curious is a big help in writing so much.

But I wondered about his typing speed. Without meaning to diminish the quality of his writing, I asked if he was a really fast typist.

“I am a quick typist,” he told me. “One of my stock lines is. If I ever lose this job, I’d have a decent shot at a gig as an executive secretary.”

“I have at least one more [blog post] to do before I’m done for the day,” he said as we ended our brief conversation. He’d exceeded his daily target of eight posts, including four with an original concept and content, but, he said, “Damn it, news didn’t stop. There are a couple of things I really need to do.”

Asked for her advice on blogging, Denver Post blogger Lynn Bartels provided me with this blogger-sized list:

1. Employ nouns.

2. Add art.

3. Mix it up, between the lighthearted and the serious.

Bloggers like to refer back to their own work as early and often as possible, to cut down on typing and to get more mileage out of existing content, and that’s what Bartels did in answer to my question.

“I wrote a number of serious posts last fall about redistricting and reapportionment, including breaking news about new maps,” Bartels wrote me. “But I also had fun. Here’s one of my favorites, simply because of the picture and the cutline: [CLICK HERE].

My favorite recent blog: [CLICK HERE].

ColoradoPols‘ Co-founder Jason Bane said, via email:

The best advice I can give is to keep your writing short and simple. There’s no reason to write 5,000 words if you can make your point in 500, but that’s easier said than done. Most journalists and reporters will tell you that it is actually easier to write 5,000 words than 500, because you have to spend more time thinking about how to get quickly to the point. People don’t visit blogs because they are looking for long-form writing, and the longer you write, the less time you have to write something else.

I agree with Bane, but one trick is to get others to write for you. That’s why I’m grateful to Bane and the others for emailing me their responses to my questions. Unfortunately Westword’s Roberts won’t do email interviews, because he says he writes too much as it is. So I had to talk to him, which is better anyway, if you have the time.

Bane also wrote:

I believe it is also important to stick to a theme as much as possible. Whether you are writing about politics or about yarn, don’t stray too often from your central topic. Think about why readers are coming to your website. If someone visits your yarn blog, they aren’t going to keep coming back if you are always writing about sports, wine, and why you think Spring is the best of the four seasons.

Rossputin’s Ross Kaminsky had these tips:

Write up something just before bed, for posting the next morning. Even better, wake up a few minutes earlier and check the news to write something with maximum newsworthiness.

If you have more than one idea, write them all up, but post-date them so you can cover a couple of days at a time.

It’s widely agreed that posting content early in the day, with edgy headlines, attracts more readers. (And in Colorado, throw in the phrase “medical marijuana” as often as possible.)

Kaminsky continued:

People won’t return to sites which disappoint them with stale material more than a time or two Therefore, don’t bother blogging unless you have something new almost every day, and certainly every work day other than occasional vacations. If you can’t meet that level of supply of writing, try to participate in a group blog (such as Peoples Press Collective, for those of a free market/libertarian/conservative bent.)

Try to find an approach or style of analysis that is sufficiently different from other web sites that your writing will stand out as worth reading. Be honest about your ability to do so. Most people can’t. Like it or not, most people don’t really have enough to add to a discussion that they’re worth taking your time to read. Again, be honest about whether your writing is really different and incisive enough to be worth reading.

Quoting other people and unique sources is usually the best way to keep a blog worth reading. So even if you hated my take on things in this piece, which I wrote for posting during a vacation, at least you heard something from somebody else. With traditional journalism dying, that’s what we need most from bloggers, if they have the time.

Video of personhood press conference shows often-overlooked value of bloggers

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

I’m a blogger, so I’m in a good unbiased position to write that bloggers make more contributions to the public debate than they are often given credit for.

No matter where you are on the political spectrum, you have to appreciate the blogger who posts unedited video of public events, like Free Colorado’s Ari Armstrong did yesterday.

Armstrong posted video of a press conference staged by backers of Colorado’s personhood on the occasion of submission of wording for a 2012 personhood amendment.

It’s excellent material, airing out good information, along with Armstrong’s interviews and written analysis, about the initiative.

Here’s his video: