Archive for the 'Ft. Collins Coloradoan' Category

Media omission: What kind of rotten decision-making process did CSU use in suspending the use of some fetal tissue?

Thursday, August 6th, 2015

If you take a close look at Colorado State University President Tony Frank’s July 23 decision to suspend school’s use of fetal tissue from vendors “implicated in the Planned Parenthood investigation,” you’re left wondering what kind of strange and half-assed process the University implemented in making its new policy.

There’s of course the overarching fact that journalists are saying Planned Parenthood has broken exactly zero laws, and you can be pretty sure that, if laws had been broken, the undercover anti-choice video tapers would have provided the evidence by now.

But beyond that, the description of the process by which CSU arrived at its decision, as described in Frank’s letter to Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO Springs), raises serious doubts about whether the process was fair. (Lamborn had complained to Frank about CSU’s fetal-tissue policies.)

Frank: Since receiving your letter, I have reviewed the video that was released by the Center for Medical Progress; sought clarification on the points of law you’ve raised; and discussed the issue further with Colorado state Senator Kevin Lundberg, who provided additional insight. We also convened our Bioethics Advisory Committee to assess the known facts and make a recommendation directly to me regarding University practices going forward.

Frank “reviewed” the heavily edited video? He talked to Lundberg! Lundberg is a passionate advocate to be sure, but he  happens to be one of the least objective sources you could find in the entire state of Colorado, when it comes to abortion issues.

Frank makes no mention that he talked to any entity that might have given him Planned Parenthood’s perspective–and he writes as if he may not have even reviewed the unedited version of the Center for Medical Progress’ video.

CSU’s public-relations office isn’t taking questions from me, though it provided copies of the documents linked in this blog post.

So we have no clue about the input received from the Bioethics Advisory Committee, which made recommendations to Frank and which consists of seven scientists, who might be five-star research geeks but appear to have no clue about the politics and mechanics of this kind of political drama.

Why do I think they have no clue? Take a look at their key recommendation, as stated in the Committee’s July 22 letter to Frank:

The committee recommends that CSU suspend acquisition of fetal tissue from StemExpress or any other vendor in question with Planned Parenthood until the congressional investigations are concluded and there is affirmation that all vendors used by CSU under NIH support are in compliance with federal law regarding the acquisition and use of fetal tissue.

I’m sorry, but this is a ridiculous recommendation, and it was adopted happily by Frank. First, using congressional investigations as a litmus test for innocence is completely absurd, because we all know they are often initiated and terminated for reasons that have everything to do with politics and nothing to do with the rule of law.

And are congressional investigations “concluded” in any rational manner or time frame? Nope.

And whose affirmation is the bioethics committee going to rely on to clear the vendors of wrongdoing? The vendors used by NIH are already affirmed by NIH to be in compliance.

I’m not saying CSU’s Bioethics Advisory Committee is opposed to fetal-tissue research. In fact, you can see from their letter to Frank that they’re strong supporters, and they want it to continue. But the politics is beneath them, and their judicial process–along with Frank’s–appears to be rotten.

In covering teen pregnancy-prevention program, reporters should emphasize that IUDs stop pregnancy from occurring

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

The Ft. Collins Coloradoan advanced a story Monday that Boulder Rep. KC Becker is working on a bill to provide $5 million in funding for a state teen-pregnancy prevention program that, in a privately funded multi-year pilot phase, reduced teen pregnancies by 40 percent and teen abortions by 35 percent–and saved Colorado tens of millions of dollars to boot!

The Coloradoan quoted Sen. Kevin Lundberg, who’s the Assistant Republican Majority Leader, as objecting to such funding because the program relies on the distribution of free or no-cost intrauterine devices (IUDs) and other long-lasting pregnancy -prevention implants, and Lundberg (along with twice failed gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez) believe IUDs cause abortions.

But IUDs work before pregnancy occurs!

“Any statement that IUDs aren’t contraception simply isn’t medically or scientifically accurate,” said Dr. Jennifer Hyer, a Denver Ob-Gyn, in a statement distributed by NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado. “As a licensed, practicing Colorado OB-Gyn I recommend IUDs for my patients all the time. They are among the most effective forms of contraception, especially for at-risk women, because they automatically prevent pregnancy. That’s why Colorado’s program was so successful, and access to long-acting contraceptives needs to continue if we want to keep reducing the teen birth and abortion rate.”

The Coloradoan correctly pointed out that the “definition of pregnancy used by CDPHE and other scientists has pregnancy beginning at the implantation of the fertilized egg.”

The definition of pregnancy is so central to the debate around this teen-pregnancy-prevention bill that the Coloradoan should have been even more explicit, saying that the mainstream scientific community, meaning the scientific establishment of nerdy medical people, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, have defined pregnancy as beginning at implantation, not before.

Pregnancy: Is established only at the conclusion of implantation of a fertilized egg.
34 This scientific definition of pregnancy is also the legal definition of pregnancy, accepted by governmental agencies and all major U.S. medical organizations.

So Lundberg’s personal belief that IUD’s work by “stopping a small child from implanting” is not only wrong, but it’s not relevant.  (By “small child” Lundberg was referring to zygotes, or fertilized eggs, which are formed prior to pregnancy, which starts once the egg implants in the uterus.)

In an RH Reality Check piece yesterday, I reported:

Under the Family Planning Initiative, about 30,000 IUDs and other long-lasting contraceptive implants were distributed during a five-year pilot program. Participating clinics in 37 of Colorado’s 64 counties serve 95 percent of the state’s population.

The initiative saved $23 million in Medicaid costs since it started five years ago, and continuing the family planning initiative will save $40 million in Medicaid funds, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has estimated.

Republicans hold a one-seat majority in Colorado’s senate, but observers say the teen pregnancy program funds may still clear the chamber, even without the support of Lundberg, who chairs the Health and Human Services Committee. Becker, the state house sponsor, has said her bill has a Republican co-sponsor, who has yet to be named.

Scientists used to think that birth control worked, in some cases, by stopping implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterine wall. But scientists now say that not only emergency contraception but other forms of birth control prevent implantation.


Journalists deserve credit for documenting Gardner’s previous broken promises to modify abortion position

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

Before being elected to Congress four years ago, Rep. Cory Gardner, who’s now running for Senate against Democrat Mark Udall, backed off campaign promises to ban abortion, much like he did agai Frniday when he un-endorsed the personhood amendment.

But, as documented by the Ft. Collins Coloradoan, Gardner subsequently broke his promises and co-sponsored multiple anti-abortion bills, including legislation banning abortion outright. Gardner’s history raises the question of whether Gardner’s latest twist of his abortion stance can be trusted.

In 2010, just after winning the GOP primary to run against Rep. Betsy Markey, Gardner promised journalists at the Ft. Collins Coloradoan that he wouldn’t introduce anti-abortion legislation, despite promising to do so at a campaign event.

The Coloradoan posted audio of a meeting between Gardner and Coloradoan editors in 2010:

Coloradoan Editorial Page Editor Kathleen Duff: You say you’re not running on social issues, so you’re not, for instance, planning any legislation.

Gardner: Correct.

Duff: And you haven’t crafted anything.

Gardner: [laughs] Correct. No. No.

Coloradoan Executive Editor Bob Moore: Although I’ve been at Tea Party events where you were at where you were specifically asked if you would introduce legislation on abortion, and you did say yes.

Gardner: Bob, I don’t recall that.

Moore: Yeah. At one, you even mentioned some legislation you had already introduced in the state legislature, too.

Gardner: I don’t recall that.

Moore: I can go back and dig it out. [He did. He posted the audio here.]

Gardner: Be that as it may, I am running to balance the budget…

After this exchange, Moore called out Gardner on his flip flop, in an article headlined, “Despite tea party pledge, Gardner says he won’t carry abortion bill.”

And later, Moore called out Gardner again, after he went to Congress and broke his promise not to focus on social issues or introduce anti-abortion legislation.

Moore reported Feb. 4, 2011:

During the 2010 campaign, Gardner sought to downplay abortion and other social issues, though he readily described himself as pro-life.

In a September meeting with the Coloradoan editorial board, Gardner said he wouldn’t introduce any legislation on social issues.

“I am running to balance the budget, cut spending and get this economy back on track,” he said.

Since being sworn in a month ago, Gardner has co-sponsored two abortion-related bills – [Rep. Chis] Smith’s bill to further restrict federal funding for abortion, and a bill aimed at Planned Parenthood that would bar federal family planning grants to any organization that performs abortions.

Smith’s bill aimed to save money by no longer allowing federal dollars to be spent on regular old “rape” but only for “forcible rape.” After an outcry, the proposed redefinition of “rape” was dropped.

Unfortunately, Moore had already left the Coloradoan when Gardner went further, with his co-sponsorship of federal personhood legislation, called the “Life at Conception Act,” which would ban all abortion, even for rape.

So, to recap, Gardner had pledged at a Tea Party event in 2010 to introduce federal legislation to ban abortion, but before he did it, he promised he wouldn’t.

The Coloradoan’s documentation of Gardner’s multiple flips and flops on abortion issues shows how journalism serves to hold politicians accountable for what they say at different times to different audiences.



Post should have reported Gardner’s position, specifically, on abortion for rape and incest

Monday, March 24th, 2014

The Denver Post reported Friday that senatorial candidate Cory Gardner accused the Udall campaign of lying when Udall claimed Gardner opposes abortion, even in the cases of rape and incest.

The Post’s Lynn Bartels reported Friday:

Gardner said he stepped forward because Udall and his allies have spent the last three weeks “distorting my record.” Among the “lies,” he said: claiming that he opposes abortion even in cases of rape or incest.

“Mark Udall wants to run a social issues campaign. He definitely wants to run as the social issues candidate,” Gardner said.

Bartels should have stated, specifically, that it was not a lie for Udall to point out that Gardner opposes abortion, even in the cases of rape and incest. That’s been Gardner’s position–even when asked about it outside of the context of the personhood amendment.

Bob Moore of the Ft. Collins Coloradoan reported Sept. 26, 2010:

“I’ve been very up-front on it; I am pro-life,” Gardner, a state representative from Yuma, said in an interview with the Coloradoan.

When asked if he would allow exceptions for victims of rape or incest, or when the mother’s life is in danger, Gardner said, “I’m pro-life, and I believe abortion is wrong.”

Reporters should ask Gardner if he’s had a change of heart not just about the personhood amendment, which would ban abortion for rape, but about his opposition specifically to abortion-in-the-cases-of-rape and-incest.

Gardner told The Post that his flip on personhood was based on its restriction on forms of contraception, but he has yet to explain if he’s also reversed himself, specifically, on opposing abortion-for-rape-and-incest, and, if so, why.

An interview with Patrick Malone, who’s leaving the Ft. Collins Coloradoan Friday

Monday, December 9th, 2013

Investigative and legislative reporter Patrick Malone leaves the Fort Collins Coloradoan Friday for a job at The Santa Fe New Mexican, giving us another reason to grieve for the state of journalism in Colorado.

After starting his journalism career at the Chronicle News in Trinidad, Malone wrote for the Pueblo Chieftain for 15 years, from 1997-2012, holding numerous positions including Denver bureau chief/political reporter. He moved to the Coloradoan a year-and-a-half ago, and now he’s headed to Santa Fe to work at the New Mexican.

He answered a few questions via email last week.

Why are you leaving the Coloradoan?

Malone: Being from Trinidad in extreme Southern Colorado, New Mexico has always held a special place in my heart. My wife was a photographer at the Coloradoan and looking for a change that would allow her to explore more creative projects instead of running from one quick-hit assignment to the next, so we looked first to New Mexico. A couple of months ago I was offered a job at the Albuquerque Journal and turned it down in favor of staying at the Coloradoan. That led to some conversations with the new regime at The Santa Fe New Mexican. I learned it is in the very early stages of an intriguing renaissance, and I actively sought to be a part of it. Their reporting staff is a stellar mix of veterans, including Daniel Chacon whom Colorado readers will remember from his great work at the Rocky Mountain News and the Gazette in Colorado Springs, and some young rising stars. That impressed me, but the real sell for me was the New Mexican’s new executive editor, Ray Rivera. He’s most recently worked at the New York Times and before that at the Washington Post as an investigative reporter. Amid all the noise about shifting media paradigms and attention to the new way – things we certainly can’t ignore if we want to survive as an industry – Ray remains committed to the hard-core journalistic principles that led people like me to fall in love with newspapers at a very early age. I can learn a lot from him, and the opportunity to grow as a reporter, even 18 years into my career, is what really lured me to Santa Fe. Plus it’s a great city where my wife and 1-year-old daughter should be very happy. My beat will involve staffing the legislature when it’s in session, health care policy and investigative projects. My wife will freelance in Santa Fe, including for the New Mexican.

What are a couple of your favorite memories of news reporting in Colorado?

Undoubtedly my 15 years at The Pueblo Chieftain were the most memorable. Many of my best friends still work there, or were recently laid off by The Chieftain. Pueblo is uniquely newsy for a city of 100,000, and it has an oversized voice for its circulation because of its geographic reach. To me, my work on the decades-old sexual abuses committed by Catholic priests and covered up in Pueblo meant the most. I spoke to dozens of grown men who were victimized in childhood. They’d lived their whole lives with shame and fear of telling anyone, because nobody would listen. It could never undo what they suffered, but I hope those stories provided some measure of justice.

Beyond that, covering politics and the legislature for a few years at the tail end of my tenure with The Chieftain was a great experience. It plucked me from my comfort zone and taught me exactly how little I know about anything. We all need that periodically to continue growing as journalists. The camaraderie and competition of the capitol press corps is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. You have the tight-knit friendships that develop in newsrooms, but at the same time, you want to kick their asses on a daily basis. Case in point: When I broke the story of the House approving a spending package that included increased per diem reimbursement for lawmakers, Lynn Bartels from the Denver Post refused to talk to me for about two weeks. We helped each other when we were all working the same stock stories, but I’m not exaggerating when I say we’d lock ourselves in bathrooms at the State Capitol to conduct phone interviews we didn’t want the others in our shared office to hear. I’m looking forward to rejoining that kind of competitive environment when I cover the legislature in New Mexico.

You’ve had a diverse ride in journalism in Colorado. Can you briefly describe your different jobs and offer your thoughts on some of the strengths and weaknesses of Colorado political journalism now versus when you started?

By the time I arrived at the capitol I had covered courts for about a decade, been the weekend city editor at The Chieftain, covered education, features, senior citizen issues and crime, in addition to starting as a sports writer at The Chronicle News in Trinidad. None of it prepared me for day-to-day life at the capitol. It’s a complete rat race with more news to cover than any one reporter – or two-person team – can cover adequately. The loss of the Rocky Mountain News harmed political coverage in the state immeasurably. That’s not to say that the Post, AP and others don’t do a good job. They do. But the more competition, the better the coverage is going to be. It breaks my heart that The Chieftain abandoned its long-standing tradition of staffing the capitol when I left. That further erodes accountability in state government. Every time a paper ends its year-round reporting at the capitol, citizens suffer. Thinking back to the congressional redistricting trial in 2011, there was a day early on when all the testimony focused on Fort Collins, Greeley and Boulder and what their congressional boundaries should look like. Witness after witness spewed the essence of their communities and almost vitriolic emotion about which cities should be paired together and which shouldn’t. There wasn’t a reporter to be found in the courtroom from the newspapers in any of the affected cities. That was a pretty sick feeling, and at that moment I recognized where we stand as a state in terms of commitment to covering politics. It’s fallen a long way from the days of virtually every paper having a presence in the Statehouse. Point a finger of blame at the newspaper brass who’ve made these decisions, not the reporters that remain in the trenches or relegated to their mothership newsrooms.

In terms of strengths in Colorado political journalism, you’ve got some reporters in the capitol press corps that understand the chess match and the implications of officials’ decisions in peoples’ lives like no one else. Full disclosure: These are my friends, so I’m naturally going to say nice things about them as people. But professionally, they deserve mention as well. Charles Ashby of the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel covers state politics as well as anybody, regardless of era. Joe Hanel of the Durango Herald artfully distills the true meaning of any smokescreen for his readers and, for my money, could work anywhere in the country. The Associated Press team of Ivan Moreno and Kristen Wyatt catch everything, and increasingly are the only link many communities in the state have to what’s happening under the dome. Bartels is the best-sourced reporter I’ve ever met and can get lawmakers to talk about anything, regardless of how much they don’t want to.

Do you think your new position in Santa Fe is more stable? Was this a factor in your decision to leave?

I’m confident it will be stable because I believe that when you let the purest journalistic principles guide a paper’s course, readers will respond. There’s no gimmick in Rivera’s vision for sustained success. It all grows from a fundamental core of producing the kind of journalism readers can’t put down.

The Coloradoan is sort of an oasis of stability in the turbulent Gannett sea. When layoffs were happening throughout Gannett this fall, the Coloradoan was spared, largely because of its success selling the online product (thanks to a very strong ad department) and because the executive editor, Josh Awtry, analyzes data to a painful degree and constantly tweaks the news lineup recipe accordingly to appeal to local readers. The Coloradoan is uniquely positioned in a web-reliant market perfectly suited for its online pay subscription model that yields decent revenue returns for practically no overhead. The top of the news and advertising food chains at the Coloradoan have adeptly maximized it.

the New Mexican is family-owned, so I have no doubt that it is totally committed to its market. The New Mexican’s ownership has shown a commitment to adding reporting muscle as a vehicle to drive subscriptions and motivate advertisers. When I arrived at the Coloradoan 18 months ago, they were embarking on a similar strategy and got the response they wanted. Having worked at both a family-owned paper (The Chieftain) and for a corporate giant (Gannett), I see pros and cons to each. One of the more profound examples of the differing philosophies between corporations and family operations can be found in their lobbies. In Fort Collins, I can walk downstairs and touch a cardboard cutout of any number of the reporters on staff. The same space in Santa Fe is occupied by Thomas Edison’s desk. I think Rivera embodies the merger of the New Mexican’s traditional journalistic values and the recognition that there’s a contemporary, digital track to success. Ownership aside, the ultimate key to stability is having the right leaders in place from top to bottom. Trust and accountability for every rung on the newsroom ladder give you the sense that together you can accomplish spectacular things. I believe the New Mexican has assembled the right team. It’s genuinely inspirational.

What advice would you give to a young person who wants to be a journalist?

Regardless of the industry’s undulations, remember you’re carrying the mantle for journalists that came before you and those that will follow. You have an immense responsibility, and it’s one of the cornerstones of democracy.

I’d tell them that the only measure of control journalists have over the news they cover is the effort that they put into it. So work hard. Remember that you’re asking the questions all of society wants answered, but doesn’t have the luxury of time to ask for itself. So channel your readers when you ask questions. Write to them and for them, not for yourself or the subjects of your stories.

Adapt to the changes in the industry, but don’t do it at the expense of what has always been and always will be great journalism – namely telling people how the subject you’re covering affects their lives, the factors driving it and clearly identifying any resulting conflicts. Pay attention to the contemporary tools we have to measure success. They can tell us a lot about what we need to do to survive as an industry. But be careful not to become so preoccupied with analytics that you ignore the quality of the underlying journalism. Everybody wants a million web clicks on their story. But who wants a million people to see they’ve written a crappy story?

Read as much as you can. Write as much as you can. You will never be as ashamed of the story that you tell as you will of the story that you don’t tell.

You’ve got to be committed in principle to journalism, or you’ll never last. If you follow this path and find out that it’s not for you, get out of the way. Someone else is waiting in line for the opportunity.

Former Coloradoan Editor also ignored by Gessler press office

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

I’ve been writing about the difficulty I’ve had getting anyone in Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s press office to return my call.

And then, finally, when I got Gessler spokesperson Rich Coolidge on the phone, he wouldn’t say much.

It turns out, Bob Moore, former Executive Editor of the Ft. Collins Coloradoan, got similar avoidance treatment from Coolidge.

In response to my crosspost on ColoradoPols about my exchange with Coolidge, Moore emailed me:

Coolidge stopped responding to me on Larimer GOP questions several weeks before I left. It was very strange. I used to be able to get him to respond virtually any time of the day. But after the dunking booth stuff, nothing. I would have made a bigger deal out of it if I wasn’t on my way out of town.

Moore, who is now the Editor of the El Paso Times in Texas, emailed me that he would have posted his comment on ColoradoPols himself, but he was having problems accessing his account. So he sent it to me and gave me permission to post it.

Coloradoan and Colorado are losers with departure of Exec. Editor Moore

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

Colorado journalism is taking yet another sad blow Sept. 30 when Bob Moore departs for a job in, I’m sorry to say, Texas. He’ll be Executive Editor at the El Paso Times. Moore is clearly one of the state’s leading journalists thanks to his fair-minded and detail-oriented reporting, as well as his sincere concern for the community. He has the respect of all types media figures. Even bloggers like him. And he’s president of the Colorado Press Association.

Moore started his journalism career as an intern at the Pueblo Chieftain in 1983. He landed his first job in 1984 at the Fountain Valley News in El Paso County, CO. After a few months, he went to the Colorado Springs Sun. When it closed in 1986, he moved to the El Paso Times, where he was, among other things, executive editor. He left there in 2005 to become Executive Editor at the Coloradoan.

Q: Why are you leaving the Ft. Collins Coloradoan?

A: The opportunity to return to El Paso is a great professional and personal opportunity. I spent almost 20 years there before returning to Colorado in 2005. The Mexican border is one of the most interesting places in the world from a journalistic viewpoint. El Paso is a city going through a unique transformation as the violence in Mexico drives middle class Juarenses to El Paso, where they are setting up businesses and setting down roots. This current exodus is reshaping the U.S.- Mexico border like no event since the Mexican Revolution. I’ll also get the opportunity to work with seven newspapers in New Mexico. Finally, my wife and I have family in El Paso.


Q: You were the Executive Editor of the El Paso Times previously. Do you hope to be a better journalist at the El Paso Times? If so, how so?

A: As executive editor, I was the No. 2 in the newsroom. In my new role, I’ll be the top editor. I think my six years in Fort Collins has definitely made me a better journalist. I’ve had to reimagine approaches to news coverage, utilize new technologies, and be more creative in deploying resources.

Q: Do you see a dim future for your style of serious journalism at the Coloradoan [owned by Gannett] or Gannett newspapers generally? Does MediaNews [owner of the El Paso Times, The Denver Post, and many other newspapers] look like a better or more stable company to work for?


A: I think both Gannett and MediaNews are committed to journalism that aggressively informs communities and acts in the greatest traditions of the First Amendment.  I have very much enjoyed my 25 years with Gannett.  I’ve known Dean Singleton for about eight years, and very much respect him. Obviously, MediaNews is going through significant changes as John Paton moves in as CEO. Gannett’s also undergoing significant changes, as is the entire industry.

Q: As a long-time journalist in Fort Collins and as President of the Colorado Press Association, you have a good perspective on Colorado journalism, as you head out the door. What do you think are its biggest strengths and weaknesses?


A: The biggest strength in Colorado journalism is the journalists. We’ve got a lot of really good people plying their trade. Obviously, the numbers are down significantly from when I returned to Colorado in 2005. But there’s a lot of remarkable work being done. My biggest concern is how thin we are in the ranks of younger newspaper journalists. We’ve got some good ones working in Fort Collins, and there are others throughout the state. A few years ago I hired a great young reporter named Jason Kosena. He did a lot of good work in the political realm, but he’s now out of the business because he felt he needed something more stable.

Q: What would you say to a young person who wants to be a political journalist?



A: I still think it’s a good and important career, though I doubt there’ll be many people spending 25 years with the same company like I did. You’ll need to be entrepreneurial, flexible, and curious.

Q: Do you think political reporting in El Paso could possibly be as interesting as it is in Ft. Collins?

A: I don’t think Texas politics takes a back seat to politics anywhere. And sitting on the Mexican border, we’ll actually get to cover two presidential elections next year. And here’s my favorite piece of meaningless political trivia. No Republican since 1988 has been elected president without first appearing in a debate I moderated. The only candidate who fits that bill this year? Rick Perry.

Q: Do you have a couple favorite moments during your career here in Colorado?

A: The 2008 4th Congressional District campaign between Marilyn Musgrave and Betsy Markey would have to top the list. It was one of the more important House races nationally, and it had interesting dynamics. Even though I was covering it part-time in addition to my editor duties, I think we were able to bring a lot of depth to our coverage that you didn’t see in House races across the country. Covering the recent problems with the Larimer County Republican Party was also interesting.


Then there was Balloon Boy.


The most important impact the Coloradoan has had during my tenure is the consistent reporting we’ve done since 2007 looking at rising poverty rates in Fort Collins and Larimer County. This had been going on since the early part of the decade, but policy makers and the general public really didn’t notice it. Beginning with a seven-day series in August and September 2007, and continuing since, the Coloradoan has documented how rising poverty and declining incomes have altered our community. Our reporting managed to awaken the community to the problems, and spurred the creation of a program called Pathways Past Poverty, which is working to address a number of the root causes of rising poverty. This work constantly reminds me of the impact that newspapers can have on a community when we focus our storytelling.


Two stories from last year also come to mind. The Coloradoan documented that a negligent Department of Human Services bureaucracy had failed to complete 10 of 11 required child fatality reviews in the deaths of children who died while under state supervision. The purpose of these reviews is to identify systemic problems, and fix them. The Coloradoan’s stories were a huge embarrassment to the state and prompted a number of reforms. It was an example of how a small newspaper can have statewide impact.


The other story was our discovery, using open records laws, that the Poudre School District had decided not to notify parents when employees were charged with felonies involving student victims. Our reporting prompted change at both the state and local level.

Q: How will you live without the Colorado Rockies? [Moore’s followers know he’s a big sports fan.]

A: One of my great personal memories of my time back in Colorado was being able to go to every Rockies playoff game in 2007, including the play-in game against San Diego. That was a thrill. And I had tickets to Game 5 of the World Series. Of course, that never happened. I’ve now had tickets to two World Series games — Game 3 in 1989, which was the earthquake game, and Game 5 in 2007. Still haven’t seen a World Series game. And thanks to Josh McDaniels thinning out the waiting list for Broncos season tickets, I finally got season tickets this year. It’s hard to give those up.

Reporters should find out if there’s any agreement between Dems and the GOP on competitive districts, as there was in 1980

Friday, April 29th, 2011

Reporters don’t have much time to pore over Nexis, like I do, and they might argue that even if they had extra time, they wouldn’t want to spend it researching stories about redistricting, which seems to end the same way every ten years anyway.

But I found an old news article about redistricting that reporters would benefit from knowing about.

Rocky Mountain News reporter Michele Ames interviewed Colorado GOP Chair Bo Callaway and Democratic Governor Dick Lamm about the redistricting process of 1980, during which they occupied parallel universes and otherwise didn’t concur, like we’re seeing of the partisans today.

But Ames discovered that, twenty years after their legislative battle, the two were willing to admit they secretly agreed on redistricting, even though the Colorado legislature deadlocked on the redistricting matter and it was sent to court.

Lamm told the Rocky (Dec. 29, 2000):

“Bo approached me during this battle and he said, ‘Let’s divide up this state in as close and as even districts and make all the candidates earn their elected office,” Lamm said. “He was right and I admire him for it.”

 Callaway was also quoted:

 “The best thing for the state of Colorado is more competition,” Callaway said. “Make them really run. Make them win your vote. I believed it then, and I still do.”

This became known as Callamandering, and the Rocky supported it in an editorial about 10 years later, saying competitive districts “give life to the proper spirit of politics” (Rocky, May 28, 2001).

And here’s another interesting piece of the article.

In 2000, then House Speaker Carl Bev Bledsoe (R-Hugo) openly supported the concept of competitive districts. He told the Rocky:

“If you’re interested in good government, you’re interested in competition. It makes both parties stronger,” Bledsoe said. “Then, whoever wins, it holds their feet to the fire.”

Despite this nod toward good government, the Colorado Legislature couldn’t agree in the year 2000, and the congressional map was again drawn by the courts.

But it did make me wonder, this time around, are Colorado Republicans saying they don’t want competitive districts? I realize, of course, that competitiveness is in the eyes of the beholder, and it obviously can be used as a smokescreen for partisan manipulation, but still, it’s hard to disagree with Callaway, Lamm, and Bledsoe above.

Please correct me if I’m wrong, but The Denver Post has yet to report, in its print edition, what the GOP thinks about competitive districts. Numerous Democrats are on record as supporting it. (The search function on the Spot blog is down, but I couldn’t find anything there.)

Clearly, The Post, should find out what GOP lawmakers think and let readers know.

We’ve seen some comments about competiveness from GOP lawmakers in other news outlets, and they are not consistent.

In December, GOP Senate Minority Leader Mike Kopp told the Colorado Statesman, “Citizens want a fair and open process with competitive districts.” The Coloradoan reported that Rep. Amy Stephens favors competitive districts as well.

The Colorado Senate website, run by Democrats, quoted Sen. Mark Sheffel (R-Parker) as saying  at an April 20 hearing, “I wanted to raise the point that if we’re talking about this competitiveness that I would urge caution.”

Sen. Greg Brophy (R-Wray) was quoted from the same hearing:

“I think we already have a competitive state and I worry that on the other side of that competitive coin, that it just breeds more polarization among the electorate.”

But fellow Republicans reportedly disagree with that:

“It’s the lack of competitive districts that have led to the polarization of politics,” said Sen. Steve Ward, R-Littleton, told the Associated Press (April 24, 2008).  He was running to replace Republican Congressman Tom Tancredo at the time.

Denver journalists would be doing democracy a favor if they would do some reporting and find out if there’s any agreement, somewhere, some way, between Colorado Dems and Republicans on the competitiveness issue. The first task is to get the thoughts of both sides on the table.

Abortion didn’t matter in the last election? Take a look at Congress now

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

I never heard Sen. Michael Bennet mention the directional purpose of the anus, like that grandma did at the state Capitol Mon., but that didn’t stop Ken Buck from telling Bennet last year to shut up about social issues, like abortion.

The GOP, and allied pundits, liked to say that the election wasn’t about abortion.

How could it be, they said, with a pro-choice president, two freshly appointed pro-choice judges on the Supreme Court, and Roe vs. Wade the law of the land.

The election was about jobs, they said, jobs, jobs, jobs. And to talk about abortion, or run advertisements on social issues, was a distraction from the real issues facing America, an insulting and cynical way to win the votes of unaffiliated voters.

Fast forward to Washington DC, March 9, 2011. Abortion issues, including the crusade to cut Planned Parenthood funds, are at the center of negotiations that could lead to a shutdown of the federal government.

And lives are at stake. House Republicans have cut funding not only for Planned Parenthood’s non-abortion-related services, like cancer screenings, but also for international organizations, like the United Nations Population Fund, that provide women’s health services and family planning, excluding abortion, in the world’s most impoverished nations.

The Population Fund’s backers say the loss of funding would result in millions of unwanted pregnancies and tens of thousands of deaths of women and children.

So clearly abortion matters a lot, and it matters a lot to congressmen like Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO), who’s opposed to abortion even in the cases of rape and incest.

You recall Gardner also accused his pro-choice Democratic opponent, Betsy Markey, of distracting voters by discussing abortion issues during the last election.

Fortunately, the Ft. Collins Coloradoan pressed Gardner on the issues anyway, even though he didn’t want to talk about them.

And media outlets in Denver, despite Ken Buck’s wishes, did the same thing, and pressed Buck on them, particularly at the end of the campaign.

(I wrote a guest opinion in the Coloradoan today thanking the newspaper for asking Gardner about abortion anyway, and laying his views out there, even at a time when most people didn’t identify these issues as “top of mind” in polls.)

That’s what journalists are supposed to do, look at the big picture–because any person in his or her right mind, not to mention any professional reporter, knows that a U.S. Congressman will inevitably face votes on social issues, like abortion and gay marriage.

And that’s what’s come to pass today in the U.S. Congress.

Question of the week for reporters: How often is Buck on the fringe of mainstream scientific thinking?

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

“Sen. Inhofe was the first person to stand up and say this global warming is the greatest hoax that has been perpetrated,” Ken Buck said yesterday, The Coloradoan reports today. “The evidence just keeps supporting his view, and more and more people’s view, of what’s going on.”

Even if you think global warming is a hoax, like Ken Buck apparently does, it’s simply inaccurate to say that that “more and more” people share this view, at least the people who count the most: scientists.

“The trend in the scientific community has been to make more and more certain statements about global warming, and more importantly that it’s caused by pollution,” said Dan Lashof, Director the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Climate Center.  “The claim that more and more scientists are saying this is just a lie. The U.S National Academy of Sciences this year affirmed the science [supporting global warming] in a comprehensive study called America’s Climate Choices”

The Colorado Independent points out today that Buck’s views on global warming put him once again on the scientific fringe, continuing a trend from Sunday when he called sexual orientation is a choice.

Buck, who’s called himself a global warming skeptic in the past, also apparently stepped up his anti-global warming language for the ears of Inhofe, raising legitimate question again for reporters about his willingness to say whatever he thinks he needs to say to gain the love and support of the specific audience that’s in front of him.  I can’t find a case where Buck has said that global warming is the “greatest hoax that has been perpetrated” or anything quite this extreme on the topic. Let me know if you find this, please.

Reporters should ask Buck for his views on other scientific topics (e.g., evolution, extraterrestrials, health/tobacco, food labeling, endangered species) and whether he is uncomfortable being at odds with mainstream scientific thought…-and whether his other views on other scientific topics, like is thoughts on global warming, are even more extreme than previously expressed.