Colorado Confidential Media Survey: Part 1

With reporting from Wendy Norris, Kerri Rebresh, Sandra Fish, Mark Mehringer and Leslie Robinson

Everybody thinks that the media is biased, but like beauty and celebrity, bias is often in the eye of the beholder.

So in order to get some perspective on how the Colorado media covers the state legislature, we decided to go straight to the source. Colorado Confidential set out to interview legislators and capitol staffers over the course of several days, and after numerous attempts to contact as many individuals as possible, a total of 38 people responded to our questions. All respondents were granted complete anonymity, but that still didn’t prevent many legislators and staffers from deciding not to comment. After dozens of calls and a few days of chasing people around the State Capitol, Colorado Confidential came up with the following number of responders:

Democratic Legislators: 20
Republican Legislators: 9
Democratic Staffers: 7
Republican Staffers: 2

Special care was taken to select legislators (Senators and Representatives) and staffers from all over the state.

And now, on with the results…

1. Where do you get your political news?

News Outlet # of Responses
Rocky Mountain News 22
Denver Post 21
Press Clips 12
Pueblo Chieftain 6
Grand Junction Sentinel 4
Colorado Springs Gazette 4
“Newspapers” 4
National Review Online 2
Ft. Collins Coloradoan 2

Others mentioned: Google news alerts, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, “The Internet,” NPR, “Valley Courier,” Durango Herald, Ft. Collins Weekly, Progress Now News Clips, KUNC, Democracy Now, KOA, Channel 9, CNN, Media Matters, Colorado Pols, Mile High News, Comcast.

Some respondents said that they get their news from “all of the daily newspapers.” Many legislators said that they got most of their news from news clips put together by their respective communications offices.

One Republican lawmaker didn’t even do that much: “I get it from the people who make the news. It’s not like I need to read about it.”

2. What news outlet does the BEST job covering the legislature?

News Outlet # of Responses
Denver Post 13
Rocky Mountain News 12
No Preference 7
Associated Press 3
NPR 3
Pueblo Chieftain 2
Channel 9 KUSA 2

Others mentioned: Colorado Confidential, Grand Junction Sentinel, “Online,” Ft. Collins Coloradoan, KUNC, Colorado Inside Out, Colorado Springs Gazette, KGNU radio.

This seemed to be the easiest to answer of the next couple of questions. Colorado Confidential was the only non-traditional media outlet mentioned.

One Republican staffer mentioned National Public Radio (NPR) as the best source of news. “I just trust them more,” said the staffer. “They seem to allow both sides to say whatever they want. Other [news outlets] seem to have stories that are a little more planned behind the scenes.”

“They’re all very good,” said one Republican lawmaker.

“Everyone has cut back too much,” added a Democratic legislator.

3. What news outlet does the WORST job covering the legislature?

News Outlet # of Responses
No Response 16
“All Television Stations” 5
Denver Post 5
Fox News 3
Associated Press 2
Colorado Statesman 2
Boulder Daily Camera 2
Rocky Mountain News 2

Others mentioned: Lehman newspapers (Longmont Times-Call, Loveland Reporter-Herald), Peter Blake (Rocky Mountain News).

Respondents were a little more reluctant to answer this question, but lumping all television stations together was a popular answer. “Some of the TV stations come up here and don’t follow things later,” said one Democratic staffer.

Added a Democratic lawmaker: “Television is worthless. They like glitzy things like the Colorado State fish and dog of the year. They’re not here for the important stuff.”

One Republican staffer singled out Fox News. “I can’t stand them. They make everything seem like a tabloid story.”

Republicans were more likely to list The Denver Post as doing a bad job, but even one Democratic legislator said “The Denver Post is pretty awful.”

Added another Democratic legislator: “It depends on what day it is.”

4. Who is the BEST reporter covering the legislature?

Reporter # of Responses
Lynn Bartels (Rocky Mountain News) 13
No Response 7
*John Fryar (Longmont Times-Call) 5
Colleen Slevin (Associated Press) 4
Charles Ashby (Pueblo Chieftain) 3
Mark Couch (Denver Post) 2
Steve Paulson (Associated Press) 2
Adam Schrager (9News KUSA) 2

Others receiving votes: Mike Saccone (Grand Junction Sentinel), Marianne Goodland (Silver & Gold Record), Mike Littwin (Rocky Mountain News), The “Durango Herald reporter”, April Washington (Rocky Mountain News), Jason Kosena (Ft. Collins Coloradoan), Alan Gathright (Rocky Mountain News), Kate Martin (Loveland Reporter-Herald), Bob Ewegen (Denver Post), Peter Blake (Rocky Mountain News).

*John Fryar is no longer covering the legislature. Lehman Communications, which owns the Loveland Reporter-Herald, The Longmont Times-Call, and The Canon City Record, reassigned Fryar in January and disbanded its Capitol Bureau. “It used to be John Fryar,” lamented one Democratic legislator when asked who was the best reporter.

Lynn Bartels of the Rocky Mountain News ran away with this one, but there were a variety of names mentioned from all over the state. Bartels received votes from both Democrats and Republicans, but was more frequently selected by Republicans. “Bartels is always looking for a good story,” said a Republican staffer.

One Democratic legislator was particularly reticent to choose a favorite, saying, “You can’t trust developing a relationship with any reporter.”

Bob Ewegen of The Denver Post received the most glowing endorsement from a Democratic legislator. “Bob is intellectually above a lot of the others at the Capitol. He really does his homework

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Jason Bane

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