Inside the race for Denver Press Club president
Your weekly roundup of Colorado local news and media for Aug. 11
You won’t see any TV attack ads or candidates waving from parade floats, but an election for president of the private Denver Press Club is in full swing— and it ends today, Aug. 11. Wait, you hadn’t heard?
Bruce Goldberg, who was president for a decade, announced in June he’s stepping down. There’s been some recent drama at the nation’s oldest continuously operated press club, which was founded in 1867 as a watering hole where news-and-booze hounds could “tap into the barrel of ‘Taos Lightning,’ discuss events of the day and play a little poker.” These days, I’m told, finances are in bad shape. Some of its 300-plus members are concerned about transparency. There’s an unflattering e-mail chain circulating and some grumbling among membership. Enough members signed onto holding a special election to replace The Press Club board and an in-person vote will take place today.
There are 17 announced candidates for about 10 board positions, and if elected they’ll have the chance to run for president. But so far only one of them, freelance financial journalist David Milstead, mentions aspirations for the high office in his campaign literature.
“I believe I am the only declared candidate,” Milstead told me when I called him about it this week. Why is he running? “It has been a very difficult year for the club financially and politically … and I have experience with the club before,” he says. “But it was long enough ago that I am not really tied to any of the factions in the club right now.”
Factions! Politics! Finances!
Milstead, a former Rocky Mountain News business reporter, pitches himself as a unifier and a problem solver. But there might be another potential candidate. Enter Mike McPhee, a former Press Club president. Is he running?
“I’m not going to foist myself onto this new board and actively campaign for president,” McPhee, an author and former Denver Post reporter, told me when I asked of his plans. “If they want me to be president they can elect me president and I’ll serve gladly.”
Other dark-horse candidates could emerge after the board vote. So what does an election among journalists and ex-reporters look like? How you might expect. Here’s my favorite campaign pitch from one of them: “I am a neutral candidate for board member.”
To be sure, The Denver Press Club is not a public institution, so this election is very much an insider’s affair. In the past it has been hard to get people to step up and run for leadership positions, I’m told, but this year it’s a lively race.
“I think it’s a watershed election,” says Press Club board member C.L. Harmer. She frames the race around whether the Club will move into the new era of multi-platform journalism. The club, she told me, “is rooted in a history of print media, and the world has changed.”
What does The Denver Press Club do, anyway? It’s a place in downtown Denver for journalists, newsmakers, flacks and others to eat, drink and schmooze— a members-only cozy bar and event venue that raises money for scholarships for J-school students and puts on programs, hosts speakers and talks, and inducts journalists into a Hall of Fame, among other things. The Club also gives out the Damon Runyon award, which has brought some of the best-known names in journalism to Denver.
“There’s an old tradition,” one Press Club insider told me. “What goes on in the Press Club stays in the Press Club.”
Donald Trump praises a Colorado paper’s editorial board … unless it writes bad things about him
Donald Trump might have some strong feelings about “the media,” but after meeting with the editorial board of The Gazette in Colorado Springs before a campaign stop on a college campus last Friday, he gushed about the newspaper in a memorable speech.
“I did an editorial board meeting a little while ago,” he said. “I really like that group.”
But then he went full Trump, adding, “Of course if they write badly about me, I’ll take it back.”
The following day the paper’s editorial board concluded Trump is, well, different in person— “wise,” “reasonable,” “presidential” even— though later the op-ed page published an editorial by The Washington Examiner (also owned by Gazette owner Phil Anschutz) that called Trump’s campaign a “tire fire.” Meanwhile, Dede Laugesen, a political consultant and the wife of Gazette editorial page editor Wayne Laugesen, has joined Trump’s Colorado campaign as its coalitions director.
The Denver Post is looking for a new writer for its editorial board
In February I wrote for CJR’s United States Project about how one Monday that month saw no in-house editorial in the Denver Post for the first time in memory. “It wasn’t a glitch or a printing malfunction, just the latest small sign of retrenchment in the newspaper business,” I wrote. “One of the Post’s editorial writers, Jeremy Meyer, left a few weeks ago for a job in government PR. There are no plans to replace him in the near future, according to Vincent Carroll, the editorial page editor. That leaves Carroll…as essentially the lone editorial writer left at the Post. And that means there will be days when publishing a locally written editorial won’t be possible.”
Now, Carroll has taken a buyout, and politics editor Chuck Plunkett has assumed the role of editorial page editor. And, it appears, we are no longer in the “near future.” The Denver Post is hiring another editorial writer. Here’s the job description.
What you missed on the Sunday front pages across Colorado
Did you spend Sunday “snowboarding” down the Great Sand Dunes and neglect to read all the stories fit for the A1 Sunday fronts throughout Colorado? I’ve got you covered.
The Longmont Times-Call profiled one of those local celebrity mega church pastors. The Greeley Tribune ran a story about how land-use hearings can frustrate people. (“We don’t have a democracy,” one resident yelled on her way out of a meeting.) The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel had a piece about a U.S. Forest Service estimate on how climate change might affect the area. The Pueblo Chieftain recalled a year-old local burglary of a 92-year-old widow. The Steamboat Pilot & Today Sunday put the area’s “Outdoors apolooza” on the cover. The Loveland Reporter-Herald fronted a story about how local governments battle regulating AirBnB and VRBO rentals. The Colorado Springs Gazette looked at the year ahead for 17 local school districts. Vail Daily fronted a celebration of the town’s 50th anniversary. The Fort Collins Coloradoan reported how the city is trying to improve traffic congestion, which “has never been worse.” The Boulder Daily Camera had a piece about local ballot measures that make Boulder Boulder (“Colorado Springs has a beautiful setting, too, but they have no environmental ethic.” Ooooh, #ShotsFired) The Aspen Times ran a story about open space leases. The Denver Post had an A1 story about the Denver police chief changing his mind and deciding to collect racial data on police stops.The Durango Herald is still dogging the story of the Gold King Mine spill a year later.
Coverage of a Colorado Olympic athlete was called out for being sexist
The Huffington Post produced an Aug. 8 item, “Top 10 Most Sexist Things To Occur At The 2016 Rio Olympics So Far,” which included coverage of Olympic swimmer Missy Franklin, who hails from Colorado. “At one point, NBC announcers referred to the ‘men’s cycling team,’ and the ‘girls’ cycling team,'” reads the piece. “Ugh. And another commentator referred to four-time Olympic gold medalist Missy Franklin as an ‘enthusiastic girl.'”
Notes on the political beat this week from nonprofit newsroom The Colorado Independent
I reported from a Donald Trump speech in Colorado Springs— no more Mr. Nice Guy, he said— in which the candidate started and ended by ripping the local fire marshal. More than 114 UCCS professors signed a letter protesting Trump’s rally on their campus. That same weekend the Koch brothers were in the Springs— a city, I wrote, full of reminders of a local tax fight the Kochs had lost. Following Trump’s fireworks, Mike Pence’s own speech in the Springs was a scripted, controlled burn. Meanwhile, an open records request we filed with the Colorado Springs fire department turned up some interesting things about the Trump event.
The November ballot is coming together for president in Colorado and features at least 15 candidates ranging from the Nutrition Party (“Make America Healthy Again”) to the anti-booze Prohibition Party. Daniel Glick and Ted Wood produced “The Making of a Fracktivist,” profiling how four Coloradans got involved in the movement. Meanwhile, Marianne Goodland reported on the big dollars fueling a fracking fight for the November election.
Editor Susan Greene broke a story about how one Colorado school district is spending money to develop software for profit while slashing instruction time for students.
Looks like third party candidates might get some love from Rocky Mountain PBS
In April I wrote about how Colorado’s third-party candidates were getting the shaft in MSM coverage during a year when voters might want to know more about about third-party candidates. But it looks like at least one public broadcasting outlet in Colorado is going to give them some airtime. Laura Frank, president of Rocky Mountain PBS, tells me while the outlet doesn’t plan to host a debate or forum for the U.S. Senate race, they do plan to do video interviews with each candidate— including Green Party nominee Arn Menconi and Libertarian Lilly Tang Williams. If there was an election season for more voices in politics this is it.
Now for some news on the local media front from CJR’s United States Project
My colleague Jackie Spinner writes about a nonprofit owner’s plans to merge two pioneering Chicago magazines. Tamar Wilner explains how with key new hires, Texas Tribune continues to reach beyond political insiders. Tony Biasotti shows how the fight over undercover videos is pitting Planned Parenthood against the mainstream media. CJR’s press freedom correspondent Jonathan Peters writes about how one paper filed a FOIA request in Michigan—and got sued by the county. And Susannah Nesmith writes about Ferguson’s new police chief on ‘being black and blue,’ the press, his Miami roots.
Last thing. Watch John Oliver’s ode to local newspapers.
If you haven’t seen it, HBO’s satirist-journalist John Oliver took on the decline of local newspapers in his much-watched, much-shared show Last Week Tonight. “The media,” he said, “is a food chain which would fall apart without local newspapers.” Indeed. But Oliver seemed to have hurt the feelings of the head of the Virginia-based Newspaper Association of America, who said, “Newspapers need solutions, not petty insults and stating the obvious.” Responding to that, The Washington Post’s media columnist Margaret Sullivan argued such a reaction is how not to respond to John Oliver. And the media food chain moves along.
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