Denver journalist backs out of running the left’s ‘answer to Breitbart’

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Denver journalist backs out of running the left’s ‘answer to Breitbart’

Well, that was quick. Two weeks ago I wrote here about how Denver-based journalist David Sirota would leave the International Business Times to run the editorial department of True Blue Media, a new media empire backed by Clintonite David Brock that would act as the left’s answer to Breitbart.com.

Now he has backed out of that venture.

From BuzzFeed:

“As you know, I was thrilled to initially accept the proposal to work with True Blue Media because I believe in nonpartisan accountability journalism. However, the circumstances of the job subsequently changed,” Sirota said in an emailed statement.

Sirota wanted to run a media outlet “rooted in a value system — and without regard to political party,” he said when he accepted the job, pointing out that part of Breitbart’s success is not toeing the Republican line. So he said he would not only scrutinize Republicans if they were screwing over working people, but also Democrats. “It does not matter if you are a Republican protecting Wall Street or a Democrat doing the same, we are going to demand answers,” he said. “It does not matter if you are a Republican pushing another insane war, or a Democrat helping them push that war — our reporting will challenge you without fear or favor.”

Guess we won’t be seeing that. Sirota will stay in Denver where he is still writing for the International Business Times.

The Coloradoan got some good play in a major study about local newspapers

“If small newspapers are going to survive, they’ll have to be more than passive observers to the news.” That’s the early conclusion of a report about American newspapers with a circulation under 50,000 by Damian Radcliffe and Christopher Ali for Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism. The researchers consulted 60 industry experts, “ranging from editors to reporters, through to think tanks and academics,” and an online survey of 400 local journalists.

The report spotlights one local newspaper in Colorado for the way it engages with its readership. From a piece on the report in Nieman Lab:

Lauren Gustus, executive editor of The Coloradoan in Fort Collins, Colorado, told us: “Our paid circulation is up year over year…and we have more people paying for that news today than we did two years ago.”

Yet despite having “among the highest digital-only subscriber bases in our company [Gannett],” Gustus has also established a 10-person engagement team that communicates with audiences “across any of the platforms that we operate on and that our readers operate on.”

Through online and offline activity, the team is addressing a key question: “How can we demonstrate to them the value of a local news organization and that it goes beyond the printed product?”

Fostering and tapping into a “sense of place,” as The Coloradoan and others are doing, provides a means for newspapers to reaffirm their unique value and role in a community, potentially creating valuable monetization opportunities in the process.

Read more about this report on local journalism here.

Meanwhile, KUSA Denver gets a mention in a national piece about local TV news image consultants

“The faces on your TV may have been surgically altered for a distraction-free experience,” writes Adam Rhew for a piece in Racked about image coaches who tell local TV news personalities what to wear and how to look. “There was a time when reporters would protest image consultations. If I do good work and people trust me, then they’ll watch, they’d say,” Rhew writes. “But don’t tell that to Patti Shyne. ‘Oh no, that’s gone,’ she says with a laugh. ‘That’s gone, so gone now. Hollywood, the Kardashians, E! TV. Oh, come on. It’s all about appearance now.'”

More from the piece:

Shyne, an image coach and stylist, has worked with local television anchors and reporters for 26 years, since a friend who was a producer at KUSA, Denver’s NBC affiliate, suggested she help the station’s on-air talent with their makeup and clothes. Today, she consults with stations in ten to 14 markets at a time, mostly in large cities with competitive ratings, like Atlanta, St. Louis, and Charlotte. “You can have a ‘Big J’ journalist come in and say it doesn’t matter, blah, blah, blah,” she says, referring to old school reporters who are skeptical of her work. “No more is that gonna fly.”

Wonder what she would think about this.

Young people might subscribe to newspapers because they’re hipsters who like old things and such

In mid-December, Denver Post editorial page editor Chuck Plunkett penned a column about the importance of subscribing to a local newspaper. This week he did a Q-and-A with the Denver alt-weekly Westword, expanding on this notion. One of the things he discussed with reporter Michael Roberts was how to get young people to subscribe. Plunkett said:

Millennials are just like other generations, in that many of them are intelligent and plugged in and care about the world that they live in. And a lot of them care very deeply. There’s no reason they couldn’t realize that subscriptions are part of their obligation, their duty under the social contract. I used to talk about this with some of the millennials in the newsroom. We’d say, “You know, they like vinyl. They like old cameras. They like old, weird stuff like that. Maybe we could get them hooked on print again. Like, it’s all retro and cool and neat-o.”

Plunkett also talked about the paper’s experiment with a paywall, which it dropped during its coverage of the Aurora theater shooting trial and didn’t put back up. “It never really seemed that it worked out from where I sat in the newsroom,” he said. “Back then, when I sat on the politics desk, it seemed like it was too easy to get around it, it was too porous, and it just kind of angered people.”

A Colorado newspaper got copblocked to accessing 911 calls involving a local cold-case murder 

The story of a 2006 unsolved murder of a 17-year-old girl in Fremont County blew wide open again when a local resident bought a storage unit after a sheriff’s deputy failed to pay the bill and found evidence related to the crime. The man told a local newspaper what he found. Now there’s a state investigation. Meanwhile, the 2006 cold case is back on the front pages in southern Colorado.

Now, The Cañon City Daily Record wants transcripts and recordings from 911 calls on the day authorities found the woman’s body. But the Fremont County Sheriff’s Department blocked the request. “The Sheriff determined that disclosure of the records would [be] contrary to the public interest, as the records are part of criminal justice investigatory files and are actively being reviewed by law enforcement agencies in connection with an investigation,” a county attorney told the paper.

In Colorado, police agencies get to decide what is and what is not in the public’s interest when it comes to disclosure. There used to be a good investigative series of broadcasts available online at Denver’s ABC affiliate called “contrary to public interest” about this issue. I can’t find them anymore, though. (If someone knows where they are, give me a holler.)

Speaking of public records in Colorado…

On Groundhog Day, guess what happened? A House committee “killed Rep. Polly Lawrence’s latest effort to make administrative records of Colorado’s judicial branch subject to the state’s open records law.” Again. The vote came down along party lines with Democrats in the majority opposing it. Read more here from Jeffrey Roberts at the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition. After that vote, a much-anticipated hearing on a bill to update the state’s Open Records Act, set for Feb. 6, got pushed back.

Colorado’s unique campaign finance system came under scrutiny in a national magazine. But

This week, the national libertarian magazine Reason published a takedown of Colorado’s system of private-party enforcement for campaign finance violations. The unique way we handle that here, outsourcing enforcement to private citizens, is much different than most states and has caused serious headaches for those who have gotten tangled up in the process. I have written about this system before, so I was interested in the Reason piece, which even led to an editorial in The Gazette in Colorado Springs about the state’s “bad election law” (and thanks for the name drop in the editorial!).

Both the Reason article and The Gazette take aim at a Coloradan named Matt Arnold, who is known for filing the most campaign finance complaints in the state. I wondered how our system got on Reason’s radar. Then I looked at who wrote the piece: Nick Sibilla and John Kerr. Sibilla is a current communications associate with the national law firm Institute for Justice (which is disclosed at the bottom of the piece). Kerr was a communications fellow for the same group in 2015. The Institute for Justice is a nonprofit public interest group that is currently suing Colorado in federal court because of its system of private party enforcement for campaign finance violations. That was disclosed in the Reason article, but not mentioned in The Gazette editorial. Instead, the editorial wrote how “Reason documented” or how “the magazine explained” or how “Reason stated” or “Reason concluded” when detailing Colorado’s law.

It’s true Reason published those things, and the article raises good questions, but the important context is they were written in Reason by people with ties to a group involved in a lawsuit against the state in actual court— as well as in the court of public opinion.

What you missed on the Sunday front pages of newspapers across Colorado

Did you get too stoned and spill the guacamole at a Super Bowl party? Then get so paranoid it ruined whole the second half? Then forget to read all the stories fit for the big day’s Sunday fronts? Well, I’ve got you covered. The Greeley Tribune interviewed a man who spent more than a year in solitary confinement. The Longmont Times-Call reported on its local congressional delegation. The Pueblo Chieftain reported on a local legislative breakfast. The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel carried a piece on a defunct oil and gas firm being fined $313,000. The Steamboat Pilot & Today profiled locals who ride their bikes to work in the winter. The Loveland Reporter-Herald reported legal weed plays a “small role” in more drugged driving arrests. The Gazette profiled Dragon Man, a very heavily armed local eccentric. The Coloradoan reported how student athletes at CU earn degrees at the same rate as the rest of the student body. The Boulder Daily Camera looked at how a travel ban in limbo is affecting locals. The Denver Post put Hunter S. Thompson on the front page. The Durango Herald reported how Donald Trump is leaking into the Colorado House.

The Colorado Independent’s most-read story of the week was about a rural hospital and the ACA

This week, Kelsey Ray looked at the effects of a potential Affordable Care Act repeal through the lens of a small, rural hospital in Colorado.

From her piece:

San Luis Valley Health Regional Medical Center in Alamosa is a small hospital, with only 49 beds. But it is the only hospital within 121 miles with a labor-and-delivery ward — last year, obstetricians there delivered 435 babies — and it provides oncology, orthopaedic and emergency services. The hospital treats more than 1,000 inpatient visitors and more than 10,000 emergency room visitors each year. Most of those patients are poor and rely on Medicaid.

The rest of the story details what might happen to this hospital under repeal of Obamacare. The story drew more readers than anything else at The Independent this week.

Read the whole thing here.

This week in #BacaWatch

A month after Denver Post marijuana editor Ricardo Baca announced he was leaving the paper for a new undisclosed business venture we still don’t know what that new venture is despite hints he gave in recent interviews. But there is some news on the former-newspaper-pot-writer beat elsewhere in Colorado. Bryce Crawford, an ex-marijuana reporter for The Colorado Springs Independent alt-weekly who founded The Rocky Mountain Food Report, formed a recent partnership with the local public radio station KRCC. “The radio station will post content from RMFR to krcc.org on Fridays and promote the posts on-air,” Crawford writes.

Awwww yeah, more Denver Press Club elections … maybe? … if I’m not too conflicted

You might remember how in August I used this newsletter to cover a “watershed election” for Denver Press Club president. And what fun that was. Hold on, you hear that? Oh, it’s just the nerd alert. But I’m serious, I did enjoy covering the Denver Press Club election. Who else was going to do that— cover the Denver Press Club? Anyway, it looks like there might be another opportunity to document another election at the nation’s oldest continuously operated press club, of which, full disclosure, I am now a member. Another disclosure: I had more fun attending the Denver Press Club’s presidential debate watch party than I did writing about the Denver Press Club election.

Well, new president David Milstead of the Denver Press Club had this to say in a recent email to members:

You may recall that, prior to my presidency, I chaired a Bylaws Committee that found a lack of documentation to support many of the changes the Club made in its election processes over the past 15 years. Therefore, we must return to a process outlined in the 1999 bylaws, as amended in 2008, for this year’s election. I promise to use whatever latitude I can to make this election resemble what we have become used to

So this week he appointed a three-person nominating committee of the Denver Press Club. That committee “will take applications/nominations for the board AND for the officer positions.” The applications and nominations for the Denver Press Club are due Feb. 15, if you’re interested and are a member of the Denver Press Club. You’ll need three other Denver Press Club backers. And apparently someone (I don’t know who) nominated me for the committee. I took a pass because what if I want to write about the Denver Press Club elections again? But am I too conflicted now as a member of the Denver Press Club even to do that? Actually, am I even still member of the Denver Press Club? I got something in the mail in the past week about dues. For the Press Club. Man. These are the things that keep me up at night. At least I have you all to help me through it.

*This roundup appears a little differently as a published version of a weekly e-mailed newsletter about Colorado local news and media. If you’d like to add your e-mail address for the unabridged versions, please subscribe HERE.

 Photo by Sheila Sund for Creative Commons on Flickr.

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About the Author

Corey Hutchins

is a journalist in Colorado, and Columbia Journalism Review's Rocky Mountain correspondent for the United States Project. Follow him on Twitter @CoreyHutchins and email him at CoreyHutchins [at] gmail [dot] com.

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