With reporting from Wendy Norris, Kerri Rebresh, Sandra Fish, Mark Mehringer and Leslie Robinson
(Click for Part 1 of our Media Survey)
For the second half of our media survey, we asked several open-ended questions. Because it’s difficult to quantify these answers in any sort of chart or graphic, we’ll instead provide a sampling of the responses.
After asking questions designed for specific answers, we wanted to give legislators and staffers a chance to discuss how they think the media coverage of the State Capitol could be improved. In general, what do you think the media covering the legislature does well?
Interestingly enough, many respondents said that the media does a good job of presenting both sides of a story.
“They give all sides a chance to respond to criticism,” said a Democratic staffer.
“They do a good job of trying to find a human-interest angle,” said one Democratic legislator.
Added a Republican legislator: “They try to highlight both sides.”
Said another Democratic legislator, “They do well trying to present different perspectives on the issues.”
Several respondents mentioned that the media is very good at covering controversial issues, although it could be argued that the media makes an issue controversial by covering it.
“They do a good job of covering controversial and high-profile bills,” said a Republican legislator.
“I think they generate controversy,” said a Democratic staffer. “They focus on divisive issues and stay away from areas of bipartisan agreement.”
“They accentuate the controversial,” added a Republican lawmaker.
Said another Republican legislator, quite succinctly, “They cover sensational issues sensationally.”
Other responses varied across the board.
“The Denver Post does a good job of making a bill summary,” said a Democratic legislator.
“Making their editors happy,” said a Republican legislator.
“They’ve done a pretty good job covering renewable energy,” added a Democratic legislator.
“They’ve done a good job convincing the federal government to give them monopolies so that they don’t have to worry about the quality of reporting,” said a snarky Democratic legislator.
“They give people information that politicians don’t always want out there, such as Gov. Owens’ staff bonuses,” said a Republican legislator. “It’s their job to hold elected officials accountable.”
And finally, “The media could do a lot better,” said a Democratic legislator. Which brings us to our next question…
In general, what do you think the media needs to do better?
Respondents really had a field day with this question, and answers were detailed and specific across the board. Some thought that the media needed to do a better job on specific issues, such as the budget and school finance.
“There should be more coverage of issues that people care about: Education, health care, jobs, renewable energy,” said a Democratic legislator. “Even if it is a 65-0 vote.”
Said a Republican staffer: “The coverage should be more comprehensive across the board instead of just the hot topic. There’s more going on down here than people know.”
Other responses were short and direct in saying that the media should just be better about getting the facts straight, while some said “more depth” was needed. One Democratic staffer said that he often fields calls from constituents who have no idea what a bill really does.
“They do not do a good job of explaining the broader context of issues, including Constitutional mandates and conflicting Constitutional mandates, which are more important than the day-to-day stories,” said a Republican legislator.
Added a Democratic legislator, “They need to cover why certain votes go the way they do, why lawmakers vote the way they do