Your weekly roundup of Colorado local news and media, Jan. 5

Jon S on Flickr

USA Today’s Denver correspondent, who covered several mass shootings, decided to buy his first handgun

This first-person account from Trevor Hughes*, certainly started a conversation on social media. The bottom line of the piece is that Hughes has covered plenty of mass shootings in Colorado as a reporter, feels like the government can’t protect him anymore, and so he’s looking for other alternatives. So… buy a handgun, American man!

From the essay:

I recognize that my decision doesn’t make the best logical sense. My head knows that. On the other hand, we humans are emotional creatures, and this decision helps me feel better. Perhaps there’s just some comfort in feeling like I’m taking action, even if all the statistics tell me I might actually just be making the problem worse.

Journalists and others on Twitter weighed in, such as Reuters reporter Curtis Skinner who wrote that the too-long-didn’t-read version is “I’ve abandoned logic, and I feel better.” Others said they agreed with his decision to arm himself or had done the same themselves. Some pointed out that carrying a gun without ever firing one is dangerous. Hughes repeatedly pointed out on Twitter that he hadn’t yet actually bought a gun, he just planned to. You can read more of the responses to his provocative story here.

I reached out to Hughes this week to see if he’d yet, um, pulled the trigger so to speak.

“My plan – once we get through the craziness of these holidays and the start of the New Year — is to take a familiarization class before I buy any handgun,” he told me. “I’ve never fired a handgun, and so I don’t know what caliber or brand or size to get, and taking a class seems to be the best way to learn that. My plan would then be to determine what handgun to buy, and then take a concealed weapons class with it.”

He told me he’s not sure this will ultimately be the right decision for him, “but as a reporter, I tend to want to experience things for myself before making a final decision.”

The Gazette’s editor in Colorado Springs is leaving for a communications job at a university. The interim editor has a background in greeting cards.  

The editor of the daily newspaper in Colorado’s second-largest city, Joanna Bean, will be taking a new job on Jan. 19 as assistant director of communications and media relations at The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. A longtime employee of the paper, Bean took on the editor’s role in 2014. The paper’s publisher, Dan Steever, will serve as interim editor until a replacement is named, the paper reported.

Interim editor Steever’s previous work includes serving as CEO of “a nationwide marketing services firm based in suburban Chicago that works with retailers and other clients to measure consumer interests through in-store sampling, grand openings and several other programs,” and “as president of Marian Heath Greeting Cards.”

In other Gazette news, on Jan. 2, the paper released a well-edited, three-and-a-half-minute documentary-style timeline of events of the Planned Parenthood shooting, produced by the newspaper’s video editor, A.J. Kievenaar.

Local newspapers embracing video has been in consistent rotation for the what-will-save-newspapers file. Last I year I wrote for CJR about how the Roku device and the cable-cutter generation fit into that. Some think newspapers are equipped with the trained staff to handle video in a better/different way than local TV stations. (Newspaper reporters think about stories differently. Give them a camera, see what happens.) So I’m always interested to see how video plays from the newspaper side.

After five years of strong work, a Colorado nonprofit health news site ran out of money— at the wrong time

“The year 2016 is shaping up as a big one for health policy in Colorado … but one of the state’s best sources for health news won’t be around to cover it,” writes Trudy Lieberman, who reports on healthcare coverage nationwide for Columbia Journalism Review.

Lieberman’s piece is about the demise of Health News Colorado, which recently folded.

From the story:

Health News Colorado launched in 2010, and it was always dependent on support from the Colorado Health Foundation, which provided $500,000 over the years, or about half the site’s budget. The goal in supporting the news outlets was to increase coverage of health policy news and “broaden the audience” for it, Amy Latham, the foundation’s vice president of philanthropy, told me. It’s a pattern we saw in several places around the country, as the debate over the Affordable Care Act sparked a surge of interest just as newspapers were undergoing wrenching job losses.

Read the rest of the piece here.

In Denver, a journalist gets his mug on a billboard. What for? You’ll neeeeevvvver guess. 

No, it’s not the face of one of those News On Your Side We Investigate You Decide or whatever local TV people, but an actual print journalist at The Denver Post looming over your morning commute in Denver. Who? Ricardo Baca. Why? “As one of the first marijuana editors at a major paper, he’s transforming journalism,” according to a billboard erected by the Metropolitan State University of Denver. He’s a 1999 alum of the university’s journalism program. Nonetheless, “This is apparently the only way a journalist can be successful enough to get his name on a billboard,” quipped The Associated Press’s western political reporter Nick Riccardi on Twitter. You might also see Baca’s mug on the backs of Denver buses.

This Colorado city could be the first in the nation to power its vehicles … WITH YOUR POOP!

Are your local politicians full of shit? Maybe. But now we know for sure some of their city vehicles are. At least in Grand Junction, Colorado, anyway, where garbage trucks, street sweepers, and city buses are being replaced with vehicles fueled by natural gas that comes from … well, your ass.

From NPR, reported by Inside Energy, a public media reporting collaborative with reporters based out of Colorado’s own Rocky Mountain PBS:

The wastewater treatment plant in Grand Junction, Colo., takes in 8 million gallons of raw sewage — what’s flushed down the toilet and sinks. Processing this sewage produces a lot of methane, which the plant used to just burn off into the air. The process was “not good for the environment and a waste of a wonderful resource,” says Dan Tonello, manager of the Persigo Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Now, using more infrastructure, the facility refines the methane further to produce natural gas chemically identical to what’s drilled from underground.

Grand Junction has been replacing an aging fleet of garbage trucks and buses with natural gas vehicles, fueled mostly by the human-sourced gas from the treatment plant. Tonello says Grand Junction is the first city in the nation to do that.

What the chin-tuggers on the local newspaper editorial boards are thinking across Colorado

I don’t know if The Associated Press does this regularly but it’s the first time I’ve noticed it, and I found it useful, so I’m sharing. They rounded up some newspaper editorial board opinions from around the state, and the issues range from open records, to fracking, to marijuana banking and the state’s growing population.

Colorado’s ethics commission is in the crosshairs this session

Lawmakers this session are looking at trying to rid inherent conflicts of interest at Colorado’s Independent Ethics Commission. Namely, that the anemic panel tasked with hearing complaints about potential political wrongdoing in Colorado shouldn’t be allowing the attorney general to offer legal advice to it while at the same time offering legal advice to those under investigation by the panel. I wrote about those efforts this week for The Colorado Independent. Meanwhile, The Denver Post’s Joey Bunch wrote about how the commission doesn’t even have any investigators, has no real authority, and is kind of a joke compared to other states. Colorado got an ‘F’ for its ethics enforcement agency in both the 2012 and 2015 State Integrity Investigation by The Center for Public Integrity. (I worked on the 2015 report.)

So guess which story readers clicked on most from the website of Colorado’s largest daily newspaper

It wasn’t about Taylor Swift or Cecil the Lion. It wasn’t Kim Kardashian or Peyton Manning. It wasn’t even about Donald Trump. What story did online readers of The Denver Post’s website click on more than any other in 2015? A substantive story from Jan. 13 with the headline: “Family: Church in Lakewood stops woman’s funeral because she was gay.”

The newspaper also rounded up its top traffic drivers for politics stories. What was No. 1? This Oct. 1 headline: “John Hickenlooper expresses doubt about Hillary Clinton amid e-mail controversy.” The story was written by reporter John Frank who moved to Colorado in 2014 from North Carolina to cover politics here. In fact, Frank had the byline for three out of the top five most-trafficked politics stories on the Post’s website for 2015. Someone buy him a drink.

And now for some news on the local media front from CJR’s United States Project (There are clickable links in here, they’re just hard to see)

#SMDH line of the week

This line from a story by Noelle Philips and Elizabeth Hernandez of The Denver Post:

A Coloradan who pleads guilty to driving under the influence of marijuana is required to install a device on his car’s ignition to measure the alcohol in his breath.

Last Thing. A list. On Medium.

Because no one has ever done a personal Top 10 list on Medium before I thought I’d be a pioneer. That’s a joke, folks. But anyway, here’s my top 10 list of favorite stories I wrote in 2015.

*A previous version of this post stated Trevor Hughes was also on staff at The Coloradoan. Hughes works exclusively for USA Today. “As a partner in Gannett, the Coloradoan is free to run Trevor’s stories across our platforms, and we often do. However, he does not work for the Coloradoan and we make no editorial input into his story selection/assignment process,” writes the Coloradoan’s executive editor Lauren Gustus.


*This roundup appears 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, please subscribe HERE