Forgive us our press passes: A fight for credentials in the Colorado capitol
So here’s a juicy one. (If you’re a nerd.) Arthur Kane, a former reporter and editor at The Denver Post and ex-producer for KMHG-TV is being denied press credentials that would allow him on the floor of the Colorado House and Senate now that the legislative session has begun. Why the talk-to-the-hand treatment? Because Kane is currently writing for Colorado Watchdog, a nonprofit investigative online news site that doesn’t disclose its donors. So who’s blocking him from the chamber floors? It’s journalists and lawmakers in Colorado who act as the gatekeepers, which can be a little awkward for everyone involved.
Kane wrote about his issue last week, which led to a little tit-for-tat posted in the comments. It’s worth reading if you care about these kinds of things, and for better understanding the difficult situation deciding who should and shouldn’t be allowed press corps access can be. For instance, I learned there’s a pretty fascinating history about press credentialing in Colorado housed on the legislature’s website and written by a former reporter. Near the end is this:
The reporters who gather news at the state Capitol need help. We find ourselves the subject of a political controversy, which is an unacceptable position for any reporter. Equally unacceptable, we think, would be to lose our journalistic access to the floor of the House and Senate. We could use the assistance of other journalist advocacy groups to help us maintain and improve a system that guarantees us floor access.
In 2014, Denver journalist David Sirota chronicled a similar credentialing problem here for Pando Daily. Jeffrey Roberts of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition did, too, here and here. (I should note that I’ve been given floor credentials to cover the capitol this session for the Denver-based nonprofit online news outlet The Colorado Independent.)
While credentialing problems seem like a perennial issue in Colorado, it could be worse. For instance look what’s going on in Missouri and Virginia. In both states— as reported by CJR’s Deron Lee and Patrick Wilson of The Virginian Pilot respectively— lawmakers are trying to keep reporters off the Senate floor. Or it could be better. Like back in 1909 at the Statehouse in Spokane, Washington, when a reporter for the The Spokesman-Review got into a fist fight with a lawmaker on the House floor.
Speaking of… your lawmakers are back in Denver for another legislative session. What will they do?
Some places to look: I wrote a roundup for The Colorado Independent. But if you prefer video instead, Brandon Rittiman of 9News in Denver sat down with the Democratic Speaker of the House and the Republican Senate President for his Balance of Power program. Want to see reporters talk about it? Kristen Wyatt from The Associated Press and Peter Marcus of The Durango Herald chatted about what to look out for with The Independence Institute’s Jon Caldara on his Devil’s Advocate show.
Rather listen on the radio? Bente Birkeland, a political reporter for 16 public radio stations, interviewed legislative leaders about the upcoming session, which you can listen to here. She also talked to capitol reporters Joey Bunch of The Denver Post and The Denver Business Journal’s Ed Sealover for a lay of the land.
Rounding it out for independent online news, Marianne Goodland at The Colorado Independent writes that we should expect gridlock, election-year posturing, and, eh, maybe some compromise this year from our political elite. John Frank of The Denver Post had a piece last Sunday on paradigm shifts in the Senate where a conservative faction challenges the Republican majority similar to the Freedom Caucus in Congress.
Oh yeah, about that story in The Denver Post…
Apparently the article rubbed some leaders at the capitol the wrong way. The GOP Senate president, Bill Cadman of Colorado Springs, sent out a fundraising e-mail accusing the Post of being a “liberal newspaper.” Its reporting, he said, was “an attempt to divide Republicans.” Which is ridiculous, as Jason Salzman notes at his Big Media blog.
More from Salzman, the former Rocky Mountain News media critic:
I’m waiting for someone like Cadman … to have the guts [to] take their accusations against The Denver Post out of shadowy fundraising emails and talk radio and have a real debate about it. Maybe one of them would like to challenge The Post’s John Frank or Post Politics Editor Chuck Plunkett to a debate. Or Post Editor Greg Moore. That would be fun to see.
Yeah, it would! But we know it’s not likely.
Cough ’em up: Colorado news groups vs. the Planned Parenthood shooting judge
About 25 media orgs in Colorado have asked the state Supreme Court to order an El Paso County judge to cough up some documents in the Planned Parenthood shooter case. Either that or at least justify why records in the case against admitted shooter Robert Lewis Dear should stay sealed, writes Jeffrey Roberts, director of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition. Here’s a link to the petition.
“The consortium argues that Judge Gilbert Martinez violated both the U.S. and Colorado constitutions by rejecting a motion to unseal affidavits of probable cause in Dear’s court file,” Roberts writes.
You can read the judge’s ruling on the motion here where the judge cites the ongoing criminal investigation and the privacy of victims and witnesses and says releasing documents related to the case would be “contrary to public interest. That’s a maddening provision in Colorado that gives reporters headaches and lets public officials easily keep things secret. And, well, just another reason to point out Colorado earned an ‘F’ this year in the State Integrity Investigation for the category of access to information. Again.
From the ‘Taking Your Own Advice’ department: WTF is the Hospital Provide Fee?
A couple years ago when I was living in Charleston, SC, working for an alt-weekly and covering four states on the East Coast for CJR’s United States Project, I wrote a piece called “The Case for Voxsplaining the Local News” using a complex tax issue in North Carolina called the Privilege License Tax as an example.
This week I took my own advice and tried out some Vox-style explainer journalism for The Colorado Independent about the biggest political battle in Colorado right now—something called the Hospital Provider Fee. What is it? Here’s everything you need to know. (Of course, it’s probably not everything. So if you do have any lingering questions about it, please ask, and I’ll think about updating it throughout the year.)
Glamour magazine points to a Colorado Congressional race as one critical for women’s rights and women’s health
Many states are holding elections, “both for congressional representation and state-level positions that are especially critical to women and women’s health this year,” Glamour reported this week, pointing especially to a race here in Colorado. That’s the congressional election pitting Republican Congressman Mike Coffman against Democratic state senator Morgan Carroll.
From the article:
Colorado: Similar to New Hampshire, says Emily’s List, women everywhere should also have their eye on Colorado as Congressman Mike Coffman, the Republican incumbent for the Sixth District’s House seat, also tries to whitewash his record of supporting policies that roll the clock back on women’s rights. In a district won by President Obama in both 2008 and 2012, Coffman must now appear more moderate on women’s issues to voters than he is given his recent votes to defund Planned Parenthood and his support for the state’s failed personhood amendment, a measure that, had it passed, would not only have made abortion illegal, but would have also banned certain forms of birth control as well as the process of in vitro fertilization (IVF). Coffman also cast votes for a measure that would have redefined rape as “forcible rape,” opposed the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, twice voted for the federal 20-week abortion ban, and voted against raising the federal minimum wage.
One of Coffman’s challengers is Morgan Carroll, a pro-choice woman and the former minority leader of the Colorado state Senate, where she currently represents the state’s 29th District. After putting herself through college and law school by working at a gas station, Carroll went on to found a law firm with her mother where their work focused on advocating for those with disabilities and family law. Carroll represents Aurora, the city outside Denver where the 2012 mass shooting occurred—as a result, Carroll has become a strong advocate for common sense gun safety legislation, like criminal background checks before the purchase of all firearms.
Also like New Hampshire, Colorado is a critical swing state in the general election and will be garnering a great deal of attention in the presidential race—but this race for the House should be just as important to voters, too.
Soooo… a Colorado newspaper publisher called President Obama an “idiot” who “doesn’t like” Christians
Chuck Bonniwell, the owner and publisher of the Glendale Cherry Creek Chronicle newspaper, is also a talk-radio host for KNUS 710-AM. This week on air talking about President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech, Bonniwell, also a lawyer, said he’d “hate to have taken a class from that idiot,” and that Obama “knows what he doesn’t like, and that’s Christians,” since he “grew up in a country, Indonesia, part of his life, from which he got a favorable view of Islam, because he went to a school that had a favorable view. And since then, he’s the same secularist,” according to Jason Salzman who tried to get a comment from Bonniwell for his Big Media blog. But, “He didn’t return an email seeking comment, even though he’s in the newspaper business.”
Speaking of newspapers, The Colorado Statesman, in business since 1898, has a new website
My guess is the paper didn’t have one in 1898. But you can check out the new one here.
Even more for the expanding print-reporters-doing-video file
Video will not kill the newspaper star. It will just make her work more. And a little differently. The Colorado Springs Gazette’s capitol reporter Megan Schrader this week incorporated video into the online version of her print story about the governor’s State of the State address. The Gazette’s Eric Singer, a former TV news guy, anchored it like a broadcast. Meanwhile, following The Gazette’s lead on reporters doing video clips, Associated Press capitol reporter Kristen Wyatt has been doing daily 30-second video recaps posted to Twitter since the legislative session began. Here’s her latest on a do-nothing Friday, a video dispatch about the State of the State address broadcasted from the capitol’s new snack bar kiosk, and one from opening day at the legislature.
And now for some news on the local media front from CJR’s United States Project (there are clickable links here, they’re just hard to see)
- Jackie Spinner on how a Chicago station has stayed on the disability beat after a trailblazing reporter retired.
- Deron Lee on how one state is keeping reporters off the floor of the state Senate.
- Susannah Nesmith writes about how a powerful series on Florida’s death penalty came from an unexpected source.
- CJR’s press freedom correspondent Jonathan Peters writes about how government secrecy was the biggest threat to press freedoms in 2015.
GAZETTE GRAPHIC: The flow of money in Colorado
With the budget set to play a central role in power plays at the capitol this year, trying to understand Colorado’s complex financial system can be tough. Even with a better economy and more revenue coming in, Democrats say cuts might be inevitable to satisfy legal budget requirements; Republicans believe warning of a budget crisis is basically a hoax so Democrats can attack the Taxpayer’s Bill or Rights, or TABOR.
To help you better understand the system, The Colorado Springs Gazette’s Megan Schrader and Nichole Montanez created a graphic with narrative on “The Flow of Money in Colorado.” (Disclaimer: It might make you have to pee.)
*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.