Your weekly roundup of Colorado local news and media, Jan. 27

The governor kept reporters out of a recent speech event. Then a website got the audio via an open records request. Boom. 

Kudos to Todd Shepherd of the libertarian news site Complete Colorado for his use of the Colorado Open Records Ac this week. A couple weeks ago, Gov. John Hickenlooper’s staff had put a speaking event on a schedule that goes out to reporters. But when some of them showed up they were told they couldn’t be there and the event’s placement on the schedule was a mixup. Hickenlooper was speaking to the Colorado Forum, an influential group that Denver’s 5280 magazine has called “one of the most powerful political lobbies in this state.”

So it sure would be nice to know what the governor told them, right? Especially with no pesky reporters around. Well, because of Shepherd now we know. He filed an open records request with Hickeblooper’s office, asking for the audio, and got it. You can read some of the governor’s remarks or listen to them at Complete Colorado. The comments in a room where reporters weren’t allowed have already started stringing out story lines. As Marianne Goodland reports for The Colorado Independent, Hickenlooper’s kiss-off to a universal healthcare ballot measure championed by a Democratic state senator is already causing tension. Read why here.Shepherd also wrote some background about his request, what he asked for, and how long it took to the get the tapes, in a separate post.

Female bylines and sources in stories are lacking in Colorado coverage of women’s reproductive issues

Journalists looking for sources on stories about reproductive issues go to men for quotes more than women— especially at The Denver Post, Colorado’s largest daily newspaper— according to a recent report by Women’s Media Center, an advocacy group that is dedicated “to ensure that women’s stories are told and women’s voices are heard.”

The Post ranked second-to-last, followed only by The Wall Street Journal in the category for sourcing on those kinds of stories. No single outlet had more than half of its quotes from women in articles about reproductive issues. The Women’s Media Center examined news coverage in the nation’s 12 top media outlets from 2014 to 2015.

Denver Post editor Greg Moore says he wishes he knew what coverage the group was looking at and who made up the “gender unknown” percentage in its report, but he also says he wasn’t happy his paper’s numbers weren’t better. “I think it is important to have very diverse sources quoted,” he says. “We will certainly strive to be better on that.”

The Women’s Media Center declined to share the raw data the group analyzed, citing a privacy deal with their research firm.

Dude. Duuuude. Are journalists, like, so ‘high on the topic of cannabis’ that they’re going soft?

A Denver-based writer for The International Business Times wondered about this in a feature this week that leads with an anecdote from Smart Approaches to Marijuana. The group was irked when it blasted out a press release stating Colorado youth pot consumption is up, and didn’t get much media attention from it.

German Lopez, a staff writer for the explainer journalism site Vox.com, however, chimed in with his theory for why.

“The report says the change wasn’t statistically significant,” Lopez wrote on Twitter. “Really, that’s probably why the media shrugged at the report. It basically said that nothing had changed. Makes more sense than bias claims.”

There were some interesting nuggets in the IBT piece, written by former Westword writer Joel Warner. For instance:

For years … NORML has maintained an internal database of editorial boards nationwide that it considered to be anti-marijuana. In the late 1980s, that list encompassed more than 150 newspapers. Now it’s down to just 30 or 40, and … most of them are owned by a handful of corporate owners opposed to legalization.

I wonder how many of those 150 newspaper are still actually around. The story, of course, mentioned The Denver Post’s marijuana editor. And it also mentioned Colorado’s cannabis journalism professor.

But marijuana opponents aren’t the only ones questioning how the media is covering cannabis these days. “I don’t know if there is an intended bias, but everything coming out of Colorado is sensationalized, no matter what,” says Andrew Matranga, an assistant teaching professor with a focus on cannabis journalism at the University of Denver. “We are still the great science experiment.”

No mention, though, of The Colorado Springs Gazette’s controversial perspective series on marijuana legalization. Meanwhile, as Westword reported this week, a lawmaker delegation from Massachusetts traveled to Colorado on a fact-finding mission about legal weed. One state senator quoted: “If I were to buy this, what would I do with it? Do I crush it? Roll it? Do I…”

Why a Denver TV station had to explain a news anchor’s mid-broadcast jacket change

No, TV news viewer, it wasn’t a glitch in the Matrix, a wrinkle in time, or one bubbling bong rip too many. 9News Denver TV anchor Kyle Clark really was wearing two different colored sport coats during the Friday evening broadcast. He wore an orange one when talking about the Broncos, and a regular blue one for other news. It was just a wardrobe change. So why did the station have to explain it? Because TV news viewers, America.

Here’s a sampling of some of the feedback 9News got after the ‘ole switch-a-roo:

“Dear Kyle Clark, Why do you keep changing from the orange jacket to the blue jacket on the news right now? I’m stoned and I’m not sure if it’s really happening or not. Thanks man, also you’re funny as hell keep it up”

“Did you keep changing jackets or was it a technical trick?”

Read more viewer feedback-slash-confusion here at 9News. And also see Clark morphing in a GIF. Seems pretty obvious at this point that the folks at 9News really seem to love their jobs, and it shows.

An ex-Denver Post reporter, now a government flack, has a blog at her new job. Is this The New Flack Journalism? 

Jason Salzman has a fun piece this week about the blog run by former Denver Post (and Rocky Mountain News before that) reporter Lynn Bartels, who now works as a spokesperson for Secretary of State Wayne Williams. The blog is housed on the Secretary of State’s website, and Salzman writes that Bartels is publishing stories similar to the kind she used to do for her blog at the Post. “Some of this is good PR for Williams and his office. Some of it is human-interest journalism. Some of it is soft political reporting,” he writes. “Regardless, it’s quickly become part of Denver’s journalism mix, in the era of disappearing reporters and starved political junkies.”

Could what she’s doing possibly be “a model for how PR at a state agency could compensate, in an itsy bitsy way, for diminished journalism?” Read more here.

What I learned reporting on the death penalty in Colorado— and the importance of the word ‘could’

Before the start of this year’s legislative session, I wrote a Dec. 16 story for The Colorado Independent headlined “Faces of Death: Capital punishment in Colorado could be the year’s big issue.” I’d already spoken to a handful of people on both sides of the debate when a prominent district attorney and death penalty proponent started sniping at the state’s head public defender on Twitter. It seemed to me the issue was boiling over, especially when it came to transparency issues regarding death penalty costs in Colorado. I started to write a kind of “Here’s what these two are talking about” backgrounder, which turned into a full-blown “This Is The Next Big Issue” story. It had some little nuggets like how the DA, George Brauchler, said he wanted to see a ballot measure this year asking voters whether Colorado should keep or scrap capital punishment. At the time, in December, Brauchler was expecting a bill to come out in the legislature this year to repeal the death penalty.

Well, the legislature convened on Jan. 13, and so far no one has introduced a repeal bill. In fact, right at the start of the session the anti-death penalty governor said he wouldn’t support a repeal effort this year. And the Democratic Senate Minority Leader, who also opposes the policy, said she wouldn’t sponsor a repeal bill. What did happen? Republican lawmakers put forth a bill and a proposal to make the death penalty even easier in Colorado.

So, as the reporter who said in a headline that the death penalty “could be the year’s big issue,” I wanted to find out WTF happened. What I found out was kind of fascinating— and it took 3,000-plus words for me to report. So if you want to dive deep with me into “Why death penalty abolitionists hit the snooze button in Colorado this year,” click that last line and find out from my followup this week in The Independent.

An important story about healthcare in the mountains of Colorado

David Olinger of The Denver Post had an illuminating story this week about the costs of healthcare in the mountain regions of Colorado where health insurance costs can rival mortgage payments. Why? Reasons include the federal Affordable Care Act, the fact that a low-cost health provider was dissolved by the state, and a limited number of providers in the area.

Some choice parts from the piece:

A 55-year-old couple with no children in Garfield County earning $63,000 could be eligible for up to an estimated $13,200 in annual tax credits toward their insurance premium costs, according to the calculator at the Connect for Health Colorado exchange. But if the couple earn $64,000 or more, they may not qualify for any credit.

Amy Barr, a regional United Way program director, described the problem for aging middle-class residents — small business owners, independent consultants, employees of businesses that don’t provide health insurance — who wonder how they’re going to make it to Medicare eligibility. “It’s the first time I’ve heard 60-year-olds saying they wished they were 65,” she said.

The mountain counties have a history of high health care costs. Two years ago, a national survey found that the four-county Colorado resort region from Summit to Garfield was the most expensive place to buy health care in the United States.

That time we sued Denver for release of a jail homicide video— and got it a day later.

A day after The Colorado Independent sued Denver for denying a public records request, the city released, and The Indy obtained, videos of security footage that shows the jail death homicide of Michael Marshall, a mentally ill homeless man who was restrained by sheriff’s deputies. The footage is tough to watch. Editor Susan Greene breaks down what the videos show here.

Now for some news on the local media front from CJR’s United States Project

Last thing. The most Colorado newspaper line of the week.

“You can’t push someone off a chairlift and expect it not to be a crime,” an Aspen-area sheriff’s deputy told his local newspaper.

*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

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