Your weekly roundup of Colorado local news and media, Feb. 9

Jon S

Confused about how the upcoming March 1 caucuses work? Steal this story. 

Most everyone who isn’t a die-hard political junkie can agree on this: The early nomination process for picking a president in Colorado can be confusing. What is a caucus? What happens at these local, neighborhood events? How are votes counted? Who can participate? Where? Did your precinct location change? How do you get involved if you want to caucus?

I set out to explain everything you need to know about the caucuses in two pieces recently for The Colorado Independent, and they’ve already proven useful for at least one other publication that re-published them. If you’re an editor in Colorado you can do the same, free with proper credit. Shoot me an e-mail if interested.

Your guide to the Democratic Party’s precinct caucuses.

Your guide to the Republican Party’s precinct caucuses.

Here’s how the alt-weekly Colorado Springs Independent (no relation to the Colorado Independent) handled a reprint for its cover package this week. I thought it came out well.

Also, something else to look out for in your own communities as March 1 approaches: A 2013 change in state law made it so county commissions could redraw precinct lines and not notify voters about it. Last week I found more than 60,000 voters in El Paso County alone hadn’t been notified of potential changes, which means their caucus locations could have switched this year without them knowing. You can find out if that happened in your own county by asking the local clerk and recorder. Here’s how I explained it to El Paso county readers. Have any more questions about the caucuses? E-mail me and I’ll update the stories if I missed anything.

The Gold King Mine spill six months later: An interactive timeline

The Durango Herald had a big Sunday feature in print and online about the August mine spill that dumped three million gallons of sludge into the Animas river, turning it a mustard-based barbecue sauce orange that made for jarring photos and videos in national TV newscasts.

Six months later, the paper has an update, complete with an online interactive news feature including a timeline, map, and audio interviews with politicians such as Gov. John Hickenlooper and members of Congress.

A teenager is suing a Pueblo TV station for broadcasting his you-know-what all over the airwaves

In a federal lawsuit, a 16-year-old in South Carolina is suing KOAA in Pueblo (and six of the station’s employees) as well as NBC Universal and Comcast “for sexual exploitation, invasion of privacy and defamation,” according to The Colorado Springs Gazette. What did the station do?

From The Gazette:

The teenager and his family told KOAA in February 2014 about a blackmail attempt against the boy after a cell phone video of the teenager’s penis was uploaded on YouTube, the lawsuit says.

[A] KOAA reporter … conducted an on-camera interview with the teenager’s father at their Pueblo home, the lawsuit says. The news story, which aired Feb. 24, 2014, showed a YouTube thumbnail image of the boy’s penis, his full name and Facebook page, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit states that [the] teenager and his father asked KOAA to not release the teenager’s identity. The story was aired in southern Colorado, including in the Pikes Peak region, and published on the news station’s website.

Yikes. The station’s president wouldn’t discuss the specifics of the lawsuit with the paper, but said, “we will defend ourselves against unfounded accusations.”

Here’s a link to the lawsuit. (The teenager was living in Colorado and was 14 at the time.) Content NSFW. The word “erect” appears quite frequently.

These local newspaper surveys are getting to be too much!

So if you read enough local newspaper stories online without a subscription you’re likely familiar by now with the annoying survey questions, right? Usually about products you’ve never heard about. But now they’re getting pretty personal— they want to know if you’ve recently flown a drone or if you plan to participate in a particular political party’s nomination process— and I hope they aren’t linking the questions to the content of stories. Because this survey I had to take in order to read a recent article in The Gazette about a porn star taking an Army sergeant to an adult awards show was just too much.

Notes from around the political beat in Colorado ​

The governor of Colorado wants a robust media presence at the Statehouse— says so himself!

“I wouldn’t trade a strong media in the state Capitol for anything,” said Democratic Gov. John Hickelooper in a promotional video for The Colorado Statesman, a revamped political trade journal. “I think it is essential to not just the drive of good government, but for the preservation of liberty, for freedom.”

What you missed on Sunday’s front pages across Colorado

Last week I noticed how the local impact of low oil & gas prices were all over the Sunday fronts, so here’s some more on that. 

Returning from an errand last Saturday, I recall seeing a gas station advertising prices around $1.30 per gallon. The next day, the impacts of those low prices were detailed in front-page stories in at least three newspapers across Colorado.

A story on the front page of The Durango Herald examined how cratering gas prices mean job losses in parts of Colorado such as La Plata County, and also falling tax revenue.

From that story:

“Taxes from natural gas are predicted to drop from 41 percent of the county’s property tax revenue in 2015 to 30 percent in 2017, reported during La Plata County Commissioner Gwen Lachelt’s State of the County address.

“This is not a good combination of factors facing us: job loss, wage loss, royalty payment loss, tax loss. Our economy is relatively diversified, but not enough for us to avoid some impact from all this,” [Roger Zalneraitis, executive director of the La Plata Economic Development Alliance] said.

Elsewhere in Colorado, declining oil and gas prices are affecting schools, “municipal budgets, local businesses and even hospitals,” according to a front-page story in The Denver Post.

From that story:

Permits to drill have gone down by more than 25 percent in the past year, from 4,190 issued by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission in 2014 to 2,987 last year. The rig count in the state likewise dwindled in 2015, starting at 72 last January and ending the year with just 28.

Meanwhile, in The Greeley Tribune, the impact was somewhat subtle, tucked into a story about fire districts, which are funded by property taxes, but also by oil and gas companies, which are charged the highest rate based off the market value of their product. “Oil and gas is what’s making us float,” said a fire district staffer quoted in the story. The oil and gas boom raised the fire district’s budget from a quarter million to $4 million a year. So imagine what that means with an industry on the decline.

Is that doom and gloom? Colorado’s entire modern history has been boom-and-bust.

A Colorado outlet exposed Homeland Security for losing important documents

Using the Freedom of Information Act, blogger Todd Shepherd of the online libertarian outlet Complete Colorado, published a story in conjunction with Fox News last week that exposed the Department of Homeland Security for losing 1,300 badges, credentials, and cell phones since 2012.

I particularly appreciated the way he handled a request for a comment from DHS:

Officials with DHS responded to an email seeking comment, but the response did not provide meaningful answers to questions about the losses, or the potential for security problems as a result. Additionally, DHS did not provide any numbers that would have put such losses into context, such as the number of badges and guns issued across each agency.

A lot of times I think spokespeople get away with seeing their generic statements that don’t address a question being published anyway. Don’t reward bad behavior.

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

Last thing. Something to think about when it comes to Latino political power in Colorado.

The Latino population in Colorado is going up, up, up. But at the Capitol in Denver? Yeah, not so much. As my colleague Marianne Goodland reported this week, there are about half as many Hispanics in the General Assembly as there were in the early 1990s. Check out her report on the weakening of Latino political power in Colorado here.

*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 subscribeHERE

[Photo credit: Jon S via Flickr]