Your weekly roundup of Colorado news and media, Feb. 25

Colin Dunn

Rocky Mountain PBS documentary: Severe racial disparities in Colorado’s infant mortality rates

When it comes to newborn deaths, Colorado looks pretty good with the 5th lowest overall rate in the nation. “But within that ranking is one of the nation’s glaring racial disparities,” reports Rocky Mountain PBS for a documentary called Precious Loss that aired this week. “In Colorado … black babies die at rates as high or higher than those in about 100 foreign countries. And that includes places like China, Colombia, and even war-torn Lybia, according to data from the CIA and World Bank,” the doc reports. Black families in Colorado are at twice the risk of losing their babies than Latinos, and three times the risk as whites.

And it’s not about class, education, or income, either. In Colorado, the doc reports, “a middle-income black family earning $50,000 to $75,000 a year is just as likely to lose their baby as a black family making less than $15,000 a year. And when compared to a middle-income white family, the black family earning the same income is three times more likely to lose their baby.”

Watch the full documentary here.

Meanwhile, The Denver Post’s pot editor is the star of a new documentary called Rolling Papers

Ricardo Baca is blowing up. You might have seen his face on billboards around Denver lately. He’s the marijuana editor for The Denver Post’s pot section The Cannabist, and now the star of a new documentary that just came out called Rolling Papers.

Here’s a description of the film at IMBD:

At ground zero of the green rush, The Denver Post became the first major media outlet to appoint a marijuana editor. Policy news, strain reviews, parenting advice and edible recipes are the new norm in the unprecedented world of pot journalism.

Watch the trailer here. The film came out this week, and the reviews are, ahem, rolling in. Some reviewers are noting how The Cannabist project fits into the broader context of a newspaper industry in decline.

“Rolling Papers is nominally about what, to many, probably sounds like the best job in the world: Marijuana Editor at The Denver Post.”— The Daily Beast.

More from The Beast:

However, the film’s far more pressing concern is the way in which Baca and his colleagues sought to report—in true, investigative-journalism fashion—on Colorado’s groundbreaking new socio-cultural-political paradigm over the course of legalized weed’s first calendar year. And moreover, to do so in a media landscape in which it’s grown increasingly difficult for newspapers to thrive—thus making marijuana coverage a key avenue for print publications such as The Denver Post to remain both relevant and financially viable in a web-dominated world.

“Director Mitch Dickman takes a mostly lighthearted approach to the topic, using lots of peppy and bouncy music while following the daily routines of marijuana editor Ricardo Baca, who comes across as a solid journalist who runs the site with the same efficiency an editor would bring to a site dedicated to business or politics.”— The Corvallis Gazette Times.

“For once, a documentary that matches the spirit of its subject. … Thoughtful, serious coverage has both helped legitimize the weed industry in the wake of its state-sanctioned status and reminded readers of investigative journalism’s adaptability and relevance.” —The Village Voice.

Here’s where you can see the film.

Denver Post reports on bad cops when denied a key database. Virginia bill would make things even harder

This week I wrote for Columbia Journalism Review’s United States Project about the fascinating backstory of a bill in Virginia that would keep the names of police officers secret. If you follow transparency and open records news, you might have read about it. The issue could be the latest front in government secrecy at statehouses across the country.

I hope you’ll read the rest here, but there’s a Colorado connection at the end.

“Fortunately, one state where there have been no proposals for new restrictions is Colorado, where The Denver Post—though it was denied access to a key database—has embarked on a series about bad cops who ‘jump from department to department despite committing transgressions that would bar them from law enforcement jobs in many states,'” I wrote. “Well, at least there’s no new law proposed yet.”

Why is Dateline NBC covering a small-town Colorado murder trial?

“Because given the current vogue in true-crime, the case presents a wealth of story lines,” explains Michael Roberts in Denver’s alt-weekly Westword. That would be the murder case of Ralph Candelario, slated to go on trial for beating his wife Pam to death and making it look like a home invasion. “In early 2015 … the CBS program 48 Hours inquired about expanded media coverage. And now, Dateline NBC is on the case,” Roberts writes. The trial is set for this week in Trinidad, Colorado.

Hey, speaking of expanded media coverage, the Planned Parenthood case judge responds. Kind of.

Remember when you had a homework assignment due in two weeks and even if you finished it early you waited to hand it in at the last possible minute? Well, on Feb. 16, the final day the Colorado Supreme Court gave El Paso County District Judge Gilbert Martinez to explain why he’s kept certain court records sealed in the Planned Parenthood shooting case, three answer briefs hit the public record.

Two dozen news organizations had asked the Supreme Court to get involved because they want to see affidavits of probable cause in the case, which could offer new details about the accused gunman and his actions. But those records are under seal by Judge Martinez, and when media asked the judge to unseal them he declined, saying it would be “contrary to public interest.” Under Colorado’s open records laws, law enforcement and court officers often get to decide what’s in the public’s interest when asked for records and documents.

So responding on Martinez’s behalf, Republican Attorney General Cynthia Coffman explained in a brief that she believed the records should be kept secret.

This is from a write up by Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition director Jeffrey Roberts:

Accepting a media consortium’s arguments for unsealing the records would be “unprecedented in Colorado” and “contrary to the great weight of the case law,” Coffman wrote. Doing so, she added, would undermine the Colorado Criminal Justice Records Act, the Supreme Court’s rules on access to court records and “the important supervisory powers of the trial courts to protect ongoing criminal investigations and the privacy rights of victims and witnesses.”

You can read more about the response here. The two other answer briefs were from the state’s top public defender, and the El Paso County DA, both arguing in favor of keeping the records sealed. Keep an eye out for how the SUPCO decides this one.

Stoned diners in Colorado restaurants are passing out at the table, really?

A text message came in this weekend from a friend in South Carolina: “Is this a thing?” she asked. Included was a photo of a page from a magazine she was reading. It was the explainer column in the January 2015 edition of Food & Wine headlined “A Denver high.” In it, Kate Krader talks about how she came to check out Denver’s restaurant scene and perhaps uncovered an unexpected side effect of marijuana legalization: “Some guests pass out in the middle of dinner because they ingested too much THC beforehand.” Really? I told my friend I’ve only lived in Colorado for a year and a half, but so far I hadn’t seen anything of the sort and thought it was probably exaggerated. So, is this a thing? Help me out if you’ve seen this around town.

For the flip-the-legislature file: Redprint, Blueprint

In an October newsletter I included an item about a Boulder Weekly investigation indicating there’s a “Redprint” strategy currently in the works behind the scenes, tied to oil and gas interests and the University of Colorado Boulder’s Leeds School of Business. With control of the state legislature up for grabs this year— Democrats need just one seat to control the Senate and maintain three seats to keep control of the House— the indication is there could be an effort underway by conservatives similar to the Blueprint strategy progressives used in 2004. Well, this week the Complete Colorado blog’s Simon Lomax published an item after combing through campaign finance data for the group Fairness for Colorado to indicate a Blueprint 2.0 in the offing with ties to billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer and others.

“Big environmental donors and big environmental groups are joining forces with the architects of The Blueprint to win control of the state legislature,” Lomax writes. “Do the Republicans know what’s about to hit them, and will they be ready to respond? There’s a lot riding on the answer to that question, for both the left and the right.”

What you missed on the Sunday front pages across Colorado this weekend

Oh, you didn’t have time to get your coffee and spread a dozen newspapers across the dining room table this weekend? No one does, I know. So here’s what you missed from the Colorado Sunday fronts in case anyone asks.

On the front page of The Longmont-Times Call was a battle between activists and farmers who want to expand their GMO crop list. The Greeley Tribune had a piece called “The healthcare paradox” about how too many patients are treating the ER as primary care. The Loveland Reporter-Herald had a piece about local candidates getting ready for the March 1 caucuses.  The Steamboat Pilot ran a cover story on the potential of tiny houses (could they be the solution to the housing crunch in the area?) The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reported how Colorado’s coal output dropped 18 points last year.The Colorado Springs Gazette questioned the cost of new scrubbers on a dubious downtown coal-fired power plant. The Fort Collins Coloradoan dug into the salaries for top administrators at Colorado State University and found “raises were awarded as the Fort Collins campus grappled with a gender pay equity issue.” The Boulder Daily Camera reported how blacks in Boulder are twice as likely to get cited for traffic or misdemeanor offenses. The Durango Herald had a story about a state senator pushing for wildfire mitigation. Under the word FAIL in big font, The Denver Post ran a story about how Colorado’s “turnaround” schools received $50 million in the past six years but many haven’t improved.

Oh yeah, and The Denver Post totally wins for the best headline juxtaposition of the weekend. Troll on, DP designer whoever you are.

Colorado Matters interviewed the journalist who wrote that 123Mountain exposé for Outside magazine

Pissed-off consumers who had horrible customer service trying to buy outdoor gear from the Colorado-based 123Mountain website must have been reveling in this story by journalist Brandon Borrell in Outside magazine. The couple behind the Colorado company had earlier gushed to the local newspaper Summit Daily when they moved to Colorado about how much they wanted to live here. Now, they’re besieged by consumer complaints and appear as persona non grata in their adopted mountain ski town. Colorado Public Radio’s Nathan Heffel interviewed Borrell about his well-trafficked piece.

Notes on the political beat in Colorado this week from the nonprofit Colorado Independent

While Colorado’s biggest political battle, whether to reclassify the hospital provider fee, hangs in legal limbo, two ex-executive branch lawyers say it’s doable, and a Republican farmer from Alamosa is taking on a Koch brothers group over it— on Twitter! — after stepping out on the issue in a speech to business leaders.

Bernie Sanders held a massive rally in Denver the night he and Hillary Clinton spoke back-to-back at a Democratic fundraiser the day Antonin Scalia died, and they both spoke about the process of nominating the next Supreme Court justice.

Half the dozen-or-so Republican candidates in the unusual race for U.S. Senate met for a forum at DU where they sounded a lot alike; one of them copied language in a fundraising gun-giveaway e-mail from a 2014 candidate for U.S. Senate in South Carolina, and metal anti-homeless spikes appeared outside the downtown Colorado Springs office of the Democrat they’re all running against.

As lawmakers aim to lure teachers to rural Colorado, can a Democrat pass a rural jobs bill in this state? All while the state Department of Revenue is abusing rural Coloradans, according to witnesses at the Capitol.

Now, for some news on the local media front from CJR’s United States project (there are links in there, just hover over the words)

Last thing. Journalist math + Google Earth = News report

Did a million people really show up to a rally in downtown Denver for the Broncos earlier this month? Here’s how 9News, a Denver TV station, tried to find out:

When calculating the most densely-packed crowds, folks typically estimate each person uses roughly 2.5 feet of space. Using Google Earth, we determined Civic Center Park – including the streets and other spaces we saw people standing – measured out to roughly 1.2 million square feet. Divide that by 2.5 and you’ve got 480,000 people.

The station made a similar calculation for the parade route and added it up for a total estimate of 699,648. Now, if we could just get them on that estimated 18,000-person Bernie Sanders rally.

*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: Colin Dunn via Creative Commons on Flickr]