‘Anxiety’ at The Denver Post, Colorado’s creepiest hotel, and more

Topher McCulloch

CJR: Managers at the The Denver Post are counting the bylines of their reporters

Last Monday, certain reporters at The Denver Post were on the hunt for stories. More stories. Managers at the paper had just announced that editors would officially be measuring the number of items published by investigative journalists and reporters who work on the city desk.

I wrote for Columbia Journalism Review’s United States Project this week about these new “story counts” or “targets” or however management at the paper is characterizing them. But here’s how journalists I spoke with at the Post see them: byline quotas. And, as at least some in the newsroom understand it, there could be consequences for failing to hit the target. Now, that’s not what management at the newspaper told me when I asked. You can read about it here.

The story-count-content-target-byline-quota thing is just one part of why “there’s a lot of anxiety in the newsroom,” according to one reporter there. The policy comes at an uncertain time for The Denver Post. I explored why for the CJR piece.


“It’s gotten to the point where it’s pretty exhausting,” said Kieran Nicholson, a reporter and union leader who has been at the paper since 1986. “For people like me—and there’s a few of us who have been around that whole time—it’s death by a thousand cuts, and we ride this roller coaster of emotion and seeing so much talent walk out the door.”

I hope you’ll read the whole story and share it widely.

A gripping story about the creepiest hotel in Colorado, and the local reaction to it

While on vacation in Austin, Texas this weekend I finally got around to reading “The Voyeur’s Hotel” by Gay Talese in The New Yorker. If you haven’t yet read it I don’t mean to blow a hole in your workday by running the opening paragraph and drawing you in, but I think it’s safe to say The Stanley just got one-upped in the creepy Colorado hotel category since Stephen King’s inspiration for The Shining.

From the Talese piece:

I know a married man and father of two who bought a twenty-one-room motel near Denver many years ago in order to become its resident voyeur. With the assistance of his wife, he cut rectangular holes measuring six by fourteen inches in the ceilings of more than a dozen rooms. Then he covered the openings with louvred aluminum screens that looked like ventilation grilles but were actually observation vents that allowed him, while he knelt in the attic, to see his guests in the rooms below. He watched them for decades, while keeping an exhaustive written record of what he saw and heard. Never once, during all those years, was he caught.

The way Talese, who is publishing a book about all this, handled the info came in for criticism as a “failure of journalistic ethics” from Issac Chotiner at Slate. Dick Lehr atNewsweek asked if a reporter is as guilty as a source he protects. WaPo’s Paul Farhlexplored the ethical dilemmas as well. I was interested to see how Colorado media localized the story once the scandalous tale hit the Internet. Here’s a roundup:

Westword found a photo of the since-demolished Manor House hotel in the alt-weekly’s archives. For an on-location broadcast, Denver’s ABC affiliate reached out to the hotel’s owner, Gerald Foos who lives in Brighton, but couldn’t reach him. “Aurora Police say they have no record of the homicide Foos told Talese he witnessed in one of the hotel rooms,” the station reported. But The Denver Post caught up with Foos in its own writeup, reporting how the subject believes “the book will create a real situation, let’s put it that way.” Uh, yeah. The Denver district attorney’s spokeswoman told the Post that statutes of limitations have passed for any potential crimes Foos might have committed in the years he spied on his guests. (In 2013 The Denver Post had found Talese in Denver doing some reporting for his book and trying to find details on that alleged murder Foos witnessed at the hotel.)

A Denver newscaster didn’t like seeing a woman buying pot in her underwear

“All right, Colorado, I love ya, but we gotta start putting on pants when we go to buy marijuana.” That’s how KDVR Denver TV reporter Jeremy Hubbard started out a rant that bounced around Internet this week. He’d apparently seen a woman going into the pot store in her underwear while he was at the dry cleaner. He had some advice.

Now look, the eyes of the world are upon us. Everybody’s watching how we handle legal marijuana, and the last thing we want to do is add to the perception that we’re a bunch of stoners who don’t have the energy to get out of bed. So when you’re going to buy marijuana at least please put on pants. That’s all I ask.

The video elicited this comment from one YouTube user: “I find it very satisfying that a women going in a dispensary with no pants is a bigger story than the dispensary itself. Times are changing for the better.”


What you missed on the front pages of Colorado newspapers on a random Tuesday in April

I got sidetracked with something called chickenshit bingo on Sunday, so I couldn’t quite get to the front page stories in Colorado. BUT. You know what’s alllllmost as good? TheTuesday front pages! Really. Who looks at those? So, for posterity’s sake, here’s what the papers across our state fronted on Tuesday, April 19, 2016, also known as the-day-before-that-day-everyone-gets-high.

The Colorado Springs Gazette had a story about uncertainly among the city’s homeless as a shelter closes. The Greeley Tribune had a piece about real estate data showing no decline in home prices during an oil-and-gas drilling boom. The city of Grand Junction’s crime rate is up, according to a story in the Daily Sentinel. A death in an ambulance crash was front-page news for The Fort Morgan Times. Families found fun on annual Children’s Day in Loveland, per the Reporter-Herald. “Bacon answers election questions” was the headline of the day for The Sterling Journal-Advocate. A school district’s trial balloon for a new school made the front page of The Fort Collins Coloradoan. It was construction on the Alleyscape and Breezeway Project for The Longmont Times-CallColorado Daily had a piece about customizable weed highs (“They come in feelings, not flavors: Relaxation, contentment, fascination and enthusiasm.”) There was more about Boulder’s perception of criminalizing the homeless (this time it’s addresses disappearing from jail logs) on the front page of The Boulder Daily Camera. It was the end of an era for the Appaloosa Trading Co. founder as the lead story in The Durango Herald. A family is in need in Cañon City after a fire, per The Daily RecordLocal bears are awaking hungry, says Vail DailyThe Denver Post had a piece about Google’s virtual visits adding more than 30 Colorado hikes and tourist traps.

A TV reporter’s story led to more disclosures by candidates in the big U.S. Senate race

Denver 7 reporter Marshall Zelinger did some enterprising work with impact this week, digging into the rules about candidates for office who use photos of themselves in military uniform in campaign material. Turns out such photos “must be accompanied by a prominent and clearly displayed disclaimer that neither the military information nor photographs imply endorsement by the Department of Defense or their particular Military Department.” Zelinger checked the websites and social media profiles of three Colorado candidates for national office who appear in uniform in photos. He found the candidates didn’t have the disclosures prominently displayed. After hearing from Zelinger for his broadcast some of them added them in more prominent locations.

Medical marijuana advertising vs. First Amendment concerns in Colorado

Free speech? Fuggetaboutit. That was essentially the reaction from lawmakers who supported a ban on medical marijuana advertising that kids under 18 are likely to see.

“The House Finance Committee voted 9-2 in favor of HB 16-1363, despite some opinions that it’s an unconstitutional violation of commercial free speech,” wrote Jeffrey Roberts of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition at his blog. Both The Colorado Press Association and the Colorado Broadcasters Association had questioned the legality of the legislation, not to mention restrictions on recreational pot advertising that already exist.

Those rules bar pot shops from advertising in publications unless there is “reliable evidence” that no more than 30 percent of a publication’s readership is under 21.

More from Roberts at CFOIC:

The Colorado Press Association, Westword, High Times and the Pulp magazine in Pueblo sued over the ad restrictions, but the federal lawsuits were dismissed because the organizations didn’t have legal standing to challenge the rules.

Probably not an issue going away anytime soon for publications here, some of which make a lot of money off the legalized weed industry.

The headline of the week comes from The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

“Interesting times at the state legislature” was the tweet that led me to this headline inThe Grand Junction Daily Sentinel: “Legislature takes up jobs, dogs, aliens.”

At first I was excited. This is Colorado, the state that just hosted a big space industry conference in Colorado Springs featuring Amazon founder/WaPo owner Jeff Bezos whotalked about zoning Earth as residential and doing all our manufacturing outside the ozone layer. Plus, our governor is one of Hillary Clinton’s biggest swing-state supporters and superdelegates and Clinton recently said she wants to investigate and de-classify the government’s UFO files. But, no. The aliens in the story are a reference to Colorado keeping the terms “alien” and “illegal alien” on the law books. As for the jobs and dogs, well, just read the story.

Independent media champion Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! is coming to Colorado this week

When I moved to Colorado in 2014 it was the first time I’d heard Democracy Now! playing on a college radio station. Then that station, KRCC, cancelled the show. Shame. Host Amy Goodman has always been such a huge supporter and champion of independent media. But Goodman still loves Colorado, because she’s headed here again with two dates coming up. On April 22 at 7 p.m., she’ll be at Colorado College in Colorado Springs for an event and book signing that’s free and open to the public. On April 23 she hits up the Paradise Theater in Paonia for a talk and to help raise money for The Colorado Independent and High Country News. She’ll be talking about a new book she wrote about 20 years of covering social movements with co-writer Denis Moynihan, who lives in Denver.

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

CJR’s press freedom correspondent Jonathan Peters writes how more than 20 months after Ferguson, HuffPo reporter Ryan Reilly and WaPo’s Wesley Lowery are still facing charges in St. Louis County, something Peters calls, “a remarkable low point for government harassment of the press.” Susannah Nesmith writes about how The Tampa Bay Times‘ investigation of segregated schools had impact (beyond winning a Pulitzer Prize.) Jackie Spinner explains how one reporter’s beard gimmick became a useful tool for covering the Illinois budget stalemate. Anna Clark tells us how a unique community radio station serves listeners in Appalachia. And I wrote about an uncertain time at The Denver Post including byline counts, union talks, and ‘a lot of anxiety’ in the newsroom.

*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

[Photo credit: Topher McCulloch via Creative Commons in Flickr]