This Friday at noon, members of The Denver Newspaper Guild will rally in front of The Denver Post’s office downtown near the Capitol to “shine a light on the negative impact our community faces from the loss of journalists covering the region,” according to a release from Kieran Nicholson, the newspaper’s newsroom guild unit chair.
More the announcement:
Since Alden Global Capital – a secretive hedge fund – gained controlling interest in The Denver Post and dozens of other papers across the country, the Post newsroom staff has been cut in half. On April 28, management announced another voluntary separation offer to newsroom employees seeking 26 journalists, with the deadline to accept the offer by June 16. Layoffs are feared if the targeted number of journalists are not met. Led by founder Randall Smith and top executive Heath Freeman, Alden is harvesting the assets of its newspapers: selling real estate, slashing newsroom staff, and outsourcing work to drive up profits for privileged investors.
“Alden is one of the largest newspaper owners in the United States, yet it operates as a dark web of complex business structures to hide itself from the public view” said Bernie Lunzer, president of the NewsGuild-CWA, in a statement. “Alden is laying off the very journalists who’d be reporting this kind of vital information to the public. We believe the public has a right to demand complete transparency about Alden.”
In April, I’d written for Columbia Journalism Review’s United States Project about byline counts, union talks, and “a lot of anxiety” in the Denver Post newsroom. That was followed by news of 26 buyout offers.
Take a dip in Loveland, Colorado’s ‘shark-infested waters of the press’
Want to read how your local city government officials talk to each other when not gabbing on the public dais? Then check out Loveland Reporter-Herald reporter Saja Hindi’s recent story about her city government. The reporter requested e-mails from city council members and the mayor about the recent firing of the city manager. They read like a string of iPhone group text messages by teenagers. I’ll save you the whole backstory about this local government fiasco, but one part jumped out. A portion of an e-mail from the mayor about the process of replacing the city manager:
“The amount of time and commitment that this process is going to take, navigating the, no offense, shark-infested waters of the press, every blogger, to have the process handled in a correct and legal manner is going to take some time,” he said.
Why this Colorado TV anchor thought about putting a rock through someone’s car window
Denver’s 9News anchor Kyle Clark, no stranger to biting commentary, had a stirring on-air apology to viewers this week. “I thought about putting a rock through someone’s car window today,” he said. “Didn’t do it. Didn’t think about it that long, just for a second. But I thought about it. And now there’s an apology in order.” It turns out Clark had found a dog crying in a hot car in 90 degree weather outside a frozen yogurt store. Hence, the fleeting thought of smashing the window. But he convinced himself it wasn’t his business and ran his errand. When the news anchor came back after 10 minutes and the dog was still in the hot car, he called city services, but was put on hold. When the dog owner came outside with some frozen yogurt he confronted the owner about the situation. The owner basically laughed. “So, there’s an apology in order,” Clark soberly told his news audience. “Not for you. No. For your dog. I’m sorry your dog doesn’t have better humans.”
The station followed up with a segment about what to do if you see a dog in a hot car. (Smashing a hole in a car window could bring criminal charges. Clark said he “would have smashed the window” if he felt like the dog was about to die.) In a subsequent segment, Clark says the reason why he felt he had to say something about the experience on air was “to try and give other people the courage to do what I did really badly, which was to make a call so a professional can make an assessment of the dog and to have the courage to say something.”
The Denver Post’s new editor— the first woman ever to hold the position— talked to Colorado Matters
This week Lee Ann Colacioppo, The Denver Post’s first female editor, sat for an interview with Colorado Public Radio’s Nathan Heffel. Colacioppo, a longtime Denverite, talked about how she’ll helm a shrinking newsroom amid industry disruption, and she explained the new structure of the newsroom I told you about in a May 4 newsletter. Colacioppo, who was an investigative editor, said:
We’re going to hold on to the investigative team. It will sort of fall under the broad umbrella of our enterprise team but I was an investigative editor and I worked in that field and I firmly believe in it and I believe that when you get smaller, it’s actually all the more reason to continue to have people devoted to doing investigative work.
In her interview, Colacioppo said “The staff is distressed that we’re getting smaller. I’m distressed that we’re getting smaller.” She said the paper is much more interested in growing its Colorado audience than a national one.
The new editor also spoke to the problem of diversity in newsrooms industrywide.
“Denver has been really blessed in that,” she said. “Of course we know that [former top editor] Greg [Moore] was black, still is actually. And the managing editor at the Post is a female we just named. And our head of photography is female and the head of business is female. So we have, and the head of our digital operation is female. So our newsroom is actually pretty rich in that right now but I think as an industry we have work to do.”
If you want to see what diversity looks like in Colorado newsrooms, here are the 2014 figures for Colorado and 2015 figures from the American Society of News Editors that show the percentages of minorities in newsrooms from those who responded.
What you missed on the Sunday front pages across Colorado
Did you wake up Sunday morning, hear about America’s worst mass shooting, and just not want to read the news for the rest of the day? I don’t blame you. Here’s what you missed on Colorado’s Sunday fronts:
The Greeley Tribune ran a big Sunday feature on Colorado’s ballot-measure battle over fracking and the oil-and-gas industry. The Longmont Times-Call had a piece about how the UCLA shooting created a local controversy over locks on all classroom doors.Steamboat Today ran a cover story about public art. The Grand Junction Daily Sentinelhad a piece about a burglary ring with an “extensive reach“. The Gazette in Colorado Springs fronted a story about the local sheriff ending an investigation into the slaying of Colorado’s prison chief. The Coloradoan in Fort Collins had a cover story about scarred trails being slow to heal. The Daily Camera in Boulder wrote about the potential sale of the newspaper’s former office buildings. The Aspen Times fronted news that the the 2016-17 calendar for World Cup alpine skiing has been approved. The Durango Heraldmourned the loss of the Blue Angels crash pilot who was from the area. The Denver Posthad a profile of an inmate whose “second chance was yanked away after officials discovered 88-year sentencing mistake.”
Five different ways Colorado can increase transparency in government— from a reporter
I saw The Cure play in Denver this week. They were great, but didn’t play one of my faves, “Six Different Ways.” That’s OK, The Denver Post’s John Frank, who covers politics and government for the paper, has me covered on five of them. At least when it comes to five different ways to better increase transparency in Colorado. Wow, really reached for that reference! Anyway, last week Frank produced a report that laid out five different ways in which Colorado could allow more sunshine into state government, writing, “It’s no wonder the nonprofit Center for Public Integrity gave Colorado an F gradefor its open-records laws.” (Disclosure: I authored the CPI report.)
Frank runs down a series of non-abstract events that showcase how Colorado’s opaque government hinders public access and what that means in the real world. “The dire state of transparency in Colorado government is leading to an inflection point — one that demands a significant remake of the sunshine laws, if not a constitutional fix to ensure the accountability of the government to the people,” the reporter writes.
Frank also explains how a gridlocked state legislature missed opportunities to shore up state laws this year— laws that are “riddled with major holes.”
Lamenting shortfalls in transparency, of course, is a perennial process for plenty of newspaper reporters. But what makes this Frank piece stand out is his offer for solutions. The reporter lists five areas that “deserve a deeper look for much-needed reforms.” Read them here.
Speaking of transparency… Boulder County won’t release videos in a jail death
“Boulder County is refusing to release videotape that may shed light on the May 27 death of Stephanie Anderson in the county’s jail,” writes my colleague Susan Greene, editor ofThe Colorado Independent.
More from the nonprofit publication:
The mother of three from Denver, who was being jailed on a shoplifting charge and an outstanding warrant, was reportedly found unresponsive in her cell a day after she had complained of feeling ill. Jail officials tried to resuscitate her for about half an hour before she was pronounced dead. Witnesses housed in the unit with Anderson say sheriff’s deputies ignored her cries for help. One deputy reportedly mocked her in Spanish.
The Independent filed an open records request for the video but was blocked by a county custodian who said the contents are part of an ongoing investigation. ‘In 2010, Denver stalled 10 months before releasing videotape of inmate Marvin Booker’s death at the Denver jail,” Greene writes. “More recently, it took Denver about two months to release footage of inmate Michael Marshall’s November 2015 death at the hands of sheriff’s deputies who were trying to restrain him. The Independent sued Denver in January for the Marshall videotapes. The city released the footage a day later and the lawsuit has since been dropped.”
Colorado’s big U.S. Senate primary explained
Ballots are out in Colorado’s sprawling GOP primary for U.S. Senate, a race that’s been getting national attention as it tumbles toward the June 28 deadline. I wrote an explainer piece for The Colorado Independent about what you need to know.
If you like useful journalism like this, think about making a contribution to the nonprofit news site. If you donate today, Monday, your contribution will be matched two-to-one by a generous donor, meaning every dollar you give will have an impact of $3.
Speaking of writing for The Independent: Sometimes after interviewing a new politician source or subject you’re like, “Hey, do you have a headshot we could use for the story?” This week I pulled one of those after wrapping an interview with Colorado’s only Green Party member who holds a partisan elected office. I did not expect this from him when he sent a photo my way. Maybe I should have?
An update about CU-Boulder’s journalism program
The last time I sent this newsletter you got it twice— the second time with an embarrassing correction because I didn’t look at a date on a story about CU-Boulder’s journalism school. It turns out the chair of the university’s journalism department is a regular reader of this newsletter and noticed the item, too. So double ouch. Anyway, since several readers wrote to me about the issue— some might not have recalled the stories from 2011 and wondered what had happened— let me add some context for that, and update everyone on the status of the program.
“While it’s true the school went through a discontinuance process as part of becoming a new college, during this process the faculty never stopped teaching journalism and it is still a nationally accredited program that has continually updated curriculum,” says Malinda Miller, the assistant dean for communication and engagement at the College of Media, Communication and Information. “The new college,” she adds, “officially launched last August and has an enrollment of over 1,800 undergraduate and graduate students.”
You can find the website here for more info about it.
The alt-weekly in Colorado Springs is looking for an editor if you know anyone
The Colorado Springs Independent, the alt-weekly in Colorado’s second largest city, is looking for a new editor. Readers of the paper this week were greeted with a note stating editor Vanessa Martinez “departed after a year to pursue new challenges.”
Martinez had come on board the The Indy around the time news editor Robert Meyerowitz and top editor Kirk Woundy left. Meyerowitz had been there for about two years, Woundy had been there in various editing roles since 2005. Within the last year or so three news editors have departed, along with an arts editor, a marijuana and food writer, and a top designer. Publisher John Weiss, who started the paper, also stepped aside, and CEO Fran Zankowski stepped down to become a consultant.
“Papers go through transitions,” Zankowski told me in an e-mail. “They’re hard on everyone. And they take their toll.” No joke. (Disclosures: I’ve contributed stories for the alt-weekly under Meyerowitz and Martinez. And Zankowski once paid a hefty dinner-and-drinks tab at a Broadmoor restaurant.)
For her part, Martinez says she left on good terms and is happy with what she was able to do at the paper.
The paper’s publisher will conduct a “national thorough search for the next editor, looking locally and across the nation.” So if you know anyone, give them a holler!
Now, some news on the local media front from CJR’s United States Project
As more police wear body-cams, states are setting new rules that limit access to footage, writes my colleague Deron Lee. CJR’s press freedom correspondent Jonathan Peters explains how California’s new copyright bill might chill public debate. He also writes about a state court’s ruling that local agencies can use a classic CIA tactic to evade FOI requests. Trudy Lieberman, who watchdogs healthcare reporting for CJR, writes about how reporter Lauren Sausser of The Charleston Post and Courier forged her own path covering healthcare in South Carolina. Susannah Nesmith shows us how in Georgia, one small-town newspaper owner took on a goliath waste company. Jackie Spinner writes about a Chicago reporter who ‘explodes stereotypes’ with unexpected stories about the city. And I wrote about how Denver’s new local site has the feel of a national startup.
*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.