Some residents can’t get Colorado news on TV. The FCC could fix that.

Alan Klim

TV viewers in Durango might live in Colorado, but their news comes from Albuquerque, New Mexico. That’s because La Plata County is what’s considered an “orphan county.” It’s too far away from Denver to have broadcasts beamed in. But apparently it’s not impossible. According to a story in The Durango Herald, DISH Network says bringing Front Range news to Durango TVs is “not technically unfeasible.” But, county staff in the area have to petition the feds.

From The Herald:

Over the next several months, county staff will be assembling a petition for market modification to the Federal Communications Commission that demonstrates the need for in-state programming. Market modification is the process by which the FCC can modify a television broadcaster’s market boundaries, and a rule authorizing the local petitioning process took effect early this year. Before the rule’s establishment, only broadcast and satellite companies could petition the market.

Once this Colorado county sends a petition, the FCC will have 120 days to decide whether Colorado residents can be able to get Colorado news. If they say yes, “satellite operators must then reach agreements with each affiliate station,” such as ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox and PBS.

For years, county staff and lawmakers in the area have been trying to get Colorado programming on the TVs of residents in these so-called orphan counties. One county commissioner in La Plata told the paper straight up: “Access to Denver TV is one of the highest priorities when I talk to people in the community.” The Herald has more on this effort and what it means here.

Gazette noted for not saying the spouse of its opinion page editor got money from a candidate

The liberal Media Matters for America group followed The Colorado Springs Independent alt-weekly this week in noting how The Gazette’s editorial page hadn’t mentioned that the spouse of that page’s editor got at least $3,000 from the campaign of a candidate whose praises the editorial page has sung. The alt-weekly in the Springs reached out to the op-ed page editor, but it doesn’t look like they got a response.

A Springs source pointed out to me that The Colorado Springs Independent hasn’t always made appropriate disclosures itself in coverage, like when reporting on the Trails and Open Spaces Coalition, a board on which its publisher sits and the paper itself describes as “influential.” The paper has disclosed its publisher’s board role in some stories mentioning TOSC, but not all, and its editor tells me disclosures are “a subject that the Independent always has taken seriously.” (Disclosure: I’ve written for The Colorado Springs Independent.)

CLAIM: “Colorado is no longer a battleground state.” And why that could be bad for local TV stations

This week, one of Colorado’s most quoted pollsters and political analysts, Floyd Ciruli, made the above provocative and definitive statement in a blog post. The CliffsNotes version is this non-blue-collar state has gone to the Dems in the last two presidential cycles, is growing with millennials and Latinos, and has a Republican Party base that’s un-friendly to Donald Trump.

“The implications of this shift are not good for Colorado Republicans, local TV stations and people who would like to see Donald Trump between now and the election,” Ciruli wrote and left it at that.

So… why would it be bad for TV stations? Because battleground status means more political advertising, which means more revenue for in-state TV stations. Those revenues have increased in recent campaigns, as — thanks to the Citizens United Supreme Court decision and other trends — a greater share of ad buys come from super PACs and other third-party groups, which can be charged whatever the market will bear. (Official campaigns are entitled to buy air time at the lowest rates offered to other advertisers.) In 2013, CJR published a piece titled “Snow Job,” in which Sasha Chavkin tracked an avalanche of ad spending for Denver broadcasters and where that money went. (As I’ve written, Colorado campaign ad spending can be tough to track.)

What you missed on the front pages of newspapers across Colorado on Sunday

Did you spend all day hiking to the summit of your local 14er just to prove all the snow hadn’t yet melted so you wouldn’t lose your office pool and neglect to read all the news fit for the Sunday front pages of Colorado’s largest papers? If so, I’ve got you covered.

The Longmont Times-Call had a piece about the city debating whether to relax a tasting limit at liquor stores. With “Greeley or Bust,” The Greeley Tribune detailed how the area is attracting more tourists. The Loveland Reporter-Herald fronted a profile of Steve Adams, the new city managerThe Pueblo Chieftain asked if legalized pot has changed the feel of the city (“Here’s a spoiler alert: There isn’t a simple answer to the question of whether legalized pot is a blessing or a curse”). Steamboat Pilot & Today Sunday had a cover story about new area trails in the worksThe Grand Junction Daily Sentinel ran a story about options for area elderly who want to age in their own homesThe Gazette reported on some hangups in the red-hot real estate market of Colorado SpringsThe Fort Collins Coloradoan has a cover story on Thomas Sutherland, a University of Colorado professor who died.  The Boulder Daily Camera fronted a story about the city’s negotiations with a utility to get off of coalVail Daily had a cover story about a 500 cyclist bike raceThe Durango Herald had a piece about area delegates for Bernie Sanders sticking with him at the DNCThe Denver Post looked at what’s next for the Gold King Mine a year after the spill.

ProPublica’s ‘Delayed, Denied, Dismissed’ FOI project had a Centennial State connection

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Freedom of Information Act, ProPublica reporters shared some of their most frustrating public record failures. One of them came from Sandra Fish, a Colorado data journalist who also does follow-the-money reporting in New Mexico.

From ProPublica:

When Sandra Fish, one of our volunteers, sought to take pictures of election results in Park County, Colorado, she was told that state law banned phones and computers from the clerk’s office (it doesn’t). She eventually got the results, but only after filling out a form, waiting several days and paying for them.

Fish, who was on an assignment from the group Open Elections, wrote  a blog post likening her troubles in getting precinct-level results to that of a “goofy cartoon,” replete with plenty of South Park references.

Ex-Denver Post owner Dean Singleton’s autobiography is apparently in the works

This week I found a little media tycoon nugget buried in a Grand Junction Daily Sentinel Q-and-A with Colorado nonfiction author Dick Kreck, who recently published a new book about the state’s historical high society titled Rich People Behaving Badly. Apparently he’s also helping former Denver Post owner Dean Singleton pen his autobiography.

From the Sentinel

What are you working on now? Kreck: I’m in the very, very early stages of interviews and research for an autobiography I am signed up to co-write with former Denver Post owner and publisher William Dean Singleton, a pivotal figure in the modern history of American journalism who started in the newspaper business as a teenager in Texas and continues to be a major voice today. The book is probably two or three years down the road.

Kreck is a former reporter for The Denver Post. Singleton, known as a shrewd businessman and empire-building entrepreneur who started his media career as a paperboy in Texas and bought his first newspaper at 21, owned The Denver Post from 1987 until a few years ago when Digital First Media, whose primary owner is a New York City hedge fund, took it over. At one point Singleton owned the second-largest newspaper company in America.

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

My colleague Deron Lee writes how a reporter’s arrest is just the latest reason to worry about press freedom in Missouri, and about an investigative reporter in Kansas who was laid off for the third time. Susannah Nesmith explains how a regional newspaper pulled off a national investigation into sexual abuse by doctors, and about how none of Florida’s newspapers are unionized but that it could change. CJR’s press freedom correspondent Jonathan Peters looks at whether Facebook Live could change the way courts think about privacy law. Jackie Spinner writes about a joint investigation that complicates old narratives about public housing in Chicago.

Denver journalist David Sirota is taking the lead on a big national healthcare story

Earlier this month my colleague Trudy Lieberman at CJR, who reports on healthcare coverage, highlighted the work of Denver journalist David Sirota, the investigations editor at the International Business Times. Sirota had published a blockbuster exposing potential conflicts of interest by Connecticut’s insurance commissioner who was reviewing a major national healthcare company merger deal, and followed up with multiple pieces advancing the story. Since then, the DOJ has filed a lawsuit to block the merger between Cigna and Anthem, an ethics regulator suggested officials misled the public, and the deal has slowed.

“There’s a lot of focus on Washington accountability on the part of journalists,” Sirota told Liberman for the CJR piece, about why he submitted the open records request that kicked off his reporting, “but comparatively little on state officials who have a huge amount of power and get little public scrutiny.”

Since Sirota’s big report, the International Business Times has laid off half the newsroom. Let’s be happy he’s still there.

Last thing. Like our state really needed this

Colorado is growing, and fast. People want to move here. And last week, these two headlines out of Colorado did plenty to keep the allure alive: “Beer rains onto I-25 after semi-truck overturns,” and “Colorado town finds THC in its water.”  Buuuuuut about that second headline. Once it bounced around the internet — you know why it might go viral — the Colorado Bureau of Investigation threw cold water on the claim. A next round of news stories walked back the weed-in-our-water narrative with the local sheriff’s office saying the initial test kit results are now believed to have been false positives. Looks like that one was just too good to be true. Even for Colorado.

*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: Alan Klim via Creative Commons on Flickr]