Who let a cop ride along in a Denver TV news chopper during a manhunt?


Last week, as a manhunt for a shooting suspect in Boulder dragged into its seventh hour, a city police spokeswoman “approached reporters at the scene to ask whether an officer could be taken up above the search area in the helicopter shared by Denver TV stations,” The Daily Camera reported. And guess what? An officer did go up in the news chopper, perhaps setting up a perceived precedent that local journalistic institutions can, at times, be willing to work like an arm of the government.

Here’s what local cop spox Shannon Cordingly told the Boulder newspaper about how this “partnership” went down:

“I was able to talk to reporters, who talked to their news desk, and we were able to coordinate that the helicopter landed in Boulder. They were able to pick up one of our officers, and that way, we could better search the area.”

The police spokeswoman called the decision a “win-win” for journalists and police. The news copter was “instrumental” in helping cops quickly apprehend the suspect, and reporters were able to report the story as it unfolded, she said. I’ve written before about TV reporters relying too much on versions of events provided by police, but this is something else.

The helicopter in question is shared by KOA News Radio and Denver’s ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC affiliates, and a pilot rotates between them. At the time of the manhunt, the pilot was working for KUSA 9News, the NBC affiliate. “9News issued a statement saying the helicopter’s pilot — and not the news desk or any station employees, as Boulder officials indicated — granted the police request,” The Daily Camera reported.

The local newspaper did a good job in its story pointing out the ethical considerations for the news stations. My favorite was this:

The media helicopter’s participation in Tuesday’s manhunt, for example, erased at least one notable storyline: Boulder sought, but could not secure in any timely fashion, the aid of law enforcement partners from Denver and the FBI in getting airborne during the search.

No kidding! For some colorful Colorado history involving a news copter in 1998 actually landing on a fleeing car in Denver, check out this Denverite story. That particular pilot said at the time he had “crossed that invisible barrier between being a journalist and a citizen,” and he had no regrets.

Speaking of Denverite, the site is embarking on a journalism experiment at the 16th Street Mall

Reporters for the new online hyperlocal news site Denverite, backed by investors from Business Insider and led by a former Denver Post features editor, will be on the 16th Street Mall for what the site is calling a “day-long journalism experiment.” Denverite also asked readers to fill out a survey about a place that “has become the center of some of the most controversial conversations in Denver.” Will look forward to seeing what shakes out.

The Denver Post advances the ballot measure language wars

Last week, I wrote for Columbia Journalism Review’s United States Project about how newsrooms in Colorado are grappling with what to call a ballot measure that would make it legal for someone to end their own life with prescription drugs. This week, The Denver Post followed up with a Sunday story headlined “‘Dying with dignity’ versus ‘doctor-assisted suicide:’ ballot initiative sets off language battle.”

An excerpt from the piece by investigative reporter Jennifer Brown:

The loaded words on both sides are a case study in the power of language, and how rhetoric — or the art of public persuasion — can shape political debate.

As I pointed out in the CJR story, Colorado newsrooms are still divided on how to handle coverage of the measure. KUSA 9News in Denver is sticking with calling the measure an “assisted suicide” law based on the dictionary definition of suicide. Conversely, The Denver Post has chosen to call it “medical aid in dying,” because “the word suicide carries meaning beyond the dictionary definition.”

What you missed on the Sunday front pages across Colorado

Were you wrapped up in the back-to-school rush and not able to get around to reading all the stories fit for the Sunday A1 section of the newspapers throughout Colorado?

Well, The Greeley Tribune ran an A1 Sunday feature about how a committee of citizens formed to combat Weld County’s bad infant mortality rate. The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel had a story about a new airport director trying to fix a mess. The Longmont Times-Call fronted a story about a city program that uses dogs to chase geese off golf courses. The Steamboat Pilot Today & Sunday put a youth work corps on the cover. With “Your neighbor is hungry,” The Coloradoan in Fort Collins mapped local food bank use.The Loveland Reporter-Herald reported on Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein courting Bernie Sanders fans at a campaign stop. The Aspen Times profiled Woody Creek Distillers. The Durango Herald reported how La Plata County roads are wearing thinThe Boulder Daily Camera reported on an “unusually contentious” proposal to build homes for young homeless. And The Denver Post had a story about the Beaver Creek Fire still burning after two months.

The major party candidates for U.S. Senate have a funny way with media this year 

“The days when journalists wouldn’t respond to officials who insult them, lie about them, degrade them, or otherwise slam their professionalism are fading,” opines progressive consultant Jason Salzman at his BigMedia blog this week. He’s talking about how reporters publicly responded to GOP U.S. Senate nominee Darryl Glenn. The candidate has blacklisted The Denver Post, accused one of its reporters of calling him a liar “off the record,” and in general just feels the paper’s news and editorial pages have not treated him fairly. So he stopped talking to the paper altogether. The Post even mentioned this in a story about Glenn’s “failure to launch” as a general election candidate over the weekend. (Oh yeah, and he has not yet won the general election, by the way.)

Interestingly to me, Glenn’s Democratic opponent, Michael Bennet, wasn’t exactly Mr. Accessible when I saw him at the State Fair on Friday in Pueblo, either. He declined multiple times to take questions on-the-record. Why? His spokesperson later said the sitting U.S. Senator from Colorado who is up for re-election just, well, wasn’t expecting to talk to the press that day. And that, folks, is the modern political campaign.

Monster.com CEO to Denver Post owner: You’re ‘reckless’

When I lived in Charleston, S.C., TV crews used to film this show called “Reckless” around downtown or near the harbor sometimes. It was some cop or legal drama or another. The show sure wasn’t about newspapers. (When it comes to how the larger chain papers chose to adapt to changing times, though, maybe it could have been!)

Anyway, the CEO of Monster.com told shareholders exactly what he thought about Media News group. That’s the firm that owns The Denver Post, is the largest shareholder in Monster Worldwide, and chose to oppose a buyout deal from a Dutch firm. Hence, the CEO of Monster.com calling the newspaper’s owner “reckless.” Read the rest here if you’re into this kind of financial news. (I know the new president of the Denver Press Club is!)

The Gazette snags a veteran Colorado editor to run the paper’s daily news operation

Chalk another one up for big moves at The Gazette, which is expanding its political news operation under new editor Vince Bzdek who came from WaPo in the spring. The paper is now bringing over veteran newsman Jim Trotter, 69, a former AP and Rocky Mountain News editor who since 2012 has been leading the Rocky Mountain PBS investigative/public service newsroom. He’ll now oversee The Gazette’s daily news operation.

In an announcement from the paper, Trotter said, a good newspaper “is a leading citizen of its community. It’s fair, impartial and courageous. You can count on it. A good newspaper has a sense of compassion. It is informative, highly readable and interesting to look at. There are many types of good news stories, but the best ones are those that bring light, that make a difference for readers.”

Last thing. Why we shouldn’t hide what police body cameras show

Colorado First Amendment attorney Steve Zansberg had a column in Governing magazine this week taking on the problem of local police keeping body-cam footage secret across the nation. “Withholding the recordings feeds the public’s suspicion that there is something to hide,” he said.

*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 by Robert for Creative Commons on Flickr.