Why Colorado newspapers from the 1800s are going … digital?


An unfortunate side effect of being a journalist in the digital age is when your publication gets sold, goes out of business, or undergoes a web re-design and the archives get lost. You lose work you thought you’d never have to archive yourself, and it’s a sad thing that has happened to me and plenty of other reporters I know who wish they saved hard (or digitized) copies of their work. Or, really, just wished whoever was in charge of maintaining the archives did a better job of it.

This won’t solve that problem, but thanks to a $200,000 grant from a program of the National Endowment for the Humanities to digitize newspapers, the nonprofit historical society History Colorado will digitize at least 100,000 pages of Colorado newspapers from the years 1859 to 1922. Who knows? There might even be some old timer left who can see his or her work from the Roaring ’20s on a screen.

“Starting in October 2016, History Colorado will work with an advisory board to identify newspaper titles to be digitized over a two-year period,” according to the Colorado Press Association. Next month readers can start finding these stories at the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection at the Colorado State Library.

An open records case to watch: Basalt, Colorado’s city council and executive sessions

Reporters and government-watchers groan whenever a city council goes into executive session where public officials talk about whatever’s outside public view. Colorado’s Open Meetings Laws restrict what pols can discuss behind closed doors. But what if a local government improperly goes into executive session in the first place? Should recordings from those meetings — if recordings of them exist— become public? That’s what a citizen who The Aspen Times describes as “a critic of Basalt town government” seeks to find out with an open records lawsuit filed by one of Colorado’s preeminent First Amendment attorneys, Steve Zansberg.

From the Aspen Times:

It seeks the audio recordings to executive sessions from April 26, May 24, Aug. 9 and Aug. 11. [Zansberg] wrote that the agendas for those meetings identified only the statutory provision and general topics of the closed-door meetings. He contends that the topics were later voted on at a public meeting with no further details provided to the public. “Thus, none of the closed-door meetings was preceded by the statutorily required public identification of the particular matter to be discussed in as much detail as possible without undermining the purpose for which the executive session is authorized,” Zansberg wrote.

Keep an eye on this one.

The South Platte Sentinel newspaper got a new owner after nearly three decades

“For 1,472 issues, owners Delinda Korrey and Ken McDowell have overseen the weekly newspaper that served Logan County,” The South Platte Sentinel reported about itself. But last month the community paper located in northeastern Colorado came under the ownership of the Journal-Advocate, a division of Prairie Mountain Media, which owns 17 publications in the state.

What you missed on the front pages across Colorado

Did Labor Day travel and camping in the mountains keep you in the dark about all the news fit for the front pages this weekend?

Well, The Greeley Tribune fronted a feature about local farmers “stuck in the cycle” of lower prices pushing high production and not breaking even. The Longmont Times-Call had a piece about dirty jobs city workers do, like cleaning out a 400-pound vat under a fish cleaning station at a reservoir. “Locals Rally Against Trump” was the print headline in Sunday’s Pueblo Chieftain. The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel wrote about an idea to use canal banks as trails. Steamboat Pilot Today & Sunday has a story noting how 60 percent of students at a local high school moved from other places and are involved with skiing or snowboarding. The Loveland Reporter-Herald fronted a story about a Larimer County task force on affordable housing. The Denver Post carried an investigation about DUI sentencing patterns. The Fort Collins Coloradoan put North Fort Collins on the cover as “The Final Frontier.” The Boulder Daily Camera had an A1 story about the re-emergence of a camping ban and how it affects homelessness. The Durango Herald had a story about three Durangoans whose solar company has become the third fastest-growing private company in America. The Gazette in Colorado Springs reported on a debate over the ColoradoCare universal healthcare ballot measure set for November.

A new daily feature at The Colorado Independent

If you like the weekly roundup of what was on the Sunday front pages throughout Colorado in this newsletter and would like to see a daily version, I’ve started a new feature called The Home Front at The Colorado Independent. I try to get them up before 9 a.m.if I don’t stay out too late. So bookmark the homepage of The Colorado Independent for your morning daily digest. (Oh, and big h/t to Kelsey Ray for the awesome image that accompanies the roundup each morning.)

The Denver Post used an open records act to investigate patterns in DUI sentencing after a new law

Colorado’s largest newspaper analyzed more than 300 DUI cases in Colorado since a new law took effect around this time last year. What The Denver Post found: “Colorado judges are handing out wildly different sentences for habitual drunken drivers convicted under a new felony DUI law, with about one in 12 defendants receiving no incarceration time and others getting lengthy prison sentences, a review of sentencing data shows.”

Here’s the nut:

Nearly 30 percent of the cases resulted in a prison sentence and about 48 percent included a straight jail sentence. The rest of the sentences, about 22 percent, were for time served in halfway houses, jail work-release programs or straight probation, the review found. Of those more lenient sentences, more than two dozen offenders or nearly 8 percent of the total spent no time behind bars for their convictions. In three cases, judges granted home detention, something Colorado law restricts to only the most limited of circumstances upon conviction of a third misdemeanor DUI. In another, a judge sentenced an offender to eight days in jail.

Also: One judge sentenced a defendant to 12 years in jail after a sixth conviction for DUI, while a different judge sentenced a different man to probation and community service after a sixth DUI conviction.

The Post’s accountability reporting about this new law has already triggered debate. The law’s chief sponsor wants to re-visit it during the next legislative session. Those who say the new law is working argue mandating minimum sentencing can lead to over-incarceration.

The race for a board seat at the Colorado Press Association begins

Labor Day is typically the unofficial kickoff of the political season. So you’ll see plenty of campaign coverage on your screens, airwaves and print pages. But here’s one campaign you might not hear about: The race for an open board seat of the Colorado Press Association after Denver Post city editor Larry Ryckman stepped down.

The deadline for anyone who wants a shot at the board seat should send a letter to association president Jerry Raehal by Sept. 9. “Please note, several people typically express interest in the open position, and the selection process can be challenging,” the association reports. “Also note that we will have openings in 2017 as well, and if you’re not selected to fill the vacancy, the board hopes you will consider running for a position then.”

A Teller County mistrial because (wait for it) a cop says supervisors erased body-cam footage

I’ve written for CJR’s United States Project about police body body camera use in Colorado and elsewhere, and in last week’s newsletter I highlighted a column about footage from them becoming public. Now, in Teller County, Colorado, this week we have a mistrial in a case because of allegedly deleted police body-cam footage, and, weirdly, also whether sheriff’s deputies in that county actually even use them.

From The Gazette in Colorado Springs (read the whole thing though, it’s a strange story):

The mistrial is only the latest problem to emerge related to the use of body cameras by Pikes Peak region law enforcement agencies.

Last October, Fountain police said an officer failed to activate a body cam before fatally shooting a 17-year-old Patrick O’Grady, who was allegedly brandishing a gun inside his home. A wrongful death lawsuit filed in March by O’Grady’s mother alleged the weapon was planted by authorities.

In April, Fountain police said they had lost an estimated 15,000 body camera videos because they had surpassed a 180-day retention period. The department switched to a different style of camera and revisited its file storage practices, police said.

Colorado currently doesn’t have a statewide policy about how police use or don’t use body cameras. In February, a state-appointed task force to study the issue released a final report, though. SPOILER: There were no recommendations about public access in the report. Go figure, right?

Denver Post reporter fatally hit by a car

Longtime Denver Post reporter Colleen O’Connor, 60, died last week after being hit by a car in Denver . The driver, a 23-year-old man, is under investigation for drunken driving. O’Connor “brought to work that same empathy she brought to the stories she chose,” said Denver Post editor Lee Ann Colacioppo in a piece this week. “She would gravitate to those who were struggling, where equality was an issue. She was so interested in what people were going through and how they got there.” The Post also touted O’Connor as “a model of adaptability in a rapidly changing industry.”

A casual memorial service will be held  10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 10 in James A. Bible Park near East Yale Avenue and Monaco Parkway in Denver.

*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 Ged Carroll for Creative Commons on Flickr.