The U.S. Senate race in Colorado will have just ONE televised debate


Followers of the once-highly-anticipated U.S. Senate race in Colorado will apparently only get one shot to see the two major-party candidates debate on TV. “Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet has declined to debate Republican challenger Darryl Glenn in a CBS4, KOA News Radio, Colorado Public Television 12 debate,” reported CBS4 in Denver. “It is only the second time in CBS4 history an incumbent U.S. Senator has passed on the opportunity to debate his opponent on CBS4.” The Denver Post’s John Frank accused Bennet of “pulling a page from his Republican rival’s playbook.” That’s a reference to Glenn previously saying he would not participate in a Denver Post debate.

The only scheduled television debate between the two will be hosted by 9News and the Denver Business Journal on Oct. 11. Meanwhile, the third party candidates in the Colorado U.S. Senate race are debating every week, it seems. This Wednesday, Green Party candidate Arn Menconi will debate Libertarian Lilly Tang Williams at the University of Denver at 7 p.m. in the Reiman Theatre in the Marjorie Reed Building, Room 113, which I’ve agreed to moderate.

The Coloradoan tackled mental health in its latest community engagement event 

Alexandra Smith, who leads the engagement team at The Coloradoan in Fort Collins, was nervous about focusing on stories about mental health for the latest installment of the Gannet newspaper’s “Storytellers Project.” Part of the USA Today network, the project is one way newspapers around the country are trying to engage with the community they serve beyond just reporting on them. By “blending the art of oral storytelling with the truthfulness and community-building that is at the heart of great journalism,” the team at The Coloradoan comes up with a theme and holds a live event in town. They’ve done one about foodie tales and another about outdoor misadventures. (You can listen to the six speakers for that one here.)

The mental health event featured five speakers from the community who talked about their personal struggles with suicide, parental alienationdrug addiction,depression, stigmas, and more. It took place at the Wolverine Farm and Letterpress Publick House. And despite being nervous about it, Smith said on Twitter, the event was a huge hit.

The Coloradoan’s sixth storytellers project, taking place at Solarium International Hostel in December, will focus on “Going Home.”

‘The banning of the vanities’

Apologies to Tom Wolfe for the subject headline, but, according to CBS Denver, there’s a free speech debate raging on Colorado’s license plates. Or, more aptly, what’s not on them. The station’s Rick Sallinger found a list of more than 10,000 combinations of banned numbers and letters Coloradans can’t put on the plates. “One of them is 4TWENTY, a reference to marijuana,” Sallinger reports.  Some other plates a state Department of Motor Vehicles committee banned: 69SWINGER, 4SUM, AK47, PIMP, ACDC, 666EVIL, ABOMB, 76BICEN and AIDS. Other than marijuana being legal now— and 4TWENTY plates being banned—this isn’t really a new story, but still could be a fun perennial. In 2009, Colorado media reported how an ILVTOFU plate was banned because the DMV didn’t like the FU part. At the end of Sallinger’s Channel 4 piece one of its subjects implores viewers to sue the government on First Amendment grounds. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled states’ rights prevail here because the plates are a form of government speech.

Welcome to ‘The Purple State Project’ at The Denver Post

Politics reporter John Frank of The Denver Post has rolled out a new feature on the website called The Purple State Memo as part of the paper’s Purple State Project, a way the Post is “experimenting with new ways to tells stories about Colorado politics that better explain the state’s ‘purple’ status as a political battleground.

“The goal is to go beyond the horse-race coverage about who’s up and who’s down and look at the underlying factors that explain the nuances of Colorado’s even partisan divide,” reads the opener to the project.

So far, the first two memos have been good reads, a mix of analysis, quick hits, a weekly roundup of #copolitics news and some scooplets. In the second memo,The Colorado Independent’s reporting got a shoutout, too, which was nice to see in the Post.

The Pueblo Chieftain shakes up its Sunday newspaper— and goes more local 

Close readers of The Pueblo Chieftain might notice some changes coming to the daily newspaper in southern Colorado. For one, its Sunday front page will feature more local news. Why the changes, which began this week? “The Chieftain is a local newspaper, not a national newspaper such as, say, The New York Times or Washington Post,” read a note to readers by managing editor Steve Henson on the front page this Sunday. “Our prime directive is to bring you the news of Pueblo and Southern Colorado. We believe our most important stories should appear in the A section of the newspaper.”

What you missed on the front pages across Colorado

Did you go you leaf peeping in the mountains this weekend, driving through snow storms just two hours from your 85-degree city, and neglect to read all the stories fit for this past Sunday’s front pages in Colorado?

Well, The Greeley Tribune fronted a story about local police dealing with a mental health crisis in the areaThe Grand Junction Daily Sentinel had a piece about fallout from an agreement to cut coal production at local plantsThe Longmont Times-Call ran a story about three city buildings in need of repair.Steamboat Today & Sunday profiled a local junior hockey teamThe Loveland Reporter-Herald looked at how the city plans to address homelessnessTheColoradoan profiled a survivor of civil war in Africa who now lives in Fort CollinsThe Boulder Daily Camera reported on potential expansion at CU-Boulder SouthThe Durango Herald fronted a piece about the battle over a ballot measure to hike the state’s minimum wageThe Gazette reported on the reasons for a police shortage in the Springs.

A win for Colorado media in court this week 

A judge in Arapahoe County ruled “complaints and disciplinary actions against public school bus drivers are not ‘personnel’ records that must be kept confidential,” reports Jeffrey Roberts of The Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition. From the CFOIC blog post:

Judge Phillip L. Douglass also determined that two Cherry Creek School District unions failed to show that school bus drivers have a legitimate expectation of privacy that would bar the release of the information to 9NEWS. In denying the unions’ request for an injunction, Douglass relied on two Colorado Court of Appeals rulings that narrowly construe the definition of public employee personnel records exempt from disclosure under the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA).

Also involved in the lawsuit were 9News, CFOIC, The Denver Post, KCNC-TV, KDVR-TV, KMGH-TV and The Associated Press. According to Roberts, “it is likely the records won’t be released yet if the unions decide to appeal Douglass’ ruling.”

News from the political beat from The Colorado Independent

My colleague Marianne Goodland followed the money flowing into state House and Senate races as well as state ballot measures, and also profiled a potential swing congressional race on the Western Slope and a race for the first open seat in a House district in 14 years. I reported on what Colorado’s first all-mail presidential election means for the Clinton campaign, how Donald Trump is looking to Colorado for potential Supreme Court picks, how he changed his tune in Colorado Springs, and how his running mate Mike Pence responded to more police killings of black men with support for police during a stop in Colorado. Kelsey Ray had a Q-and-A with Colorado’s chief medical officer on the health impacts of fracking, and stories on how one in four Colorado schools are violating state transparency law, and how an e-mail controversy highlights CU’s problem with climate change. Editor Susan Greene wrote about how Denver’s city council president wants to limit the time his colleagues can speak, which some on council see as muzzling.

The Denver Post finished a yearlong investigation into Colorado’s oil-and-gas industry

This week The Denver Post published a series from a yearlong special project looking into deaths on Colorado’s oil-and-gas fields and a “regulatory vacuum” for the industry. Headlined “Drilling Through Danger,” the first piece gives a survey of accidental deaths in recent years, how they occurred, and lays out how regulation works— or doesn’t— when it comes to an industry that generates $15 billion in production here, “but receives less scrutiny from workplace-safety inspectors than roofers and homebuilders.”

From the first installment:

“If there are areas where we need to improve, you can be damn sure we’re going to do it,” said Eric Wohlschlegel, a spokesman for the American Petroleum Institute, a pro-industry trade organization. “I’m pretty confident that the oil and gas industry probably does some of the best work on safety.”

But a year-long Denver Post investigation shows that there is little consequence when companies let that promise lapse. A national legacy of encouraging oil and gas development — for energy security, for jobs, for the economy — has created a regulatory vacuum. There is an entire federal agency devoted to mining safety, for instance, but nothing comparable exists for oil and gas. While OSHA has created specific safety standards that companies in other industries must follow, oil and gas businesses successfully beat back such regulations for themselves. The standards — recommendations, really — that OSHA mostly uses to judge safety violations on oil and gas worksites were written by the American Petroleum Institute.

Debate about the industry in Colorado typically focuses on its environmental toll or its potential threat to public health. Meanwhile, 1,333 workers died in the nation’s oil and gas fields between 2003 and 2014, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The nationwide death toll in 2014 of 144 was the highest in more than a decade. By another measurement — the number of worker deaths per active drilling rig — 2014 was the second-most lethal year in Colorado in a decade, according to a Denver Post analysis. There was about one death per every 12 rigs that year.

The second installment dealt with the industry’s use of subcontractors, and the third tackled how new technology helps protect workers but companies cite “unnecessary costs” of upgrades. Read the stories by Monte WhaleyJohn Ingold and RJ Sangosti here.

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

My colleague Susannah Nesmith talked with a pregnant reporter covering the Zika outbreak in South Florida and also wrote about how after a bitter contest, a Florida newsroom voted to unionize. I wrote about how a new partnership is bringing solutions journalism to smaller newsrooms, and also about how two Oregonian reporters found ‘phony documents’ in the records of a sprawling state program.

University fighting words

Colorado Mesa University created a new Social Research Center in conjunction with the Pennsylvania-based Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin & Marshall College, and the project rolled out its first Colorado poll last week. The survey, which also counted Rocky Mountain PBS as a partner, looked at candidates but also ballot measures. In a write up about it in The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, CMU’s president said something that stuck out to me.

“As we looked out across the state, we realized that no other college or university is engaged in meaningful opinion research,” Tim Foster told the newspaper. “When we approached Rocky Mountain PBS with the idea, they quickly agreed to partner with us to fill this need while giving our faculty and students an opportunity to engage in relevant, practical research.”