Parents flip out when a Colorado Springs area student newspaper endorses Clinton

Ryan Hammer


In a so-funny-but-not-funny report in The Gazette this week— that’s right, not The Onion— reporter Debbie Kelley revealed how parents of Palmer Ridge High School students in a heavily conservative part of the state acted like high schoolers themselves after the school’s newspaper endorsed Hillary Clinton for president.

Some highlights from the piece:

The editorial “outraged” some parents, said Palmer Ridge English teacher and newspaper adviser Tom Patrick. They emailed the school and took to social media, saying the editorial was inappropriate for a student publication, that Trump should have been given equal space, and that the paper’s staff should be suspended. They said Patrick was a “communist” and a “socialist.” They accused him of indoctrinating students and called for his job. “There are a lot of parents that don’t understand what the rights of the student press are and the Colorado law,” Patrick said.

Cue that silent “Jon Stewart look.”

Nine students comprise The Bear Truth editorial board of the school’s paper that comes out once a month. The news made it around. The Denver Post’s editorial board wrote its own editorial callingThe Bear Truth’s editorial “courageous.”

From the Post:

Faculty adviser Tom Patrick is a well-regarded expert in student papers. He is correctly following the 1990 Colorado Student Free Expression Law and its tough-minded provisions — which freedom lovers should be proud exist in our state and only eight others. Many other states allow school administrators to meddle with or even censor student publications.

In a gesture of solidarity, the Post sent The Bear Truth “a bunch of desserts from Borrellio Brothers.” The student paper also endorsed local Republicans with no controversy. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, yeah, the student newspaper’s website traffic went through the roof.

The best/worst editor’s note of the 2016 presidential race goes to The Boulder Daily Camera

A recent write-up in The Daily Camera about a campaign swing by Donald Trump Jr. through Boulder this week carried a hilarious editor’s note that probably was not meant to be so hilarious:

EDITOR’S NOTE: Comments attributed to a Trump campaign spokeswoman were removed from an earlier version of this story at her request after she learned she would be identified by name.

Huh? So Trump’s Colorado spokesperson doesn’t want to speak for him? I reached out to The Camera about this odd note, and basically it comes down to a misunderstanding between an editor and a reporter about whether the reporter agreed not to name the spox (he says he did not) in the story.

From The Camera’s Matt Sebastian:

 When I spoke to her, and she claimed she’d been promised anonymity and demanded her name be removed from the story, I told her we don’t quote spokespeople anonymously. She then said something to the effect of, “Then I don’t want those quotes in the story at all.” I was, to be honest, kind of taken aback, and said, “You’d rather the Trump campaign not be represented at all than have your name in the story?” She said yes, and I agreed to remove the quotes, thinking we’d promised her anonymity.

To be honest, I thought it was totally bizarre that a campaign spokesperson was so worked up about having their name attached to a Trump story. Still, I knew it was highly unusual, and quite awkward, to remove somebody’s quotes from a story at their request, especially an official spokesperson. It’s not something we do. But I also felt that if we’d agreed to not use her name, we should honor that.

“Like I said, this one’s squarely on me,” Sebastian told me. By the time he realized the mistake, he said, “it would have been doubly awkward to undo it all and put the quotes back in, especially since it was a placeholder story that was going to be overwritten that afternoon by coverage of the actual event.”

Hillary’s Colorado campaign controlling The Denver Post’s editorial board? Probably nah.  

Reporter Megan Verlee of Colorado Public Radio spotted some interesting emails in the hacked #PodestaEmails Wikileaks dump related to Colorado. The email chain is about an anti-fracking Bernie Sanders ad and how the Clinton camp would respond in Colorado. Clinton staffers talk about how they’ll push some Clinton supporters with anti-fracking reputations out front if they have to, but maybe don’t want to start a rumble. Says one Clinton Colorado staffer in the alleged emails: “I think the Denver Post Ed Board could smack Sanders if we want them to but that makes it a bigger fight.”

9News reporter Brandon Rittiman posted on Twitter “HRC camp so casually talking of ability to control @denverpost ed board is not a good look.” Associated Press reporter Nick Riccardi weighed in: “I don’t know if it’s controlling the Post ed board or just knowing that it is reliably pro-energy.”

It’s doubtful Clinton’s Colorado people could control the editorial board of the state’s largest newspaper— or even think they could. It’s not like they’re Mike Coffman. I kid, I kid.

USA Today’s Denver correspondent gets the money quote in Columbia Journalism Review

This week I wrote for CJR’s United States Project about a multi-million-dollar libel verdict a jury in North Carolina handed down against The Raleigh News & Observer— and how journalists across the country are reacting to the fallout from certain aspects of the three-week trial. During court proceedings the plaintiff’s lawyer grilled the paper’s journalists on the stand about emails, notes, and planning documents the lawyer had obtained during discovery that were related to the published story in question. “After the verdicts came down, the N&O reported [the plaintiff’s] attorney said he believed internal emails and memos from the newsroom had an impact on the jury, which in the end agreed with the plaintiff, concluding statements published by the N&O were false,” I wrote.

From the CJR piece:

That’s an aspect of the case that has some journalists re-thinking the way they go about their own work prior to publication. “My very clever boss has a saying,” though perhaps not original, says Trevor Hughes, a Denver-based correspondent for USA Today. “Dance like nobody is watching, but email like it may one day be subpoenaed and read aloud in a deposition.”

The comment Hughes gave me ended up as a pullquote in the piece, and journalist Twitter seized on it, sharing it widely.

The Gazette gets impact on an investigation into toxic water

A big round of applause to The Gazette for its coverage of water contamination in the Colorado Springs area.

“Local, state and federal politicians Monday called for accountability and more investigation into the military’s use of firefighting foam after a Gazette investigation showed the Air Force ignored decades of warnings from its scientists about a toxic chemical in the foam,” the paper reported this week. “The chemical is suspected in widespread water contamination.”

What you missed on the Sunday front pages across Colorado

Did you spend the day decking the house out with Halloween decorations and neglect all the news fit for the Sunday fronts?

Well, The Longmont Times-Call put hometown native and ‘Daily Show’ alum Kristin Schaal on the front page when she came back to Longmont to campaign for Clinton. The Greeley Tribune profiled a school resource officer as the first line of defense against poor cop reputations. With “Health on the Ballot,” The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel covered two big health-related ballot measures. Cops and bikers played flag football for charity on the front page of The Pueblo Chieftain.  At $96.5 million, building permit valuations are hitting high-water marks in Routt County, reported Steamboat Today & Sunday. Advocates in Loveland are pushing for more funding as the state and region grow, per The Reporter-Herald. The Denver Post looked at some of the legislative races to watchThe Boulder Daily Camera fronted a piece on a local bomb-planting suspect and his alleged ties to the obscure “STP” hippie faction. The Durango Herald featured a piece about the “aid-in-dying” ballot measure known as Prop 106. With “TOXIC LEGACY,” The Gazette reports how the Air Force ignored decades of warning from its own researches “in continuing to use a chemical-laden firefighting foam that is a leading cause of contaminated drinking water for at least 6 million Americans, including thousands of people south of Colorado Springs.”

Battle for control of the Colorado Capitol. Or, what I learned from Walsenburg 

After the 2014 midterms, a panel of Colorado political reporters gathered in Denver to talk about the highs and lows of covering the election. One thing that emerged was how media gave down-ballot races the shaftThe Denver Post’s politics editor at the time said if the paper had more resources he would have liked the opportunity to dispatch reporters to better cover the battle over the state Senate, which flipped to the Republicans that year.

That was very much on my mind this week as I ventured into rural Colorado for a sense-making narrative feature for The Colorado Independent about what’s at stake in the battle for control of the Capitol this year, which could flip back to the Democrats. I chose to set the story in the heart of Senate District 35 in southeast Colorado, which features a race between two politicians that don’t fit the generic party politics mold or the view from the Front Range— a Republican who would vote to reclassify the hospital provider fee, and a Democrat who would vote to repeal the 2013 gun-magazine law. There’s also some news in there about what a Senate controlled by Democrats might accomplish: Setting up a new committee on climate change, for example, repealing the death penalty, and shaping state spending with a new majority on the Joint Budget Committee.

As I wrote on Twitter, it’s about 5,000 words. I’d be humbled if you read half of them.

A Colorado Public Radio reporter recounts getting stopped by a cop

Colorado is an open-carry state, which means you’re allowed to carry guns openly, even a rifle. This blew up last year when a witness in Colorado Springs called 911 to report a man walking around the neighborhood with a long, black rifle and was told there was nothing illegal about it. Minutes later that man went on a random killing spree.

But this week Colorado Public Radio reporter Jo Ann Allen, who hosts “All Things Considered” for the station, has a personal story of getting stopped herself for allegedly carrying a rifle in public. She was carrying golf clubs.

Here’s how the 911 call went out that started the whole thing: “I just— well, I’m driving right now, but there was a— I’ve just got on I-25 going southbound from Dry Creek, and it’s by the RTD Park-N-Ride. There was a black— he was a black man, black in dress, carrying a I assume a rifle.”

Allen the reporter, who is black but is not a man, recounted the story along with the responding officer, on an episode of Colorado Matters.

The Gazette keeps hiring away political reporters from other newspapers 

Readers of this newsletter over the past few weeks likely have noticed The Gazette in Colorado Springs is making moves under its new editor, Vince Bzdek, who came fromThe Washington Post last spring. A bevy of new hires— Joey Bunch from The Denver Post, Jim Trotter from Rocky Mountain PBS— is forming a political team with a goal of ramping up statewide political coverage. The paper, owned by conservative Denver billionaire Phil Anschutz, is already doing its own polling, a service other Colorado newspapers have scrapped as their resources dwindle. The latest hire to the politics team is Peter Marcus, a young and ubiquitous reporter who spent the past few years at The Durango Herald and was at The Colorado Statesman before that.

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

My colleague Jackie Spinner wrote about how on the verge of a teacher strike, Chicago turned to social media. Meanwhile, Jonathan Peters wrote about how a social media feud led to a public records fight in Miami Beach. Trudy Lieberman wrote about how Star-Ledger employees in Newark were left scrambling after a retirement plan dissolved at their paper. And I wrote about how The Raleigh News & Observer’s loss in court may cause journalists to rethink how they communicate.

*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 Ryan Hammer for Creative Commons on Flickr.