How a former Washington Post editor is trying Jeff Bezos magic at a local newspaper

For the hundreds of loyal readers of this humble newsletter I started a year ago, you had an early audience to the latest media news out of Colorado appearing in Columbia Journalism Review. This week for CJR’s United States Project I fleshed out some more about what’s going on at The Gazette in Colorado Springs and its new digital venture The angle is how a former online politics editor at The Washington Post is trying to see if some of that WaPo digital magic can work at a local newspaper with a different billionaire owner than Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

An excerpt from the CJR piece:

The new writers, who are drawing considerably higher salaries than at their former papers, are being paid from a separate budget than The Gazette. Anschutz and Clarity media added “a substantial amount” of new money for the project, Bzdek says, but declined to say how much.

On Facebook, one of those writers, Peter Marcus, characterized the CJR story as “how ColoradoPolitics is attempting to change the news game in Colorado with a new model, and how we’re going to right the wrongs of some past decisions over at the Gazette that rightly pissed off a lot of people.”

I ran down some of those wrongs in the piece— and probably left out some that were before my time in Colorado. I also take a look at what the new site hopes to accomplish in the state’s media landscape and how it might be equipped to do it. I hope you’ll read the whole story and share it widely.


New Mexico fights to keep Coloradans from being able to watch Colorado news on TV

Over the summer, La Plata county staff petitioned the FCC to allow TV viewers in Durango to get Denver news on their TVs. Wait, what? A Colorado county had to ask the feds to help its residents watch Colorado news? Yes, because La Plata County is what’s considered an “orphan county.” It’s too far away from Denver to have broadcasts beamed in. But it’s not impossible. It just takes federal approval.

So, five months later where are we? Well, Albuquerque has now intervened with its TV stations petitioning the FCC to “block Denver stations with the same network affiliations from reaching La Plata County viewers.”

From The Durango Herald:

KOAT-TV, an ABC affiliate, and NBC affiliate KOB-TV, both of Albuquerque, told the FCC they oppose the county’s request for those respective Denver channels. They asserted that four statutory factors disqualify La Plata County from a market modification, including that the county has not historically carried Denver stations, Denver lacks geographic proximity, Denver stations lack “any meaningful audience” in the county, and the county receives “ample technical coverage and local programming” from Albuquerque stations.

Wow. So their response is: Hey, Durango, you’re basically New Mexico. Just deal with it.

La Plata County staffers fought back saying what you might expect: Look, Albaquerque is denying Coloradans news about their own state government. Or in the staffers’ own words, denying Coloradans the “ability to receive satellite carriers (and) the local broadcast affiliates from their own state capital.” They also said La Plata’s petitions would not deny La Plata County residents access to the Albuquerque stations.

Watch this space, folks, because this is a serious story about state residents and their ability to access critical information necessary to make informed decisions. Or— if you want to be real cynical about it— to watch Bronocs games.


A Denver TV anchor is embarrassed he never bought a Denver Voice newspaper

That anchor is Kyle Clark, and we have something in common. I’m embarrassed, too— because I didn’t even know about Denver Voice until I saw Clark’s broadcast on his show “Next” on 9News this week. The newspaper features the stories of homeless people and is sold by— and written by— area homeless who “make a promise to be sober and friendly as they sell papers, and start conversations.” Learn more about the paper here, and watch Clark’s news item on it here.


Colorado hits another frustrating roadblock to bettering its access to information laws

Colorado is one of many states where the only recourse a citizen or reporter has when improperly denied a public record is to go to court. So a working group of concerned stakeholders allied with the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition got together to see what might be done to change that. They met for months. They included organizations from all sides. And they came up with a reform idea: A mediation process where a third party could help the requester and public entity come to an agreement about the record without having to tie up a courtroom.

Couple that with another proposal to require Colorado governments provide digitally stored data “in a machine-readable standard format routinely used by the official custodian” if requested, and open records advocates felt like they were headed toward a legislative session that might see some decent reform.

But. As Jeffrey Roberts of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition, reports, “Despite the progress, however, a formidable roadblock surfaced Friday when the Colorado Attorney General’s office announced that it will not support the most recent bill draft.”

The Coloradoan in Fort Collins picks up the story from there:

Deputy Attorney General David Blake, according to a statement read by a representative from his office at the meeting, said his office believes the proposal, in its current form, “creates more problems than it cures” and makes the Colorado Open Records Act “more complicated and vague.” The office of Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman did not respond to email or phone messages requesting a copy of the remarks and additional comment. The quotes are from audio posted to the secretary of state’s website.



Bobby Kennedy III + $300,000 in tax incentives = A film about Freak Power in the Rockies

Hunter S. Thompson is making a comeback in Colorado 11 years after his death. Last week the big news was the good doctor’s weed might one day be smokable since his wife Anita kept six strains when he died and hopes to clone them for recreational sale. “I’m looking forward to being a drug lord,” she joked to The Aspen Times. So one day we might be smoking Gonzo ganja. And now it looks like we’ll have an appropriate film to watch while buying the ticket and taking the ride. According to The Denver Post, Bobby Kennedy III “charmed Colorado’s Economic Development Commission in a private meeting on Thursday enough to win $300,000 in rebates for ‘Freak Power,’ his movie about Hunter S. Thompson that will be filmed next summer in Colorado.” The movie “will trace the true story of Thompson’s run to be elected Pitkin County Sheriff in 1970.”


Longtime political journalist Peter Blake, who died, maybe didn’t want his ass kissed by lawmakers

Earlier this year I was reading a book called “The Flawed Path to the Governorship” by Colorado College political scientist Bob Loevy about the 1994 Colorado governor’s race and one journalist’s name kept coming up over and over. Peter Blake of The Rocky Mountain News. The book made it sounds like news wasn’t news unless Blake opined on it. I never met him, but I read his columns from time to time in Complete Colorado. He died Dec. 7 of a fast-moving brain tumor.

Here’s what Lynn Bartels, a former Rocky reporter, had to say about Blake on her blog at the secretary of state’s office where she now works:

Former Rocky colleague Karen Abbott recalled that when Blake retired from the Rocky after a 39-year-career, which included a stint as city editor, the Colorado state Senate enacted a tribute to the political columnist. The senators wanted to present it to him during a special ceremony. “But he didn’t think that was a proper thing for a journalist to do. They had to mail it to him,” she wrote on Facebook.

Good practice.


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

My colleague Susannah Nesmith wrote about a chain of small newspapers hitting on a formula for growth. Neil Reisner reported how in Cuba’s ‘second capital,’ covering Castro’s death was a letdown for journalists. CJR’s press freedom correspondent Jonathan Peters found unintended consequences of a new crime victims’ bill of rights. And I wrote about how that ex-Washington Post editor is trying out the Jeff Bezos model at The Gazette in Colorado Springs.


*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: Tayamadison, Creative Commons, Flickr 


  1. I checked out that and I got about two stories in when I realized that it was white-washed right-wing-welfare served up tepid and lukewarm. Especially the piece about Michelle Malkin. The article about Pueblo and Boulder’s differences was years out of date but seemed determined to try to hit the Democratic Party. It’s so bland that it might as well quit now while Breitbart and the Neo-Nazi “Alt-right” crank up the crazy and grab the eyeballs.

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