Media roundup: Researcher says CO’s legislature is the most polarized in the nation


So this seems worth noting going into a new legislative session today:

“Colorado’s lawmakers are the most polarized they’ve ever been, and are also the most polarized in the country, according to Boris Shor of the University of Houston and Nolan McCarty at Princeton University,” reports Colorado Public Radio. CPR’s Nathan Heffel spoke with Shor for a must-listen interview. The researcher doesn’t think Colorado’s new voter-initiated laws that should open party primaries to unaffiliated voters will help much, either. Ouch.

I particularly liked when Heffel noted how local reporters in Colorado had, in their own interviews for CPR, been pointing out ways in which they have noticed this shift on the ground.

Speaking CPR, ast week I noted some new hiring at the public broadcasting station, and later I learned more about the moves. The outlet is expanding its newsroom’s broadcast reach and going more local in some places. “This includes hiring two new locally-based reporters— one in Colorado Springs and one in Grand Junction— who will join three additional positions based out of our Centennial headquarters,” spokeswoman Lauren Cameron told me. Meanwhile, CPR also bought 1490 AM and 102.1 FM in Colorado Springs. Those come in addition to two new FM translators CPR added in Boulder and Pueblo, “enabling CPR News to be heard on FM across the Front Range,” she said. (Contingent to FCC approval.)

“Adding these positions will enable CPR News to produce more Colorado-focused news,” said Senior Vice President of Programming Sean Nethery in a statement. “This will include providing local perspectives on the most important issues facing the state, giving Coloradans context and insight into what’s happening all across Colorado, not just in the Denver-metro area.” Netherly expanded on that to The Denver Post. “This brings the news staff up to 30, which is in the middle of the pack for public radio stations across the country,” he told the paper. “In the last 15 to 20 years the focus has really been on developing local news, and we’ve been on this road ever since we went to a full-time news service back in 2001. Our news department has grown five-fold since then.”

The hard launch of the new Colorado politics website

When I wrote in December about for CJR’s United States Project and about how a former WaPo editor is trying to bring a little Jeff Bezos digital magic to The Gazette in Colorado Springs, the new site was in its “soft launch” phase. Now it has launched, with a bit of braggadocio, I might add, if you read the site’s coming-out post this week by former Denver Post reporter Joey Bunch. He also notes how the team is “ready to push the pedal on columns, video packages and statewide political reporting we’re confident will distinguish us.” For an idea of how some of these video packages might look, here’s the debut: “One take w/ Peter & Joey,” a 2:15-minute clip of the two previewing the upcoming legislative session. On Facebook, Marcus joked that he had “gotten more comments about my choice of attire than the content.”

From the lid-opener:

We are not the politics page of The Gazette in Colorado Springs. We are a stand-alone website, free of charge. Like The Gazette, we are under the umbrella of Denver-based Clarity Media, so family gets first crack at using our content. We also share the leadership of editor Vince Bzdek and managing editor Jim Trotter.

“We will do our best to be entertaining, as well as informative,” Bunch continues. “Politics is fun. People treat it like war, when it’s really just volleyball.”

ATTN: Colorado newsrooms: Here’s a police reporting contest to enter

In a year when law enforcement stories were on front pages across the nation, Colorado was no exception. So journalist readers of this newsletter who published excellent work on that front might be interested in the Al Nakkula Award for Police Reporting. Entries are already open and the deadline is Feb. 12. The award is sponsored by the University of Colorado-Boulder’s Journalism department at the College of Media, Communication and Information and the Denver Press Club. It “honors the late Al Nakkula, a 46-year veteran of the Rocky Mountain News whose tenacity made him a legendary police reporter.”

An update on the Monument mom and the downtown Colorado Springs coal plant

That “bizarre Colorado public records story” I highlighted a month ago has gotten weirder. I’m talking about Leslie Weise, the Monument mom whose son goes to school in the plume of the Colorado Springs coal plant and who is seeking records about whether the plant is polluting the air. She asked for a document and was denied. She went to court and was denied. She appealed, and then a strange thing happened. The Court of Appeals inadvertently sent her the document in an e-mail. She had to give it back, and she said she didn’t make any copies. But, she did talk to her local newspaper, The Gazette, about what she saw in the document. Colorado Springs Utilities, whose board is the city council, is seeking sanctions against Weise. Now, as Billie Stanton Anleu of The Gazette reports, Weise “likely will learn Feb. 13 whether she will be sanctioned, fined or even jailed for six months under a contempt citation.” You can watch Weise’s lawyer talking about a recent court hearing in a video here. The chief judge in the case says it is “not a criminal matter, but it is a serious matter.”

A lawyer for an anti-Muslim yard sign man decries a local newspaper’s front page treatment

After prominent stories appeared in The Longmont Times-Call about a local man with an anti-Muslim sign in his yard, he removed the sign. That led to another story. And in that story, the man’s Denver-based attorney had some words for the local paper. According to the Times-Call, she said an article published on the front page— and on the front page of its sister paper The Boulder Daily Camera— was “sensationalized” and jeopardized her client’s safety. “People are threatening to protest and destroy his property,” she said. But, the paper reported, “Longmont police Cmdr. Joel Post said Thursday that nobody at the public safety department had received a call from [the sign owner] or anyone else about threats being made against him or his property.”

What you missed on the Sunday front pages across Colorado

Under the headline “Cow chips that tweet?” The Longmont Times-Call reported on the use of FitBit-like devices for cattle. The Greeley Tribune reported on the ripple effect of drunk drivingThe Loveland Reporter-Herald had a feature on local ice fishingThe Pueblo Chieftain led with an AP piece forecasting the legislative session as one about tough spending choicesSteamboat Today had a cover story about 2017’s top 10 celestial eventsThe Grand Junction Daily Sentinel ran a story about two Republican lawmakers looking to modify how the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, aka TABOR, works. Occupancy laws were back on the front page of The Boulder Daily Camera. A potential interchange expansion led coverage in The Coloradoan in Fort Collins. The Gazette exposed the city-run utility’s secret deal to cut commercial ratesThe Durango Herald reported on a program by the La Plata County sheriff to rent jail beds to state parolees. The Denver Post published the top 10 issues to look out for this legislative session.

More on the fake news beat

Last week I noted a take on fake news in Colorado from a progressive writer, Jason Salzman, and this week I offer a take from a free-market/classical liberal one. Ari Armstrong, who writes the Freedom Outlook blog, penned a piece about “how partisans can help fight fake news.”

From his item:

Generally, the proper response to intentionally faked news is to try hard not to fall for it; to correct ourselves quickly if we do; to call out others who spread it; and to expose and condemn those who recklessly or maliciously generate it.

One outgoing GOP lawmaker this week deleted fake news from her Facebook page. “Sometimes you can tell when it’s false and sometimes you can’t,” she copped to Salzman.

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

Columbia Journalism Review editor Kyle Pope wrote about two journalists—father and daughter—on covering Standing Rock. My United States Project colleague Jackie Spinner found how in Chicago, fuel for subscription gains are the Cubs, not Donald Trump. Susannah Nesmith explored how TV stations fight a ‘sea of sameness’ with experimental local news. And I wrote about whether a political blogger in South Carolina might go to jail to protect his sources.

For the personnel file…

Last week I noted several big moves by Colorado journalists and asked if anyone knew of others. One more came my way. Lauren Glendenning, editor of The Aspen Times since 2014, spoke to KDNK’s Gavin Dahl on her last day (it starts around 2:27). She led the team that this past summer decided not to publish a video that ended in the death of a river rafter. A staff photographer for the paper just happened to be there shooting video on a GoPro. Glendenning told Dahl she is proud of her paper’s series on affordable housing this year and the diversity of the stories they covered.

A personal mea culpa for betraying my alt-weekly roots

I got my first serious start in journalism at Free Times, the alt-weekly in Columbia, South Carolina (which was bought and sold twice since I started there) and also worked at the Charleston City Paper, another alt-weekly in that state. I later edited and published Alt Ledes, a public affairs collection at Medium where I tried to publish as many alt-weekly writers as I could. I owe a lot to alt-weeklies, and it is my hope to to promote them when I can, especially when they are first with a story or do good work. And last week I failed by citing a story in a local daily about a new homeless newspaper in the Springs when the alt-weekly had it first. That would be The Colorado Springs Independent. So click the link. Read their work. And pick up a copy the next time you’re in town.

*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.