Layoffs whack another Colorado newspaper


Some layoffs hit The Pueblo Chieftain earlier this month.

On Twitter, ex-reporter Matt Hildner said there would be no more Chieftain news from his feed since he was “one of four laid off.” He also wrote how by late February the paper plans to stop circulation to the San Luis Valley.

That tracks with language from a memo to staff by general manager Brad Slater blaming “declining print advertising revenue” for the “expense reductions.” Among those let go, according to the memo, which I obtained from two separate sources, were Pam Grable in advertising, Matt Hildner in news, Deena Hunt in classifieds, and Margie Strescino in news. The paper also will not replace an open full-time sports reporter position. (In October I noted the departure of Chris Woodka, perhaps the state’s best-known water reporter.)

“By Feb. 28, we will no longer provide newspaper delivery west of Canon City, east of Las Animas, and in the San Luis Valley communities as the expense of this distribution can no longer be sustained,” the memo reads. “The letters informing these carriers and subscribers were mailed out the past couple of days.”

More from the memo:

I know these types of events are very stressful, but I hope you can find some comfort in … knowing we are working hard to position the Chieftain’s business model to be aligned with our forecasted revenue. Please know that these types of decisions are not easy ones to make… and any decision to reduce staff is extremely painful. Regrettably the newspaper industry continues to experience significant print advertising revenue declines and the Chieftain is not immune to this.

Layoffs and strategies to purposely reduce circulation mark pivotal moments for local newspapers like the Chieftain, but it displays the severity of our company’s financial struggles. While all previous measures taken for expense controls in additional to the strategies for revenue growth in digital products and commercial printing have been effective, they are not keeping pace with the loss of print revenue.

In the face of these changes, we are continuing to adapt and diversify our operation, while making the necessary investments to position ourselves to be a multi-platform and increasingly digitally focused organization. It’s because all of your abilities and hard work, that we are able to make the needed changes and to continually look into further developments of our operation.

We will always continue to analyze our company for operational excellence while focusing on the Chieftain to be the main source for news and information for Pueblo and Pueblo County.

This is sad news, and there’s an even sadder commentary to it. As I was poking around for this item, one Pueblo journalist told me a handful of staff layoffs just “isn’t really news down here.”

Steamboat Pilot & Today calls out a local public official for manufactured quotes

When the local newspaper in Steamboat Springs noticed a quote in a news release about a ski area attributed to the local city council president, something looked fishy. Journalists at the paper, who know how this particular public official usually speaks, never heard Walter Magill use so many superlatives. So the paper put it to the guy: Hey, did you really say that?

From The Steamboat Pilot & Today:

Magill initially insisted the quote was his, and he had resolved to speak with more superlatives and excitement in the New Year.

But a day later, when the newspaper presented him with evidence that his quote appeared to be copied almost word for word from a years-old Steamboat Ski Area promotional pamphlet that had been produced by new city PR manager Mike Lane, Magill ‘fessed up and said Lane wrote his quote for him.

“Mike wrote it, and I approved it,” Magill said. “I should have spoken up. I didn’t get a great feeling out of it. I thought the message was something I supported, and I wanted to get behind the team and not make a big issue with this.”

“Lesson learned,” Magill continued.

So busted. The paper then went on to report how this incident fits into a broader story about the city’s new PR effort. And also the practice of manufactured quotes attributed to public officials by communications professionals in general. The city manager is standing by the practice. So get this: the local paper’s response? “Steamboat Today is not republishing any quotes the city includes in its press releases.”


Outgoing Denver Post marijuana editor Ricardo Baca still hasn’t yet said what exactly he’ll be doing post-the-Post, but he has sketched out some more details. We know it’s a technology startup, and we know he plans to still do some writing and publishing. But in a recent sweeping interview with The Seattle Times, he said, “Once we launch in several months we will be servicing marijuana businesses all over the world.” Whatever that means! Spill, Baca, spill.

How a local TV newscast sparked a national narrative about an Obamacare repeal effort

Over the weekend, a report on a Colorado congressman by Nelson Garcia for the local NBC affiliate 9News in Denver started a national narrative in motion. The congressman is Mike Coffman, recently re-elected handily in a suburban swing district that has become more favorable to Democrats. But when Garcia went to a public event Coffman scheduled at a library, he found more than 100 members of the public, many frustrated and wanting answers about their congressman’s plans to help repeal Obamacare. Instead of giving answers, Coffman snuck out of the meeting, bolting out a side door a few minutes before the meeting was scheduled to end. His office put out a bland statement apologizing to those “unable to see the congressman.” Garcia got video of Coffman’s exit, which received nearly 3,000 re-tweets when he posted it on social media. “All they wanted was a voice. Instead they got a closed door. And a statement,” Garcia says at the end of his broadcast.

Once the piece hit the Internet, national political reporters took notice. “Echoes of 2010 already,” wrote WaPo’s Dave Weigel on Twitter. “This Local News Segment Shows The Obamacare Danger Ahead For Republicans,” read a headline by The Huffington Post’s D.C. bureau chief Ryan Grim.

I wrote a piece for The Colorado Independent about whether we just saw the spark of a Tea Party movement in reverse happen in Colorado.

Fake news as an ideological weapon

Aaaaaaand speaking of that Mike Coffman story, it offered a glimpse into how “fake news” is now being wielded as an ideological weapon and how errors in local newspapers can help fuel it. You might have heard Donald Trump call CNN “fake news.” Well, here’s the trickle down in Colorado. As Jason Salzman points out at his BigMedia blogThe Denver Post, which did not have a reporter at the Coffman event, erroneously reported that Coffman did not leave the venue early. (But he did leave the event early, according to 9News, which did have a reporter at the event and filmed Coffman leaving.) So, when other news organizations reported Coffman left early, an anonymous politics blog cited the untrue Denver Post claim to call the accurate assertion that Coffman left early “fake news.” The Denver Post later corrected its story to say “Coffman left his 90 minute constituent meeting early.” But the damage had been done. And now my head hurts.

For the personnel file…

Rob Johnson left The Gazette in Colorado Springs last month for The Las Vegas Review-Journal. He had taken over editing duties at The Gazette after news editor Sue McMillin departed for The Durango Herald in late 2015 and editor Joanna Bean left the following month to work at UCCS. The paper’s new editor, Vince Bzdek, didn’t take the helm until spring 2016. Meanwhile, The Steamboat Pilot & Today is “accepting letters of interest from readers who would like to serve as community representatives on the newspaper’s editorial board.” Miriam Harris Goldberg, who had been editor and publisher of Denver’s Intermountain Jewish News since 1972, died last week. She was 100. Know any other comings and goings in Colorado’s media world? Send them my way.

What you missed on the Sunday front pages across Colorado

The Greeley Tribune fronted data analysis showing diversity gains in the area aren’t equitable. The Loveland Reporter-Herald reported on a school science fair. A local oatmeal festival captured the attention of The Longmont Times-Call. The Pueblo Chieftain carried a piece about a legal battle between a local utility and a regulator. The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reported on a whistleblower and a local airport. Steamboat Today brought readers inside a local dam. The Daily Camera has 10 takeaways from a survey about living in Boulder. The Aspen Times fronted details of a local rental scam. The Coloradoan in Fort Collins ran a story on how the area’s local lawmakers could change reader’s lives in 2017 (the lede: “This story on the Colorado Legislature is not about the gobbledygook of the General Assembly’s business at the Capitol over the next several months.” Ed note: Here here!) The Gazette reported on a $387,000 renovation of an Air Force Academy foyer. The Durango Herald followed up on the EPA and Gold King Mine spill.

The Denver Post used open records laws to find jail deaths more than doubled in the past few years

Because Colorado “does not require county jails to track their in-custody deaths, and there is no statewide reporting system,” The Denver Post “sent open-records requests to Colorado’s 64 sheriffs in an attempt to answer the question of how many people die behind bars in Colorado’s jails and why they die.” What did the paper find? Jail deaths in the state are on the rise, more than doubling from 2011 to June 2015.

From The Post’s Noelle Phillips and Yesenia Robles:

Experts suggested a variety of factors, including a heroin epidemic, jails filled with mentally ill people, inadequate training for deputies, private health care companies motivated by profits, and state and federal laws that have few requirements when it comes to protecting those who are incarcerated.

The Post’s analysis found “117 people died in jail between January 2010 and June 22, 2016. Of those, 58 died of medical or health issues and 48 died by suicide. Others had undetermined causes of death or died by homicide.”

A new community radio station that will amplify social justice is coming to Grand Junction

The start of next month might see the birth of KWSI 100.3 FM, a new low-power FM station in Grand Junction. “Robyn Parker, a former radio-show host and the executive director for the nonprofit Community Resources for Action, Volunteerism & Education (CRAVE), has spearheaded the efforts to get KWSI on the air, under the license obtained by Grand Valley Peace & Justice,” The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reports.

More from The Sentinel:

Parker said the station has a goal of being on-air by Feb. 1, and to have programming centered on engaging youth and underserved populations. That includes focusing on social justice issues and community affairs, which Grand Valley Peace & Justice Executive Director Julie Mamo said is something she’s looking forward to offering. “We would like to be a radio station that is able to use its voice, that is able to talk about social justice issues,” she said, such as the Black Lives Matter movement, homelessness or migrant issues. “I want us to talk about systemic racism and environmental issues. There are a lot of issues.”

And there’s probably no better time for it.

*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 Petras Gagilas for Creative Commons on Flickr.