Denver-based journalist and author David Sirota is leaving the International Business Times to take the reins of a new media site called True Blue, part of the ShareBlue franchise, where he will “oversee True Blue Media’s entire operations, including its editorial direction and day-to-day newsgathering.”
ShareBlue is the brainchild of David Brock, the former conservative journalist turned liberal political warrior who is building a liberal fundraising and politics machine explicitly modeled on the network established by the conservative Koch brothers. After the election, Brock also told donors that he was seeking money to finance a “Breitbart of the left,” a phrase he modified in a speech Tuesday to the left’s “answer to Breitbart.”
Sirota made a name for himself with his investigations and watchdog work, and by exposing corruption. He has held politicians in both parties accountable, even when doing so proved awkward given where he worked. He hasn’t shied from publicizing his previous political work for progressive politicians and organizations. In writing about his move, CNN went with an angle that Sirota is a “peculiar fit” because of his criticism of Hillary Clinton, and Brock’s Clintonian bona fides. But BuzzFeed’s analysis is that his hiring “suggests that a shattered and divided Democratic Party establishment is looking to embrace the combative, progressive wing that backed Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic Primary.”
As for Sirota himself, he passed along a statement. “Our mission is straightforward: to fearlessly report on the most important issues of the day, to break original news, and to scrutinize the political forces and elite powerbrokers that affect — and often harm — the public at large,” it said in part. “Our coverage areas will not be dictated by Beltway conventional wisdom, but instead by the real issues and crises facing millions of people throughout the country.”
He plans to stay in Denver. For more on his move, from the man himself, read a post he published about it on Medium based off a speech he gave this week.
Colorado reporters react to Trump’s mandated media blackout at the EPA
Kara Mason, news editor of PULP magazine in Pueblo, had to run down a story this week she didn’t anticipate. “I had to ask the EPA a question about the future of me asking them questions,” she wrote on Facebook with a link to her piece. On Tuesday, the administration of President Donald Trump temporarily barred the EPA from communicating with the press. “So far, it’s unclear what that might mean for Southern Colorado’s two superfund sites, which are listed on the EPA’s National Priorities List of contaminated areas,” Mason reported. A local EPA contact told the reporter she was still evaluating how the media blackout would affect her work.
Meanwhile, Perter Marcus, a ColoradoPolitics.com reporter who developed deep sources at the EPA while reporting on the Gold King Mine spill for The Durango Herald, said on Facebook, “This is an especially big problem in Colorado, where the EPA has used social media and press releases to keep the public informed on Gold King Mine spill cleanup and claims efforts.” Marcus said he had been reaching out to some of his EPA sources, but they wouldn’t speak to him on the record anymore without clearance from D.C. “They will only email those on-the-record comments,” he said. “They won’t talk over the phone. Some are providing gmail accounts to speak off the record. Others aren’t even comfortable speaking off the record at all. It’s going to be really hard to have a transparent and open government that communicates critical issues to the people when staff of those agencies are too afraid that speaking with the press will result in getting fired.”
Public radio gets some competition in Colorado Springs
Two weeks ago I noted how Colorado Public Radio is expanding across the state. Last week, The Colorado Springs Independent, the alt-weekly in the state’s second-largest city, reported on how CPR’s entrance is being met by the local NPR station, KRCC, which in 1951 “became the state’s first noncommercial educational FM radio station.” The “CC” stands for Colorado College. The alt-weekly’s J. Adrian Stanley checked in with KRCC general manager Tammy Terwelp about CPR’s “power move” in the Springs. “A little competition is good,” Terwelp told her. “We’re going to be fine. We’re the home team.”
This part of Stanley’s story stood out to me:
Meanwhile, KRCC is focusing on upping local content of all stripes, which might be surprising to some since, in mid-2016, Terwelp cut the popular local program Wish We Were Here.
No kidding. I really enjoyed the “Wish We Were Here” podcast, and its cancellation left quite a hole in my local news consumption in Colorado Springs that hasn’t yet been filled. I am, however, enjoying the local Peak Curiosity feature at KRCC where the station’s journalists answer oddball questions about anything local. For instance, some friends and I often joke about the upside down “N” on the Colorado Springs welcome sign. I always wondered how it happened but never asked. Now I know.
Speaking of Colorado Springs… whoo boy
This week, John Schroyer, a former reporter for The Gazette in Colorado Springs, launched a blog that he’s calling a “critical memoir of billionaire Philip Anschutz’s tenure as owner of The Colorado Springs Gazette, and what that history could portend for newspaper journalism.” In the first installment, Schroyer, who now works for a marijuana business publication, says he pitched the idea to a few outlets, but “nobody was that interested in publishing a memoir written by an ex-Gazette staffer.” So, he did it himself.
In his first item, Schroyer lays out a theme that the paper’s coverage when Schroyer worked there for a few years before leaving in 2014 was shaped by “Anschutz’s management team – if not Anschutz himself.” There’s a current-day caveat. He says “there are signs that perhaps Anschutz has learned from past incidents” and from a public backlash to an anti-marijuana series in 2015. Schroyer notes a recent piece I wrote for CJR’s United States Project about the paper’s new editor, Vince Bzdek, who Schroyer writes “has his defenders within the newsroom, who say that a new era has begun at the paper. He says he has “spoken personally to several, one of whom even described [Bzdek] as ‘inspirational.'”
Multiple on-the-record ex-journalists make cameos in the tell-all. His second installment quotes former editors talking about the atmosphere at the paper around the time Anschutz bought it, and his third and fourth quotes ex-reporters and others discussing how particular stories went down, and the saga of a former City Hall reporter. He says he’ll post any responses from the paper’s management on the blog in full.
High five to 5280
Denver magazine 5280 is a finalist this year for a 2017 National Magazine Award, joining the likes of Esquire, Harpers, Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair and others. This is the seventh time the magazine has been a finalist. ASME will announce the awards on Feb. 7.
Read about Tina Griego’s cousin the Trump supporter
This week, The Colorado Independent’s managing editor, Tina Griego, wrote, “A Trump presidency is now a reality. It takes some tough conversations to understand how we got here.” So she started one of those conversations close to home— with an illuminating interview with her own cousin. You really should read it.
What you missed on the Sunday front pages across Colorado this week
Many papers fronted coverage of local women’s marches in their communities. Here’s what else they had on A1: The Greeley Tribune profiled local families who use GoFundMe accounts to pay medical bills. The Loveland Reporter-Herald reported on a prairie dog relocation program. The Longmont Times-Call reported on how new families are forming faster than buildings are being built in Boulder. The Pueblo Chieftain checked in with a local professor to talk about growing distrust and the rise of conspiracy theories. The Gazette reported on a 7,000-person women’s march against Trump in downtown Colorado Springs. The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reported on a casino proposal by the Ute tribe. The Coloradoan in Fort Collins fronted the phenomenon of unregulated childcare. The Durango Herald reported on a beetle invasion crossing the continental divide. The Denver Post reported how the political mood at the Capitol shifted toward a tax for roads. The Boulder Daily Camera reported on a forest plan that sparked conflict of interest concerns. The Aspen Times followed up on the state’s first marijuana ‘amnesty box’ at an airport.
The driver who struck and killed Denver Post reporter Colleen O’Connor last year just pleaded guilty…
…to vehicular homicide-reckless driving and driving under the influence. It is possible Jesus Carreno, 23, will get probation. If a judge grants it, he would still spend “at least” 126 days in prison, per his plea agreement, the DA’s office said in a statement. He could face as many as six years behind bars.
Now for some news on the local media front from CJR’s United States Project
CJR’s press freedom correspondent Jonathan Peters writes about how student journalists are especially vulnerable to Trump’s press-as-enemy rhetoric. Tamar Wilner wrote about how CJR and The Texas Tribune dug into coverage of education equality. And I fleshed out an item from my last newsletter about how In Colorado, a reporter’s error became evidence for a “fake news” claim.
*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.