Why a Colorado newspaper chose to name a minor who committed suicide

Like plenty of newspapers, The Gazette in Colorado Springs does not usually name people who commit suicide. Some newspapers don’t report suicides at all. A journalistic debate over whether and how to report them has raged for years. This week The Gazette not only reported on a suicide but chose to name the 16-year-old rugby player who was in his junior year of high school.
From The Gazette about why:

Although The Gazette does not typically name those who commit suicide, Henry was the sixth Discovery Canyon Campus student to commit suicide in the past 13 months. And at least half, including Henry, were involved with Young Life.

Young Life, the paper reports, is a “nondenominational worldwide Christian youth organization” that was founded in 1941 “and is headquartered in Colorado Springs.” The paper continued: “With unanswered questions that die with every suicide, some wonder if there could be a connection.”

The White House blocking news outlets from daily briefings trickled down to Colorado

You might have heard last week how White House press secretary Sean Spicer selectively barred news outlets like The New York Times, CNN, Politico, and other outlets that published unflattering stories about him and his administration. Ideologically oriented outlets like Breitbart and the One America Network were allowed into a briefing. Apparently the White House has effectively limited access to at least one Colorado outlet, too.

From ColoradoPolitics.com reporter Peter Marcus on social media:

I was optimistic after the White House invited me to participate in local reporter Skype calls during press briefings. I thought maybe this would be more transparent than I expected. Those calls have trickled away and they no longer will respond to my emails on when we’ll be participating.

As my United States Project colleague Brendan Fitzgerald wrote for CJR recently, these Skype seats for state-based journalists around the country offered fodder for local reporters and can help bring “meaningful regional concerns into the briefing room.”

Said Marcus about his own troubles nailing down a future Skype seat: “I really hope this takes a positive turn soon.”

News drone, take flight!

KUSA 9News, Denver’s NBC affiliate, used its news drone this week for the first time to capture a story.

What was it about? A look at a rancher near Limon who plowed the word TRUMP a mile long into his field. The farmer did it by eye, and he hadn’t been able to see his own handiwork from the air until 9News drove out to his land with its news drone, flew it up and got a good, clean shot. The rancher hopes those flying in and out of the Denver airport spot the Trump sign. They might even change their mind about politics, he said. “I’m expecting to see it on tweeter or Facebook or something already,” he told reporter Brandon Rittiman. Maybe, he hopes, Air Force One will even buzz his farm.

“It’s taken a long time to jump through all the hoops that the FAA has for drones for news usage,” said anchor Kyle Clark. “But expect to see a bit more of it around here.” (Just keep it away from these eagles.)

Another Colorado newspaper finds a way to use Trump’s ‘enemy’ line to prove its value

This is smart. And it’s now the second time I’ve seen this in a week. A local Colorado newspaper running a column by a staffer— in this case The Pueblo Chieftain’s editor— that does some jujitsu on President’s Donald Trump’s attack on journalists as “the enemy of the American people.” Using the Trump jab as a way to explain to his readers exactly why his local newspaper matters, Chieftain managing editor Steve Henson’s column runs down what Trump said, but then adds this:

I want to give the president the benefit of the doubt. I think he meant to say, “. . . enemy of the people WHO. . . .” Because that would make sense. For example, in my modest little career in mid-sized Pueblo, Colo., I’ve been fortunate to be part of a media organization that has been the “enemy of the people who. . . .”

From there Henson chronicles his paper’s work exposing certain kinds of people. The list includes “elected officials who refused to follow the Colorado Open Meetings Law,” “members of organized crime who spread their tentacles throughout the Pueblo Police Department,” “law enforcement officers who treated their department’s evidence room as their personal shopping center,” “city officials who were negligent in fixing dangerous street intersections,” “government officials of cities who have tried to take away our water and dry up Southeastern Colorado,” and more.

Never a bad idea to explain your value to your community in very local, meaningful terms.

What you missed on the Sunday front pages across Colorado

The Longmont Times-Call reported on local school securityThe Greeley Tribune fronted a feature on growing entertainment options in the city. The Loveland Reporter-Herald carried a story about how people who make false bomb threat calls often are not caught. The Pueblo Chieftain reported on alarming numbers for local depression and bullying. Bluegrass music made the cover of The Steamboat Pilot & Today. Tampering with drill rigs could soon be a felony, The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reported. The Boulder Daily Camera fronted a piece about the Rocky Flats wildlife refuge and controversy surrounding it. The Coloradoan in Fort Collins ran a big pullout on seniors facing retirement and struggling to stay in their homes or find appropriate housing. The Gazette in Colorado Springs fronted a feature about a transgender journey for one local youth. The Aspen Times reported how local schools cashed in on energy efficiency. The Denver Post carried a big story about how the town of Burlington is struggling in the shadow of a shuttered prison, the area’s largest employer. The Durango Herald found a fun way to explain voter disgust and party switching in La Plata County.

The woman who made a viral news quality chart is a patent attorney in Colorado

With all the talk about what “fake news” is and isn’t, you might have seen this news quality chart pop up in your Facebook news feed, on Twitter, or somewhere else. The chart categorizes dozens of news organizations according to whether they skew left or right and gives them a value based on quality. For example The Atlantic, Slate and Vox  “skew liberal” but are “still reputable,” “complex” and “analytical,” while AddictingInfo is “liberal,” “utter garbage,” sensational or clickbait and exists to “confirm existing biases,” according to the chart. On the other side of the chart are conservative news sites according to their own rank, and in the middle is a cluster of news outlets that meet “high standards” with “minimal partisan bias” like The Associated Press, Reuters, The New York Times and The Washington Post, among others.

Anyway, the creator, Vanessa Otero, is a patent attorney in Denver. She runs a blog called AllGeneralizationsAreFalse where she says up front she is “not a media expert” and explains in a lot of detail the reasoning and methodology behind her chart.

From her blog post about why she created it:

Many non/infrequent readers are quite bad at distinguishing between decent news sources and terrible news sources. I wanted to make this chart in the hopes that if non/infrequent readers saw it, they could use it to avoid trash. For those of you who can discern between the partisan leanings of The Economist and the Wall Street Journal, I have to say this chart was not primarily made for your benefit. You are already good at reading and distinguishing news sources.The fact that the chart is shareable does not necessarily make it TRUE. Having heard feedback from all corners of the internet, I know that many people disagree with my placements of news sources upon it. However, even people who disagree with the placements find the taxonomy helpful, because it provides a baseline for a discussion about media sources, which are inherently difficult to classify. Often, verbal and written discussions about news sources are limited to descriptions of sources as “good” and “bad,”  and “biased” and “unbiased.” This chart allows for a few more dimensions to the conversation. However, as discussed below, there are many metrics on which to evaluate and classify media, and this chart doesn’t include them all.

I caught up with her by e-mail to see what kind of feedback she’s been getting.

“I’ve been noticing trends in the reactions I get along partisan lines, and trends in the reactions I get from sophisticated vs. unsophisticated news consumers,” she told me. “I’ve heard from high school teachers, college professors, academic researchers, and librarians across the country and across the world talking about how they plan to use it in their classrooms. I was not expecting any kind of notoriety from this chart whatsoever–I was just hoping to create a rubric through which I could debate journalism among my own friends. I must say that listening to all the reactions has given me even more insight into how people perceive their media sources.”

Give her chart a look and see if you agree. (For the most part I do, though I could quibble with some minor placements a bit.) Otero also offers a blank version so readers can fill it in through their own subjective lens.

In Colorado, it’s media vs. mediation

Eventually I’ll get tired of pointing out how much of a joke Colorado’s access to public information is, and I’ll grow up, go to law school, become a media lawyer and start making eff-you money off it. Until then you’ll have to deal with this newsletter.

First some background: Colorado is a state where if you ask for a record you think should be public and a government won’t give it to you the only remedy you have is to take the government to court. Not many people who aren’t lawyers with eff-you money are willing to do that. So journalists and their allies have tried to find a way to mitigate disputes out of court. There’s even a current bill at the statehouse to do that— through mediation.


Groups representing journalists and people who request public records in Colorado “are voicing concerns” about the bill, says Jeffrey Roberts, director of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition.

From this blog:

Both the Colorado Press Association and the Colorado Broadcasters Association oppose the bill as introduced by Reps. Cole Wist, R-Centennial, and Alec Garnett, D-Denver, as do Colorado Ethics Watch and Colorado Common Cause. All four organizations participated in the CORA Working Group, a stakeholders’ committee that discussed litigation alternatives last year but did not recommend a specific proposal.

As Peg Perl points out in Roberts’ post, there aren’t actually that many lawsuits related the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA). Instead people just give up “because suing can be expensive and intimidating.” And First Amendment lawyer Steve Zansberg said the bill “imposes significant penalties on records requesters who do end up in court, whether after mediating or not, that effectively deny citizens their right to challenge records denials without having to mortgage their homes.”

From the personnel file…

Paul Berry has joined The Greeley Tribune from The Springfield News-Leader in Missouri to handle audience engagement for Colorado newspapers owned by Swift Communications. It will be familiar territory. Before heading to the News-Leader in 2014, Berry was a digital and engagement editor at The Coloradoan in Fort Collins. Sarah Kuta, who did a great job covering higher education for The Boulder Daily Camera, is leaving for an associate editor job with E.W. Scripps. She’ll stay in Colorado with occasional trips to Cincinnati.

OMG ‘fake news’ has some preeeeetty heavy company

From the lede in a story this week in The Steamboat Pilot & Today:

“Fake news, the future of the economy and climate change are among the timely topics experts will discuss during the 15th annual Seminars at Steamboat talks, slated to begin July 10.”

Think of the children.

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

Lyn Lenz wrote about how Texas Monthly’s new editor in chief plans to take the magazine into a more ‘lifestyle’ direction. In “Retreat from town hall,” my colleague Jackie Spinner wrote about how reporters are pursuing access as some GOP officials pull back. Timothy Pratt wrote about how the City of Atlanta dumped 1.4 million pages of public records on the press and public in a move that “does not feel like transparency.” Jenni Monet reported how a reporter’s arrest crystallizes her commitment to cover Standing Rock. Trudy Lieberman wrote how a zombie ‘death panels’ myth in Florida should rally reporters against Obamacare misinformation. And I wrote about how as Trump assails reporters as enemies, Colorado’s GOP is making nice with the press.

*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.


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