A media s#!tstorm is brewing in Colorado Springs


A swirl of local media news gathered all at once this week and headed for the fan blades just as I was finishing up this newsletter. So please forgive the lack of depth into this as I hope to have more in the next edition. But here’s the quick background with links so you can follow along:

A new progressive-moderate political group, Together for Colorado Springs, whose co-founder also founded and chairs the city’s alternative weekly, The Colorado Springs Independent, protested outside The Gazette newsroom, railing on its coverage of the local city elections. The Gazette covered the protest. Then the alt-weekly’s reporter, Pam Zubeck, herself a former Gazette reporter, wrote a piece headlined “Writers in Gazette have history of political consulting.” Part of it mentions this item in The Gazette’s ColoradoPolitics.com by one of the publication’s politics writers about how he was recently subpoenaed in a lawsuit against a nonprofit group he worked for that’s mission is “advancing conservative policy.”

If that wasn’t enough, Ralph Routon, a former Gazette reporter who is now the executive editor of Colorado Publishing House, which owns The Colorado Springs Independent alt-weekly, published a column headlined “Beware the Gazette after blatant editorials, mistakes.” In it, Routon rips The Gazette’s editorial page for, among other things, “three ridiculous editorials, two hatchet jobs,” and “making stuff up or distorting the truth” about candidates in the city election. (Candidates the alt-weekly endorsed and whose opponents were endorsed by The Gazette.) The column also takes aim at an error about someone’s name in The Gazette’s news coverage that was corrected with an odd note. Speaking of mistakes, the alt-weekly itself had two retractions this month, including one that retracted an entire blog post. The first retraction involved coverage of the city elections, the second involved its coverage of The Gazette.

A judge said no to a gag order request for the ex-Colorado GOP leader accused of voter fraud

Hoo boy. The former chairman of Colorado’s Republican Party, Steve Curtis, was in court this week over charges he illegally filled out his ex-wife’s ballot. She said she was only married to the guy for nine months and told KDVR she wanted to vote now that she lives in South Carolina. But elections officials in Colorado said she already voted here, she said. So officials did a little investigation and charged Curtis, the former Republican Party chair of Colorado, with forgery and voter fraud.

From KDVR reporter Rob Low:

In court, Curtis’ defense attorney asked the judge to impose a gag order to keep prosecutors from talking to the media about the case. The judge declined. After the hearing, Curtis’ defense attorney asked Weld County Sheriff Deputies to escort him to his car in order to avoid any more questions from the Problem Solvers.

No, Denver Problem Solvers is not some cheesy company that advertises private investigator work on the wall above bar bathroom urinals, it’s the name of the local TV station’s investigative journalism unit. On Twitter, KDVR’s Joe St. George called Low’s approach a master class “in interviewing people who don’t want to talk to you.” Watch the clip here.

Meanwhile, here’s another kicker in this already-ironic Republican talk-radio host voter fraud case.

From Denver7:

Curtis spoke about voter fraud ahead of last year’s election. “It seems to be, and correct me if I’m wrong here, but virtually every case of voter fraud I can remember in my lifetime was committed by Democrats,” he told KLZ 560.

In-person voter fraud in the U.S. is extremely rare, by the way.

Why a publisher of Colorado’s BizWest subscribed to The Washington Post

If you’re like Chris Wood, the publisher of BizWest, which covers business in the Boulder Valley and Northern Colorado, you might know how to jump a few newspaper paywalls. Switch your browser, hit the Escape key before a splash page launches, you know the drill. And maybe you have a similar justification, as he explained in a recent column: “While I’ve known since the beginning of the Web that creation of quality content isn’t free, I was comfortable in my hypocrisy on a national level, knowing that I did subscribe to innumerable local publications.” But Wood isn’t freeloading anymore, at least not from The Washington Post. He bought a $14.99 monthly subscription. Why?

From his column:

What changed on a national basis was the recurring line of attack against the “fake-news” press by the Trump Administration, and his branding as “the enemy of the people” major national media outlets such as CNN and The New York Times. Add presidential adviser Stephen Bannon’s tirade that the press should “keep its mouth shut,” as well as adviser Stephen Miller’s warning that President Trump’s national-security actions “will not be questioned.” Add also the petty slights of major media outlets by press secretary Sean Spicer, and attack after attack from other administration officials, and The Washington Post’s monthly profit-and-loss statement will now show an additional $14.99.

“It’s a drop in the bucket, of course,” he continued, “and The Washington Post seems on an upward trend all on its own, with plans to hire dozens of additional reporters … But for me, the $14.99 is a statement of support for quality journalism on the national level, for journalism that will not ‘keep its mouth shut,’ for journalism that will challenge the centers of power no matter how nasty and loathsome the attacks.”

Nice guy! If you want to do something like that, consider becoming a member of CJR or donating to The Colorado Independent.

What you missed on the Sunday front pages across Colorado

The Longmont Times-Call reported how parents of dyslexic students want earlier identification and supportThe Greeley Tribune wrote about a new way developers are getting funding through metro districts. A fire damaged a local home, The Loveland-Reporter Herald reported. The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reported how the federal department of interior acts to rescind a rule about energy valuation. The Pueblo Chieftain looked back a fatal tornado that swept through town 10 years ago. The Boulder Daily Camera reported how the big wildfire reignited a debate about homelessness. The Coloradoan in Fort Collins continued its series “Race to Retirement,” this time about seniors living alone. The Gazette asked if sharp elbows and dark money is the new normal in Colorado Springs city elections. The Durango Herald reported on “food forests.” The Denver Post covered how an oil rebound “pushes drilling rigs deeper into Colorado neighborhoods.”

Department of Two’s a Trend: This newsletter got some love in the news this week

The first mention came from Denver’s 9News anchor Kyle Clark who moderated our nine-person panel about “fake news,” which aired on KUSA’s Facebook live channel and racked up 18,000 views:

“I read your newsletter and it often reads like a police blotter of self-inflicted wounds by journalists. But are journalists truly to blame for America’s fake news obsession?”

I might have dodged the thrust of Kyle’s question, but you can judge for yourself here.

Next was Gavin Dahl of KDNK community radio in Carbondale who had me on his show to talk about Sunshine Week. He sourced me in part as:

…author of the fantastic weekly newsletter Colorado Local News & Media.

I started this humble newsletter in the fall of 2015 with just a handful of subscribers, and you’ve now grown past 400. So thanks so much for reading each week! And thanks Kyle and Gavin for the airwaves plugs.

Aaaaand speaking of community public radio…

Trump’s budget takes a whack at it, zeroing out funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. How would that affect public radio in Colorado? The Denver Post is on it.

From the Post [emphasis mine]:

Federal funding from CPB typically accounts for 15 to 20 percent of Colorado Public Broadcasting’s annual budget, spokeswoman Pam Parker said. The cuts likely would affect programming in fiscal 2018, although she speculated it would hurt the national programs more. Colorado’s rural and inner city communities would be particularly affected, she said, as people rely on them for pre-school programming, such as Sesame Street. Federal funding accounts for 5 percent of Colorado Public Radio’s budget, which comes out to $893,000, CPR spokeswoman Lauren Cameron said. To prepare for these types of situations, CPR started to include annual budget surpluses to offset any loss of CPB funding six years ago.

Read the rest of the story here.

The Chieftain promises to look at local opioid addiction— and not just from the viewpoint of cops

From a note on a recent story in The Pueblo Chieftain:

This article is one of several that will appear over the next several weeks, as The Pueblo Chieftain takes an in-depth look at the opiate epidemic and its effects on Pueblo, not just from a law enforcement point of view, but also from the perspective of the individuals, families, social services and health care providers who deal with the tragedy on a day-to-day basis.

Sounds like a good idea.

Public records retention in Colorado is still all out of whack

Jeffrey Roberts, who runs the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition, sure stays busy. Crappy local government responses to the state’s open records laws probably mean enough job security for him for as long as he wants it. Here’s the latest bone-headed municipal maneuver chronicled on his CFOIC blog: The city of Sheridan’s response to citizen Paul Houston’s request for emails that mentioned 10 specific search terms was to charge him $20,000 with a $6,750 deposit.


The Sheridan clerk’s response to Houston’s records request highlights an all-too-common scenario: Emails can vanish with the click of a mouse, and the cost to recover them can be prohibitively expensive in some government jurisdictions, especially smaller ones with modest budgets for information technology.”

George Orlowski, who recently retired as state archivist, put it bluntly in an interview last year with the CFOIC,” Roberts wrote. “Retention of government emails in Colorado is “really sort of an honor system thing. The senders and recipients of emails have to decide whether there’s something important that needs to be preserved.” Grrrrreeeeaat.

But some good news: Amy Goodman and David Simon are coming to Colorado

Want to feed your soul? The Colorado Independent is co-sponsoring the kickoff of Amy Goodman’s and DemocracyNow!’s 2017 “The Media Is Not The Enemy Tour.” The event is April 7. 

More from The Indy:

The reception is from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., followed by a talk by Amy from 7:30 to 9 p.m., both at Denver’s historic Su Teatro Cultural and Performing Arts Center, 721 Santa Fe Drive, Denver, CO., 80204.

If that wasn’t enough, reporter, author and all-around journalistic badass David Simon, who created HBO’s “The Wire,” will be honored by The Denver Press Club on March 31. “If newspapers weren’t run into the ground, I’d probably still be at one,” Simon told Joanne Ostrow for The Colorado Independent this week.

The Coloradoan newspaper is still kicking it on the community engagement front

This Gannett-owned Fort Collins paper is at the forefront of keeping its readership engaged beyond the printed page. And now it’s adding fundraising into the mix. The paper is inviting members of the public into its community room the evening of April 13for an event called April Brews & News: The First Amendment & You.

Form The Coloradoan:

[W]e’ll share the tools and strategies we use to request public information both in Colorado and from federal agencies. We’ll open up our reporting processes, including how to obtain documents using the Colorado Open Records Act and the Freedom of Information Act.

“We host these monthly but this is the first time we’re layering in a fundraising element,” says editor Lauren Gustus. Proceeds will go to the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition.

Death of a paperboy

I like to say I got my start in journalism when I was 11. I was a paperboy. And I loved it. It was the early 1990s in Upstate New York and all I wanted was a Raiders Starter jacket and a skateboard. Dad said get a job. I did. Two years later The Times Union quit delivering paper bundles to our driveways and we had to go pick them up. Bummer, I was too young to drive. I wrote a letter to my customers about it, giving a good swan song and saying I had to quit. Some even cancelled their subscriptions. People can love their paper carriers. And that’s true today given a recent write-up in The Gazette in Colorado Springs about the death of 56-year-old paperboy Howard Pudder.

From the piece:

“He just went above and beyond, and he did that for everyone – not just me, but our whole neighborhood,” said Warrell, whose Kissing Camels home was on Pudder’s route for at least a decade. “He did a job that, I’ll bet you, 90 percent of the high school students with a driver’s license would think beneath them, and he did that job with so much pride and was so careful, always being respectful of the job and of his customers.” Vicki Cederholm, The Gazette’s director of operations, said Pudder was an independent contractor with the Gazette for about 30 years. Since his death, she said, condolences and testimonials have poured in.

When he died, his brother told The Gazette, he had “every holiday card his customers gave him.” I bet he did.

*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.