Colorado will be home to The Center on American Politics

So, here’s a Trumpillion dollar question: What the hell happened in the 2016 presidential election?

Seeking answers to that is a new political institution called The Center on American Politics at The University of Denver. Launched this month and led by political scientist Seth Masket— you might know him on Twitter as SMOTUS— the Center also counts psychology prof Leanne ten Brinke and economics professor Juan Carlos Lopez as affiliates.

Here’s what the Center hopes to do:

Over the course of the coming academic year, Masket’s research will focus on interpreting what happened in the 2016 election and what that could mean for future elections. ten Brinke will investigate the relationship between social inequality and acceptance of Machiavellian leadership styles through a series of psychological studies, while Lopez will focus on examining economic inequality and its impact on the availability of social services, with a particular emphasis on the Rust Belt cities. The center will also host a variety of panels and events to tackle upcoming election seasons.

The center will be unique to the region, Masket said this week. DU hosted the first presidential debate in 2012, and the university funded about a year of programming leading up to that with star-power speakers and journalists dropping by the campus for talks and events. Masket thought why not just do that all the time? “Obviously the 2016 election did help my case,” he said. I bet! He said to expect programming around the 2018 congressional elections and upcoming legislative sessions. Also look out for some kind of joint event with the new center and the Library of Congress where Masket is about to embark on a fellowship.

The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel got a big shoutout in The New Yorkerthis week

One of the perks of having a New Yorker staff writer living in Colorado is unique coverage of our state’s politics in the national press. That was on display this week in an in-depth story by Peter Hessler titled “How Donald Trump is transforming rural America.” The piece is set in Grand Junction, and Hessler’s take is quite different from perhaps anything else I’ve read in the genre that could be called Reporter in Trumplandia. Usually such a story follows this track: A journalist treks to Trump country and checks in on supporters to see if they still support the president given the latest fresh scandal only to find— surprise!— they do. Such coverage has been satirized in The Washington Post and even turned into something of a social media meme.

Hessler’s New Yorker story is much different. Instead of focusing on whether some rural Trump fans are still fanning or whether the president’s policies are affecting the locals, Hessler zoomed in on how Trump’s tone is being reflected in local behavior. Much of the piece also deals with the local newspaper, The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, and how TrumpLife is buffeting its publisher and reporters. Hessler recounts the saga of publisher Jay Seaton’s aborted lawsuit threat against a Trump-supporting state senator who called The Sentinel “fake news,” but he also tells of Sentinel reporter Erin McIntyre describing her personal reaction to a local rally on Facebook and how doing so led to “attacks by Trump supporters” that were “so vicious that she feared for her safety.”

Here’s some more Sentinel news from the piece:

During the election season, it’s common for some people to cancel their subscriptions, but last year the Sentinel lost more of them than usual. That’s one of the ironies of the age: the New York Times and the Washington Post, which Trump often attacks by name, have gained subscribers and public standing, while a small institution like the Sentinel has been damaged within its community.

You can read the full New Yorker story here.

Introducing The Denver Post’s new series, ‘Colorado Divide’

One of the reasons the Hessler piece stands up so well is because of where it’s set: A state where sharp contrasts can highlight an urban-rural divide that itself has turned into its own kind of coverage beat. Former Colorado public radio reporter Kirk Siegler is literally on that beat at NPR. And now the state’s largest newspaper is embarking on a series, “Colorado Divide,” that seeks to examine “the issues, values and attitudes that can leave rural and urban residents feeling they live in two Colorados.”

Here’s how The Denver Post presents its new project:

In the coming months, in a series of stories, photos and videos, The Denver Post will examine many of the issues that cast rural Coloradans in stark contrast with urban centers, and explore the ingrained values and cultural norms that shape responses to the challenges they face. At times, reaction has been particularly pointed. From frustration with regulation of guns and energy to political alienation in a shifting statehouse, rural Colorado was riled to the point in 2013 where 11 counties on the Eastern Plains launched a secession movement. 

The first installment, which dropped Sunday and was written by reporters Kevin Simpson and Jennifer Brown, was a solid table setter packed with stats and bolstered by individual voices.

Kyle Clark’s ‘Frontier Files’

It’s not the Pentagon Papers or The Panama Papers. It’s the Frontier Files for Denver’s KUSA anchor Kyle Clark, host of the nightly newscast “Next” on 9News. Lately he’s been in a public spat with Denver-based airline Frontier of which he is a frequent patron. It all started when he chided the low-cost air carrier in a broadcast for using its employees as props during a company announcement. A Frontier spokesman responded by sending Clark a nastygram email, calling him a jerk and other names. The news anchor broadcast the letter, and sent one back. But then things got weird. Clark followed up with another item, accusing the company of “improperly accessing” his travel history and future reservations after his broadcast aired. From 9News:

Jim Faulker, the Head of Corporate Communications who explained that I’m a jerk with height issues, was already scheduled to leave the company Friday. Frontier says he is out one day early now. His boss, Frontier’s Vice President of Communications Tyri Squyres, apologized for ordering the improper accessing of my travel history and reservations after I criticized the company. I had asked Frontier a direct question today: is it standard practice to look for potentially compromising information – say a history of complaints – when they are publicly criticized by a passenger… or a journalist? They responded: “We take the privacy of our customers seriously and have strict standards in place for accessing travel plans or other related customer information. It won’t happen again.” For the record, when Frontier went searching my file to see if I’m a disgruntled passenger with an ax to grind, what they found is I’ve been a regular customer for a decade without any complaints, even when they went to their ultra-low cost model. And I was due to fly them again in a week. Needless to say, I booked different flights. They can keep my money.

That’s on the uncomfortable side of creepy for sure, but lest you think this tracks with a national anti-media narrative, Clark had this to say to Westword’s Michael Roberts: “There are a lot of serious threats against press freedom these days; I wouldn’t consider this one.” He told Roberts he’s more concerned with what it all says about “how Frontier would retaliate against a customer who doesn’t have a media megaphone to push back.” Roberts talked to Kyle about it for a piece in Denver’s alt-weekly that you can read here.

The Denver Press Club turns 150— and the building is historic

“In 1867 Denver became the Territorial Capital of Colorado. That same year a group of newspapermen in this gold-seeking, whiskey-drinking frontier town began meeting as a press club. Rivals by day, they spent evenings tapping into the barrel of Taos Lightning, debating events of the day, and playing a little poker.” So begins the colorful history of The Denver Press Club, the longest continually-operating one in the nation, which started in a grocery store. Now the club lives at 1330 Glenarm Place downtown and this year landed on the National Register of Historic Places. Next Wednesday, Aug. 2, the Club turns 150 years old, and is having a party. Press Club members and supporters will install the historic places plaque and hear from Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and Congresswoman Diana DeGette as 7News Anchor Anne Trujillo emcees the event. Colorado historians Tom Noel and Stephen Leonard will also be there.

The shindig kicks off at 6:30 p.m., and you can RSVP here. They’ll let you in for free, but consider a $10 donation or more. And, oh yeah, it’s a press club. There will be booze.

What you missed on the Sunday front pages

In “Pot or Not?” The Greeley Tribune reported nearly 70 percent of northern Colorado businesses still test for marijuana.  The Loveland Reporter-Herald covered a wildfire evacuationThe Longmont Times-Call looked at resistance to oil-and-gas regulationsThe Pueblo Chieftain reported how the incoming CU-Pueblo president’s moving van caught fire and burned his family’s belongingsThe Grand Junction Daily Sentinel looked at local crime with gang tiesThe Steamboat Pilot reported on local forests and meadows as a virtual outdoor pharmacyThe Gazette in Colorado Springs found a majority of city council members open to potentially legalizing recreational pot in the cityThe Coloradoan in Fort Collins re-visited a major flood on its 20th anniversaryThe Boulder Daily Camera covered concerns of local bear advocates about a rising bear death tollThe Durango Herald reported on the public nature of Colorado’s voter dataThe Denver Post launched its “Colorado Divide” series.

Ex-Colorado candidate: Disembowelment of a columnist was just ‘figurative’

According to a onetime Republican candidate for the legislature, someone should cut my colleague Mike Littwin open on the Statehouse steps and remove his internal organs. That’s from Ron Roesener who wrote on Facebook “someone should disembowel [Littwin] on the stairs of the State capitol,” according to BigMedia blogger Jason Salzman. But Roesener was just being “figurative,” he told Jason when asked about the post.  “I am not going to come down there with my gun and shoot him. Don’t worry,” Roesener said. Well, good!

This comes after an ex-Colorado lawmaker said he was just kidding about beheading journalists. Littwin, a columnist for The Colorado Independent, told Salzman he isn’t sweating it. “In most cases today, despite the occasional call for ‘figurative’ disemboweling, and despite congressmen who body-slam reporters, and despite presidents who accuse journalists of being enemies of the people, most of the angry mail I get is to accuse me of creating fake news and most of the nasty stuff I get on Facebook, at least when I post my Colorado Independent columns, is from a small group of trollers,” he said. “I figure, at least they’re reading.”

No more misdemeanor for violating the state’s open records laws

There was a time in Colorado when if someone “willfully and knowingly” violated the Colorado Open Records Act he or she could go to jail for it. That time was, well, for the past half century, according to Jeffrey Roberts at the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition. But that’s about to go away come Aug. 9 when a new digital open records law goes into effect. Part of the new law that dragged Colorado’s statutes into the 21st Century was to scrap the misdemeanor provision for knowingly and willfully violating the law. Now the only thing left to do for those who think governments are illegally keeping them in the dark is civil litigation. Not that anyone ever went to the slammer for violating CORA before, Roberts notes.

“In the past year, the Denver DA’s office twice considered charging public officials with open-records law violations but decided against doing so. The determining factor in both cases was the high bar for proving a violation,” Roberts writes on the CFOIC blog. Read the rest of his item, which details a few cases where prosecutors declined to bring charges— and why. The new law, he writes, “doesn’t affect the misdemeanor (also punishable by a $100 fine and/or 90 days in jail) for willfully and knowingly violating the Colorado Criminal Justice Records Act.” So there’s that.

Speaking of open records, Ernest Luning and I talked on TV about what’s public in our voting files and about the The Great Colorado Voter Backlash on this week’s PBS show Devil’s Advocate.

*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 Great Degree for Creative Commons in Flickr