Candidate for governor backtracks on remarks about The Denver Post after a recording leaks

A juicy item hit the web Monday when progressive consultant and media watcher Jason Salzman published a blog post and an audio clip of Republican candidate for governor Doug Robinson saying this to a small audience in Grand Junction:

“This is an interesting story: When I announced my candidacy the editor of The Denver Post called me. I’m like really? You know what I mean? Because they have been— endorsed Democrats for generations. You know what I mean? And he said— said don’t write us off. He says we’re going to endorse a candidate and if it’s Jared Polis I can’t see us endorsing him. He’s too left, too far out for Colorado. He says he may be too far out for Colorado.”

But when Salzman reached out to Denver Post editorial page editor Chuck Plunkett, Plunkett shot it down, calling Robinson’s account “incorrect on many levels.” Plunkett says Robinson was likely referring to The Denver Post’s editorial board chairman Dean Singleton, who used to own the paper. And Singleton told Plunkett that Robinson actually called him, not the other way around. “Dean told him that he didn’t think he had a chance at winning, and suggested he might consider running for treasurer,” Plunkett added. “The call came the day or so before Robinson announced, which was in late April. Jared Polis didn’t enter the race until weeks later, in mid-June.”

More from Plunkett to Salzman in this little game of gubernatorial telephone:

Dean has said publicly that he doubts Polis can win the race, as he’s too liberal for a statewide contest, so Robinson must be conflating events. Dean says he didn’t talk to Robinson about Polis back in April, as the congressman hadn’t even entered the race. Dean meets with candidates and expresses his opinions as is his right. But — and this is an important point — in doing so he doesn’t speak for our editorial board, or attempt to derail the process we take in coming to conclusions on our endorsements. I can tell you without doubt we have not reached any conclusions about endorsements in any of the races. A long process awaits before we can get to that point.

So what happened here?

To clear it up I spoke with Robinson, a former investment banker who is Mitt Romney’s nephew and is running for governor of Colorado as a businessman outsider in the crowded GOP field. Robinson confirmed he’d made some misstatements. Robinson says before he announced his candidacy he called Singleton, whom he says he knows socially. Robinson told me in describing Singleton as the editor of The Denver Post to the Grand Junction crowd, “I would have been incorrect.” Robinson also said this: “I don’t recall talking with him about Jared Polis.” Perhaps, he said, he did hear it elsewhere and got it conflated. Then again Robinson says he did not recall Singleton saying Robinson should consider running for treasurer instead of governor. “He definitely said that the candidates were further out than they had been in the past,” Robinson said of Singleton.

Asked if he had anything further to say about the incident, Robinson said no. Earlier he mentioned how he didn’t know he was being recorded when he was speaking in Grand Junction. Lesson here? I think that’s pretty obvious.

It’s also worth pointing out that The Denver Post editorial board has endorsed Republicans in recent big elections like Mike Coffman last year and, more famously, Cory Gardner in 2014. It endorsed Obama over Romney, and supported eight congressional incumbents, four Dems and four Republicans in 2016. It backed incumbent Dem John Hickenlooper for governor in 2014 and Republican incumbent Walker Stapleton for treasurer. Last year it endorsed the Republican for statewide University of Colorado regent. Here’s the full list if you’re interested.

Westword got some nice ink in The Washington Post 

Every other week it seems another death toll rings for an American alternative weekly newspaper. Recently, The Washington Post’s Paul Farhi penned a pitch-perfect tribute to their existence.

Included in “What we’re losing when we say goodbye to alt weeklies, the rebels of journalism,” Fahri checked in with Westword editor Patty Calhoun from Denver. Here’s the relevant text:

Patricia Calhoun, who still edits the alt weekly Westword in Denver 40 years after she founded it, says she started the publication “with the premise that Denver was a more interesting city than the mainstream media made it seem and that it would be easier to start a paper than to get a real job.” She now reflects: “We were right about the first part, but not the second.” At their peak, Calhoun says, alt weeklies served as a kind of community bulletin board for their young readers. Copious entertainment and restaurant listings were a staple early on. The classifieds were today’s neighborhood email lists. Need a roommate, a bass player, a girlfriend? Go to the dense black type in the back pages. “If you wanted an apartment in Chicago in the early 1980s, you had to get the Chicago Reader the minute it came out,” she said.

And later in the piece

A more nebulous question concerning the fate of alt weeklies is the one posed by Kennedy, the journalism professor. “I can remember many heartfelt conversations when I was at the Phoenix [from 1991 to 2005] where we asked ourselves, ‘In what way are we really alternative?’ Because it wasn’t really clear any more. We knew in some ways that the Globe was to the left of us.”

Westword’s Calhoun isn’t troubled by that existential matter, however. “It’s our goal to keep corrupting the youth of America into the pleasure of reading and questioning authority,” she says. “We still think we’re winning at that.”

Colorado’s two other alt-weeklies, Boulder Weekly and The Colorado Springs Independent, seem to be doing well, too. I’ve often wondered if legal marijuana advertising isn’t providing them a cushion some alts don’t have in prohibition states. In October 2010, Colorado’s alt-weeklies made the front page of The New York Times with a story headlined “New Fuel for Local Papers: Ads for Medical Marijuana.” So I thought I’d check up on the papers seven years later now that recreational marijuana has burst on the scene. Do they feel it’s given them a financial buffer?

Yes, says John Weiss, who founded The Colorado Springs Independent alt-weekly. He says cannabis cash makes up probably 15 percent of the revenue across his seven papers, but notes not all of them sell pot ads. (Colorado’s second-largest city doesn’t allow the sale of recreational pot, but nearby Manitou Springs does.)  Weiss suspects the only larger revenue source for his paper might be food and bev. “Readers of our paper, which are progressives and intellectuals of all ages— that’s the focus of papers like ours— are the audience for recreational and medical marijuana,” Weiss says. “We reach this audience incredibly effectively and that’s why we’re making lots of money.”

In Boulder, editor Joel Dyer says Boulder Weekly has “obviously benefitted from the pot market,” but he sees the weekly business model as more resilient than dailies. Non-pot revenues, he says, are also growing. “Pot ads are a bonus for an alt-weekly like BW that was doing well before they came along,” he adds. “We are glad to have the business but not dependent on it for our survival or success.” Despite the alt-weekly carnage around the country, Dyer believes the weekly alternative model for quality, long-form original journalism will prevail if papers focus on the print product instead of trying to funnel readers and customers online.

How Colorado’s new digital records law helped a national investigation into lottery winners

Following up on a 2014 newspaper investigation into how a small number of repeat lottery players kept winning in Florida, a group of journalists recently took a national look with help from The Fund for Investigative Journalism. They filed open records requests in states with a lottery— “an adventure in itself given that FOIA laws vary significantly by state.” Getting records they sought wasn’t easy, either. The findings are revealing, and you can read them at Columbia Journalism Review here. Because states handle open records requests differently the journalists put together an awards category— “Service With a Smile Award,” “Better Late Than Never,” etc.— based on responses.

But “The Help From Above Award” went to Colorado. Here’s why:

In March, the state lottery told us it would take at least 200 hours to process our request at a cost of $6,000. This summer, by chance, the Colorado Legislature passed a law that required public agencies to more readily provide data upon request. In July, when we resubmitted our request, the Colorado Lottery knocked its fee down to $450. After some additional negotiation, the agency finally provided the data for free.

Boom. They can thank The Colorado Press Association and its attorney Greg RombergThe Coloradoan in Fort Collins, The Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition, and many others for that.

An ‘unfortunate’ typo in the Telluride paper 

Oops. Perhaps it was supposed to read “Funky Friday?” (If you can’t see the photo click “Display images below” at the top of this email.)

“Either it’s a really edgy band or someone didn’t proof before printing,” said one reader on social media about the goof. “This always makes me feel bad for everyone that works at a newspaper,” said another. Someone else said on Facebook they wanted a copy of the paper “just to keep that part.”

“Yes, it was an unfortunate typographical error and the Telluride Daily Planet would like to apologize to its readers and the community at large,” editor Andre Salvail told me about it. “We strive for accuracy in all that we do and have taken steps to ensure that mistakes of this caliber never occur again.”

Fort Lewis College students and PBS collaborate to bring more localized Four Corners coverage to the Front Range

Rocky Mountain PBS is working with students from Fort Lewis College, The Durango Herald reports. “Stacey Sotosky, an assistant professor who teaches Digital Video Production, said 16 students this year will take part in making a short documentary about Durango’s history with uranium and if any issues still linger,” according to the paper. “Sotosky said the class is a partnership with Rocky Mountain PBS, which in October will premier a feature-length documentary about uranium issues throughout Colorado. ‘I want them (the students) to walk away with the tools they need to get a job at a serious high-end level in broadcast television,'” Sotosky said.

It turns out this partnership is actually part of a larger effort “to bring more localized coverage of the Four Corners to Colorado’s Front Range through the station’s regional innovation center program,” the paper reported. A $5,000 grant from The Colorado Office of Film, Television and Media is helping. Meanwhile, also on the collaboration front in southwestern Colorado, KSUT public radio listeners will hear headlines from The Durango Herald on air during NPR’s Morning Edition.

Here’s The Herald on what these collaborative efforts mean:

The end result? Local news and information reaching more residents via public radio, our local history reaching more Coloradans via public television and a new generation of media professionals enrolled in FLC’s new “Journalism and Multimedia Studies” program, gaining invaluable training.

Speaking of news collaborations in Colorado…

KUNC is joining five other public radio stations by launching the Mountain West Journalism Collaborative, a partnership “that spans Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah and Montana” with a $475,000 grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

From KUNC:

This project focuses on the unique issues in the urban and rural areas of the Rocky Mountain West. The main areas of editorial focus are land and water, growth in the expanding west, including the rural-urban divide, issues facing the rural west and western culture and heritage. The stations will work collaboratively to highlight these issues for a broad audience across the region.

“I’m excited that KUNC will be part of this important collaboration,” said KUNC Director of News Content Michael de Yoanna. “For too long, the Rocky Mountain West, particularly the smaller communities, have been given too little attention from the national media. This collaboration makes covering the rich, diverse, politically-relevant communities of the west a priority while creating pathways to tell those stories across our five states as well as nationally.”

As part of the project KUNC will add a reporter to its newsroom. Last year the CPB funded eight collaborations to the tune of $4.4 million, but didn’t include the Rocky Mountain West. Nice to see it get some love.

What you missed on the Sunday front pages across Colorado

The Longmont Times-Call fronted a piece about lagging home ownership amid an apartment boom in Boulder CountyThe Greeley Tribune ran a story headlined “Weld GOP pushing southern strategy,” but it wasn’t about racist campaign tactics— just organizing in a southern part of the county. The Loveland Reporter-Herald covered a local OktoberfestThe Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reported on local jail overcrowding, as The Pueblo Chieftain reported on a potential new jailThe Steamboat Pilot ran a story about a local art museum expansionThe Boulder Daily Camera reported on changes at a local homeless shelterThe Coloradoan in Fort Collins examined a “disturbing trend” in local homicidesThe Gazette profiled a local heroin deathThe Durango Herald looked at problem prairie dogsThe Denver Post reported how 11 deaths occurred this year on Colorado’s 14ers and a challenge to keep adventurers safer.

Follow-up file: Charges dropped against Public News Service reporter

You might recall when Public News Service reporter Dan Heyman, 54, was arrested for “causing a disturbance” at the West Virginia capitol in May while trying to ask Donald Trump’s health secretary, Tom Price, questions about pre-existing conditions under the GOP healthcare plan. The Colorado connection was that Public News Service is based in Boulder— something at least one newspaper reporter in that city didn’t know. That week for CJR’s United States Project I interviewed Lark Corbeil, the founder of Public News Service, about what they do and the “whirlwind” the org faced following its reporter’s arrest.

Now, four months later, the county prosecutor dropped the charges after a “careful review” found the reporter had not acted unlawfully. “I’m very relieved. Facing six months of jail time for asking a question as a journalist was pretty troubling,” Heyman said in a statement. “In fact one condition of my bail was that I had to keep away from the state capitol— having access is part of my job.” For her part, PNS founder Corbeil said, “The First Amendment was tested, and, thankfully, our system and democratic values withstood the challenge.”

Based in Boulder, PNS is part of the nonprofit Media Consortium and has an annual budget of around $1.2 million, Corbeil told me in May. It’s funded through memberships and paid services as well as philanthropic and individual donations and it counts PEW and The Annie E. Casey Foundation as supporters. The news org has a Colorado reporter, Eric Galatas, who has produced recent stories about steps to bring new electricity to rural Colorado, the risks of a lack of meat inspectors, a leaked memo on the sage grouse, and climate change heath impacts on Coloradans.

Online-only college publication ‘ironically’ calls itself The Paper

Pikes Peak Community College has a student-run newspaper again. “The online-only publication, ironically called The Paper, will refresh with news, features, sports and opinion articles every Wednesday at,” according to The Gazette in Colorado Springs. “It is free and available to the public.” The local community college in the Springs already has a literary journal and a radio station. The college, The Paper reports, “is hopeful that the rebirth of the student paper with a solid group of student journalists enrolled for the semester, will be the start of a much brighter future for the Journalism department.” The college added several new journalism classes, The Gazette reported, quoting former Gazette editor Warren Epstein, an administrative advisor to The Paper, saying they had a two-year funding source. “In pitching this project, one of the interesting things is we know we can’t say that the field of journalism is growing, but those skills – gathering, verifying, vetting information and being able to write and communicate – have never been more valuable than they are today,” he said. “That’s what sold the program.”

About that redistricting ballot measures group that just (re)-launched 

This week for The Colorado Independent I took a deep dive into a revamped effort to change the way our state and federal legislative political boundaries are drawn. At issue is a group called Fair Districts Colorado that launched Sept. 6, and its effort to persuade voters through a package of proposed 2018 ballot measures. It’s happening in a swingy state where voters are nearly evenly balanced among Democrats, Republicans and those who are unaffiliated with a party. And it’s happening at a time when frustration with gerrymandering— a term for drawing political boundaries for partisan gain— is sizzling on the national stage.

An excerpt:

Initial write-ups on the proposal in mainstream newspapers and the alternative press did not point out that the effort isn’t new. The plan is similar to one put forward in 2015 and 2016 by some of the same people involved in this latest effort.

The group is running into some early headwinds given its kind of haunted history last year—concerns over lack of input from minority communities, transparency, substance, charges of mischaracterization, and just plain mistrust about who is behind it— which I detail in the piece. These are the first shots in what could be yet another bruising battle over how Colorado ensures its voters have fair representation.

*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 Abe Novy for Creative Commons on Flickr.