Durango’s end run around its ‘orphan county’ problem gives residents access to Denver TV news

Your weekly roundup of Colorado local news and media

Photo by killbox for Creative Commons on Flickr

TV viewers in some parts of Colorado actually escaped the bombardment of ads during the recently wrapped-up election. Residents of Durango in La Plata County and Cortez in Montezuma County, among other areas in southwest Colorado, got their TV commercials — and their local news — beamed in from Albuquerque, N.M. That’s because they’re “orphan” counties, places where TV programming comes from a neighboring state.

This newsletter has been following a story about La Plata’s efforts to get Denver TV station into households there for two years — since the county asked the Federal Communications Commission for permission to get news from Denver stations beamed in last year, becoming the first county in the nation to do so. The FCC said yes. (Some TV stations in Albuquerque are fighting the petition, saying, among other things, that Denver stations lack “any meaningful audience” in La Plata County and the county receives “ample technical coverage and local programming” from Albuquerque stations, The Durango Herald reported.) The latest news on this front is that the City of Durango has “found a way to broadcast Denver’s KUSA 9News on its public television station in response to residents clamoring for Colorado news,” according to the Herald.

From the story, citing city spokesman Victor Locke:
The city has been working with 9News over the past two years to get the signal from Denver to Durango, Locke said. But it hasn’t been easy. Locke said changes in technology related to moving television signals over the internet slowed the process. The city went through three iterations of technology before it got a signal that was reliable and clear.

The city is giving out free antennas. Those who want can pick up a card from city hall or the public library that explains how to view the signal. “They can take the card to City Hall, where staff will provide a free HD digital antenna,” the Herald reports. “The city has about 100 digital antennas available on a first-come, first-serve basis.” And as for the non-stop political ads: “Durango residents won’t see the commercials that typically air on 9News,” Locke said.

This isn’t a fundamental fix for those counties that want to ditch their orphan status. The battle is still waging at the FCC. But it is an innovative, if limited, end run — and a government intervention into the marketplace on behalf of news delivery.

Colorado Community Media finished a whopping multi-part series on mental health

Colorado’s largest community media outlet this week wraps up an eight-part series on mental health in the state. The series, “Time to Talk,” is packed with articles published in the network’s several newspapers. It also includes public forums. In Colorado, the series argues that “for such a widespread problem, there is a strange silence that accompanies the problem. It isn’t talked about, or if it is, only in hushed tones, or laughed off as a punchline to a joke. Likewise, too often those actively searching for mental health medical care find their calls for help met with silence too — a lack of funding, or insurance support, or adequate laws to blame.”

It’s the talking-about-it part that makes up much of Part 1. In Part 2, journalists tackle the law enforcement angle with pieces about how mental health calls can be a challenge for cops, the ways in which “mental health holds” balance liberty with public safety, and dealing with mental illness in jails. Part 3 explores the intersection of our new uber-connected digital world and mental health by looking at technology bans in schools, how kids can manage a digital world, the risks and impacts of sextingcyberbullying, and other aspects of social media.

Part 4 of the series examines youth suicide and prevention, reporting on online screeningsprevention programs, and how “it gets better,” among other topics. Part 5 deals with addiction, drugs, and alcohol, covering whether marijuana is addictive, reasons teens turn to substance abuseprevention, and the intersection of addiction and mental health. Part 6 focuses on mothers and familiesanxiety, and maternal depression. Part 7 looks at men and mental illness (“You’re supposed to be a hero“), mental stability while aging, and how fear of judgment prevents some men from talking about mental health.

Reporters Alex DeWind and Jessica Gibbs took the lead on the series. “As officials on the forefront of the issue have said, there is no perfect answer for improving the mental health system or law enforcement’s role in policing the mentally ill,” Gibbs said about the project. “Let’s keep asking the tough questions until those answers can be found, so those with mental illness have the resources they need and the public rests assured the system is working at its best.”

DeWind called reporting the stories an emotional journey and said she felt privileged to listen to the personal stories of her sources. “These tragedies forever change the lives of everyone left behind,” she added. “People need to know that they are loved, cared for and that they matter in this world. There are so many things that make life worth living.”

KOAA TV in the Springs could get a new owner

If the feds say A-OK, anyway.

The Colorado Springs Independent alt-weekly reports the station’s owner, Cordillera Communications, announced it sold off 15 of its 16 stations, which includes KOAA, the NBC affiliate in the Springs. The E.W. Scripps Company is the buyer.

From CS Indy:

KOAA launched in 1953 and was purchased by Cordillera in 1977, according to the station’s website. In an emailed conversation, Evan Pappas, the station’s president and general manager, seemed optimistic about the purchase. “Cordillera Communications remained committed to finding a buyer that fit our culture, ethical standards, commitment to quality news and community service and placing our valued employees in the hands of a company that cares for its employees as both these companies do,” Pappas wrote. “They did that in committing to Scripps. If we can’t work for Cordillera any longer, Scripps is as close to a perfect match as they come.” Pappas pointed out that Scripps would provide “cutting edge digital projects” and “more resources for news content.”
“Scripps currently owns 33 local television stations across the country, including Azteca Colorado, a Spanish-language station in Colorado Springs, Denver and Fort Collins; and ABC affiliate KMGH-TV (The Denver Channel),” the alt-weekly reported.

Dean Singleton’s next act

Turmoil engulfed The Denver Post in May, the height of the Editorial Rebellion that followed mass layoffs and newsroom defections. The paper’s former owner, Dean Singleton, also dropped the mic. “They’ve got the keys to the car and they can drive it any way they want to,” he said about Denver Post owner Digital First Media and why he was stepping down as chairman. “But they’re not driving it in a way that I want to be a passenger of the car.” At the time it was something of a bat signal to those out there trying to figure out How To Save The Denver Post.

So, what’s the son of a “blue-collar oilfield worker” who grew to become a media baron and built the nation’s second-largest media company — a man who also won an award as a champion of open government — doing now?  The man nicknamed “Lean Dean” for his early cost-cutting, the one who earned a reputation as a union-buster, has been appointed to a transition committee on education issues by incoming Democratic Gov. Jared Polis, according to The Aurora Daily Sentinel.

The Sun is tracking our new governor’s promises

Candidates made a number of promises this past campaign season. But how about the follow-through? The Colorado Sun is keeping a close eye on Gov.-elect Jared Polis’s campaign vows with its new Promise Tracker.

The digital innovation is a great idea and solid accountability journalism. The Sun created a landing page that explains “the 10 biggest promises” Polis made and uses infographics to keep track of the progress of them.

Polis’s list includes free statewide kindergarten, single-payer health care, eliminating tax breaks, ending Colorado’s use of private prisons, fully funding the state’s water plan, and more. It looks like these won’t stay limited to 10, and the Sun is taking suggestions, so here’s one I’d add: A passenger train from Pueblo to Fort Collins, which Polis talked a lot about early in his campaign, and its progress or lack thereof would be easy to track.

What you missed on the Sunday front pages across Colorado

The Boulder Daily Camera fronted a piece about how Democratic Gov.-elect Jared Polis’s win brings clout to his home base of Boulder (but “Polis was not available for comment.”) The Denver Post examined what Republicans in Colorado do now after a Democratic rout. The Loveland Reporter-Herald reported on upgrades to a local events centerThe Greeley Tribune wrote about a new local arts hall of fameThe Longmont Times-Call covered a Vietnam vet who recovered war medals once lost in a floodThe Steamboat Pilot remembered a local WWI soldier through his lettersThe Grand Junction Daily Sentinel wrote about a growing community of “vetpreneuers.” The Journal-Advocate in Sterling carried two stories by The Denver Post on its front page, with the lead front-page story about a new program at a local college written by the college staff. The Pueblo Chieftain reported on local leaders who got positions on Jared Polis’s gubernatorial transition teamVail Daily reported on an expansion at VailSummit Daily profiled a local vetThe Gazette in Colorado Springs reported how a federal judge’s ruling on an EPA stormwater lawsuit could impact the city and Fountain CreekThe Fort Morgan Times reported on a possible law enforcement training center in the area. “Students of color are now a majority at Fort Lewis College,” reported The Durango HeraldThe Coloradoan in Fort Collins profiled a local woman who lost her Army husband to suicide.

Report: Climate change was missing from coverage of a fracking ballot measure

This week, Columbia Journalism Review’s Jon Allsop pointed to a glaring omission from media coverage of the California wildfires. “The Woolsey and Camp fires are not coincidental, one-off monstrosities, but rather significant new evidence of a rapidly changing climate,” he wrote. “Sadly, far too much media coverage has failed to draw that link.” The oversight isn’t surprising, he said, but it “fits its own trend of big news organizations investing in detailed reporting on climate change, then failing to cite it in their quick turnaround stories when the threat strikes close to home.”

Here in Colorado, writing in Denver’s alt-weekly Westword, David Sirota and Chase Woodruff make a similar case about the omission of climate change in coverage of the unsuccessful and highly publicized Prop 112 ballot measure that would have limited fracking in the state.

From the piece, published in partnership with Capital & Main:

An analysis by Media Matters found that out of twelve Colorado newspaper editorials about 112, just one — that of Boulder’s Daily Camera, which endorsed the measure — even mentioned climate change. News coverage of 112 focused alternately on the health and environmental hazards highlighted by activists and industry doomsaying about its economic and budgetary implications, but reporting on fossil fuel-related carbon emissions and their contribution to climate change was almost nonexistent.

That was true not only of the fight over 112, but of the state’s wider political discourse. Over eight debates between governor-elect Jared Polis and opponent Walker Stapleton, the Colorado press corps mustered just three questions about climate change, accounting for less than ten minutes of discussion during eight and a half hours of debate. Meanwhile, the Colorado Oil and Gas Association was sponsoring an anonymous website attacking journalists who report on energy and climate issues.

“In a media environment that was already erasing climate change from the conversation,” the writers continue, “there was no space for them to more straightforwardly argue that dramatic reductions in fossil fuel extraction are necessary to address climate change.”

Read the full story here.

The Gazette’s Cold Case podcast: ‘Listeners are starting to reach out’

Have you been listening to The Gazette’s new podcast, “Colorado Cold Case,” about the unsolved 2017 murder of high school student Nate Czajkowski in Colorado Springs? Three episodes are already online. The police still don’t have a suspect. Will these podcasters crack the case? That’s their hope — that the podcast’s exposure in the Springs community will smoke out someone willing to offer information — if not to the police then maybe to the press. In the latest episode, “Listeners are already starting to reach out,” says Steven Hayward, who runs the journalism institute at Colorado College and is producing the podcast with Gazette reporter Kaitlin Durbin.

Speaking of Colorado podcasts, John Wenzel at The Denver Post compiled a handful must-listen ‘casts from our state. They include Wild Thing, a podcast about Bigfoot, to Youth on the Record, which features Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello, who has ties to Denver, talking about being young. Purplish covers politics in Colorado. Here’s Wenzel’s round up “five new (as of the last few months) Colorado-based podcasts worth checking out now.”

RIP Times-Call & Reporter-Herald editor Ed Lehman

“Ed Lehman — the journalist, lawyer, former legislator and civic leader who owned the Loveland Reporter-Herald for 51 years and the Longmont Times-Call for 54 years — died Saturday morning in Longmont, surrounded by family members. He was 93,” the papers reported.

From the papers:

Lehman and his late wife, Ruth, bought the Times-Call in 1957. He had been a reporter for the Rocky Mountain News and Denver Post, as well as a former practicing attorney and deputy district attorney in Denver. Ruth was a practicing attorney before entering the newspaper business. Lehman was named the Colorado Press Association’s Outstanding Publisher of the year in 1967. That year, Lehman bought the Loveland Reporter-Herald. In 1985, the company purchased the Canon City Daily Record. And in June 1997, Lehman Communications purchased the Louisville Times, Lafayette News and Erie Review.

Lehman in 2011 sold the papers to Prairie Mountain Publishing, which is owned by Digital First Media, the hedge-fund-controlled company that owns The Denver Post and about a dozen other papers in Colorado. Some meta-media trivia in this is that Connie Lehman, Ed’s second wife and now widow, is the mother of Dana Coffield. Coffield, a veteran of the Denver Post and the late Rocky Mountain News, is “a former staff writer and later features editor at the Times-Call and a founding editor at The Colorado Sun,” according to the Times-Call

My favorite line from Lehman’s obiturary: “He won a $2,500 civil judgment from a man who punched him in the jaw because he didn’t like his coverage.”

*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 killbox for Creative Commons on Flickr.