Eight reasons why a Denver Post reporter’s blog post, deleted by his editor, was newsworthy and should be re-posted on The Denver Post’s website

April 17th, 2014

Here are eight reasons why Denver Post reporter Kurtis Lee’s blog post, quoting Rep. Mike Coffman about personhood and abortion-for-rape-and-incest, was newsworthy and should not have been deleted from The Post’s website.

1.  It was news! The core of Denver Post Politics Editor Chuck Plunkett’s written explanation for scrubbing the piece is that it was basically old news. But Lee’s piece advanced our understanding of Coffman’s thinking both on the personhood amendment (he opposes it under any circumstances; see number four below.) and on abortion-for-rape-and-incest (he supports it beyond he previous narrow support of it in a specific piece of legislation; see number three.)

2.  It was the first time Coffman made a public statement himself about un-endorsing the personhood amendment and withdrawing his longstanding opposition to abortion-for-rape-and-incest. These are major flips, and journalism is all about providing a record of actual statements by public officials, not their mouthpieces.

3. Lee’s deleted piece, for the first time, informed the public that Coffman has completely changed a long-held position and now broadly favors allowing a woman raped by her father to have an abortion.  Last year, as Lee noted in his piece, Coffman supported a provision in a bill allowing abortion for rape and incest. But this anti-choice bill focused narrowly on banning abortions 20 weeks after fertilization, and no news outlets covered Coffman’s position. It was completely unknown, until Lee asked Coffman about it, if Coffman favors broad rape-and-incest exceptions to his overall extreme opposition to abortion. It turns out his flip was complete. So Lee’s headline for his post reflected actual news: “Mike Coffman adjusts abortion stance in cases of rape and incest.”

4. Lee’s deleted piece reported, for the first time, that Coffman is opposed to any version of the personhood amendment, even of it were narrowed. In his deleted piece. Lee reported that “Coffman said there is no language he would change in the ballot initiative that would make him support it.” This advances Lee’s March 25 story, which quoted Coffman’s spokesperson, Tyler Sandberg, as saying only that Coffman did not support the personhood amendment in 2012 or this year, and the matter is settled because voters rejected it (not that Coffman’s thinking had changed).

5. Coffman has been avoiding abortion issues for years, and so any elaboration on his near silence takes on added value and newsworthiness. During the last election, the only substantive statement Coffman made on abortion that I can find was this comment to The Post: “I am against all abortions, except when it is necessary to protect the life of the mother. Given the fact I’m running for federal office, I will not be endorsing nor opposing any state or local ballot questions.” Frustrated by the lack of media coverage in 2012, I asked him about abortion for rape and incest, and Coffman replied with his pat, “I’m not focused on social issues.” This is what he would also say in debates that year, and reporters didn’t insist that he elaborate.

6. Lee’s direct interview with Coffman, which Lee described as “brief,” might inspire other journalists, who manage to snag Coffman for a longer interview, to go deeper and find out more details about Coffman’s abortion stance, like what is it? Does he support Roe v. Wade? Why did Coffman flip on these deeply and long-held positions? Does he support the personhood concept but not the amendment? What was the evolution of Coffman’s thinking?

7. Lee’s article made The Post look good. I know other media figures in town have been trying to ask Coffman more about his personhood stance, since his spokesperson was interviewed by Lee on March 25, and Coffman has not made himself available. Lee showed enterprise by tracking down Coffman at the Republican assembly and asking him substantive questions about these serious issues. That kind of reporting earns The Post respect and subscriptions.

8. With dwindling staff and resources, the newsworthiness of an accurate and informative news story, once it’s been written, is greater than it used to be. In other words, the old newspaper adage that “the greatness of a newspaper can be judged by the stories that don’t see the light of day” is sadly part of a bygone era. The piece was not only written but already on the website! Why delete an accurate news story?

And finally, a reason why the story is even more newsworthy today than when Lee originally wrote it: Now that Plunkett has deleted the piece, a much larger number of people are curious about it. This adds to its news value. Not a ton, I know, but reader interest is a consideration of newsworthiness.

Obviously, Plunkett didn’t rob Kurtis Lee of a Pulitzer by deleting his blog post from The Post’s website. It wasn’t an earth-shattering piece, but it advanced, in its small way, an issue that’s important to a lot of real people as well as political elites.

Plunkett should re-post Lee’s piece immediately.

Media Omission: Tancredo and Beauprez get better treatment than Norton

April 16th, 2014

The Colorado Independent’s Sandra Fish reported April 14 that gubernatorial candidates Tom Tancredo and Bob Beauprez were present at the GOP assembly in Boulder Saturday.

Fish reported:

Tom Tancredo, who’s already petitioned his way onto the gubernatorial ballot, was grinning as he left Coors Events Center a couple of hours before results were announced.

“I feel great,” he said. “It’s especially good for me. I’ve got a base that stays strong. The rest of these folks have to split up the rest.”

But neither Fish nor any other reporter explained why Tancredo and Beauprez, who are taking the petition route to the GOP primary ballot, were allowed to attend the event, while U.S. Senate candidate Jane Norton, who also petitioned on the ballot, was banned by GOP Chair Dick Wadhams in 2010.

Referring to candidates like Norton who were petitioning on the primary, Wadhams told Denver Post’s Allison Sherryat the time, “If the convention is not good enough to participate in, it’s not good enough for them to have a presence. That’s their decision.”

Post reporter is first to interview Coffman directly about personhood flip

April 16th, 2014

The Denver Post’s Kurtis Lee has done what no other reporter in Colorado could manage to do for three long weeks since Rep. Mike Coffman’s spokesperson sort of told Lee that Coffman had un-endorsed the personhood amendment.

Lee tracked down Coffman at last weekend’s Republican assembly and asked him to confirm his new-found opposition to the personhood amendment and to explain why his stance had changed:

Coffman: “There are parts of it that are unintended. … I think it’s too overbroad and that the voters have spoken.”

Lee noted that Coffman received high praise from personhood organizers in the past. (It’s true, plus personhood supporters don’t point to any elements of their amendment that are unintended, and Coffman didn’t point out any unintended consequence less than two years ago, when he was last lauded by personhood organizers.)

Lee also asked Coffman whether he opposes abortion, even in the case of rape and incest. Coffman has never personally backtracked from his steadfast opposition to abortion under these circumstances.

In fact, Coffman went out of his way in the past to underline his opposition to rape-and-incest exceptions.

But he told Lee that he now supports abortion for rape or incest victims, putting an exclamation point on an about-face that started last year when, as Lee points out, his office put out a statement saying Coffman supported such exceptions in a House bill. Still, this is the first time Coffman has talked about his flip himself.

Lee described his Coffman interview as “brief,” and there are still big questions hanging out there for the next reporter that manages to snag Coffman. These include: What is Coffman’s current abortion stance, beyond being “pro-life?” Does he support Roe v. Wade? If he still believes life begins at the zygote (fertilized eggs), does he oppose forms of birth control, like IUDs, that threaten zygotes?

The headline of Lee’s article reads, “Mike Coffman adjusts abortion stance in cases of rape and incest.”  Trouble is, we still don’t know what his abortion stance is.

Media omission: Tancredo sees public education as government mind-control

April 15th, 2014

ColoradoPols has called on gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo to address rumors that “GOP power-brokers” are pushing for him to be Superintendent of Jefferson County Schools.

Pols didn’t get into whether Tancredo, who’s currently leading the gubernatorial GOP primary field, would be a logical selection for the Tea-Party-controlled Jeffco School Board. No need to fall off your chair because yes, unfortunately, Tancredo’s views on education are thoroughly right-wing.

He’s not only a consistent supporter of diverting public-school funding to private schools through vouchers, but he also sees the public school system as a way for public officials to control the small minds of America’s children.

Tancredo: “Why we can’t at least give kids in those [poverty] circumstances, a key to that door – called a voucher. Tell me, why it is so important to keep them locked into a government school system. Well, we know why they want to. They want to determine how those kids view the world, as we just got done explaining.

Where’s the evidence that public-school education is about anything but freedom from indoctrination? Teachers wouldn’t tolerate it. They don’t want to indoctrinate their students. They want to teach them to understand how the world works and ask questions about it. American public education is about mind control?

Tancredo expressed these views on the Peter Boyles show April 1, with Chuck Bonniwell subbing for Boyles.

Jeffco teachers, supported by community members, are at an impasse with the Jeffco board, whose current leaders would certainly applaud Tancredo views, as stated here:

TANCREDO: That’s for sure! And what a great debate to have over the implementation of that. I just – I relish the opportunity to debate that issue with the governor, or with the CEA, the teachers union, and all the people that are opposed to such an idea. “What?” you know, they say. “What? Are you some sort of chauvinist–”

BONNIWELL: Racist pig.

TANCREDO: “– suggesting that America is actually a better place to be than anywhere else?” Yes! The answer to that is, “Yes!” And it’s empirically prove-able. This is not subjective. You have—you have – when – as I remember my old boss Bill Bennett used to say, “When you open the gates, all over the world, people only run one way, and that is a pretty good indicator that there is something better they’re going to. People don’t leave hearth, home, kith, or kin to go to something as good or worse. They only leave all of that for something better. We have it. We have to — We have to maintain it. Because if you do not teach children what is good about this country, instead of all of the stuff that they read constantly about, you know, how – about the negative things. And I don’t mean to whitewash this. I don’t mean that children should not be told about the problems we have had. But, you know what? In comparison to what we’ve accomplished, in comparison to what we have provided for so many millions, that — you know, those problems pale in comparison to the great things America has done, and the idea of a republic, and what those founders did, how they put it together. Yeah, I want to debate this, whether or not kids should be taught that, and taught to actually appreciate it. That’s the important part.

BONNIWELL: That would be – that would be a great debate with Hickenlooper, who is the head of the NGA [National Governors’ Association] – he’s head of the NGA this year, and I assume is a Common Core supporter. That would be a great – a great debate.

TANCREDO: It certainly would, and I intend to make it a very important part of our agenda and of our campaign. I mean, there—even – because, for one thing, it is a responsibility of the state. You know, so many things really aren’t, and yet the government gets involved. But, this one is. I mean, the Constitution talks about providing a free, thorough, and uniform system of education. And that doesn’t mean, however, you have to own the system. It doesn’t mean that you have to build the buildings, hire the teachers, and determine the curriculum. You know. And so, yes, you can provide choice. And here is another thing I want to debate. I want to debate whether or not Hickenlooper agrees that if you are a child who is from a family that is below the poverty line, or locked in[to] a school that is failing, that you should you be forced to stay there because you’re too poor to make any other choice. I want to just go ahead and debate that — why we can’t at least give kids in those circumstances, a key to that door – called a voucher. Tell me, why it is so important to keep them locked into a government school system. Well, we know why they want to. They want to determine how those kids view the world, as we just got done explaining.

Media should not report Satan is real

April 14th, 2014

Everyone’s a media critic, including Denver Archbishop Sam Aquila who told KNUS radio host Dan Caplis last week the media is distorting Pope Fancis, in part by failing to report that Satan is real.

Aquila on Pope Francis press coverage: .And rarely do you hear the secular media reporting on that – that there is evil in the world, that there is – that Satan is real, the devil is real and he can really draw you away from the gospel message. And, of course, in a secular world that denies God, they’re going to deny the evil one, too. And so it gives free rein to the evil one and that is really problematic because it is not good for humanity.

I understand Archbishop Aquila is an Archbishop. And I understand Dan Caplis is a social conservative, and I understand I’m a biased atheist.

And we’re all entitled to our beliefs, truly. But the media should report that Satan is real?

Post should do better job warning readers about its fake news

April 13th, 2014

Here’s how The Denver Post would look if it really hit the bottom.

On the Center for Western Priorities’ bog Friday, Erin Moriarty spotlighted a special advertising section that looks very much like the actual Denver Post.

Moriarty wrote:

Even the most seasoned Denver Post readers can be fooled by a new advertising ploy from oil and gas front group Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development (CRED), in which fake, industry-sponsored news stories are being published as part of a special “Energy and Environment” section on the newspaper’s website.

Each CRED-authored story uses the same font and layout as real Denver Post articles from real Denver Post reporters, undoubtedly attempting to pass CRED’s message off as real news. But, it’s not. It’s yet another paid effort that CRED is using to validate its now-dwindling credibility.

CRED is no stranger to promoting its message through paid advertising, as can be seen by the television, radio, online, and bus advertisements that the group has been running since its inception in September 2013. This time, the ad on Denver Post’s website boasts “news” about oil and gas development in the state, when really, the group is just peddling its own version of facts. In the “Energy and Environment” section on the Denver Post’s website, CRED’s advertorial features several stories on natural gas exports, local control amendments, and other energy issues Coloradans have been following for months.

The online version of the CRED ad is labeled in large letters across the top, “This Advertising Section is Sponsored by [CRED logo].” And “Advertising Supplement to The Denver Post” appears on top, in small, but not tiny, font.

Post reporter Mark Jaffe did the right thing by tweeting readers a warning about the fake content last week.

“Faux Denver Post. Industry group’s paid article looks a lot a Post story — it isn’t,” Jaffe tweeted April 9.

The six-page print version of the ad supplement, which appeared March 16, doesn’t even have the headline, “This Advertising Section is Sponsored by,”  and is over-the top deceptive, with the by-lined “articles” and news format, even though “Advertising supplement to The Denver Post” appears on top of each page in font equal to the size of the date.

The print supplement states that another “Energy and Environment” Section will be published April 20, next weekend.

The Post should use the same large-font “Advertising Supplement” headline in it’s April 20 print version of its “Energy and Environment” ad supplement as it uses online.

So-called “sponsored content” like this is nothing new, and its use is on the rise, as newspapers struggle financially.

Newspapers could easily die whether they push fake news or not, but at this point, credibility is still the newspaper industry’s most valuable asset, its point of differentiation from blogs, vlogs, Facebook posts, tweets, even local TV, etc.

The Post should take a clue from its own reporter, Jaffe, and do a better job warning its readers about the fake content of its next “Energy and Environment” section.

Media omission: Wadhams says CO Tea Party is now “part of the Republican establishment”

April 11th, 2014

An important storyline for reporters to track coming out of the Republican Party’s state convention this weekend is, simply, how are Colorado Republicans getting along with each other these days?

To hear former state GOP Chair Dick Wadhams tell it, historic divisions between the Tea Party and establishment wings of the party are now over because the Tea Party is now “part of the Republican establishment:”

Wadhams: All those new activists that brought so much vitality to our party since 2010, this is now their third election cycle of being involved. They’re part of the Republican establishment now! [Laughs] After they’ve been involved three times, they’ve been elected country chairs. They’ve been elected party precinct committee people. They’ve been involved in the party. The fact is, they are playing as big a role in the party as the establishment is. Where the breakdown occurs, Dan, is when we nominate candidates who can’t win a general election. [BigMedia emphasis.]

…I do think there was a misperception when the Tea Party first became such a force in 2010, that there was a process that basically shut them out of nominating candidates, that there was some kind of small power group that determined who the candidates were going to be. Nothing is further from the truth.

The nominating process of the Republican Party is as open and fair as you can think, because the people who show up at precinct caucuses and the people who show up and vote at the Republican primary, are the people who nominate candidates, not a handful of people sitting in a back room. In fact, we did some things when I was state chairman to empower that grassroots movement.

That’s what Wadhams told KNUS yapper Dan Caplis April 3, without addressing, among other GOP-establishment power plays, the epic backroom deal that cleaned the Republican senatorial primary field for Cory Gardner.

Wadhams also said, if there’s any animosity within the Republican party–over divisions about the 2005 Referendum C tax increase, for example–Tea Party activists should just get over it:

Wadhams: If Republicans are still talking about that, they need to get over it. First of all, that’s also an attack on former Governor Owens. Fine, disagree with Governor Owens and his administration on Referendum C. But give the guy credit. He’s the only guy to win the governorship in 40 years. So he had something special that a whole bunch of other candidates didn’t have.

This weekend’s state Republican convention will illuminate whether Wadhams is right about oneness within the state GOP, and, whether he’s right or wrong, this will likely be the biggest story that emerges from the convention.

Reporting by multiple outlets casts doubts on Gardner’s campaign-origin story

April 10th, 2014

Political campaigns love to develop a narrative and connect it to everything they say and do. But sometimes they overdo it, and the campaign narrative suddenly looks cramped.

Thanks to reporting by multiple media outlets, GOP senatorial candidate Cory Gardner’s all-consuming Obamacare narrative is already smelling overdone and forced. It’s not just because Obamacare appears to be working.

Take, for example, Gardner’s foundational story about deciding to enter the Senate race.

Gardner: I thought about reconsidering running for the U.S. Senate, but it really picked up last year when we received our healthcare cancellation notice.

If that’s true, and Gardner has said this numerous times, then Gardner’s thoughts about entering the race “really picked up” in August, six months before he told The Denver Post in February that he was launching his Senate campaign against Udall.

So Gardner left his Republican opponents floundering for six months, even though he had publicly announced June 28, three months earlier, that he would not run against Udall in part because he wanted to get out of the way of his opponents who were “making their decisions” about running.

More doubts about Gardner’s foundational Obamacare campaign-origin story surfaced when Politico reported that Gardner decided to enter the race after seeing the results of a poll conducted by Republicans in Washington DC.

That was January, about five months after Gardner got his letter outlining his options for coverage under Obamacare.

January was also the time period when Gardner stepped up his attacks on Udall, as if his campaign against Udall was suddenly in motion. Gardner sent a Jan. 9 letter from his congressional office to the Colorado Division of Insurance asking questions about it’s interactions with Udall’s office. In mid-January, Gardner asked his own congressional committee to investigate. Gardner’s a member of the Commerce committee. And Then the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which, according to Politico, conducted the poll convincing Gardner to run for Senate, sent a Jan. 17 letter to Udall, with more questions.

This timeline, casting serious doubts on Gardner’s story that his Obamacare letter pushed him into the race, was constructed with the record produced by journalists covering Gardner, day-to-day, month-to-month. It’s a small testament to why political reporting is important and how it creates a picture of a candidate for us to contrast with the messaging of his campaign.

Media omission: Will Beauprez be banned from Saturday’s GOP convention?

April 9th, 2014

Delegates at the state Republican convention will vote Saturday to decide which gubernatorial candidates will face off in the GOP primary election June 24.

But delegates will not have the option of voting for Bob Beauprez, who’s the only Republican GOP gubernatorial candidate who’s decided to skip Saturday’s convention and rely only on petitioning onto the June primary ballot.

The question is, will Beauprez be told not to attend the convention, like failed Senate candidate Jane Norton was in 2010 when she decided to forgo a vote at the assembly? Not only was her presence banned, but so were any Norton banners, signs, and literature. Presumably, Norton could have stood on the public sidewalk outside the convention hall, and indeed her signs were scattered out there in 2010, but Norton stayed away.

Then State GOP Chair Dick Wadhams was clear that no whiff of Norton would be tolerated, telling  The Denver Post’s Allison Sherry at the time:

Wadhams: “Any candidates for statewide office who forgo the caucus assembly process will not be allowed to speak,” Wadhams said. “They will not be allowed to have banners or signs or literature at the state convention. If the convention is not good enough to participate in, it’s not good enough for them to have a presence. That’s their decision.”

Media outlets have yet to determine if the same rules will be enforced, which makes for an interesting angle on equal-pay week. An email to GOP Chair Ryan Call seeking clarification was not immediately returned.

GOP candidates must receive 30 percent of the vote at the state convention to make the June 24 primary ballot. Additionally, they must garner at least 10 percent of votes to be placed on the ballot, even if they’ve collected enough signatures to make the ballot. If no candidate at the convention hits the 30-percent threshold, then the top to vote-getting candidates will make the primary ballot.

By skipping the convention, Beauprez eliminates any risk that his name would be struck from the ballot for getting less than a 10 percent of the convention vote, assuming he makes the ballot via the petition process. It appears that he will make the ballot via signatures.

Tom Tancredo has already petitioned on the primary ballot.

The winner of the GOP gubernatorial primary will take on Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper.  Leading candidates, in addition to Beauprez and Tancredo, are Secretary of State Scott Gessler and Sen. Greg Brophy.

Earlier this year, State Chair Call clarified that GOP candidates are allowed to both petition on the GOP primary ballot and go through the assembly process.

Fact check: Tea-party radio host was correct in dispute with Beauprez

April 8th, 2014

If you really want to understand the dynamic playing out right now among conservative candidates battling each other to defeat their primary-election opponents,  I might suggest you tune to conservative talk radio, even if it’s only for the next couple of months while the primary process unfolds.

You might ask, as a friend did the other day, “Does listening to talk radio make you want to crawl in there and strangle someone?”

No. Not at all.

Take for example, KLZ radio host Ken Clark’s conversation with gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez the other day.

Clark asked Beauprez how he’s going to get the support of grassroots conservatives when “you make statements like we-have-to-legislate-from-the-middle.”

“I don’t even remember saying it,” Beauprez responded, “but I’ll take you at your word, Ken’”

And then Beauprez flashed his conservative cards:

Beauprez: “I had one of the most conservative voting records in Congress. In fact, I believe I had the most conservative voting record of our entire Republican delegation, including Marilyn Musgrave and Tom Tancredo and Joel Hefley at the time. I believe the National Journal had me right at 90 percent of all members of Congress. So that puts me in reasonably elite category of proven conservatives.”

https://soundcloud.com/bigmedia-org/in-entertaining-interview

Later, Clark did some off-air research and told Beauprez that he made his we-have-to-legislate-from-the-middle comment on KNUS’ Peter Boyles Show.

But Beauprez denied being on Boyles show, telling Clark: “I suppose it showed. You couldn’t catch me off guard, because that doesn’t sound like something I would have said,” and, in any event, “I don’t think I was on Pete’s show.” [BigMedia emphasis]

A talk-radio puzzler! Did Beauprez make the heretical statement that we should govern from the middle? He didn’t say it on Boyles’ show because Beauprez was correct; he did not appear there.

But on KNUS’ Dan Caplis show March 4, with attorney Craig Silverman guest hosting, Beauprez didn’t use the exact words “legislate from the middle,” but he said as much:

Beauprez: You know, Colorado is a wonderful place where we all seem to figure out a way to get along.  But you can’t track way far to the right or to the left in Colorado and pretend to still be mainstream and be on the side of the vast majority of people. Listen here.

So Ken Clark wins! In front of a more moderate conservative host (Silverman), Beauprez did advocate for governing from the middle. In front of a Tea-Party host (Clark), Beauprez disavowed any talk of middle-ground-governance.  (Read this backwards: bob syaw-thob.)

Thumping is conservative chest on Clark’s show, Beauprez suggested that anyone concerned about his conservative credentials should read his 2009 book, Return to Values, where he outlines an “appropriate agenda for America.”

“Contact me, and I’ll get you a copy!” Beauprez said.

See what I mean about conservative talk radio? On top of all the dramatic conflict and intellectual stimulation and puzzles, you even get free books by guys like Bob Beauprez. Don’t miss it. Grassroots Radio Colorado starts at 5 p.m. on KLZ 560 AM.

https://soundcloud.com/bigmedia-org/beauprez-doesnt-recall-we