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☢️ Colorado media odds & ends - isolation edition
A roundup of news behind the news in Colorado this week
While a “record-breaking wave” of COVID-19 cases from the omicron variant might have crested in certain parts of Colorado, the past few weeks saw journalists and those they cover in and out of isolation.
A “large chunk” of the Denver Post staff was “struggling with positive COVID or symptoms” earlier this month, one reporter said. Some lawmakers, now back in session, are participating remotely over concerns about exposure, according to longtime legislative reporter Marianne Goodland.
Last night, Denver’s KUSA 9News ‘Next’ anchor Kyle Clark was unexpectedly back in his basement studio, saying he’d had close contact with someone who tested positive. Meanwhile, Colorado media have been covering the “rules and shifting guidance” about lengths of quarantine and isolation.
This week’s newsletter format will look a little different. Now, onto the news behind the news…
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Typically, such an ad ripping a rival candidate for public office, in this case Republican State Sen. Don Coram, might not be all that controversial. But this one appeared on the newspaper’s Sunday front page above the paper’s own nameplate.
In a broadcast on KVNF community radio to Western Slope listeners, news director Gavin Dahl called it “an ad disguised as a news headline.” He also broke down the content of the ad, citing an Ernest Luning story.
“Front page banner ads have been around forever. Can’t refuse a political ad because we don’t like the message,” countered Dennis Anderson, publisher of the nearby Montrose Daily Press and Delta County Independent. “As the publisher of two newspapers in the district we would have run this ad,” he added.
Journalist and former Denver Press Club President David Milstead said, “I think for a number of years in the late 20th century most papers did not have front- page ads because that space was considered sacrosanct. Those scruples evaporated as ad revenue did.” He added: “Care should be taken with political ads; they should be given more scrutiny when they could be misconstrued as a news headline.”
Another West Slope newspaper publisher, Erin Mcintyre of The Ouray County Plaindealer, said “I … think it’s prime ad space and it’s clearly labeled. We can’t blame newspapers for society’s ignorance.”
“It should look a lot more like an ad than it does,” said Jayson Peters, a designer who has worked for newspapers.
UPDATE: The following Sunday, Jan. 23, the Sentinel ran the ad again, but this time put a black border around it — making it look more like an ad.
For what it’s worth, the First Amendment allows a news organization like the Sentinel the right to refuse an ad or letter to the editor. That doesn’t mean every newspaper will — even if an ad “disturbs” its own staff.
UPDATE II: On Jan. 23, Sentinel reporter Charles Ashby published a news story about the above ad in the Sentinel, reporting: “Coram did not earn $25 million in those so-called schemes, as Boebert’s campaign claims.”
📰 The three members of the Board of Custer County Commissioners this week voted 2-1 to make its newspaper of record the The Sangre de Cristo Sentinel, a partisan publication that once referred to the Colorado Press Association as “obviously part of the left wing, corrupt, deep state press.” When a local government deems a local newspaper its “paper of record,” it means that’s where the county will pay to print its legal notices.
The Sentinel, which calls itself “the voice of conservative Colorado,” beat out The Wet Mountain Tribune, whose publisher says has printed the county’s legal notices for a century almost continuously. The Wet Mountain Tribune offered a lower bid to the county, and one commissioner moved to accept it.
But another commissioner, Bill Canda, disagreed, saying, “I don’t know why I would support a paper that doesn’t support the county,” and accused Tribune Publisher Jordan Hedberg of a “witch hunt” against the county’s health director. Canda also said he couldn’t imagine supporting a paper that would “bad mouth the process of how we do business as a board of commissioners,” adding, “I don’t have an issue with being criticized because nobody’s perfect.”
A third commissioner, Kevin Day, said he found it hard to give the county’s bid to a newspaper that is “for lack of a better term combative.”
Following the 2-1 vote, the lone dissenter, Tom Flower, who voted “emphatically noooo,” shook his head and rubbed his eyes. “Words almost escape me,” he said, “but in the last year I’m not qualified to speak to the filth and trash that has come out of the Sentinel because I refuse to read it. So everything I know about that’s secondhand … that we’ve been called clowns, that they’ve made a mockery of this commission. It just is beyond the scope of my understanding that given the circumstances we would consider the Sentinel as a paper of record.”
George Gramlich, who runs the Sangre de Cristo Sentinel, has called himself a Second Amendment refugee from the northeast who started the paper along with a local tea party leader with a goal to affect the county’s politics and culture and to keep tabs on local government. On a radio show he took credit for changing the political makeup of the county commission by using the paper to attack incumbents he called RINOs — Republicans in Name Only — for their “liberal bullshit.”
A successful 2017 recall election showed him the power of local media, he said, adding that when he started the Sentinel, “we wanted to make a difference but we had no clue of the influence a local newspaper has on the local politics and culture.” Furthermore, “we’re not journalists, we’re partisans,” Gramlich said. “And we make no bones about it. We don’t pretend to be journalists. But it’s working for us.”
You can view the recent county commission meeting yourself on YouTube. (The issues involving the newspapers are at about 2:05:25 in.) West of Pueblo, Custer County has a population of about 5,000 and encompasses the towns of Westcliffe and Silver Cliff.
☄️ The DU Clarion, the University of Denver student newspaper, is publishing a nine-part series that focuses on climate change. “More specifically, this series will go in-depth on the human disconnect of accepting the reality of climate change, the role of the media, the power of student voices in environmental movements, climate science and why the University of Denver must divest from fossil fuels,” the paper says.
🔗 Nearly a year after the nonprofit Sopris Sun newspaper in Carbondale launched a Spanish-language section, the paper is collaborating with The Aspen Daily News on a new Spanish-language weekly. The paper will “include some of the week’s biggest stories from both publications, translated to Spanish, as well as feature local Latino and Latina leaders as regular and guest columnists,” ADN reported, adding, “The collaboration alone is newsworthy, notes Todd Chamberlin, executive director of The Sopris Sun.”
🚓 The Pueblo Chieftain has a new public safety reporter, Justin Reutter. In a previous job, he said he prided himself in “growing relationships, not just with the local police, sheriff, prosecutor's office, and so on, but also with the community as a whole.” He comes from Ohio. More from his introduction to readers this week: “I’m a self-proclaimed ‘geek’ who loves sci-fi and fantasy like Star Wars and Warhammer, is an avid (video)gamer (The Witcher 3 is probably my favorite game ever) and plays Dungeons and Dragons and Pathfinder weekly with friends.”
📰 ATTN: College students: intern at The Denver Post and you might see your byline on the front page.
🆕 Amidst a major management shuffle at the former Colorado Swift Communications newspapers following their recent sale to Ogden, Darcy Carstens is taking over as publisher of The Glenwood Springs Post-Independent. She comes from the Lake Tahoe area. “Don’t expect any big changes right away,” she said in a Q-and-A for the paper. “I would like to take a few months to understand and experience the community. However, in the near future we will be reaching out to learn more about what you in the community would like to see changed, as well as, what should stay the same. We may test some ideas and request feedback and (sic) how we are doing. We always want to be checking in with our community and find opportunities to improve.”
❌ Last week’s newsletter mistakenly misspelled the surname of Tom Wills as “Willis.”
🤐 Controversy surrounding a private Catholic high school in southeast Aurora that censored its student newspaper for running a pro-choice column isn’t dying down. “A group of students from Regis Jesuit High School protested outside school Friday morning and held a walkout in response to the firing of the student magazine’s two faculty advisers,” Sentinel Colorado’s Carina Julig and Philip B. Poston reported. Sentinel Editor David Perry opined in a column about the saga: “The clear message sent by a long-standing program that seeks to bring civil dialogue to a world fractured from disinformation and propaganda about global warming, immigration, vaccines, fraudulent voter fraud, guns, racism and, right now, abortion, is that some people’s opinions are just more equal than others.”
➡️ The Society of Professional Journalists Region 9 Conference happens April 8 in Denver. “Local Journalism in a Virtual World will feature panels on investigative journalism, writing killer ledes, mental health, diversifying newsrooms + sources and more,” says The Broomfield Leader’s Katie Langford.
💉 Grand Junction weather caster Butch McCain, who lost his job at the Gray Television-owned KKCO-TV in the fall when he refused to get vaccinated, is now the frontman for a local group called “Stop the Mandate.” McCain “was born and raised in Texas and once starred on the 1969 TV comedy sketch show Hee Haw. After 20 years at KKCO, he is now looking for work as a voiceover actor,” Anne Landman wrote on her blog.
🎒 The first issue of The New Meridian News came out last week at New Meridian High School in Boulder County. “A goal this school year was for our Journalism students to create and produce our first school newspaper,” the school said on social media.
🔀 Caitlin Rockett will become editor of Boulder Weekly as Brendan Joel Kelley steps down after about six months to pursue other projects that were “too exciting to let pass.” Rockett started as an intern in 2014, while finishing her master’s in journalism at CU Boulder, and was hired two months later to manage special editions. Since then, she’s covered the environment, adventure sports, music, theater, visual arts, cannabis, mental health, and more.
🎲 Advantage Media, which runs Colorado Advantage, a site offering “information on casino action and sports betting,” got its first gaming license, and did so in Colorado.
😷 Colorado Politics reporter Marianne Goodland reported that a Republican member of the Colorado House of Representatives named Stephanie Luck, of Penrose, “has been one of the most ardent advocates for debunked medical information, both in 2021 and 2022.” House Republicans, she reported, “most of whom don’t wear masks anywhere in the Capitol” invoked “information that has been thoroughly debunked” during a debate about mask wearing. She quoted Luck saying her community objects to the idea “of being told what medical treatments to pursue” and that people who decide not to wear a mask are “looking at a different set of facts and arguments.”
🔗 Democracy SOS, a fellowship designed to “help newsrooms think big, plan long-term, and reinvent politics, governance and elections coverage with and for their communities” is seeking applicants. But, “priority states are potential swing states: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin.” (Notice Colorado is not on the list.)
🆕 Megan Ulu-Lani Boyanton came on as the new business reporter for The Denver Post this week. She’s looking forward to “digging into Colorado’s marijuana industry and other business sectors.”
🎙 Denver’s best podcasts for 2022 “include alien conspiracies, stoner culture, police reform and more,” reports John Wenzel for The Denver Post.
😡 Two Denver Post reporters made use of a “rage room” to smash the hell out of things. “Reading, writing & learning about all the injustices around me makes my insides boil. I’ve been somewhere between a low boil & a bubbling cauldron for many moons,” said reporter Elizabeth Hernandez. “Today I did a rage room where you pay to break shit & broke the bat in half.” (They got to smash a typewriter, too.)
🏫 The Ted Scripps fellowship in environmental journalism is open for applications at the University of Colorado.
🆕 Colorado Newsline now has another sister site in a neighboring state. The Nebraska Examiner is “the 26th state-capital news outlet created under the umbrella of States Newsroom, a national nonprofit funded by grants and tax-free donations,” Nebraska’s KMTV reported this week. Nebraska saw two new nonprofit outlets pop up in the span of a year. “I view it as a national trend that reached Nebraska as all trends do...a couple years after Colorado & the coasts,” said Matthew Hansen, editor of The Flatwater Free Press.
📢 Drive around certain parts of Colorado enough and you’re bound to see one of the signs: “Fuck Biden” it reads with an added “and fuck you for voting for him.” The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel tackled the legality of the issue. “While some county officials said they don’t much care for the use of profanity on such flags or signs … and wished they had the legal authority to bar them, they are protected under the U.S. Constitution,” Charles Ashby reported this week. (“(Expletive) Biden” is how the family newspaper reported the sign content.)
🐦 Emerging journalists: Should you be on Twitter? CBS4’s Tori Mason in Denver says her current boss reached out to her five years ago via the platform. “I’m in Denver because of this APP.” (You might not like Twitter, but don’t discount its ability to pour rocket fuel into your career. Also recall: Dave Burdick got his Denverite offer on LinkedIn.)
👍 The Northern Colorado weekly newspaper North Forty News is “a solution-driven publication,” it says. “That means in almost every case when we publish a story or article, we will find a solution-driven reason to publish it.”
🗳 A Denver journalist wasn’t afraid to call a Colorado Republican House resolution “more Jan. 6 election conspiracy nonsense.” The resolution was to approve an amendment thanking GOP Rep. Ron Hanks, who was in D.C. on Jan. 6, and the “millions of other Americans who joined him … to exercise their unalienable rights, as enshrined in the First Amendment.” A majority of House Republicans voted for it. Here’s his story.
☀️ The Colorado Sun’s subscription newsletter The Unaffiliated wasn’t afraid to use direct language, not euphemisms, about lawmakers it covers. Members of the GOP “like Hanks and state Rep. Dave Williams, who keep spreading lies about the 2020 presidential election, shift the conversation away from those policy goals,” it reported.
👻 Eugene Volokh, a UCLA law professor who writes for Reason magazine’s site and sometimes scoops some interesting legal-issue news out of the Colorado court system, has a post this week about a lawyer who is asking Google to hide a discipline record that appears on the Colorado Supreme Court’s site.
📱 In Colorado, “local sheriffs, police chiefs or fire chiefs just can’t blast messages to their constituents’ cellphones without first gaining federal approval to use that system,” reported The Denver Post’s Noelle Phillips. “Most cities and counties in the state hire private contractors to create local emergency alert systems that are able to send focused alerts to specific neighborhoods or email lists.”
🤔 The Gazette “no longer will place my columns behind a pay wall,” said sports columnist Woody Paige. “You will be able to read them on Twitter,” he added, saying also, “My columns are free now because I have the best and smartest followers in the Twitter universe.”
🔀 Alison Berg is leaving The Steamboat Pilot for a reporter position with Rocky Mountain PBS in Denver.
🔥 Read how The Associated Press “drew on its regional staff — and local knowledge — to comprehensively document Colorado’s massive winter wildfire that left thousands homeless and renewed fears over climate change.” During “a busy week for news,” the AP reported, “the initial fire coverage was among the top stories on AP News for the week and various AP video edits combined for more than 1,200 downloads.”
🏃 Denver journalist Josiah Hesse talked about his new book Runner’s High on Colorado Matters.
⚙️ Colorado Public Radio is hiring a news director who it will pay up to $120,000 to start. The Canadian company Village Media is looking for a reporter for The Longmont Leader who it will pay $44,500 to $47,500. The Leadville Herald Democrat will pay a community reporter $25,000 to $30,000. Sky-Hi News seeks an editor it will pay $45,000 to $55,000. Summit Daily News wants a reporter it will pay $40,000 to $45,000 and a managing editor for $50,000 to $60,000. The Loveland Reporter-Herald needs a city government reporter it will pay up to $14.50 an hour. Colorado Publishing House in the Springs is hiring a senior reporter ($42k-$50k), an entry-level reporter ($35k-$38k), an A&E reporter ($38k-$42k), a photographer/videographer ($38k-$43k), and a designer ($16.50-$18/hour).
💻 The University of Colorado - Denver and the Health Sciences Center is willing to pay a social media director up to $105,000 to start.
📺 When a local TV reporter in West Virginia got hit by a car during a live broadcast covering a water-main break (she was OK, and finished the shot), some in the broadcast business lamented the cost-cutting practice of having multimedia journalists, or MMJs as they’re known, act as a “one-man-band” doing the camerawork and everything else themselves, often alone at night. “Glad to work at a station where we have strong photojournalists who work with reporters,” said Blair Miller of the Denver7 ABC affiliate. “And no one ever does a solo live shot.” Miller said he loves shooting, editing and reporting, “But the MMJ push combined with growth on the digital side and newsroom cuts is what pushed me to digital journalism.”
😺 Aspen Daily News editor Megan Tackett this week recalled, “That time I realized I like my bosses and work culture so much, I passed on putting in for a fully remote, national publication looking for someone with an awful lot of my credentials. It was a crazy-good feeling.”
I’m Corey Hutchins, interim director of Colorado College’s Journalism Institute, the Colorado-based contributor for Columbia Journalism Review’s United States Project, and a journalist for multiple news outlets. The Colorado Media Project, where I write case studies, is underwriting this newsletter, and my “Inside the News” column appears at COLab, both of which I sometimes write about here. (If you would like to join CMP and Grasslands in underwriting this newsletter, hit me up.) Follow me on Twitter, reply or subscribe to this weekly newsletter here, or e-mail me at CoreyHutchins [at] gmail [dot] com.
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