🆕 Colorado news site launching to focus on mental health solutions
This week in the news behind the news in Colorado
A new digital site and newsletter set to launch in Colorado with a focus on solutions for mental health issues will get some help from a pair of big-name organizations.
Local Independent Online News Publishers, known as LION, this week announced two dozen news sites from across the country will participate in its Google News Initiative Boot Camp. One of them is based in Franktown, Colorado, a small Douglas County town between Castle Rock and Elizabeth.
The working name of this yet-to-launch Colorado publication is Allies.Care. “We’re going to be covering the state,” its founder, Renata Hill, said over the phone Thursday.
A technical writer for two decades who has a background in journalism “a long time ago,” Hill says she has recently been posting social justice content on social media. Twitter and Facebook accounts for Allies.Care read: “Striving to empower the marginalized and educate the privileged on #SocialJustice issues. Join us.” She’s been posting about her start-up-up journey on LinkedIn.
As part of the Boot Camp program, for nine weeks Hill and the founders of 23 other local news projects will “receive training and coaching to help them launch sustainable news businesses that serve their communities,” LION noted in its announcement Wednesday.
Hill told me she envisions Allies.Care (though the name might change) will eventually have a board of directors as a nonprofit, a small paid staff, and a stable of freelancers. She hopes to raise money through grants and reader support with perhaps a tiered membership program.
As for the content, “I am a great adherent of solutions-based journalism,” she said about the growing movement that has a presence in Colorado and the West. (The Solutions Journalism Network encourages journalists “to report on how people are responding to social problems in such a way that it generates more knowledge for society.”)
Hill says people she talks to are sick of “problem after problem” in their local news sources, especially over the past year and a half. She expects they’ll respond well to learning about the ways people are solving problems, particularly around mental health.
Colorado, she said, presents itself as a “very healthy state” but many of its residents report having issues with their mental health, and the youth suicide rate here is troubling. Hill says:
“One of the things that I really want to do is to present information about mental health resources and events and people who are making news so that people can find information all in one place and they don’t have to be searching on these disparate sites or relying on 10 or 12 different newsletters from different organizations. It’ll all be covered in one place.”
The outlet is in its nascent stage. Anyone interested in learning more can email her at ReadAlliesCare[at]gmail[dot]com. This isn’t the first Colorado project to land help from the LION and Google News Initiative Boot Camp. Stacy Feldman’s Boulder Reporting Lab is a gradate of last year’s program.
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Denver Post reports the Anschutz tax lawsuit (on its opinion page)
Readers of The Denver Post this week were (finally) treated to consequential public affairs coverage about one of Colorado’s wealthiest and most powerful figures. A figure who just so happens to own some big news outlets in Colorado that have been notably quiet about his legal battle against the state.
The news appeared on the Post’s opinion page.
There, the paper’s opinion page editor, Megan Schrader, took a swing at a tax-refund lawsuit filed by Phil Anschutz against Colorado. Anschutz is the Denver-based billionaire who owns many things — including The Gazette news organizations in Colorado Springs and Denver. His Clarity Media also owns the statewide Colorado Politics site and weekly news journal.
For months, the Anschutz lawsuit and an appeal has been winding through the court system. Coverage of it has evaded the publications Anschutz owns. (Editors declined to comment when I asked in July about the issue.) Until Wednesday, the lawsuit had also had escaped the pages and website of The Denver Post.
The Colorado Sun’s Daniel Ducassi first broke the news about the lawsuit in July. At the time he also reported that Anschutz and his wife had tried to keep secret how much money they were seeking. (A judge initially put the figure under wraps, but later disclosed it.)
This week, on Sept. 15, Schrader published a column under the headline “Anschutz’s $8 million Colorado lawsuit is everything wrong with billionaire tax breaks.” Here’s how she opened her column:
Philip Anschutz — Colorado’s benevolent billionaire — should have read the mood in the room before he filed a lawsuit retroactively seeking to apply new federal tax law to get an $8 million Colorado income tax break. Because the mood right now among those eking out a living in this great state is that we are sick of paying our fair share of taxes while the super-rich use clever accounting tricks to avoid or evade their taxes.
Schrader, who is a former reporter for the Anschutz-owned Gazette, told me she spent a solid month investigating the litigation and our tax code. She found fault with the wealthy couple for their court action, but also in the system itself. “Our tax code is broken both in Colorado and at the federal level,” she wrote in her column.
Also in her column, Schrader noted an investigation by the nonprofit news powerhouse ProPublica, which released secret IRS documents that show how little income taxes the super rich pay relative to their wealth. But she didn’t mention The Colorado Sun, though she acknowledged to me in a phone call that it was “definitely” where she learned the news about the Anschutz lawsuit
“It wasn’t purposeful,” she said about not mentioning The Sun. “It was not an intentional slight in any way.” Over the phone, she lauded The Sun’s reporting and said she believes it’s important to give credit to good journalism when it’s due. So there it is.
BizWest and The Indy in Colorado Springs have also followed up on the lawsuit, which underscores the importance of having a variety of news sources under different ownerships available in markets. A newspaper owned by a local billionaire affords it to do great things, and Anschutz’s reporters often show that. But such ownership also comes with tradeoffs, and this example highlights one of them.
A gear publication’s deal with Crested Butte
There’s been plenty of talk in Colorado in recent years about the viability of increased taxpayer funding for the local news.
The Colorado Media Project, which underwrites this newsletter, released a policy paper in 2019 on the subject. Longmont, Colorado was briefly a testing ground for the idea of a library taxing district that might have some sort of local news component.
Across Colorado, local newspapers continue to collect public money from municipalities in the form of public notices (just don’t tell the governor — he wants to cut off that revenue stream), and several Colorado news outlets accepted federal pandemic relief money through the Paycheck Protection Program.
And while Democratic Gov. Jared Polis has pooh-poohed the idea of state-support to aid local news production, his tourism office has doled out public money to out-of-state travel writers and his Office of Economic Development & International Trade offered a $100,000 grant opportunity to a local news publisher (for the first time ever).
Meanwhile, the former editors of The Rocky Mountain News and Denver Post have both said it might be time to re-think the old idea that public support is some kind of journalistic third rail when it comes to funding. “We accept that even raising the specter of public support, which is already being tried in Canada and New Jersey, is controversial,” they wrote. “But there’s one thing we think the people of Colorado can’t afford to accept: Doing nothing.”
To be sure, there are questions about the feasibility of tax money going to support a kind of journalism that seeks to hold government accountable. But it’s interesting to see where governments don’t hesitate to support private entities purporting to provide news and information.
All of which is to say: There’s another Colorado-based publication getting a hefty load of public support I hadn’t heard about, and I wonder how much its readers realize it. That would be Blister, an outdoor equipment review publication “committed to elevating the level of conversation in outdoor media,” based at the foot of the Crested Butte ski mountain in Gunnison County. Beyond gear reviews, the company runs a podcast that includes topics like “mountain town economics,” short-term rentals, and megafires. In a profile of Blister last week in The Colorado Sun, Elizabeth Miller pointed out how the publication’s proximity to the ski mountain means Crested Butte gets a lot of play in the outlet’s reviews. There’s a reason for that.
It’s a tacit and consistent plug for the place among readers, and one the Gunnison-Crested Butte Tourism and Prosperity Partnership (TAPP) deliberately sought. Blister relocated to Crested Butte — as in, [founder Jonathan] Ellsworth and the title’s managing editor moved there — in 2018 at TAPP’s invitation, and the place has been a steady backdrop in their reviews ever since.
What is TAPP? It’s a local marketing district that local voters approved as a ballot measure in 2002 in Gunnison County. The vote doubled the county’s lodging tax from 1.9% to 4% and it “applies to rooms and accommodations rented to customers for less than 30-day periods.” Tax collectors use that money for “marketing the Gunnison Valley as a year-round vacation destination.” TAPP also seeks grants from the state’s tourism office.
I took a quick look into the notes from local public meetings in the past few years and found some chatter about Blister. Here’s one from the Tourism Association in 2018:
Blister Gear Review is a gear reviewing company. They have been in Taos for around 7 years. We engaged Jonathan in conversations about moving here instead of Telluride. We have worked a long-term deal with him. 300k per year and all gear reviews and guides will be based and called out as taking place in the Gunnison Valley.
TAPP’s marketing director told the Sun about $600,000 have flowed to Blister in the past three years. Read the whole Sun piece at the link above, which also delves into what happened once Crested Butte became overrun with visitors and how Blister’s partnership with the town had to evolve.
Climate change weathercasters of Denver
When this newsletter last week highlighted a tweet by Colorado Newsline’s Chase Woodruff asking if there’s “a formal policy at Denver news stations prohibiting climate change from being mentioned in weather reporting,” it got a response from people at two Denver stations.
“I am the former chair of the AMS Station Scientist Committee, an AMS Fellow & the author of 3 books,” said Denver7 Chief Meteorologist Mike Nelson on social media. “I speak & lecture very frequently about climate change.” (Woodruff acknowledged he’s on record as a fan.)
In 2018, Nelson helped organize a program for some representatives at Colorado TV stations that included two climate scientists who talked about “how greenhouse gases are warming the planet and changing the climate,” Allen Best reported in Mountain Town News.
When one of Nelson’s colleagues pointed out how he talks about climate change “incessantly,” KUSA 9News anchor Kyle Clark noted that his station’s meteorologist Cory Reppenhagen does so, too. Nelson agreed, saying Reppenhagen “is doing a great job - we need all Wx-casters to follow the example!”
Surveillance state update, CO High Court edition
Colorado Springs police should not have mounted a camera on a pole and used it to continuously spy on a person for three months straight because they suspected he was selling drugs. That’s according to a Colorado Supreme Court ruling this week that said the warrantless search violated a man’s constitutional rights. From Michael Karlik at Colorado Politics:
The key decision clarified the privacy rights of individuals in an age of advanced surveillance technology. Although the government argued that [the subject’s] property was visible to the public through gaps in his six-foot-tall fence and from a neighboring apartment building, the justices found the overall nature of the surveillance intruded upon [the person’s] reasonable expectation of privacy.
A judge said the constant surveillance was to “a degree of intrusion that a reasonable person would not have anticipated.”
During oral arguments on the case, one Colorado Supreme Court Justice said “Most people you ask would actually be quite surprised that the police could be videotaping your backyard all the time. That anything there, no matter what … would be subject to police surveillance.”
Now, two people at the heart of the case are entitled to new trials.
“It’s a good day if you value your right to privacy in Colorado,” Robert Borquez, an attorney representing one of them told CoPo. “It doesn’t mean that police are having their hands tied about what they can do. But before they can peek over people's fences, they have to get a search warrant.”
More Colorado media odds & ends
⚰️ Self-proclaimed “right-wing religious fanatic” radio host Bob Enyart of Colorado, “who urged a boycott of COVID-19 vaccines,” died of COVID-19, “his longtime radio co-host confirmed to 9NEWS.”
🎂 Editor Vince Bzdek offered a “heartfelt thanks to our readers on the Denver Gazette’s first birthday” in a column.
💨 The federal government beat at The Denver Post “was eliminated around Labor Day,” said Justin Wingerter, who was the reporter on that beat who would have taken on a different coverage area that included business. “That compelled me to make a change that I’ve been meaning to make for much of the year.” He says he’ll spend some time working on his own writing projects, book events, and speaking engagements, “but also recovering from the burnout I’ve been feeling.”
🍩 A Colorado-based New York Times reporter found what he felt was a “big omission” in a local news story in Colorado Springs.
🏆 Colorado Public Radio’s Michael Elizabeth Sakas is one of 39 finalists for the Covering Climate Now Journalism Awards. The ACLU of Colorado will honor three Latina Denver journalists with its Larry Tajiri Media Award “for fighting discrimination in the newsroom.”
🌡️ The Colorado Sun launched a new newsletter called The Temperature “about health care and environmental policy impact, the latest in consumer questions and answers on health and climate.”
📚 Denver-based Reuters national affairs editor Donna Bryson proposed in a blog post that “the single story of America that focuses on the winners and glosses over the subjugation leaves us without the language or the resources to cope with change.”
😬 Following the release of a firm’s investigation into a Denver school board member that found the most serious allegations against him were unsubstantiated, COLab investigative reporter Susan Greene says she’s “Curious if any of the news outlets that irresponsibly jumped on the Tay Anderson story will apologize – or at least do some serious soul-searching.” KUSA 9News anchor Kyle Clark said how the story played out “should be a case study in journalism schools.” Already back in late May, Colorado Public Radio reporter Andy Kenny had some questions for news organizations that were reporting accusations against Anderson.)
📺 Marissa Armas, a journalist who covers race, culture, immigration, the southern border, and more, is joining CBS4 in Denver, reporting for the weekend and evening newscasts.
🏫 A student writing for The Rocky Mountain Collegian at Colorado State University wrote in a column: “As a queer journalist … I was anxious about the story the entire night before we went to print. Even days later, I had nightmares about losing my journalistic credibility because I did not remove myself from this story when it so closely impacted me personally.”
🎉 Jane Le, a copy editor at Westword, this week celebrated 30 years at the publication.
🔎 Students from seven universities, including in Colorado, investigated the pandemic’s impact on underrepresented communities.
🔥 Colorado College professors, yours truly included, will collaborate on wildfire research and a journalism course, The Catalyst student newspaper reported.
📼 The Ouray County Plaindealer asked the county to release a recording of a secret-session government meeting. “The county has refused to do so,” wrote co-publisher Erin McIntyre in a column. “We disagree with the county on two main points.”
👀 I just realized this newsletter turns 6 years old this month.
🏋️ A former Pueblo Chieftain reporter posted a before-and-after pic of his swift 50-pound weight loss. “I just ate better and worked out,” he said. A former colleague responded: “The Chieftain Expatriate Diet works. I’m down 30 on it.”
🏃♂️ ABC News interviewed Denver author Josiah Hesse about his new book Runners High that came out this week.
☀️ David Gilbert, who has reported for Colorado Community Media for four years, hands off his beat to Rob Tann, and will become a statewide reporter for The Colorado Sun.
💰 The Poynter Institute took a look at the National Trust for Local News and its initiative to “build a $300 million fund to help save local news.” (Its first project was in Colorado.)
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.