A shot in the arm
Some journalists who report in the field are starting to get vaccinated as more doses, though limited, become available in Colorado.
The governor’s office has been in touch with news associations, asking for a headcount for how many journalists they believe should be eligible based on the nature of their work.
“We appreciate the efforts of the Colorado press corps throughout this pandemic and value their feedback as we determine ways to distribute the vaccine to frontline journalists,” said Conor Cahill, spokesman for Democratic Gov. Jared Polis. “As a result of our conversations, we moved forward with making the vaccine available to a cohort of 22 frontline journalists who cover the Capitol on a daily basis the week of January 11th as the legislature headed back into session.”
Marianne Goodland, a reporter for Colorado Politics, is one of those journalists. She got her first vaccination shot today.
As for a broader journalist vaccination plan, the governor’s office has asked Colorado’s press and broadcasters associations to provide by Jan. 20 the number of how many “frontline essential journalists” they expect might want vaccines and the county where they live. “Once we have that information, we will be back in touch with more specific instructions for how those identified can access the vaccine,” Cahill said. The CPA is currently conducting that headcount and the CBA is still in early talks with the governor’s office. Reps from both groups indicated they’d have more to say later.
As this plays out, it means some news organizations are coming up with their own definitions for employees who meet the criteria.
Colorado Public Radio, for instance, is characterizing frontline journalists as “those who are required to regularly work in public spaces and directly with the public” and journalists who “would be most likely to be exposed to COVID-19.” That includes “reporters, photographers and news production staff in the field.” It would also include some staff and producers who are directly meeting in person with guests.
In some of its recent coverage of vaccines, the state’s largest radio station has added this disclosure:
“Editor's Note: A limited number of CPR News journalists have started to receive vaccinations according to the state's prioritization of essential frontline workers.”
Colorado Public Radio news director Rachel Estabrook says she can passionately make the case that journalists are essential frontline workers — (she certainly doesn’t have to make that case to me) — but she also wants to balance it with being a good citizen. The station, she said, intends to make sure it isn’t taking advantage of its status as essential with doses in short supply.
The developments come at a time when vaccines nationwide and in Colorado are limited and news organizations are producing accountability reporting about the state’s rollout.
The Colorado Sun reported being told by public health officials in “several counties” that “they lack the technology to adequately keep track of scheduling, who is due for a second dose of the two-shot vaccination, and how to notify an entire category of people who are next for immunizations under the state’s rollout plan.” One health director said doses in her county were “like Lady Gaga tickets.”
Sun reporter Jesse Paul, who has reported from the homes of COVID-19 survivors and in hospitals since March, and who plans to get vaccinated today, says he’s grateful for an opportunity. Getting a shot will mean less worry about the risks of doing his job; he’s been concerned about catching the virus while on assignment and passing it to others. “That being said,” he says, “I do wish I could give my doses to one of my grandparents whom I haven’t seen in more than a year.”
Nationally, news groups sent a letter to the Centers for Disease Control asking the agency to consider the essential nature of their work in early phases of the rollout. Journalists, they wrote, “have taken on an even more essential role, serving as the connective fabric for Americans who are isolated and physically separated from each other, and informing them of the constantly evolving risks in their individual communities.”
For her part, Goodland, who covers the legislature for Colorado Politics and spends a lot of time in the Capitol building, at first didn’t quite think of herself as a “frontline” journalist when she first heard the term. But she too has been out in the field since the pandemic began, reporting on potential super-spreader events and around some Republicans who don’t wear masks.
She says she was initially reluctant to sign up for a vaccine, thinking she might be taking a valuable dose away from someone who might need it more. On the other hand, the longtime reporter has had to get tested for COVID-19 five times since March.
“Every single one of them was tied to covering an event where there was potential for COVID exposure,” she says.
(Sun reporter Jesse Paul not throwing away his shot. Selfie provided)
Black journalists: Colorado | An upcoming journalist interest meeting
Next Friday, News Voices: Colorado is hosting a “meeting for journalists who might be interested in joining efforts to advance equity in newsrooms and reporting across Colorado.” If that’s you, sign up here for the 2:15 p.m. virtual event.
From the announcement:
It will feature a conversation with News Voices: Colorado and Media 2070 about journalism’s history of harm in Black communities and the necessity for equity in newsrooms. Together, we will explore how conversations centered on repair can be valuable for journalists already working towards equitable futures.
Event organizers say participants will “review case studies, interrogate how media’s anti-Black history contributes to Colorado’s media landscape and learn more about how they can get involved in joining our Black Voices working groups.”
Sign up here if you’re free Jan. 22 at 2:15 p.m.
Some Denverites argued about its ugliness and others suggested they liked the late ‘60s-era brutalist structure at 123 E. Speer Blvd. The structure’s owner, Scripps Media, has asked the city planning department not to preserve it as it tries to sell the property to a so-far unnamed potential buyer.
On Jan. 8, just days from a deadline, three Denverites who have been involved in local preservation issues — Bradley Cameron, Michael Henry, and David Lynn Wise — filed a letter that kicked of an official landmark designation process that could save the building from the wrecking ball.
Cameron and Henry both indicated in separate interviews over the phone this week that they wish to preserve Denver’s important architectural history and they expect an update after a mediation process with Scripps. They also both mentioned, likely because of my particular interest, how the city lost the old Rocky Mountain News building and Denver Post building to demolition. (As for the new Denver Post building, it’s no longer a newsroom.) While Scripps has written to the city that the company doesn’t particularly view the building as worth preserving, the triumvirate filers disagree.
“It clearly was intended by the Channel 7 folks when they built it back in 1969 for it to be a monumental statement, and I think they succeeded,” Cameron said. “That’s certainly what brutalism is kind of known for … it’s use for government entities and other entities to make a monumental statement … it’s an important component of our city.”
Scripps wants to sell its prime downtown real estate so the TV station can upgrade its newsroom as it grows, Denver7’s general manager said last week. BusinessDen put the news in context of local TV station buildings:
A move by Denver7 would represent the first major real estate shake-up in two decades among Denver’s primary TV stations, which are all clustered within a mile of each other south of downtown. The last major change was in 2000, when KDVR/Fox31’s current building at 100 Speer Blvd. was completed.
Bree Davies, a writer, podcaster, and urban planning agitator, wrote about the fate of this local TV station headquarters in the context of “the very public process by which a building may or may not be deemed historic” in Denver.
Rocky Red Rocks report spreads
Kyle Harris at Westword wrote this week how many concert-goers probably can’t wait to get back to seeing shows at the iconic outdoor amphitheater in Morrison.
Live entertainment is barely allowed; big events are definitely shut down for the foreseeable future. Nobody at the City of Denver, which runs the venue, thinks that all the gigs listed will really happen. They don't have a crystal ball; they can't know when full-capacity concerts will be allowed again. But Out There Colorado saw the online calendar and assumed that Red Rocks had announced its actual schedule because, well, the concerts are all listed there. On January 6, the publication posted a story headlined "Red Rocks Releases 2021 Concert Schedule," which has since been renamed "Here's a look at Red Rocks Amphitheatre's current 2021 concert schedule" — technically accurate, based on what's online, but also misleading. Nearly all of those shows are still up in the air and unlikely to take place, confirms Brian Kitts, a spokesperson for Denver Arts & Venue, the city agency that runs Red Rocks. …
After the Out There Colorado story went live, though, other outlets jumped on the bandwagon and reported that the venue had announced its season — then subsequently scrambled to make corrections, updates and clarifications.
But they couldn't stop the spread of the story. Would-be concert-goers started calling to get tickets. Inundated with requests, promoters called Denver Arts & Venues, wondering what the hell had happened.
"It’s one of the perils of social media,” Kitts told Westword, “and how fast everything moves now.”
Our new congresswoman, the First Amendment, and social media
There’s been plenty in the news about Colorado’s newest member of Congress, Republican Lauren Boebert of the Western Slope. She’s probably happy about that. Some of those who aren’t ignorin’ Boebert have found themselves blocked on social media by the elected official, however, setting up the potential for some court drama.
From Colorado Politics:
Several people have notified Colorado Politics that the gun-toting rep has blocked them on her @laurenboebert account, one of two that she holds. The second — @repboebert — appears to primarily retweet posts from the first account. …
In the past several years, several lawsuits — all decided in favor of those blocked — have been litigated against elected officials who try to block constituents and critics from their social media accounts.
In Colorado, a Republican and Democratic state senator each settled complaints after they blocked people on their social media accounts. Local officials have run into legal buzzsaws for the practice, too.
Boebert, elected in November to represent a sprawling largely rural district that stretches from Southern Colorado across the Western Slope, also caught a write up for her social media behavior from The Pueblo Chieftain, whose circulation area includes her constituents. From a story, written by the paper’s new politics reporter Heather Willard, about an anti-Boebert rally organized by the group Rural Colorado United:
Boebert blocked the group from viewing her Twitter account @laurenboebert on Friday, and did not issue a response nor responded to a request for comment from The Chieftain. The account is seen as less formal than her secondary account, @repboebert, which primarily retweets statements from the first account. She also blocked Bri Buentello, current House representative for District 47 until Jan. 13.
Watch this space if any of this winds up in court.
UPDATE, Jan. 17, 9:30 a.m.:
More Colorado local media odds and ends
📻 Writing for The Colorado Sun, Joanne Ostrow reports how “some of Colorado’s conservative talk radio stations are turning down the volume on ‘rigged election’ claims.”
In Colorado Springs, The Gazette's vegan dining critic has resigned over the daily newspaper's editorial board, reports the city alt-weekly The Indy: “I couldn't continue at the expense of other people.”
💡 “Historically, journalists have defined community members mostly in their capacity as consumers,” writes News Voices: Colorado about the inaugural TRENDS Reporting Fellowship. “We worked with fellows to consider that community-centered journalism requires us to understand ourselves in relation to community rather than as separate.”
🆕 Meet the Pueblo Chieftain's new politics reporter, Heather Willard, who comes from Ohio, through her own words at her new paper. Also meet April Morganroth, a new reporter at The Longmont Times Call, and Miguel Otárola to Colorado Public Radio where he’ll cover climate and the environment. He comes from the Star Tribune in Minneapolis. Meanwhile, Ray Rivera, a “veteran journalist who has spent his career exposing injustices and holding the powerful accountable,” will serve “as the regional editor for the USA TODAY Network’s Sunbelt region, which includes Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado and New Mexico.”
🏫 The Gazette has “decided to regularly team up with some of the best and brightest of Colorado’s college journalists on story projects in the coming year.”
🐈 A new Twitter account, @ChonkBeat, is profiling pets owned by journalists. It might have a Colorado connection, and Colorado journalists and their pets are showing up on it.
🎙️ Craig Silverman invited me on his podcast to talk about local news and journalism in the wake of the Capitol attack.
👀 From the University of Colorado’s president, former GOP Congressman Mark Kennedy, in a statement: “Increasingly, identity politics, fake news and feelings of humiliation are harnessed to win elections. Fomenting the rage of one group by scapegoating others has become the norm. Colleges and universities can and must help address such combustible trends, which are dividing our nation.”
📃 Eric A. Anderson asks: “Did you know that the state has a detailed list of media outlets serving Colorado's American Indian/Indigenous American community?”
🗞️ The Colorado Springs Independent got a response from Gazette editorial page editor Wayne Laugesen about his role in the paper’s uncharacteristic Jan. 8 editorial “Blame Trump and his words for the Capitol attack” and about his trip to D.C. on the day of the breach.
💨 An exclusive local TV stunt by Aurora’s mayor appears to have backfired.
🐦 “Twitter did not break the law at all,” said University of Denver media, film and journalism studies professor Derigan Silver about the company’s decision to ban the U.S. president. “This is not constitutional law, this is contract law.”
⚖️ Denver-based Dominion could sue far-right Colorado figures for defamation. “The list of defendants could include anyone who has made false and defamatory statements, which could include a significant list of Colorado Republicans, Dominion officials said.”
⚔️ The opinion page editor of The Denver Post wrote about the wife of the opinion page editor of The Colorado Springs Gazette: “Never have I considered her a wackadoo, until Wednesday, that is.”
📺 KKTV in Colorado Springs is looking to hire “a strong, experienced evening anchor who will thrive during continuous coverage, breaking news, and be a leader in the newsroom.”
I’m Corey Hutchins, instructor at Colorado College’s Journalism Institute, the Colorado-based contributor for Columbia Journalism Review’s United States Project, and a journalist for multiple news outlets. I’m currently in (much closer!) talks with the Colorado Media Project about them underwriting this newsletter, and I’m working on a collaborative higher-ed project with COLab, both of which I sometimes write about here. Follow me on Twitter, reply or subscribe to this weekly newsletter here, or e-mail me at CoreyHutchins [at] gmail [dot] com.