Latest Colorado newsroom collaboration swarms unaffiliated Boebert voters

And more news about the news in Colorado. (I'm on vacation so it's a light one this week.)

Eight newsrooms linked up to query voters about their member of Congress

The Colorado Sun this week teamed up with several Western Slope newspapers for a look at unaffiliated voters in Colorado’s sprawling third district, which is represented by Republican Lauren Boebert.

The move underscores a continuing collaborative spirit among Colorado’s disparate news organizations that frequently share content and resources despite having different owners. While COLab, a relatively new nonprofit, has organized previous collaborations among the state’s newsrooms, this one was led by The Sun — no stranger to leading team-based efforts.

In 2019, the journalist-owned public benefit corporation led an initiative called “PARKED: Half the American Dream,” a series of in-depth, accountability-minded stories about the state’s mobile-home parks. The Sun also partnered with Colorado Community Media newspapers (papers it now owns and runs) for reporting about threats to public health workers. More recently the outlet hooked up with KUSA 9News on a joint investigation into Colorado’s residential treatment centers.

The Sun’s latest story counts this roll call of collaborators and indicates this isn’t a standalone one-off (emphasis mine):

The Colorado Sun teamed up with The Aspen Times, The Durango Herald, The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, The Glenwood Springs Post Independent, Steamboat Pilot & Today, The Ouray County Plaindealer and The Rio Blanco Herald Times to report this story as part of a broader partnership to cover political issues in the 3rd Congressional District.  

The piece focuses on the largely rural district’s voters represented by first-term Congresswoman Boebert, who typically sidesteps local press in favor of social media and national platforms friendly to her right-wing culture-war messaging.

Boebert recently told a crowd in Fremont County that she was having the time of her life in Congress “because every single day I get to troll liberals.” You won’t see her quoted in The Sun collaboration that counts 15 local journalists contributing their reporting power. Instead, it’s Boebert’s constituents who are the focus.

Here’s how the reporters chose which voters to query:

The Sun teamed up with several newspapers in cities across the sprawling 3rd District to interview unaffiliated voters, selected at random from the state’s voter rolls, to learn what motivates them at the ballot box and how they feel about Boebert. The voters were asked a standard set of questions about their political leanings and the issues that matter most to them. 

Read what those voters said here.

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CSU prof noted in research about local news decline

As local newspapers fade in cities and towns across America, a compelling genre of media research has emerged seeking to answer this question: What’s the impact?

When newspapers die, we know citizen engagement drops in communities, and corruption flourishes, for instance.

This week, LSU political communication professor Joshua Darr wrote an article for FiveThirtyEight positing that the decline in local news “could be bad for American politics.” The piece relied in part on research he conducted with a Colorado State University poli-sci professor. From FiveThirtyEight:

A growing body of research has found that government is worse off when local news suffers. In fact, inadequate local news has been linked to more corruptionless competitiveelectionsweaker municipal finances and a prevalence of party-line politicians who don’t bring benefits back to their districts. It’s not just government performance, however. My research with Matthew Hitt of Colorado State University and Johanna Dunaway of Texas A&M University shows that when local newspapers close, people don’t find another local option. Instead, they get their news from national outlets, and in the absence of local news, people are more likely to vote for one party up and down the ballot.

Here’s a link to that 2018 paper, published in the Journal of Communication, that counts Hitt as a co-author. This is the abstract:

Changes to the media environment have increased polarized voting in America through both addition and subtraction. We argue that the decline of local newspapers has contributed to the nationalization of American politics: as local newspapers close, Americans rely more heavily on available national news or partisan heuristics to make political decisions. We assess the impact of newspaper closures on polarized voting, using genetic matching to compare counties that are statistically similar but for the loss of a local newspaper. We identify a small but significant causal decrease in split-ticket voting in presidential and senatorial elections in these matched communities: in areas where a newspaper closed, split-ticket voting decreased by 1.9%

This March, Hitt and his co-authors also published a book, Home Style Opinion, about what happened when one local newspaper in California cut out national politics from its opinion page and only focused on local issues.

Read more about their work at the link above.

Colorado officially has a media literacy law

Democratic Gov. Jared Polis on May 27 signed Colorado’s media literacy implementation bill into law.

Here’s some of what the new law will do, according to the general assembly’s website:

The bill requires the department of education … to create and maintain an online resource bank of materials and resources pertaining to media literacy. At a minimum, the resource bank must include the materials and resources recommended in the media literacy advisory committee’s report.

You can find that committee’s 159-page report here.

Some Colorado journalists helped create it, and here’s an interesting caveat from it: “The department was unable to fill the positions of a student in a rural school district and a print journalist despite extensive recruitment efforts. The department included two broadcast journalists due to the inability to include a print journalist.”

During a bill-signing ceremony, the governor said he wanted to make sure kids get the knowledge they need about media sources, critical thinking, and skills about how to process information.

“This bill really makes sure that we have best practices and recommendations around media literacy, which is even more important now than ever before,” Polis said.

Media literacy is “about helping kids navigate a really complicated and quickly changing media landscape and giving them the tools to evaluate this information and make good decisions,” said one of the bill’s sponsors, Democratic Rep. Lisa Cutter.

“I think it’s vital that we teach our children today critical thinking and give them education without indoctrination,” said Republican Sen. Don Coram, who also sponsored the legislation. “And I believe that is the intent of this bill.”

Another sponsor of the new law, Democratic Sen. Brittany Pettersen, was previously quoted offering a personal anecdote about a family member in regard to the bill. From the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition:

She talked about her father, who “believes anything that comes in an email because … it’s on the internet, it must be real. My dad is one of the people who actually believes in QAnon. It’s hard to admit that — I love my father — but he lacks being taught those critical-thinking skills in a changing time.”

Some media thinkers wonder if “media fluency” might be a better term than media literacy. Learn more on that here from the American Press Institute.

Colorado Sun launches a free youth journalism summer camp

Thirty years ago this summer, the TV show “Salute Your Shorts” about kids at summer camp debuted on Nickelodeon. (I know, right?) No doubt countless families are getting ready to ship off their little ones to sleep-aways across Colorado. ‘Tis the season.

This year there’s a new one to consider — though it won’t be in-person.

From July 26 to July 30, The Colorado Sun is holding an inaugural Rise and Shine Journalism Workshop. From The Sun:

The goal of the program is to encourage young Coloradans to pursue future careers in journalism and media, especially students from underrepresented backgrounds, such as BIPOC and/or LGBTQ youth, rural and those who would be first-generation college students. Participants will learn from professional journalists about different paths and options for pursuing a journalism career and transferring good writing, artistic, business and digital skills into good news-making. Participants also will learn about the different ethical and professional responsibilities of being a journalist.

The virtual summer camp is open to 15 students who live in the state, will be attending middle or high school in the fall, and have a strong interest in journalism or media.

“Applicants from underrepresented and diverse communities will be given preference,” the announcement reads. Here’s the link to sign up. The deadline is June 18.

A ‘single-take drone news story concept’

And now, a local news take on the one-shot bowling alley drone shot.

Here’s the editor’s note from the online version of the story: “This video was shot by Denver7 Photojournalist Eric English in one take using a drone, with interview sound mixed in.” If you’re wondering about the size of the drone, it’s pretty small with three-inch blades, English said.

Colorado lawmakers vs. Big Tech data trackers

You’ve seen it happen. You’re searching for something online and later all sorts of ads for the same service start flooding your Instagram, Facebook, or other social media channels.

Or, worse, you just talked a lot about something — dog food, say, and you don’t even have a dog — and later your feeds are full of dog chow spam.

If you’re concerned about the ways in which tech companies hoover up your data and rely on it to try and sell things to you — or use it for whatever other reason that might be profitable — some Colorado lawmakers want to bring more transparency to the process. From The Denver Post:

Colorado lawmakers decided to tackle the issue again this year with SB21-190, which unanimously passed the Senate last week. If it makes it to Gov. Jared Polis, Colorado would be the third state to pass a data privacy law, following California and Virginia. It wouldn’t take effect, though, until July 2023. And even then, some data privacy experts worry it doesn’t go far enough, while businesses worry about complying with various regulations in different states.

So what would a new law even do? From the legislation:

The bill creates personal data privacy rights and:

  • Applies to legal entities that conduct business or produce commercial products or services that are intentionally targeted to Colorado residents and that either:

  • Control or process personal data of more than 100,000 consumers per calendar year; or

  • Derive revenue from the sale of personal data and control or process the personal data of at least 25,000 consumers; and

  • Does not apply to certain specified entities, personal data governed by listed state and federal laws, listed activities, and employment records.

Consumers have the right to opt out of the processing of their personal data; access, correct, or delete the data; or obtain a portable copy of the data. The bill defines a "controller" as a person that, alone or jointly with others, determines the purposes and means of processing personal data. A "processor" means a person that processes personal data on behalf of a controller.

There’s more, too, so make sure you read the link above.

About the opt-out portion of the bill, The Denver Post heard from Casey Fiesler at the University of Colorado Law School who indicated some people just give up all hope about protecting themselves in the digital age.

“I feel like there’s a big gap between the people who are really paying attention to this and really care about their privacy and are going to all of this extra work to protect their privacy,” she told the paper, “… and the average person who’s just like, ‘I want to go on Facebook, I want to go use Amazon, and, oh I have to click through a thing.’”

Is journalist Julian Rubinstein in ‘great danger’?

Julian Rubinstein and his new book about Denver, The Holly: Five Bullets, One Gun, and the Struggle to Save an American Neighborhood, continue to get attention.

Recent reviews landed in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and others, and several Denver news organizations have interviewed the journalist who is a visiting professor at the University of Denver.

Rubinstein’s book offers an inside look at gang violence in Denver, and his reporting raises serious questions about the city’s efforts to mitigate it, particularly in the way authorities use confidential informants and with whom they decide to form relationships.

After reading The Holly, I wondered what kind of response it might generate in Denver. Some of the city’s local news organizations don’t come off particularly well in the book, and neither do those in the political and developer class. (In recent weeks, Axios Denver has been advancing reporting from the book.)

Now, during a May 26 appearance on a Denver radio program, local community organizer Jeff S. Fard, known as brother jeff, indicated Rubinstein might be a target — though he didn’t say by who.

“When you think about that book The Holly — Julian Rubinstein — he did a powerful work in terms of uncovering some things, but he’s only scratching the surface, and he also puts himself in great danger because he’s unearthing and he’s talking about things that have, you know, been unspeakable,” brother jeff told host Peter Boyles on 710 KNUS.

While also pointing out some quibbles he had with the book, brother jeff called it “an amazing read.” He also said it’s “very dangerous, and I just think that the stuff that’s being spoken of in that book — if someone really starts to dig into it there’s going to be some stories that are going to unfold that are going to blow peoples minds.”

Elsewhere on the show, brother jeff, who publishes a monthly publication called 5 Points News, made a troubling prediction: “There is going to be a lot of people that are going be hurt this summer as a result of what’s said in this book.”

Congressional content at the Estes Park Trail Gazette

This newsletter has been tracking how small-staffed Colorado newspapers looking to fill their news holes will sometimes simply run a news release verbatim by a government agency, organization, publicist, or politician.

The better ones will make sure readers can tell where it’s coming from and that it’s a news release, not reported news from someone on the paper’s staff.

Larger metro papers don’t typically traffic in this practice. They have enough reporters who can re-write a press release, make a few calls for “fresh quotes,” or, if they have the time, seek out comment from someone who might offer a critical perspective. Even doing that might not take longer than an hour or two. That’s how some breaking news reporters can crank out nearly a dozen stories a day. Press release re-writes are a staple of advertising-based digital-age industrial churnalism.

Democratic Congressman Joe Neguse, who represents a part of Colorado that includes Eagle County, Boulder, Fort Collins, and some Denver suburbs, has found a willing participant in The Estes Park Trail Gazette to cut out the journalist middle-person in this process. The newspaper runs items about the congressman written by Neguse’s own staff and publishes them under the byline “Office of Congressman Joe Neguse.”

In the month of April, the paper published eight of them online. They typically offer an update, written almost like a news story, about what Neguse is up to. The most recent one, on May 27, chronicled the congressman’s “48-hour road trip across the District.”

Has anyone noticed anything similar at newspapers in other congressional districts in Colorado? (Cue the staff of six Congress members bcc-ing their local press lists.)

More Colorado local media odds & ends

📺 Michelle Griego “is coming home” to join Denver’s CBS4 in the mornings after working in San Francisco.

🔁 Colorado Politics dedicated a column to Colorado Republican Congressman Doug Lamborn’s efforts to defund NPR and PBS, noting the effort “is certain” to fail and that he has “introduced similar bills in every Congress but one, though none of the measures has made it to the president’s desk.”

🆕 Rebecca Spiess is working with Colorado Public Radio and Denverite while Dave Sachs, who recently became a dad, is away.

📡 Do Colorado lawmakers have the authority to do anything about a contract dispute between Altitude Sports and the companies Comcast and Dish Network? An impasse has left fans of the Denver Nuggets basketball team unable to watch the playoffs depending on their provider. Some Democrats are looking into whether government should get involved.

📃 Roughly a dozen Colorado news organizations have filed a court action for access to a sealed affidavit in a high-profile murder investigation.

⚖️ Matthew Dolloff, the security guard who shot and killed Lee Keltner at an October demonstration in Denver while on the job to protect a 9News journalist, pleaded not guilty to murder. “The defense announced plans to file motions after they said they got a lot of body camera footage and ‘significant’ data from Lee Keltner’s cell phone that the prosecution just disclosed,” KDVR reported.

😞 When a reader wished harm on a Denver Post reporter in correspondence, the reporter called it “another day as a local journalist in the U.S. - where readers hope my family and I get murdered and raped because of a perceived bias.”

🏛️ Colorado Politics columnist Joey Bunch wrote about his approach cultivating sources at the state Capitol.

⛰️ Outside, “the media company home to dozens of outdoor enthusiast brands, is launching Outside+, an annual membership that combines more than 30 of its editorial brands and apps into a single offering,” Axios reported. Boulder-based Pocket Outdoor Media, a “4-year-old media company home to 22 active lifestyle publications and several technology groups,” owns Outside.

🔎 “The Indivisible Project has launched what the progressive group hopes will be the biggest online campaign aimed at stopping disinformation,” Forbes reports. Called the Truth Brigade, the effort reportedly gathered 82 million impressions “during a pilot program in Colorado.”

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. 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.