Latinx Coloradans call for 'equitable and just local news'
The news behind the news in Colorado this week
‘Community members and journalists alike were in no mood for appeasement’
This week, Latinx Voices: Colorado released a report titled “Think Big. Act Now: A Call to Action from Latinx Coloradans for Equitable and Just Local News.”
With it came these four recommendations:
Holding newsrooms accountable for increasing Latinx diversity on staff, among sources and in stories.
Creating programs for Latinx youth to learn about the impacts of news media and participate in its change toward accurate, fair and equitable coverage.
Supporting existing and emerging networks of Latinx information providers, storytellers and community members.
Building Latinx-owned media power.
“The discussions that led to these recommendations were facilitated by News Voices: Colorado, the Colorado Media Project and the Colorado News Collaborative (COLab), which convened the Latinx Voices Working Group,” a Free Press statement read. “Discussions often focused on the distance between what Latinx communities see as the future of local news and the barriers they face in getting there.”
From the report:
“Community members and journalists alike were in no mood for appeasement. Anger coursed through the public conversation … [W]hat became clear was the shared desire among community members and journalists to create momentum for tangible, lasting changes in the ways in which newsrooms cover the state’s Latinx communities — including how those newsrooms welcome and support Latinx journalists.”
“If a just society relies on an informed population, it must include an obligation to inform all who make up that population,” News Voices: Colorado Manager Diamond Hardiman said in a statement. “We are asking everyone in Colorado to use this report as a starting point toward needed change — and as a tool to support the redistribution of storytelling and narrative power into the hands of Latinx communities both locally and nationally. The four recommendations aim to make Colorado the first state in the country that has equity in all areas of the media. It’s a dream we can make reality by acting now.”
Here’s some context on the timing from the report’s executive summary:
The Latinx Voices Working Group came together as a Latina journalist at the state’s most widely viewed television station reported that she and two Latina colleagues had been let go over the course of a single year. In the resulting furor over her depiction of a newsroom that held journalists of color to different (and shifting) standards, a group of Latina lawmakers and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists met with station leadership demanding changes from the top.
“Being part of this project has been a beautiful and challenging experience,” Brenda Vargas, Latinx Voices working-group member and president of Movimiento de Radical Cultura, said in a statement. “Oftentimes, we as people of color do not have spaces to share our stories and experiences, or have our opinions validated. Having this space to not only converse but also actively create solutions and seek reparations for issues that we see in the media has been so empowering. Know that the change that is to come is solely because we have demanded that change and have been willing to fight for it; we all deserve access to accurate, antiracist and just news.”
The recommendations follow a September report from Black Voices: Colorado that outlined five recommendations from a working group focused on “how to improve access to trustworthy news and information for Black residents throughout the state.”
Read the entire “Think Big. Act Now” report here.
🌿 This week’s newsletter is proudly supported in part by Grasslands, Denver’s Indigenous-owned PR, marketing, and ad agency that is thankful for the tireless work reporters do to bring our communities the stories that matter. Founded by veteran Denver Post journalist Ricardo Baca, Grasslands — the recipient of a 2020 Denver Business Journal Small Business Award — is a Journalism-Minded Agency™ working with brands in highly regulated industries, including cannabis, technology, and real estate. Operating from its new offices in Denver’s Art District on Santa Fe, the firm’s 20-person team of communications professionals is focused on a single mission: “We tell stories, build brands and amplify value.” Email firstname.lastname@example.org to see how Grasslands can supercharge your brand’s marketing program (and read some of our cannabis journalist Q&As here). 🌿
🎯Colorado right-wing radio is latest target in defamation suits
New lawsuits stemming from wild allegations about a former Colorado-based elections worker now include Colorado radio personalities.
From KUSA 9News in Denver:
Eric Coomer, the former director of strategy and security for Dominion Voting Systems, has filed a lawsuit against the company that owns 710 AM KNUS and one of the radio station’s hosts, Randy Corporon. The suit accuses Corporon and Salem Media of defamation because of allegations of rigging the 2020 presidential election against former President Donald Trump.
"Both Salem Media, which owns Denver-based 710 KNUS, and Corporon, a 710 KNUS host, elevated Dr. Coomer into the national spotlight, invaded his privacy, threatened his security, and fundamentally defamed his reputation through a relentless election fraud campaign,” court documents state.
The lawsuit also said Salem Media and its hosts were “enthusiastic and consistent” pushers of voter fraud claims, though they did not provide evidence.
From Westword in a piece headlined “Inside Lawsuit That Could Kill a Denver Radio Station”:
Among Salem’s alleged sins is providing a platform for Joe Oltmann, described as a “Colorado-based conspiracy theorist,” whose tales about a fictional partnership between Dominion and antifa organizations to steal the presidency for Joe Biden were among the major reasons Coomer spent months in hiding after the 2020 election.
But while Corporon endorsed such theories — saying at one point, “Joe, what you have done and exposed may save the republic, or at least save the possibility of having an honest outcome to this election” — Peter Boyles, another KNUS personality who chatted with Oltmann, has been far more critical of fraud fairy tales. Indeed, the suit quotes Boyles as saying, “The center of the conspiracy is all here. A river runs through it. This stuff all generates at this radio station and comes through this radio station.” He added that “a list of people remain, and many of them appear here at this radio station again and again and again.”
The suit's comment about this statement: “Unfortunately, Boyles’ moment of candor was not shared by all at 710 KNUS, and other Salem Media hosts continue to promote the falsehoods about the election generally and Dr. Coomer in particular. As a result, the harm that Salem Media has caused Dr. Coomer with its reckless, incessant drumbeat of falsehoods across numerous programs for months on end is irreparable. Dr. Coomer’s successful career in election security is over, and the constant death threats that persist even now will remain an indelible trauma for the rest of Dr. Coomer’s life.”
The alt-weekly newspaper reported that Salem Media vice president and general manager Brian Taylor, Corporon, and Boyles “all declined to comment about the lawsuit.”
A high-profile Denver school board member and activist who found himself the center of controversy when some mainstream media outlets and others reported on anonymous accusations against him (relayed through a third party) has filed legal action against those who accused him — and he wants a jury trial.
Tay Anderson has filed a $1 million defamation lawsuit. The Denver School Board member is suing the group Black Lives Matter 5280, members of its leadership team and other activists. Anderson says they all played a role in planning and publishing over 60 false allegations of sexual assault against him.
It comes months after two separate investigations failed to find any evidence to support the claims, although they did reveal that he had acted in an inappropriate manner. Anderson says the investigation cost him countless job opportunities, fear over the safety of his family and that it hurt the work of Denver Public Schools.
In an announcement of the filing, his attorney, Issa Israel, described it as "a million-dollar lawsuit for defamation and civil conspiracy against Black Lives Matter 5280, 'activist' Mary Katherine Brooks-Fleming, Dr. Apryl Alexander, members of BLM 5280’s leadership team and others for their respective roles in planning and publishing over sixty false allegations of sexual assault against Denver School Board Director Tay Anderson under the guise of advocating for 'anonymous' victims — all of whom were unwilling to come forward publicly, cooperate with law enforcement privately or respond to independent investigators."
As of Thursday, multiple news outlets hadn’t gotten comments from the named defendants.
Loveland newspaper union goes to City Hall
Typically, journalists at the Loveland Reporter-Herald newspaper might show up to a local city council meeting with a notebook and voice recorder in hand, prepared to chronicle the latest news for their readers.
That wasn't the case Tuesday when a handful of the paper’s journalists showed up to speak directly to city leaders and, in the process, are now making news themselves.
During a public comment portion of the council meeting, photojournalist Jenny Sparks and reporters Austin Fleskes, Will Costello, and Max Levy pleaded for help from city leaders and the community in their fight for fair treatment from Media News Group, which owns their paper. The four are members of the Heart of NoCo newsroom labor union, which staff formed earlier this year. Media News Group is controlled by the Alden Global Capital hedge fund that has a reputation for gutting newsrooms. The hedge fund has its hooks in about a dozen other Colorado papers.
At one point, as he addressed the city council, Levy acknowledged it was kind of unprecedented for him to be speaking at a city meeting. But he and others indicated they were willing to do things a little differently to alert the community to what Levy described as an unsustainable model for local journalism.
Here’s a tweet thread I put together from the council meeting as it streamed live. Many of the council members, and the mayor, sounded sympathetic to the newsroom union’s plight.
More Colorado media odds & ends
👀 “This is NOT a Misprint!” The Eastern Colorado Plainsman newspaper published a blank front page in support of the Local Journalism Sustainability Act.
🥳 Colorado Matters on Colorado Public Radio turned 20. Here's how the team commemorated it.
💸 “President Joe Biden’s $1.85 trillion social spending bill includes a provision that, if it becomes law, would mark the first time the federal government has offered targeted support in response to the decline of local news,” The Associated Press reported. Question: Would companies like Alden Global Capital get tax benefits?
📺 KUSA 9News anchor Kyle Clark earned Jay Rosen kudos, a tweet from Stephen King, and an appearance on the Rachel Maddow Show for his commentary on how his 'Next' show handles a certain Colorado political figure. (Here’s 5280 magazine’s 2017 profile of ‘Next’ and how its host was reimagining local TV news a year into the show.)
🗞 Anna Lynn Winfrey at The Montrose Daily Press would like to see stories from local outlets linked when larger news organizations report them.
💨 New York Times reporter Jack Healy, who has been based out of Colorado for several years, will now be based in Phoenix, Arizona “to cover a region undergoing explosive growth and demographic change.”
💥 Colorado's other New York Times reporter, Dave Philipps, had a bombshell this week.
📣 In August, members of the Commission on Information Disorder “gathered in Aspen, Colorado, to discuss and deliberate proposed solutions and recommendations, weighing which actions would have meaningful impact and which would face the most hurdles, from whom and why.” Read its final report.
💨 Scott J. Adams is leaving BoulderHub after nine years, saying, “Probably my last day as a journalist as well.”
🤦♂️ Colorado’s new independent redistricting commission “came with a promise of transparency and public inclusion, but in the days leading up to their adoption of a set of legislative maps, commissioners spent significant time working outside of public meetings,” The Gazette’s Evan Wyloge found.
📱Colorado will get “at least $100 million, possibly $1 billion, from infrastructure bill to end digital divide,” Tamara Chuang reported in The Colorado Sun.
💵 A full-time editor job at the Estes Park Trail Gazette posted this week by Media News Group now comes with a pay scale: $30,000 to $40,000 a year.
🎬 A movie production facility has opened at the Journal newspaper’s plant in neighboring New Mexico’s Albuquerque.
🎙 Jason Salzman is trying to get conservative talk radio hosts to clean up pandemic misinformation. “Please kindly F—K OFF and never text me again,” was a host’s response.
✒️ Moe Clark is looking to build a freelance journalism community in Colorado.
🚬 Calling Facebook “the new Big Tobacco,” Denver agency SE2 has announced that “Until Facebook institutes meaningful changes that contribute to our collective good, we will no longer recommend to our clients that they spend money on its products, including paid promotion of their content on Facebook or Instagram.”
🔍 Sexual abuse and misconduct allegations were “kept quiet for decades” at the world-renowned Colorado Center for the Blind, David Gilbert reported for The Colorado Sun.
🔀 Colette Bordelon is leaving KOAA TV in the Springs for The Denver Channel.
⚙️ High Country News is seeking a “Contributing Editor for Books, Culture and Commentary to assign and edit inquisitive, inspiring, and thought provoking content for HCN in print and online.”
⌛️ From an obituary this week: “In the early 60s, Carol Hewitt was a TV celebrity, teaching typing on KRMA Channel 6 in Denver. She recalled that when she decided to have kids, it was forbidden to appear on TV pregnant and so she left to raise her family.”
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.