Inside the News: Colorado Public Radio Becomes ‘First U.S. Media’ To Earn Unique Global Trust Credential

  • Corey Hutchins is a journalism instructor at Colorado College and a contributor to Columbia Journalism Review, The Washington Post, and other news outlets. This column is produced with support from the Colorado Media Project, and is distributed statewide via the Colorado News Collaborative.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on whatsapp
Share on email

For the past year, Colorado has been a state-based testing ground for an international project seeking to bolster trust in local news.

The Journalism Trust Initiative, a project of Reporters Without Borders, seeks to identify credible news sources through a rigorous self assessment of standards in a way the JTI says is “clearly distinguishable — by humans and by algorithms.” The hope is that social media and search platforms will better surface certified and credentialed media as trustworthy.

Last year, Colorado became the first state in the country to pilot the JTI on a statewide scale.

And now, this week, Colorado Public Radio announced it has become the first U.S. media outlet to earn certification through the program and to have it independently audited by the Alliance for Audited Media.

The move shows yet again how journalism innovators often look to Colorado as a place to pioneer projects and initiatives.

“Our credibility is paramount in our news coverage. We take great care as we report and produce news stories,” said CPR News Executive Editor Kevin Dale in a statement. “Going through this process is an endorsement of our standards, but also helps us ensure our values are understood inside and outside of the newsroom.”

You can find the public broadcaster’s self-assessment here. The Colorado-based news operation joins more than 100 outlets across the globe in completing such an assessment.

Reporters Without Borders USA Executive Director Clayton Weimers congratulated CPR for “paving the way for many more media outlets who embark on this process” and called the United States one of the biggest growth opportunities for the program.

“The transparency and best practices demonstrated by adopting the JTI are worthwhile in and of themselves, but the effort is also starting to be rewarded with tangible external benefits,” Weimers said in a statement. “JTI enthusiasm is growing among advertisers, tech platforms and other industry partners, opening the door to expanded revenue stream, audience growth, and more.”

Another libel lawsuit against Colorado media thrown out under our anti-SLAPP law

Last week, Colorado media attorney Steve Zansberg persuaded a judge to throw out a lawsuit someone had filed against a reporter for a Denver TV station and a pair of Colorado news organizations that had re-published or covered the story in question.

Jeff Roberts at the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition has the details about the lawsuit:

On Aug. 15, Arapahoe County District Court Judge Ben Leutwyler found that Jogan Health and its owner Daniel Dietrich would likely not be able to show that Denver7 owner Scripps Media and its reporter/anchor Bayan Wang defamed the company in a June 2022 story. The judge also held that Jogan “failed to provide any reason” why NewsBreak Denver reporter Mike McKibbin could not “reasonably rely” on the Denver7 investigation for his own article.

“If Plaintiffs cannot establish, by clear and convincing evidence, a reasonable likelihood that the published statements were false, the claims must be dismissed,” Leutwyler wrote.

Wang’s story focused on Jogan’s successful $72 million bid in 2021 to help the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment vaccinate Coloradans against COVID-19. The company, he reported, had been in business for only two months before submitting its application.

In dismissing the suit, the judge did so by granting what’s called a Special Motion to Dismiss. What makes it special is that it’s filed under our state’s anti-SLAPP Act.

That’s a press-friendly law Colorado has had on the books since 2019 when Democratic lawmakers passed it and Gov. Jared Polis signed it.

In a phone interview this week, Zansberg said this latest case is the seventh in which he has personally relied on the law to get a libel suit against a journalist or news organization thrown out.

The acronym SLAPP stands for Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press calls SLAPP suits an all-too-common tool “for intimidating and silencing critics from exercising their First Amendment rights.”

In a SLAPP suit, the subject of an unflattering news story who has enough money to sustain an expensive court battle could sue a news organization in hopes of forcing it to incur defense costs and scare it — and others — from continued reporting on the subject. To combat that, anti-SLAPP laws set up a preliminary hurdle a plaintiff must clear before those legal costs start to pile up.

Colorado is among 30-plus states that have such a law.

Zansberg said one aspect of the 4-year-old law allows those sued for libel to present exhibits that a judge can consider — and get a decision quickly.

“What the anti-SLAPP statute allows is anyone sued on the basis of public speech on a matter of public concern gets to file this motion and to attach all kinds of exhibits to it, including affidavits and to introduce evidence,” he said.

In the case dismissed last week, Zansberg filed 13 exhibits to his clients’ anti-SLAPP motion, which included affidavits from two journalists.

The anti-SLAPP Act allows a judge to toss a case they determine is meritless in less than a month from the filing of a special motion. Another important benefit of the anti-SLAPP law is something called the right of immediate “interlocutory” appeal, Zansberg said. That means if a judge denies the Special Motion to Dismiss, the court of appeals must immediately review that ruling before the case is allowed to proceed. And that’s only true of “special,” not “ordinary” motions to dismiss.

“You don’t have to wait until the end of a case,” Zansberg said. “You have a right to have the court of appeals immediately decide.” That could potentially save months of time and resources in an expensive process of discovery, depositions, expert testimony, and more.

So far, Zansberg said, no media defendant he’s represented in Colorado has lost an anti-SLAPP motion.

NewsBreak Denver shuts down its original local news experiment

Roughly 18 months after choosing Denver as the test market for an original local news experiment, the national app NewsBreak has pulled the plug as of today, Aug. 25.

“While disappointed with this decision, I understand the changing media landscape,” said NewsBreak Denver’s editor, Sara Hansen.

For the near term it means two young dedicated full-time reporters are now looking for employment elsewhere. For the long term the development offers another data point about just how hard it can be for a digital news startup to make a go of paying local reporters to produce local news.

Read the details about the decision from last week’s newsletter.

El Comercio de Colorado finds a new printer and reduces its format size

When the nation’s largest newspaper chain, Gannett, announced in June it would shut down the Pueblo Chieftain’s printing press, the news sent some Spanish language newspapers in Denver scrambling.

One of them was El Comercio de Colorado, edited by Jesús Luis Sánchez Meleán. The publication is one of several that had to find a new printer — sometimes across our state line. But changing printers also led to other changes at the twice-monthly Comercio.

Since 2006, El Comercio de Colorado has published an edition that was 17 inches tall by 10 inches wide. But starting this week it will print in Kansas, and its format will shrink to 11 inches by 10 inches. Almost a square.

Over the years, the size of newspapers like El Comercio has been changing, Sánchez Meleán said this week in an interview. A new printing press offered the opportunity to bring his publication in line with others. Despite a new size format, he said readers will still see the same amount of published words in each edition.

While the newspaper publishes daily online, Sánchez Meleán said producing a printed product is a valuable part of the business.

“The print edition is always needed for a specific kind of reader,” he said, adding that he distributes the paper in parts of the state where Spanish-speaking temporary workers might rely on it for news about the Hispanic community. “It’s a tool for them,” he said, adding that first-and-second-generation Spanish speakers in Aurora also pick up printed copies.

“If we take out this product, we would be leaving an important and specific segment with no information, with no connection,” he said.

Pueblo’s Chicano newspaper La Cucaracha, which recently came back into print, also lost its printer because of Gannett’s decision to shut down the press. On a KGNU radio show this Friday, editor Juan Espinosa said the paper would pivot to an online publication as they figure out what to do.

Ex-Denver Post Editor Greg Moore’s new PR venture

Following his 14 years as editor of The Denver Post, Greg Moore joined the PR world as editor in chief of an online marketing company called Deke Digital.

Now, he has co-founded his own agency with Jennifer Clancy. The pair call it KLOWTIFY.

For a post on Medium this week introducing the company to readers, Clancy said the two have known each other for close to a decade and hatched the plan over beers. “Greg has a deep commitment to demystifying and diversifying the news,” she wrote.

So what will this new company do in Colorado’s media space?

Here’s more from that post:

Our company works with executives to produce thought leadership, to share their knowledge and expertise with readers of national publications and trade journals. Contributing to the news ecosystem in this way helps professionals elevate their profiles and provide valuable information for people and businesses to make the best decisions about where to invest their time and money and how to build their enterprises.

Working as a digital media professional, I spend a lot of time reading the news. What I’ve learned is that the majority of publications are not nearly inclusive enough, which means a lot of perspectives are not represented in a society that is becoming more diverse, not less. KLOWTIFY wants to be part of the solution in diversifying media. We want to work with small and medium-sized businesses, especially women and people of color, to make thought leadership more representative and accessible.

Read the whole thing at the link above.

Sentinel Colorado newspaper rips into social media companies

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s war with Meta (née Facebook) over wildfire news coverage trickled down into Colorado this week.

The social media company’s decision to block news content because of a new law that “requires tech giants to pay publishers for linking to or otherwise repurposing their content online,” made its way into an editorial in the nonprofit Colorado Sentinel newspaper based in Aurora.

From the editorial:

The Sentinel is among others who’ve seen the effect of Facebook algorithms ratcheting down how many of our Facebook followers can see our news posts. Legit journalism companies have seen the squeeze from Twitter as well, which has essentially called all-out war against credible news sites.

The Sentinel Colorado editorial has some choice words for social media platforms and what the paper fears they will surface when forgoing credible news.

An excerpt:

Between the cat videos, front-seat-of-the-car snark and kitchen-video voice-overs, first Canadians, and eventually everyone, will be substituting the weird and dangerous rants of extremists for real news of the day.

Read the whole column at the link above.

Microsoft touts Colorado’s ‘groundbreaking model’ in guidebook to help local news

Microsoft recently launched a Journalism Initiative and states it is “committed to advancing equitable and fair societal systems that support people’s fundamental rights including protecting journalism as a critical component of any democratic process.”

This week, the tech company debuted what it calls a comprehensive guidebook focused on giving independent local news organizations “the strategies, tools, and support they need to strengthen their sustainability.”

The company said it spent the last three years “examining the often convoluted and confusing pathways that have led journalism and the business of news into crisis,” and has been listening, learning, and “experimenting with a variety of approaches to help address these challenges and to map the potential routes that might lead us out.”

As part of its work, Microsoft engaged with five communities around the country along with their local community foundations “that helped develop and support new local journalism collaborations.”

Colorado wasn’t one of them, but efforts here served as insights in Microsoft’s full report. “In Colorado,” the report notes, “the Colorado News Collaborative and Colorado Media Project have created a network of support and collaboration opportunities for newsrooms from every part of the state.” (I’m a shareholder in Microsoft, and Colorado Media Project underwrites this newsletter.)

Here’s another excerpt from the 50-page guidebook that takes inspiration from a subway map:

Lastly, consider the groundbreaking model of the Colorado News Collaborative, a state-wide initiative covering more than 170 newsrooms, that provides coaching, training, and collaboration among journalists, thereby elevating the quality of news production and fostering a sense of community among media professionals.

“While the issues facing journalism are too important for any one organization to try and solve in isolation, Microsoft is determined to play its part,” the company stated in press materials announcing its new guidebook.

More Colorado media odds & ends

⏰ Steven Hayward, my colleague in the Journalism Institute at Colorado College, asks in a TEDx talk this week if it’s “time for the one-week semester.” Education, he says, “is one of the last — if not the last — great industry that is ripe for disruption.” In his talk, he diagnoses a problem in higher education where it “stays stuck on what we might call the broadcast model.” Learn his potential remedy by watching the talk below:

💸 The Science Writers Association of the Rocky Mountains, known as SWARM, is offering grants for Rockies-area students to attend the ScienceWriters2023 conference. (Deadline Aug. 29.)

📻 The Grade, which “provides independent analysis of media coverage of education,” has a piece out this week about what makes Colorado Public Radio’s Jenny Brundin “such a standout education reporter.”

🏈 Since the University of Colorado football coach Deion Sanders arrived in Boulder, “he has held several press conferences. And, if we are being honest with ourselves, there hasn’t been a single tough question asked at any of them,” wrote Brian Schaible for Sports Illustrated.

📙 Colorado journalist Chase Woodruff has written for his Lit Out West project a smart, entertaining, and thorough examination of the book “Centennial” and its author James Michener.

🤷‍♂️ Denver Gazette editor in 2022: “But what if Denver and other cities in Colorado scaled up their Housing First programs, and every government agency, nonprofit and business that tries to help the homeless worked together to make Housing First their focus?” Denver Gazette editorial board in 2023: “‘Housing first’ is a dead end for Denver’s homeless.”

📡 Colorado Broadcasters Association says “this will be the second year for the Radio Masters Sales Summit (RMSS) and the CBA is joining RMSS to make this year accessible and affordable. The summit will take place in Cincinnati at the Airport Marriott September 13-14, 2023.”

🆕 Lauren Scafidi is joining 9NEWS in Denver. Scafidi comes from Michigan.

🎂 The hyperlocal North Denver news site Bucket List Community Cafe (indeed, a news site, not a coffeeshop) turned 4. “Thank you for helping us mentor the next generation of aspiring journalists,” its founder wrote. “We have supported over 30 to date from CU Boulder and MSU Denver who have been part of our team.”

📊 NewsNation’s “Dan Abrams Live” hosted a segment this week about the Colorado-based Ad Fontes Media and its “newest flagship Media Bias Chart, released last week.”

🆕 Marcus Hill is “back in the sports realm full time,” starting this week at The Gazette in Colorado Springs where he’ll be covering preps and “an assortment of other things for your viewing pleasure.”

📺 Kyle Clark of 9NEWS produced the “inside story of how Colorado conservatives and media figures created a conspiracy theory blaming a Denver company for rigging the election and channeled it to Team Trump.”

🆙 Next week, Jon Murray, an enterprise reporter for the Denver Post, will “step into a new role” as the paper’s senior editor for public affairs. “In this switch from reporting to editing, I’ll lead our reporters who cover the Colorado State Capitol, Denver city hall, suburban governments and big public policy issues,” he said.

I’m Corey Hutchins, co-director of Colorado College’s Journalism Institute. For nearly a decade I’ve reported on the U.S. local media scene for Columbia Journalism Review, and I’ve been a journalist for longer at multiple news organizations. Colorado Media Project is underwriting this newsletter, and my “Inside the News” column appears at COLab, both of which I sometimes write about here. (If you’d like to underwrite or sponsor 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.