Inside the News: Denver Urban Spectrum Chosen for National ‘First Black Media Initiative’ Project

  • 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.

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The monthly Denver Urban Spectrum is one of six outlets in the nation chosen as part of an inaugural cohort of a Black Media Initiative Bridge Project involving audience revenue.

“The six-month program provides technology and design support for Black publishers looking to launch an audience revenue campaign,” read an announcement from the Center for Community Media.

As the traditional advertising model for local news publications deteriorates, outlets are having to ask their audiences to support them financially in ways they might never have before. For many of them, including in Colorado, the pandemic accelerated a move toward making requests for direct reader support.

“Audience revenue for Black media provides a unique opportunity to empower Black voices and stories,” Black Media Initiative Director Cheryl Thompson-Morton said in a statement. “By giving readers the chance to directly support Black media, we can create a more equitable system of media production, one in which Black journalists are given the resources they need to tell their stories.”

More from the announcement:

The chosen publishers will launch a subscription, membership, or donation campaign in 10 weeks and receive ongoing support throughout the six-month program at no cost to their organization. These newsrooms will also be able to harness technical, analytic, and messaging support and expertise.

Made possible by a generous grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Bridge Project is also being supported by Upside Analytics, Get Current Studio, News Revenue Hub, Poool and SimpleCirc.

Denver Urban Spectrum’s tagline is “spreading news about people of color.” Recent issues drew a contrast between the goals of and law-enforcement response to the 1995 Million Man March and the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, changes at Montbello High School, and featured local pastors talking about the pandemic and mental health.

The publication, which has been around since 1987, is “supported by advertising dollars, donations, and event sponsorship but adding an audience revenue strategy would be a big boost to the newsroom’s growing operations,” reads a writeup about the initiative at the Center for Community Media.

9News says station declined a one-on-one interview with Polis because of a ‘precondition’

Following his State of the State Address this week, Democratic Gov. Jared Polis made the rounds giving interviews with local press.

Landing a one-on-one with the governor at the start of the legislative session after he laid out his second-term plans is what those in the business call a “get.” It allows a news outlet to show their audience they have clout with access to a prominent newsmaker and offers their talent an opportunity to showcase their journalistic chops by getting beyond what was in the scripted speech.

The governor’s office, which decides which media outlets to grant one-on-one interviews, might also use the opportunity to bring in people affected by policy proposals the governor supports (and who support those agendas) to add a “real people” component to a news segment if they can get it. Doing so also gets these supporters of the governor some air time. For some journalists who only wish to focus on the governor, that can make for an awkward situation.

This was a line from a story published at KUSA 9News about Polis’s speech:

9NEWS declined to participate in a series of one-on-one interviews with Polis, because of a precondition that 9NEWS also interview pre-selected supporters of the governor on a topic of the administration’s choice.

On social media, 9News anchor Kyle Clark said the station “declined to participate in last year’s series of one-on-one interviews with Polis due to similar preconditions.”

The governor might not have made one-on-one face time with 9News, but he did with other outlets. Those other stations described the interview conditions differently.

Brian Gregory, news director of KDVR in Denver, said the station’s editorial team, along with political reporter Gabrielle Franklin, who interviewed Polis, had internal conversations about how to proceed.

“While the governor had other people with him there was never a stipulation that we had to interview them or that we had to talk about specific topics,” Gregory says. “Our editorial team met and decided to go ahead and conduct the interview, ask the governor and only the governor our questions and put together our story.” (The interview that aired backs up that description.)

At Denver7, where Meghan Lopez got a Polis interview, there was a discussion about the particulars as well.

“Our reporter knew the person who was also at the interview, Tyler Brown, and advised him that we would not be focusing on him,” says Denver7 News Director Holly Gauntt. “We focused on the governor.” Lopez did ask a question of Brown, who is sheriff of Arapahoe County, because it was pertinent to what she was asking Polis, Gauntt said. “This also happened last year,” Gauntt said, but the reporter “didn’t ask the guest a single question.”

Ryan Warner, host of Colorado Matters, snagged his own sit-down with Polis for his show on Colorado Public Radio. He said on social media there were no preconditions for it, adding, “we would never agree to pre-conditions.”

For what it’s worth, a couple reporters at print and digital publications in Colorado told me they had never encountered such a request from the governor’s office. One of them, Marianne Goodland, dean of the Capitol Press Corps, said, “I don’t know of any Capitol Press Corps print journalist who would agree to those kinds of conditions.”

That said, The Denver Post’s Meg Wingerter says she did a sit-down with the governor on the day of his State of the State address and his office proposed it to her as a chance to talk about health policy and mentioned a guest would also be there.

“There weren’t any conditions that I must talk to the ‘real person’ (though I think it would have been rude to just completely ignore her), or use the information in a particular way,” Wingerter says. “I ended up asking them both some questions to put toward a bigger-picture story.”

It sounds to me like for others beyond 9News the precondition for an interview with Polis after his State of the State was just that others would be there, it wouldn’t actually be a “one-on-one,” and there wasn’t a stipulation that they interview anyone but the governor.

I’ve written before about the question of interviews with politicians who will agree to them only under certain conditions, the importance of disclosing it when it happens, and how I myself have made a deal with a source at least once in order to score one. Like a lot of these kinds of questions, there might not be a hard-and-fast rule, but talking through it as a newsroom (or with your audience) is probably always best.

On his public Twitter account, Clark tweeted out the line from the story about preconditions, and according to the platform’s analytics, the tweet had more than 110,000 views by Friday. At least two of his followers who work in conservative media praised Clark for raising the issue.

For their part, the governor’s office chalked up the 9News development as a mixup.

“We appreciate and respect the role of the media so it’s unfortunate, and we apologize for what seems to have been a miscommunication between this outlet and the process to schedule an interview since we did not receive a firm media request until just before the speech began and the schedule did not allow additional time for an interview at that point,” Polis spokesperson Conor Cahill said in an email. “We made sure the outlet was able to ask a number of questions about whatever they wanted at the open press avail and we look forward to continuing to work with the members of the press.”

A longtime Denver TV news leader signs off

After four decades in TV news that included stints at the four major local network stations in Denver — the past five spent leading the newsroom at Denver7 — Holly Gauntt is hanging it up.

From the station’s announcement:

Denver7 won back-to-back national Edward R. Murrow Awards for overall excellence during Gauntt’s tenure. In 2022, she was named to the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Heartland Emmy chapter’s Silver Circle, an honor given to those who have made significant contributions to television during a career spanning at least 25 years.

Also the recipient of multiple individual Emmy and Murrow awards for news excellence, Gauntt says her proudest achievements have been the team awards.

“Those are the most gratifying because everyone plays a role,” she said.

“Gauntt will retire to South Carolina with her wife, Glinda, where she says she’ll enjoy a slower speed for a while,” the station reported. “She admits, though, that she doesn’t plan to quit the TV business cold turkey and could one day contribute to a news operation through freelance work.”

Reporter was told Denver Post digital subscription revenue covers ‘salary budget for newsroom’

You might remember last month when members of the Denver Post’s labor union partnered with a local brewery on a special beer called “The Thirst Amendment” to bring attention to their negotiation battle with corporate management over a fair contract.

Last week, Denver Post reporter Tiney Ricciardi wrote about a gathering at the brewery where journalists launched the new beer and met with supporters. The crowd included “journalists from at least half a dozen other local news organizations, Denver City Council members, candidates for city offices, and just good old fashioned readers,” Denver Post reporter Joe Rubino, chair of the newsroom unit, is quoted saying in the piece.

More from Ricciardi’s dispatch:

The newsroom unit seeks a 16% increase to its pay scale over two years, meaning a retroactive 8% increase for 2022 and another 8% increase in 2023. Corporate countered with a one-time, $1,000 bonus per person upon ratification of a new contract. Media personnel at The Post and beyond found this offer insulting. … Since 2016, the last time the newsroom received across-the-board raises, the median price of a single-family home in Denver has risen 71% to $650,000, while the average rent for an apartment has increased 37% to $1,860. Add in inflation, rising health care costs and the lack of matching 401K contributions, and The Denver Post’s journalists are falling even farther behind.

Here were some other nuggets from the item:

  • “Just one day after the party, corporate management tried to cancel the next bargaining session, claiming it was unable to make a different wage proposal because revenue at The Denver Post is ‘well below expectations.’”
  • “The Denver Post’s editorial management has repeatedly told staff that revenue from digital subscriptions alone covers the salary budget for newsroom personnel[.]”

Read the whole thing here.

Should Colorado libraries be able to shield identities of those seeking to ban books?

The Crested Butte News, along with the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition, is appealing a judge’s ruling that a local library can keep secret the names of people who make book challenges.

Now, the Gunnison County Library District has joined the fight.

From the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition:

Last May, Gunnison County District Court Judge J. Steven Patrick decided that the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) and the state’s library-user privacy law require the library district to disclose “Request for Reconsider Materials” forms but with requesters’ names and other identifying information redacted.

The ruling stemmed from CORA requests made by Crested Butte News editor Mark Reaman for all request-for-reconsideration forms received by the library district in early 2022. He asked for the records after Crested Butte resident Rebecca White submitted a form calling for the removal or reclassification of Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe. White described the book as “pornographic,” according to the Crested Butte News, and later unsuccessfully sought criminal charges against [district executive director Andrew] Brookhart for allegedly violating the library user privacy law.

The library district board did not move the book from the young-adult section following a well-attended public meeting, but Brookhart sought a judicial clarification of his obligations under CORA after receiving several additional requests for reconsideration.

Last month, an attorney for the Gunnison County Library District filed a brief with the Colorado Court of Appeals, joining with the local newspaper and the government transparency group.

“A person simply does not, and should not, have anonymity protections when they are trying to influence public policy and the decisions and resources that may be offered to the public at large by a tax funded entity, like a public library,” the attorney wrote on behalf of the library district’s director.

Last year, it seemed book banning had come back in vogue.

“The reasons books are challenged have varied throughout history,” wrote Angela Haupt for The Washington Post last June. “Before 1999, many challenges had to do with profanity and violence that critics considered inappropriate for children.Between 2000 and 2009, the Harry Potter series was frequently challenged because of its witchcraft and wizardry.”

In explaining the rise of contemporary book bans, Haupt found the most frequently challenged books typically had to do with “LGBTQ topics or characters,” were books dealing with “sex, abortion, teen pregnancy or puberty,” or that had to do “with race and racism, or that centered on “protagonists of color,” and had to do with history, “specifically that of Black people.”

More Colorado media odds & ends

🏆 The National Sports Media Association has named CBS Colorado sports anchor and reporter Romi Bean “co-Colorado Sportscaster of the Year.”

🚰 Lawyers for the accused Club Q shooter argued to a judge that they believe the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office leaked information to reporters from sealed court documents. The judge “said that while it was clear a leak happened and there was evidence of contempt, there was no proof the sheriff’s office was the source,” Abigail Beckman reported for KRCC.

📻 KSUT in the Four Corners region of Colorado reported it reached a “significant milestone” in 2022 by “hiring Colten Ashley as Tribal Media Center Coordinator.”

📰 You recently read in this newsletter about the launch of The Florence Reporter newspaper. Its managing editor last week said: “with the uptick in revenue from annual subscriptions and ad buys, I believe we’re on the right track. Home delivery of our print edition begins next week, which further legitimizes our standing as the only print newspaper to exclusively cover Eastern Fremont County.”

🆕 Julie Wilson has joined FOX21 Morning News in the Springs. She played a game of 20 questions in a clip with coworkers at the station.

👀 Elisabeth Epps, a new Democratic lawmaker from Denver who serves in the House of Representatives, had some words for reporters at the start of the legislative session: “If I didn’t reply, it doesn’t mean I wouldn’t talk to you,” she said. “Maybe I’m ignoring you; it’s possible. More likely I just didn’t see your msg; that’s most probable. But to say I ‘refused’? ‘Declined’? Just stop. You’re showing you can’t be trusted. Thx for the heads up.”

😬 “Excepting them from what?” asked a reader of The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel after spotting a howler in an ad for the paper accepting applications for a part-time dock assistant.

📺 After six and a half years of anchoring weekends at KUSA 9News in Denver, Steve Staeger said this week he is “changing jobs and schedules.” He’ll now be “working what we in television call the dream schedule,” he said, “reporting Monday-Friday.”

🔗 The Gazette in Colorado Springs and local TV station KOAA are co-sponsoring a town hall event called “Fighting Crime Together” along with the local police and district attorneys office they cover.

🔀 The newsroom of the Glenwood Springs Post-Independent, part of the Colorado cluster of Swift newspapers purchased by Ogden Newspapers of West Virginia, is shaking up its staff.

📡 KLZR public radio in Westcliffe is looking to hire a news director for “a half-time position, to manage its newsletter.” Pay is 20 hours/week at $20/hour. Email Kathy.Blaha [at] klzr [dot] org.

⬆️ Cherry Road Media, the New Jersey-based technology company that has been gobbling up local newspapers, including in Colorado, has tapped Coloradan Lee Bachlet as its COO.

🏆 Reporter Carol McKinley of The Gazette is nominated for a GLADD Media Award in the “Outstanding Print Article” category for her story “‘Take My Wheelchair,’ Club Q Victim Tells Nurse Upon Leaving 22-Day Hospital Stay.” The awards “recognize and honor media for their fair, accurate and inclusive representations of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community and the issues that affect their lives.”

💻 Sixty35 in the Springs is looking for a full-time digital editor it will pay $50,000 to $55,000. Westword is looking for a social media editor it will pay $55,000 to $65,000.

🗣 A federal court judge “has sided with outspoken Denver Public Schools critic Brandon Pryor and ordered the district to lift a ban that prevented Pryor from stepping on most district property, volunteering as a football coach, and speaking during public school board meetings,” Melanie Asmar reported for Chalkbeat. The judge called the school’s actions “clumsy and imperious,” and “said the ban likely violated Pryor’s First Amendment right.”

📚 Colorado First Amendment attorney Steve Zansberg wrote a newspaper column saying the late bookseller Joyce Meskis was a “First Amendment hero.”

🦅 The monthly Crestone Eagle nonprofit newspaper in Saguache County (in one of Colorado’s most interesting small towns) is looking for a new editor. Salary range: $35,000 to $40,000. Send resume and clips to pilgrimage [at] fairpoint [dot] net. 

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. The Colorado Media Project is underwriting this newsletter, and my “Inside the News” column appears at 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.