A show ‘like they have never seen before’
The Fox affiliate in Denver will debut a new statewide politics TV morning show this weekend called Colorado Point of View.
The journalist added he and reporter Gabrielle Franklin will be “going directly to the news makers, holding the powerful accountable, finding out exactly what’s going on in this state, and why.” The show, he said, will be hyperlocal and not focus too much on national issues. The driving philosophy of it is to “dig deeper into the big issues.” The broadcast will also feature a panel of usual suspect political commentators.
In a way, the new show is something of a callback.
About eight years ago, KDVR held a vaunted position on Denver TV with a Sunday public affairs show called “#COpolitics: From the Source,” hosted by then-FOX31 reporter Eli Stokols who was one of the best political journalists in the state. That show ended in 2015 when Stokols left Colorado for a national reporting job at Politico.
Stokols, who is now a reporter for The L.A. Times, says it’s great to see Mauro and his former station making such a commitment to political and public affairs programming — what he called “a vital coverage area that sometimes gets lost in local television.” Stokols adds that former 9News journalist Adam Schrager was the reporter who showed him how politics could be done well at a local TV station and that “thoughtful, clear and well-sourced reporting about things affecting real people” would find an audience.
“Given the state of the world, and local news, that’s probably even more true now than it was in 2014 when we launched our show,” Stokols says. “So I’m sure Matt’s program will do well and I hope it’s a fixture on the Colorado airwaves for years to come.”
Something else to consider as KDVR makes this move: Anchor Alex Rose recently boasted that he believes the station has “the biggest news team in Colorado” with the “most newsroom employees, and probably the biggest on air team.” (Anyone want to dispute that? Send me an email.)
Keep an eye on Colorado Point of View and its new local politics programming that could be unmatched right now, at least on Denver TV weekend mornings. It should be interesting to see the extent to which it brings the station back into #COpolitics appointment viewing on Sundays in a state where there’s plenty of politics coverage — and plenty of people who probably tend to find at least one day to tune it out.
Update, Sunday, April 3: You can watch the inaugural episode here.
Case dismissed: Jan. 6 Capitol attendee’s suit against Kyle Clark of 9News
A Denver district judge this week tossed a defamation lawsuit brought in November by a Colorado man against a Denver TV journalist.
- “The lawsuit, which was filed in Denver District Court, was dismissed after the judge ruled that Chad Burmeister, a self-described CEO from Littleton, was not likely to produce ‘clear and convincing’ evidence showing that 9News anchor Kyle Clark produced his segment about Burmeister’s involvement in the Jan. 6 riot with malice or that he was aware any of the information used in the segment and accompanying article was false.”
- “Burmeister accused Clark and his employer, Tegna Inc., of misrepresenting the fact that he ‘claimed to storm’ the Capitol, that he was ‘boasting’ or ‘bragging’ about what happened on Jan. 6 and that his Facebook page was ‘full of QAnon conspiracies.’”
- “He claimed that as a direct result of Clark’s broadcast, his business, ScaleX.ai, lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in contract cancellations and was forced to let go 50% of his staff, according to court documents. Burmeister also said that he ‘suffered insult, embarrassment, humiliation, mental anguish and suffering,’ and lost business opportunities, like speaking arrangements.”
But among other things, the judge found that “any negative connotations” stemming from Clark’s journalism “were already present” since the man had decided to post to his “public-facing Facebook page that he attended the events at the Capitol on January 6, 2021.”
Clark’s attorney, Steve Zansberg, filed a motion under Colorado’s anti-SLAPP law, signed by the governor in 2019, which puts up an early hurdle for those who file defamation claims and allows a judge to dismiss a lawsuit before defendants have to start paying all sorts of money in legal costs. Interestingly, the Denver district judge in this case, Ross B.H. Buchanan, wrote that because the law is so new, he had to look to California for case law.
Clark and Zansberg declined to comment; the litigation is technically still pending. Under the anti-SLAPP law, defendants can seek attorney’s fees from those who bring suits that get dismissed, and plaintiffs can appeal.
Mesa County GOP: ‘registration and regulation of journalism’
A Colorado Newsline story by Sharon Sullivan who reported from a Mesa County Republican Party assembly this week carried quite a curious line toward the end:
The assembly distributed 2022 resolution ballots that included 46 state party platform resolutions to be voted on in April, including: “The Republican party supports the registration and regulation of journalism to protect against the Marxist agenda.”
Unlike a doctor, who is subject to license revocation by a state medical board, or a lawyer, who can be disbarred by the state judiciary, a government entity can’t regulate who can practice journalism — or how they practice it. I often sit on panels or give talks about journalism, and every once in a while a question about whether journalists are licensed will come up. I heard it not too long ago when speaking to a group of retired college professors.
When and where the government gets involved in deciding what makes something journalism is rare and limited. A legislative committee hearing last week at the capitol exposed this as lawmakers talked about exactly what kind of news outlets would qualify in order provide an advertiser with a tax break.
Such an idea from the Mesa County GOP isn’t novel. In the Trump years, a least two Republican state lawmakers (one in South Carolina and one in Indiana) floated legislation to try and license or register journalists — perhaps as publicity stunts about the Second Amendment.
Colorado Republican Party Director Joe Jackson says county parties, like Mesa’s, pass a variety of different resolutions at the county level. Those counties then submit their approved resolutions to the state party. He says the state party’s resolutions committee then works to identify which resolutions and issues were supported across the state and should be submitted for a vote during April’s state assembly.
Asked if someone at the Mesa County GOP could say if the particular resolution about registering and regulating journalism passed at the county level, someone who responding on behalf of the party via email said “Yes. All our resolutions passed.”
Colorado Newsline followed up on the item with a separate story Thursday that included the Mesa County GOP chairman pooh-poohing the journalism resolution.
“That’s a direct conflict with the First Amendment,” said another Mesa County Republican (and former journalist), who participated in the assembly.
Denver Post was a target for Facebook’s anti-TikTok campaign
An exposé in The Washington Post this week by Taylor Lorenz and Drew Harwell detailed a sub rosa campaign by Meta, neé Facebook, to try and get local news outlets across the country to run unfavorable stories about its rival TikTok.
The Post reports the campaign included hiring a political consulting firm to target the opinion pages of local newspapers — including in Colorado. From The Washington Post:
On March 12, a letter to the editor that Targeted Victory officials helped orchestrate ran in the Denver Post. The letter, from a “concerned” “new parent,” claimed that TikTok was harmful to children’s mental health, raised concerns over its data privacy practices and said that “many people even suspect China is deliberately collecting behavioral data on our kids.” The letter also issued support for Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser’s choice to join a coalition of state attorneys general investigating TikTok’s impact on American youths, putting political pressure on the company.
A very similar letter to the editor, drafted by Targeted Victory, ran that same day in the Des Moines Register. The piece linked to negative stories about TikTok that Targeted Victory had previously sought to amplify. The letter was signed by Mary McAdams, chair of the Ankeny Area Democrats. Targeted Victory touted McAdams’ credentials in an email on March 7.
Multiple outlets following up on the WaPo front-page story, including Nieman Lab, Morning Brew, and The New York Post, noted the letter to the editor in the Denver Post. Lorenz shared a screen grab of it in her own TikTok video that had racked up nearly 15,000 views by Friday. Groups astroturfing letters to the editor (or guest columns) has been a problem for newspapers, and as the story shows it can be hard to tell what might be a legit citizen rant or rave, or could be part of a broader behind-the-scenes publicity or smear campaign.
Denver Post Editor Lee Ann Colacioppo acknowledged as much in a statement to this newsletter.
Like most papers, she said, The Denver Post has protocols to catch letters that are not original work by a reader who feels strongly enough about something to sit down and write a letter about it. In this case, she added, the letter was from someone who had written to the Post before and it included specific Colorado references — so they had reason to believe it was legitimate. “Unfortunately,” Colacioppo said, “the situation as presented in the Washington Post piece shows that stopping a determined bad player is extremely difficult.”
I wonder what, if anything, newspapers might learn from this. Let me know if your newsroom has any ideas that might be instructive.
Update, April 4: Kyle Clark of 9News in Denver spoke with the letter writer, former Dillon Mayor Kevin Burns, who told him he sticks by the letter and that while he knew about Meta’s influence, it wasn’t part of a paid arrangement.
“I stand by my letter, I know Meta was involved and that didn’t change a thing,” he told Clark via email. “I’m currently a stay at home dad in Aurora. As a committed Democrat, I support Attorney General Weiser and his announced efforts to investigate TikTok. I believe major tech companies deserve scrutiny, especially when children are using their services.”
Burns now works for a public relations and government affairs firm called Summit Info Services. He said the letter was not affiliated with his employer, but he was contacted by a former colleague to write it.
Clark has a clip about it here.
Work-life balance claims a small-town editor
Well, that was fast.
About a year after taking the reins of the Craig Press newspaper in northwest Colorado, editor Cuyler Meade is done. He had moved from The Greeley Tribune last June to run the small newspaper in Moffat County. His departure marks yet another leadership change among the group of Colorado papers owned by Swift Communications following that company’s sale to Ogden Newspapers of West Virginia last year.
In a goodbye column to readers, Meade, 33, recalls an interview in the back room of a restaurant across from the newsroom telling the woman who hired him he thought “with full intention and confidence” the Craig Press could be the place where he retired. For the past year he wrote columns introducing himself to the community, explaining the paper’s mission, and trying to build trust with its audience.
But he won’t be retiring at the Craig Press. Or even continuing on with journalism at all — at least for the time being. He’ll take a new job in employee relations at a local hospital that will give him more time with his large family.
“It’s not any failing of the paper, the company nor its leadership, I assure you,” he told readers. “Remember all those kids — six now if you’ve lost count, as I sometimes do — and that darling wife I mention from time to time? They need me, too.”
As the ‘About’ section of this newsletter says in part under the headline “How do I decide what to write about each week?” I’m interested in the work-life balance of journalists. I asked Meade for more details on why he’s leaving. “We’re rightly concerned with reporter burnout,” he said. “It’s a real issue.”
“But what I’ve discovered as I got into the management side of the newsroom over the last few years is that the pressure, non stop churn, and, simply, hours required to get a publication put together is an incredibly overwhelming lift. It’s unbelievably exhausting and there is no end or break, especially at the small market level. I think the depletion in resources weighs on everybody, obviously, but it might hit editors as hard as anybody. It’s just a brutal press … constantly pushing. A heavy weight that you can never put down. Every time you try to take a moment away you regret it because you miss something.”
I imagine plenty of journalists recognize the feeling.
Small Colorado paper featured in The Smithsonian
This month’s issue of the storied magazine carries a hell of a piece by Delmar, New York writer Nick Yetto about a weekly newspaper in the San Luis Valley.
Behold this excellent lede:
A mechanical ruckus. Oiled metal clattering hard and loose. A room astounding in its clutter, alive with spinning gears, reciprocating arms, rattling chains. A single man at the controls, coaxing the steampunk contraption along. It’s publishing as an athletic act, all the more impressive for its medieval roots.
“It’s just what I know, so there’s no point in changing,” says Dean Coombs, the man running the machine. Coombs, 70, is publisher and editor of the Saguache Crescent, the weekly for Saguache, Colorado, a hamlet of around 500 souls high in the Rocky Mountains. The Crescent goes to press every Tuesday. It costs 35 cents at the local gas station and town thrift store, and you can snag a copy for free at the 4th Street Diner and Bakery. An annual subscription can go for as little as $16. There are 360 subscribers. Each week, Coombs produces 400 or more copies using a Mergenthaler Model 14, which his family purchased new in 1920. It’s the last linotype-produced newspaper in the United States—and perhaps the world.
In 2005, The International Journal of Newspaper Technology profiled Coombs and his paper under the headline “Twilight on a once revolutionary technology.” Seventeen years later he’s still at it.
“A newspaper is not an easy thing to get out of,” Coombs told Yetto for The Smithsonian. “I have one guy who prepaid his subscription for seven years. What would I do? Call him and give him his money back?”
Another Smithsonian excerpt:
If something breaks, Coombs fixes it. “No one’s ever worked on a 100-year-old linotype. It’s uncharted ground. There are little things—I don’t even know what they do! I just know that they can’t be loose.”
Bill Hazard, 65, is a lifelong Saguache resident, a retired schoolteacher, unofficial local historian and custodian of the town graveyard. “I just marvel at how well he keeps that thing running,” Hazard says.
While newspapers run on deadlines, finicky old contraptions keep their own schedules. An untimely malfunction can have Coombs up all night, scrambling for a fix. In such moments, his patience can meet its limit. “You can’t have a sledgehammer around the thing,” he admits—he’d be tempted to use it in moments of frustration.
Coombs has been running the paper ever since his father died of a heart attack in 1978. The family produced that week’s paper the following day. In the four decades since, Coombs has missed only one day of work—because of food poisoning. He has no children and isn’t training a replacement. When he retires or dies, the Crescent, and the art of linotype, will go with him.
Yetto told me a cousin of his, Rob Hammer, is a globe-trotting photographer who came across the Saguache Crescent on a trip. He popped in and photographed Coombs and his linotype machine. Yetto conducted a series of phone interviews from Upstate New York. “I could have written 7,000 words about Dean,” he says.
Read the full story accompanied by compelling photos here.
On Thursday, Gov. Jared Polis posted a link to the story on Facebook, saying, “The Saguache Crescent is gaining national attention as the last linotype printed newspaper in the country. … Pick up a copy next time you are in Saguache!”
More Colorado media odds & ends
📲 Don’t forget to register for the April 8 and 9 Society of Professional Journalists Colorado pro Chapter conference “Face to Face: Local Journalism in a Virtual World.” (Students get in free.)
📺 From a 9News broadcast this week: “As a news organization, we have been doing the sometimes-unflattering introspective work to see how our reporting contributes to harmful stereotypes.”
🇺🇦 The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel and its sister papers are donating $1,791 to a Ukrainian newspaper under threat. 1791 was when the U.S. adopted the First Amendment to the Constitution. “All of us at The Sentinel stand in solidarity with our Ukrainian counterparts,” said Publisher Jay Seaton. “We are inspired by their courage, but have been helpless to watch as (Russian President Vladimir) Putin destroyed their entire newspaper operation.”
🏔 Each month, Rocky Mountain PBS gives a mental health day to journalists.
❌ Tim Wieland is the general manager of Denver’s CBS4. I identified him as the news director last week.
🌥 Reporter David Gilbert has left The Colorado Sun to work for the City of Littleton. “I’ve discovered how much I enjoy working at the local level to break down alienation and distrust,” he said. “I’m excited to work on helping my neighbors connect with each other and their government. I’ve got a lot of cool ideas.”
🤣 What your organization probably does not ever want to see in print: “Westword was accidentally included on all of the emails.”
💨 “After 28 years working in news, and nearly 16 years at FOX31 and Channel 2, Deborah Takahara is taking her career in a new direction,” KDVR in Denver reported. “After all these years, I have found my TRUE calling,” she said. She’ll be doing public relations for federal law enforcement. “Most importantly, this will allow me to pick up the kids from school,” she said.
💨 Nicole Vap, director of investigative journalism at 9News in Denver, is leaving the station toward the end of April. “I am taking a flying leap in search of my next adventure,” she said on Facebook. “I don’t know what that will be just yet but I am fortunate enough to be able to bet on myself!”
💨 Kevin Torres is bolting FOX31 and its morning show for a job in communications for the Denver office of a national employment firm. “The pandemic gave me the opportunity to sit back and say, ‘I’m ready to do something new,’” he told Westword.
➡️ “There are ways to do journalism without exposing immigrants,” wrote The Durango Herald editorial board this week.
💸 KDVR reported the Colorado attorney general’s office ordered Mountain View Publishers, a Broomfield-based magazine subscription company, “to pay a $250,000 settlement for using confusing language and tactics to get its subscribers to sign up for the ‘Jackpot Journal.’” The station called the fine “the result of deceptive practices they adopted against some of the community’s most vulnerable.”
🧪Colorado’s efforts to sustain local news came up during a Shorenstein Center webinar this week. Ellen Clegg has the write-up about it.
☀️ Welcome Margaret Fleming who started a Medill Journalism Residency at The Colorado Sun this week and looks forward to “sharing in-depth stories about Colorado this spring.”
🔎 Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition Director Jeff Roberts appeared on KVNF community radio on the Western Slope this week to talk about Sunshine Week.
🗞 Writing in Colorado Politics this week, columnist Eric Sondermann offered a “tribute to two newspaper giants.”
🛣 Colorado College student Chris Hampson interviewed Alejandro Brown, the creator behind the @i70things Instagram account that has more than 200,000 followers.
⛏ It was only a matter of time until Colorado writer and Ayn Rand aficionado Ari Armstrong started a Substack. If the motto for his Colorado Pickaxe — “Prying loose the truth about Colorado politics and culture” — strikes some as “pretentious,” take it “as an aspiration,” he says.
⏱ Scott Pelley of “60 Minutes” this week shared “insights of his five-decade career in news as part of the Vail Symposium’s 50th anniversary winter speaker series.”
📰 Writing in Poynter this week, Rick Edmonds reports that absent federal action, “several state legislatures have taken up — but not yet passed — adaptations of an act to support local news.” (Colorado is one of them as this newsletter has been reporting.)
⚖️ The Colorado Supreme Court this week determined the state’s relatively new cyberbullying harassment law, with its phrase “intended to harass,” is too broad and a violation of the First Amendment.
🗣 The first Northern Colorado Deliberation Journalism Project “public check in” will be on April 4, from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Zoom. Register for it here.
I’m Corey Hutchins, interim 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, 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. Follow me on Twitter, reply or subscribe to this weekly newsletter here, or e-mail me at CoreyHutchins [at] gmail [dot] com.