October 05, 2015

Boulder Weekly's 'Redprint' investigation, Colorado on Newsweek's cover & in WaPo, plus more Centennial State news & media

Is Colorado the future of American politics? 

Hey, Newsweek thinks so. This week, our state finds itself on the cover of the magazine under the headline "God, Guns and Ganja." 
If the writer's name—Nina Burleigh— sounds familiar, it should. She made waves while researching her story in July when Newsweek got kicked out of the Aurora theater-shooting trial after the magazine published the name of a juror. Anyway, I enjoyed her big Newsweek piece and I thought you might too. 

Colorado Springs potholes make The Washington Post 

In today's print edition of The Washington Post (the story went online Saturday) I wrote about how the potholes in Colorado's second-largest city have drawn the attention of a Koch brothers group. Conservative mayor John Suthers is pushing a sales tax increase to fix the roads here, and Americans for Prosperity is pushing back

"The group’s involvement in a municipal infrastructure issue spotlights how AFP is seizing on local issues across the country as it works to build a permanent grass-roots army."

"Behind the Curtain"— under the rug?

So everyone in Colorado remembers The Blueprint, right? The book about the wealthy "Gang of Four" Democrats in Colorado who used a clandestine network of donors and groups to turn the state's politics blue and— yeah, yeah, we know, we know, move on. 

Well, Boulder Weekly has published an investigation saying there's now a "Redprint" strategy currently in the works behind the scenes, tied to oil and gas interests and the University of Colorado Boulder’s Leeds School of Business. 

<i>*loud microphone feedback/record scratch noise*</i>

The piece is titled "Behind the Curtain," and I have to admit, it was a tough read for me to get through. That said, I've heard some murmuring from politicos and journalists about the substance of it, and I've yet to see another Colorado publication follow up on any of the info revealed in the report. (If I've missed any please send my way. Many of the 70 or so tweets linking to the piece are re-tweets of David Sirota who called revelations in the story "ugly ... real ugly" for Congressman Jared Polis and Gov. John Hickenlooper as it relates to a fracking taskforce.) 

Anyway, the gist of the story seems to be this: Colorado University's School of Business (The Leeds School) agreed to use an economic projection model, called REMI, to prepare its economic reports about fracking and education— and REMI is run by groups and people with ties to oil and gas interests and the conservative education reform movement. Boulder Weekly, which split the cost of a Colorado Open Records Act request with Greenpeace to obtain documents for the story, lays out the connections among those groups and people and their political interests along with a seven-page map showing, in the paper's words, "how the oil and gas industry and Republicans are turning Colorado red." 

I come from an alt-weekly background and I'm always interested in how people view the work of such papers, particularly when it comes to reporting on politics and policy. So I'd love to hear any thoughts or feedback you might have about the Boulder Weekly piece if you've read it. 

From The Local Fix

Last week I mentioned the smart newsletter on local news from Josh Stearns at the Dodge Foundation called The Local Fix. I like him so I'll do it again. 

In his latest email, Stearns highlighted the ways that local/national media partnerships can be a two-way street: big data sets and new tools for local newsrooms, boots on the ground for their national counterparts. These examples he flags might hold inspiration for reporters and editors here in Colorado:

Now for some CJR reports this week on the local news front
First Amendment news in Colorado 

Out in Grand Junction it turns out the city's panhandling ordinance "violates the First Amendment right to raise funds in public for charity," wrote Kyle Harris in the Colorado Independent.
"This is the same interpretation of the FirstAmendment that allows Salvation Army bell ringers to dress up like Santa ... and ask for change, the Girl Scouts to peddle Thin Mints and Peanut Butter Patties, and groups like Greenpeace — which signed on as one of the plaintiffs in the Grand Junction case — to brandish clipboards and recruit members on sidewalks."
Colorado transparency news

The National Freedom of Information Coalition and the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition are holding an FOI Summit in Denver Oct.9-10. Here's the agenda and registration page. I plan to go Saturday—Open Government Day— so if you're there come over and say hi. 

A federal judge recently ruled the U.S. Forest Service "violated the Freedom of Information Act by failing to conduct an adequate search and limiting what was disclosed about a proposed development in southwestern Colorado," according to CBS Denver. 

The Fort Collins Coloradoan reports that the Colorado State University System "may propose changing the state’s open-record policy to honor only requests made by Colorado residents." (The Coloradoan was one of of three news agencies in 2009 that sued CSU’s Board of Governors "over an alleged violation of the state’s Open Meetings Law.")

From the Oct. 3 piece

[Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition director Jeffrey] Roberts, a former journalist, used the example of an Associated Press reporter in New York working on a story of national significance — why should Colorado be able to exempt itself from requests made by that person? There’s also potential issues for out-of-state students, including in CSU’s online degree program, having access to public records for their school. “I think we could probably list a bunch of reasons why (public records) shouldn’t be restricted to Coloradans only,” Roberts said.


Earlier this week, when I tweeted this story by Lars Gesing the assistant director of the explanatory journalism project at CU News Corps, a marketing professor from many states away tweeted back "La la la la la la la-I'm-not-listening-la la la la la la la." Why? Probably because the story cited opinion researchers who are preaching restraint for journalists covering the 2016 horse race. 

An excerpt from one of them in the piece:

“The old-time journalists, they are the ones who are good. They have been through this stuff before. They call me and say, ‘I have to ask you what is going on with these new polls. My editor wants something a little bit better than: The polls are kind of meaningless.’”

Last thing: Death of a news man

RIP Bill Jackson, aka "the voice of agriculture in Weld County," who spent 30 years at The Greeley Tribune and just died at 71. 

"He was widely known for his professionalism and talent for writing about water issues and agriculture, and ranked as the only member of the print media inducted into the Colorado Agriculture Hall of Fame."

I'm Corey Hutchins, the Colorado-based correspondent for Columbia Journalism Review's United States Project, and I hope you enjoy the work CJR does to monitor and support local accountability journalism around the country.