March 22, 2016

Denver Post editor resigns, Watchdog's teeth fall out, Bennet bro's big media move, your Sunday fronts, and more Colorado local news & media

The Denver Post's longtime editor Greg Moore resigned + The End of the World 

On Tuesday, employees of The Denver Post were called for an impromptu staff meeting at 12:30 p.m., but not told why. When they got there, Greg Moore, 61, the paper's editor for the past 14 years, announced he was resigning and Friday would be his last day. The alt-weekly Westword has a bit of the tick-tock from the meeting. The Denver Post's write-up said he'd led the paper "through a period of tumult and transformation." One Post reporter at the meeting posted on Facebook that Moore told staff budget cuts and layoffs had taken a toll and he didn't like how he was using his brain. 

From the Post itself: 
Moore brought with him extraordinary enthusiasm for dogged reporting and excellent writing. His spur led The Post to top prizes for reporting and photojournalism, even as the newsroom shrank and the paper began transforming to meet the expectations of an audience that increasingly demands its news in digital form.
Poynter pointed out the significance of the departure in part "because The Denver Post is the flagship publication and headquarters of Digital First Media, a newspaper chain with holdings across the United States." Furthermore, "Moore was also one of the few black editors atop the masthead at one of America's major newspapers, which suffer from a lack of diversity among rank-and-file positions but especially among their upper editorial strata."

In a rather un-cheery item over at his BigMedia blog, former Rocky Mountain News media critic Jason Salzman pegged the news as "yet another depressing sign that the newspaper faces serious troubles and decline." Moore's resignation follows news that the paper is cutting back on editorials because of shrinking staff. 

News of Moore's resignation sent rumor shards flying throughout Denver. There was talk of billionaire Phil Anchutz, whose Clarity Media owns The Colorado Springs Gazette, buying the Post. But Clarity CEO Ryan McKibben said “Not that I'm aware," when I called him. “Nothing's going on," he told me. Had he heard talk about it in Denver? "Greg Moore resigns and everybody thinks the world's gonna end," he said. 

OK, that was kind of a downer. But The Denver Post had some good news to share, too

The state's largest newspaper "attracted 6.5 million monthly unique digital users in February, by far drawing the largest total digital audience among local news organizations in the Denver area," the Post reported. Why the spike? "The increase was driven by deep coverage during the Denver Broncos’ successful Super Bowl run, along with aggressive breaking news and political reporting," the paper wrote. 

Meanwhile: 
The Cannabist, The Post’s digital news site devoted to covering marijuana in Colorado and the world, drew 575,000 unique visitors — 415,000 of them on mobile — continuing its aggressive growth. That total audience was an 83.6 percent increase since August 2015, when comScore first began tracking the site. About 64 percent of its audience is between the ages of 18 and 34, and 88 percent of it between 18 and 49.
Look at how many more unique visitors came to the site on mobile vs. the rest. 

Speaking of The Post...

The newspaper's parent company, the Denver-based Digital First Media (DFM), beat out another large newspaper company, Tribune Publishing, this week in a bid for The Orange County Register and The Riverside Press-Enterprise newspapers in southern California. 

Some analysis on the deal in POLITICO from newspaper industry guru Ken Doctor:
What drove the DFM purchase isn’t growth, though, it’s cost consolidation – the same principle underlying that failed Tribune Publishing bid. DFM believes it can wring at least $10 million a year, and probably more, out of its cost consolidating efforts in greater L.A. For both companies, and indeed for the daily newspaper industry overall, cost consolidation remains the cutting edge of maintaining earnings.
Digital First Media owns The Denver Post and about a dozen other newspapers in Colorado. What could that mean for readers in this square state?

More from the Doctor: 
At DFM’s Denver Post ... word is emerging that as many as 30 positions could be cut, leaving a newsroom with about 85-90 people. The drivers, those in Denver say: both the continuing down ad economy and funds gained that could help pay for the Register and Press Enterprise purchase. It is owner Alden Global Capital, the NYC-based private equity firm that drives DFM strategy, including acquisition. Alden almost sold DFM last year, but now focuses on profit maximization. 
Not. Good. Medicine. 

The brother of Colorado's senior U.S. senator just made a huge move in media

Michael Bennet, the Democratic U.S. senator from Colorado, has a family like something out of some contemporary East Coast novel. His dad was the president of NPR, his mother survived the Holocaust. And his brother James, who was previously editor-in-chief of The Atlantic magazine, just recently became the opinion page editor of The New York Times. Crazy. 

What you missed on the Sunday front pages across Colorado this weekend

Here's what appeared on the newspaper front pages across Colorado on the first day of spring, 2016:

With a headline "Not Fit to Fight," The Greeley Tribune had an enterprise story about the impact of obesity on America's military, and what's being done about it with Colorado farm programs. The Longmont Times-Call had a story about a longtime former Boulder Democratic county commissioner switching parties to run as a Republican for a seat on the commission. Steamboat Today had a big pull-out headlined "One Pint at a Time" about the local craft beer boom. (The paper dug into its own archives to find booze was prohibited and frowned upon in the early days of Steamboat Springs, and “There were also ‘rooming houses’ and ‘hotels’ with women with very rosy cheeks.") The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel had a story about a downtown makeover next to one about protestors disrupting a Donald Trump tally in Arizona. The Sterling Advocate-Journal fronted a story about a new design for a local road project. The Loveland Reporter-Herald reported on a local Republican county assembly. Under the headline "Overcorrection," an investigation by The Denver Post found dangerous parolees committing crimes once they're out of jail because of new policies to reduce sending them back to the slammer. The Boulder Daily Camera fronted a story about new classes at the local library. The Fort Morgan Times carried a story from The Colorado Independent about a bureaucratic conservation easement tax credit issue that is hurting some rural familiesThe Colorado Springs Gazette spotlighted a local refugee resettlement program that is fighting stereotypes and welcoming new Americans. The Aspen Times profiled three new American citizens with ties to Aspen whose first impulse was to register to vote. Under the headline "Lead in Our Water," The Fort Collins Coloradoan produced an investigation that found Flint-level lead numbers in four water sites around the paper's circulation area. The Durango Herald featured a story about a transitional housing program that helps the homeless. 
 
Colorado's Watchdog.org reporter Arthur Kane is leaving for a national gig

Arthur Kane, the bureau chief for Colorado Watchdog, will leave April 17 to start a national reporting gig at the American Media Institute where he'll do similar government accountability work, but with a national focus, he told me Monday. 

He continued: 
WD is the first job in a long time that I feel sad about leaving because they allowed me to do some great work, the editors and reporters were focused on the right things and overall it was a great experience. I wasn't looking to move but they made me an offer that would have been impossible to refuse.
Kane said he'd wanted to do national stories for a while but wasn't interested in moving east to New York City or Washington, DC (seriously, who can blame him?), and the new job will allow him to work anywhere. For now that means Denver, but he owns property in California and hopes to one day soon head a little farther west. 

Kane mixed it up this year at the Capitol over a credentialing issue, which made a previous newsletter. Some of Kane's greatest hits for Colorado Watchdog include his watchdogging of state judges, reporting on teacher pay, the state buying natural gas vehicles with no nearby fueling stations, a spike in attacks on juvenile justice staff after a policy change, unearthing taxpayer money spent in a capital case, and more. 

Accountability reporting department: Want to be a campaign finance watchdog in Colorado?

Sorry, this is not a job listing. But if you want to do some money-in-politics reporting, or just want to see where your elected officials are getting and spending their money, Colorado Ethics Watch just made it easier. Here's the nonprofit's guide on how to be a campaign finance watchdog in Colorado

A mom is battling the downtown coal plant in Colorado Springs, suing for public records

Denver's 9News investigative reporter Jeremy Jolola has a story this week about a Monument lawyer whose son goes to school near the downtown coal-burning power plant in Colorado Springs and a fight she's waging to find out whether the Martin Drake power plant is polluting the air. And because it's Colorado, of course this ends up in court. 

“In Colorado your only recourse, really, when you’re denied, is to go to court. And that’s a very intimidating thing,” Jeff Roberts of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition told 9News. “You’ll have to put up resources to do that. And then you’ll find yourself up against government attorneys.”

The Denver Post's investigation on parolees, and a nod to new media 

This weekend, The Denver Post published a hard-hitting, detailed investigation that would likely leave any reader questioning whether new policies in Colorado to reduce rates of parolees going back to prison are in the best interest of public safety. Here's the subhed: "Dangerous parolees are remaining on the streets in Colorado, despite breaking the law and failing drug tests, a Denver Post review finds. Some have gone on to commit serious crimes."

Reporters Noelle Phillips and Kirk Mitchell had to overcome some hurdles to produce their coverage, too. For instance, Colorado's Department of Corrections redacted records requests of subjects for the story, so the reporters had to dig them up elsewhere. They also spoke with five parole officers who would only speak on the condition of anonymity "for fear of retaliation by corrections department officials." 

The story is already picking up some buzz, with high-profile Denver-area District Attorney George Brauchler tweeting at the state's Democratic governor, that "This is an outrage" and how the parole policy needs to end. In a state with a haunted history of parole issues, the Post's story is likely to get some serious attention and have some impact. 

For those who want some extra reading on the topic, Todd Shepherd of Complete Colorado had done some earlier spadework about one of the subjects of the Post piece. He'd broken the news that a parolee once touted to lawmakers as a model for the new parole policy was later accused of murder, obtained a DOC chronology of the same parolee that raised a "series of red flags before and after his release from prison," and also reported that the parolee was being allowed to live in an alley near his previous victims. He'd obtained e-mails from the DOC director to the governor's chief of staff, and had reported on a separate parolee accused of shooting a cop who had been arrested and released three times under the policy in question.

I've spoken to Shepherd and an author of the Post piece, and it seems clear the publications were working the story along parallel tracks, so this isn't to imply the newspaper was following an online media outlet's lead (the Post has credited Shepherd for his work on the topic), but to highlight the ways in which print and online media co-exist in the local media landscape.

Cough 'em up department: High Court tells #PP shooting judge to re-think sealing those records

The Colorado Supreme Court has asked the judge overseeing the case against Robert Dear to rethink sealing certain records related to the Black Friday Planned Parenthood clinic shooting in Colorado Springs.

Read the order here if you speak legalese. This came after about two dozen media outlets filed a petition to have certain records in the case unsealed that could shed more light on the accused shooter and his motives. Dear gave two recent jailhouse interviews to his local media, by the way, which you can read here (The Gazette) and here (KKTV) if you're high on humanity and need something to bring you back down. 

Last Thing. This CEO/editor net worth gap is buh-ru-tal.

If you've been following Hulk Hogan's lawsuit against Gawker Media for publishing his sex tape, then you know the verdict just came out: $25.1 million in punitive damages on top of $115 million in compensatory damages. The judgement is split up among Gawker Media, its CEO Nick Denton, and Gawker's then-editor-and-chief A.J. Daulerio. But here's what struck me in the story: the disparity in net worth between Denton the CEO and Daulerio the editor. When calculated for the court, Denton the CEO's net worth was pegged at $121 million, and Daulerio the editor's was pegged at negative $27,000 (...drum roll...) because of his student loans. 

I'm Corey Hutchins, the Colorado-based correspondent for Columbia Journalism Review's United States Project and a journalist for The Colorado Independent. I hope you enjoy the work CJR does to monitor and support local accountability journalism around the country. Follow me on Twitter, reply or subscribe here, or e-mail me at CoreyHutchins [at] gmail [dot] com.