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February 24, 2010 11:00 PM UTC

Jane's free ride

  • 52 Comments
  • by: Jason Salzman

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

If you follow the news in The Denver Post, you’re not following Senate candidate Jane Norton very much.

Well, I take that back. You’re actually following Norton in The Post via her spokespeople and news releases-not through words that come out of her mouth in response to questions by journalists.

She’s been quoted directly (words from mouth) in just four articles in The Post since she launched her campaign over five months ago.

Instead of talking to reporters, Norton is giving them spokespeople, written statements, and news releases, which were used in 10 additional articles.

Since Norton’s campaign announcement Sept. 15, ten of 14 articles in the print edition of The Post, plus an additional half dozen posts on The Post’s political blog The Spot, relied on this type of controlled information for quotes.

While The Post published only 14 articles with any type of statement (direct quote, spokesperson, or news release) connected to Norton, it ran a total of 22 with Bennet statements and 18 with Romanoff statements. (Bennet has been quoted directly in an additional 20 articles about his Senate activities.) Bennet and Romanoff were each quoted directly (words from mouth to reporter) in 11 print articles.

So it looks like The Post is giving Norton a free ride, not asking her enough questions directly, printing her news releases, her spokespeople’s statements, and generally covering her less than the other candidates in the race.

Of course, this runs counter to what we expect from journalists-to provide citizens with the information they need to make informed decisions about candidates and policy matters.  To do this effectively, reporters should try hard to interview candidates directly and ask questions.

Staff at The Post was busy or on other assignments yesterday and this morning-and unable to comment on my analysis of their coverage of Colorado’s Senate race.

Now, you may be thinking, perhaps Norton is just going through a dry spell in terms of newsworthiness-and reporters don’t need to be wasting time talking directly to her.

But no, during those five months, she’s made a string of unusual and newsworthy statements that definitely merit investigation by Post reporters.

This month, the Ft. Morgan Times reported that Norton supports a “national sales tax” and a “flat tax,” and she thinks a “simplified flat tax with exemptions only for mortgages and charity” might be viable (Ft. Morgan Times 2/9/10).  The Post did not address this statement about radical restructuring of the U.S. tax code on its news pages, though Mike Littwin included it in a column (2/19/2010).

Norton stated that the federal government has no role in health care, presumably including Medicare and Medicaid. The Denver Post’s politics and policy bog, The Spot, reported (1/13/2010) that Norton made this comment, and a statement by Norton was posted stating that she wants to protect Medicare. But the candidate did not answer questions about it directly. Also, The Post has not questioned Norton on her apparent statement that health care reform is not constitutional.

Norton apparently listened to supporters say President Obama is a Muslim, without making any effort to correct them.  And she stated that the “rights of terrorists are more important in this administration than the lives of American citizens.” This statement never appeared on the news pages of The Post, but, once again, was included in a Mike Littwin column (1/10/2010).

Norton reportedly stated that she favors abolishing the Department of Education. To its credit, The Post (12/20/2009) tried to obtain a response from Norton on this topic, but her campaign declined comment. There’s been no follow-up in the newspaper.

During a Colorado Springs radio interview (KVOR 740 AM) on 1/26/2010, she stated, “On the lobbyist thing, I’ve never been a lobbyist.” The Post didn’t pursue this issue, but the Rocky Mountain News identified Norton as a lobbyist years ago in an article (3/4/2001), reporting that Norton “worked previously as a medical lobbyist.”  Her lobbying history has been reported elsewhere as well. And she declined to talk to a Post reporter for a story about her ties to high-powered Washington lobbyists.

(Note to Post readers: Who would think that opinion columnist Mike Littwin would scoop The Post’s entire news department twice in about six months! He’s offering up important news about Jane Norton that you find nowhere else in The Post. Maybe he should try interviewing Norton himself.)

What’s a Post reporter to do about this? Here are my suggestions:

First, the most obvious one is that reporters should seek comments directly from Norton more often. The public interest isn’t served by repeatedly quoting spokespeople and written statements. We rely on journalists to ask candidates tough or uncomfortable questions, with follow-up queries, if needed. If Norton or her spokespeople refuse comment, The Post should inform readers of this, as The Post did on one occasion.

The Post should offer coverage of different perspectives on why Norton doesn’t want to talk to Post reporters, if reporters think she’s avoiding them. Let’s hear from experts about her strategy. At her last major news conference, for example, she answered only one question before departing, and at the last Republican forum on Feb. 21, where you’d certainly expect to find journalists, she didn’t show up at all.

If necessary, The Post should track Norton at campaign appearances and confront her in person with questions.

I understand that reporters are busy doing seventeen things at once, but quality coverage of Colorado’s U.S. Senate race is a big priority.

For more details on this topic, with complete links and supporting information, read Rocky Mountain Media Watch’s report, “Jane’s Free Ride: The Denver Post’s Limited Coverage of U.S. Senate Candidate Jane Norton” at www.bigmedia.org.

Comments

52 thoughts on “Jane’s free ride

  1. Jane Norton has been very good about answering questions at events, providing more specifics than most candidates. So for that she should be commended.

    Which brings up an interesting question – is she willing and the Post doesn’t bother? Or does her team shield her from the MSM? If she has been willing to respond, then this should not be an attack on Jane, but just the Post.

    For the record they have shielded her from an interview with me. But while an interview with me is not a requirement to run for office in this state (although it should be gosh darn it!), answering the major media is a requirement.

    So Denver Post – which is it?

    1. I think its both. Read below.

      You are aware of what happened yesterday in my story on Pinnacol and the inaccurate story done in the DBJ. Reporters should be going to original sources, just not doing stories from press releases or statements.  

    2. My experience with the depth she goes into at events is similar. I don’t see any reason, political or otherwise, for the Post to deliberately limit her exposure if she has been willing, but the dual nature of “which is it” is an interesting point.

    3. So maybe what Jason has posted is a “how to do” guideline for a successful politician.

      Norton does a Coloado Conservative Commentary on the radio; 24/7.  Sounds very convincing.  And of course, the dems and their candidates feel that if they just make fun of her and then ignore her, she will go away.

      How do you spell Scott Brown?

    4. David, if she had an interview with you two things would happen. 1) You wouldn’t get anything out of her as she literally repeats the questions as her answer (multiple times I have seen her do this0 or 2)her head would explode because she doesn’t have a memorized answer to give you. And the interview is longer than 30 seconds.

  2. At her last major news conference, for example, she answered only one question before departing, and at the last Republican forum on Feb. 21, where you’d certainly expect to find journalists, she didn’t show up at all.

    No doubt as the front runner she’s being tightly managed. Classic front runner strategy is to lay low, issue press releases, have spokespersons speak for her, etc. Since its hers to lose, the avoidance of actual contact with the press mitigates the chance for a misstatement that could flush her out.

    Agreed, the Post reporters should be going after her more. But then the Post has its own problems (Media News filed bankruptcy last month). The resources and the inclination to really cover things as they should be just aren’t there anymore. It’s a lot less expensive to write up a story from a candidate’s news release than actually cover an event or track them down for an interview.  

    1. the bankruptcy is no big deal, has no impact on the Denver Post, and is scarcely worth covering.

      One of the core purposes of a newspaper is to cover political contests and the U.S. Senate race is a top of the ticket race that is highly watched nationally.

      1. Nothing like Media News commenting on its own bankruptcy – what an objective source. In fact, Singleton refused to say the word “bankruptcy”. Classic denial.

        The pre-packaged bankruptcy (see I called it what it is) sheds about $ 650 million in debt for equity leaving about $ 195 million in debt. Hearst losses about $ 375 million, no big deal to me but might want to ask them if its “no big deal” to them.

        You’re right, it won’t have much impact on the Post because it will continue losing about $ 10 million a year (or more) in what Scripps CEO Rich Boehne said exactly a year ago when the Rocky shut down was “an unsustainable business model”  

  3. I hate this website, but like a car accident, feel compelled to keep looking. Bennet is down in the polls, but still this website has him picked to win. If New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Virginia showed us anything it is that people are angry and want a change, like it or not, Bennet is in that group. Congress has a sub-30 favorably rating, but yet you all think the “Great Savior” Obama will push Bennet, Hick, and all other dems through. I can’t fault you for being optimistic, after all this is a liberal hack website, but let’s get real for a moment… Oh wait, if you did that you would become conservatives.      

      1. So far Hick’s MIA.  He supposedly made a trip around the 3rd CD and I only saw one article in the Chieftain.  Did I miss something or were the interviews so insignificant they didn’t post them on-line.

        So far I haven’t talked to one friend who went to his meet and great here in GJ.  Did any of you from the 3rd CD attend any of his events?

                  1. that Scooty has been getting lately?  Think I’d rather have the low profile, competence, JH press than the hammering that McInnis has been getting, slamming his bonehead choices.

                    “It’s kind of like somebody saying, “There is going to be a lightning strike right up on that tree, but you’ve got several months before the lightning season comes. So maybe you ought to see if you can get the fire trucks out of the station.” –Scott McInnis

            1. Where’s Hick?

              Well, last night he was at the Hyatt in Denver raising $650,00. I don’t live in the 3rd District, so I didn’t attend any of those events.

            2. A small event that was not organized as a fund raising event. A lot of hand shaking. Significant time spent talking one-on-one. Some sipping of local wines. Standard amounts of noshing on cheese & crackers. A little “giddy-up.” Overall, very elitist (not).

              1. I think you will see Hick spend a lot of time travelling AND listening, not doing traditional rah rah campaign events.  He will also be spending a lot of time raising money (note what happened last night).

                There will be a traditional ‘official announcement’ and round the state kick-off tour some time later.

                These early stages allow him to meet people in a low-key way, get a feel for their concerns and issues and be better prepared for the campaign.

    1. Dude, I’m a proud conservative, and I like commenting and posting stories on Pols. Sure, it’s slanted sometimes, but the discourse is fun and enlightening either way. If you want to help bring a more even tilt to the good folks at Pols, then stop complaining and start posting.  

    2. Liberals hang out here and proudly proclaim their allegiance to thought that comes from the cerebellum instead of the “gut”.  Obviously discussion is impossible with these hacks because they might use facts and cause and effect logic.  Take the curious case of the Denver Post and their crack corp of Karen Crummy and Lynn Bartles.  Can you imagine the quivering with anxiety that Ms. Norton must feel when dealing with these crack political reporters.  I can’t either.  The Post absorbed all the right wing fringe from the Rocky Mountain News like Vincent Carrol and have morphed in to another unprofitable rag pushing conservative narratives while feigning fear that they have a “liberal bias”.  The Post political coverage is as big a joke as megagut and his shocking discovery that liberals hang out at Pols.

    1. They are going after Jane Norton for a case where she did what was best for the state, not what was best for her politically. Jane Norton deserves the thanks of every citizen of Colorado for her efforts on Ref C.

  4. And that pols continues to discuss the issues with the Denver Post.

    I think they do a terrible job covering the politicians in the state…and government in general.  If a story does not fit into the frame that the Denver Post has on a candidate or a race, then it either doesn’t get reported or gets covered badly.

    Frankly, I think folks like Bob Moore and Adam Schrager regularly out-report and out investigate the Post and do so in a much fairer manner to their subjects.

    If you are going to be a mouthpiece for one viewpoint, fine.  But don’t claim to be subjective journalists.

    1. In this case, of Jane Norton coverage, The Post isn’t doing a good job. And you could find other examples of sub-par coverage.

      But I don’t think you can say as a general matter that if a story doesn’t fit into The Denver Post’s frame, then it doesn’t get reported or gets covered badly. I don’t think there is evidence to prove this. What stories are you talking about? Which candidates?

      I like Moore and Schrager, but on what issues do they regularly out-report The Post, with its depleted but still strong staff of reporters? Maybe you refer to Moore’s work on CD7? You might be able to make a case there.

      I hate to see people tearing down The Denver Post without being specific.

      It’s got its flaws, but if you think the news media is bad in Colorado now, imagine what it would be like of The Post were gone.

      1. About the voters of Massachusetts apparently dictating how Coloradans feels about health care.  And the singular focus they put in that editorial on Michael Bennett.  I’m sorry, but Dean Singleton wanted to score some points against Bennett there and he went to great lengths to find it.

        Moore reports on CD-4 and covers Markey’s race quite extensively, but while he will delve into the campaign quite a bit, he also covers the legislative work she does.  If it’s not a story about Markey “facing a tough reelection” you never see it in the pages of the Post.  She just passed a huge anti-trust measure in Congress – let’s talk tomorrow when we see how much ink the Post gives it.

        Where is the in depth analysis of the Tea Party movement and Jane Norton’s attempts to woo them with ever increasing frequency?  Ed Perlmutter has worked extensively on mortgage and green building issues.  Where are the stories about that?  The last time I read about him in the Denver Post, it was an analysis of fundraising numbers.

        And forget about Diana DeGette or Jared Polis…unless they have done something the Post would like to criticize, you simply don’t read about them.

        The campaign stuff is important.  But there should be an effort to cover the whole of a legislators’ portfolio – not just their re-elect efforts.  They are the only paper of record left in our state’s biggest city.  I expect better.

        I pointed out Adam and Bob because the pieces I read and watch them do are always extensively researched and analyzed.  I read an article by Mike Riley and frankly it looks like something from a high school newsletter.

        Maybe that has to do with staff cuts.  But I’m sorry, the poor quality of reporting combined with the undeniable bent of their editorial page and columnists (and I do believe that influences the stories that get printed in the pages of the Post) has made me really question the journalistic integrity of the newspaper as a whole.  

        1. that The Post’s depth and breadth of analysis hasn’t taken a hit. You’re right in that broad sense.

          But the outfit still has journalistic integrity and strong reporters. You would expect an editorial to be twisted. No surprise there. And you’d expect the newspaper in CD 4 (not 7, thanks) to cover its Rep closely.

          I once checked out the coverage of DeGette, and it proved your point–very little coverage at all on the positive stuff. On Polis, I’ve seen a variety of coverage this year, so I’m not sure you’re right.

          With respect to Riley, I’m impressed that The Post has a reporter in DC at all, and I like his work. His recent piece on the Intermountain West was a fair and broad look at the situation as it stands. Most of the nation’s newspapers have pulled DC reporters out. You need to point to specific stories by Schrager, Moore, or Riley to have a meaninful discussion.

          1. Is that I cannot depend on the Post for accurate and COMPREHENSIVE coverage.  So, how would I be able to critique what they do report?  

            For example, I can watch DPS board meeting on Access Cable TV and get some idea of what is going on.  When I read the Post reporting of the event, important facts are omitted.  Prime example, November 30th, during the recess before the rest of the new board members were sworn in and a new president elected, a contract was signed with West Denver Prep. That is one fact.  The second, very important, fact is that Board member Jeanne Kaplan was not told of this contract.  Voting on West Denver Prep location (which was factor in the already signed contract) was scheduled for a December meeting during which Kaplan learned of the signed contract.  Some of the other board  members did know.  Kaplan is simply being excluded; out of the loop.  This is of concern to me, a Denver taxpayer.

            Now, this may not be important to you.  However, if the Post is not reporting this comprehensively, how can I judge their reporting on those meetings/events of which I do not have information from another source?

            I might add that thePost’s editorial board appears now to be anti-teacher union and of course, Kaplan was supported by the DCTA.  

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