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June 29, 2010 03:07 AM UTC

What about the substance of the McInnis water articles?

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  • by: Jason Salzman

It’s been almost two weeks since we learned that 1) the Hasan Family Foundation paid gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis $300,000, mostly for a “series of in-depth articles on water, Colorado Water” and 2) the series, titled “Musings on Water,” amounted to 150 pages, according to McInnis’ campiagn (though, mysteriously enough, the Hasan foundation is only in possession of 60 pages).

But I can’t find a single news reporter in the Colorado who’s reported a water expert’s views about McInnis’ formerly stealth water articles.

Fortunately, while we wait for basic reporting on the matter, a few columnists and bloggers have weighed in. Here’s what they concluded:

Over the weekend, Denver Post columnist Ed Quillen, who definitely counts as an expert on Colorado water issues himself, spotlighted big-time errors in McInnis’ work, including McInnis’ failure to list the South Platte among Colorado’s major river basins.

On KBDI’s Colorado Inside Out June 18, Post columnist Susan Greene had a similar view:

“You know, I’ve actually covered the Colorado River for 20 years, and you could Wikipedia this stuff. I’m not saying he did… I’m just saying his name is on it. I don’t care. It’s not edifying at all. It tells me nothing about the Colorado River Compact. It has these sort of flourishes and great moments of insights like, water is very important to humanity. You know, $300,000? I’m thinking, he could have done that much less expensively.”

The blogosphere has also been pretty quiet about the substance of McInnis’ writings.

John Orr of the Coyote Gulch blog was by far the most kind to McInnis: “He’s consistent in his message, bashing government and the Bureau of Reclamation specifically. He embraces the development of water and other resources and laments all the possible mineral mother lodes locked up by wilderness designation. He demonstrates a good understanding of water issues and the history behind Colorado’s present situation.”

Over at Westword’s Latest Word blog, Alan Prendergast has made a complete mockery of McInnis own claim in a memo to the Hasan Foundation that his articles were “carefully” “documented” and “proofed.”  

In his third article on the topic, published the same day that the National Association of Hispanic Journalists was holding its national conference in Denver, Prendergast quoted a passage from McInnis’ water writings and then pointed out that McInnis got his Spanish translation messed up.

McInnis: “The Colorado River is the primary River of the Southwest part of Our Nation. It is called the ‘River of Rivers’ because of its importance in some of the most arid lands in the Americas… Do you know the name of ‘Rio Colorado’? That was the name, given by the Spanish, to a portion of what we now know as the ‘Colorado River.’ Colorado is ‘Red’ in Spanish. It was called the Rio because of the Reddish color that dominated the River…”

Westword’s Prendergast:  “No, Señor Snore, I’m pretty sure it was called the Colorado because of the reddish color, but who am I to contradict a $2,000-a-page man?”

So, despite some great work by columnists and bloggers, we need more serious news analysis of the McInnis writings.

You might argue that journalists don’t need to go fact checking old articles of a former Congressman who’s got a long trail of paper behind him, but with the Big Question still hanging out there (Why was McInnis paid so much for this?), I think reporters should ask more experts about the substance of these articles.

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