We've been talking for the last week (and longer) about ethics problems at the Pueblo Chieftain, whose news reporting has shown a troubling bias against Democratic Sen. Angela Giron as she faces a recall election next month. These concerns were underscored by disclosure that several top employees of the Chieftain had in fact signed the recall petition against Giron. Media Matters for America summed up the situation last week:
Despite the seriousness of the allegations, the Chieftain dismissed the charges of unethical behavior in an editorial titled "Unethical? Nope," which claimed that despite writing politically conservative editorials, it has endorsed Democrats and Republicans and even supported a number of Giron's legislations. It further dismissed the conflict of interest inherent in its executives signing the recall petition of a legislator it covers as "another freedom guaranteed ALL Americans in the Bill of Rights."
Further evidence of the Chieftain's partiality came Friday in an absolutely ridiculous story about an "ethics complaint" filed against Sen. Giron–breathlessly reporting on the presence of Giron's capitol phone number and state email on her personal website. A brief tour of legislator's websites reveals the same "infraction" on the websites of Senators Bill Cadman, Randy Baumgardner, Kent Lambert, Scott Renfroe, Ellen Roberts, Kevin Grantham, and probably most of the rest of the GOP caucus, but that doesn't stop the Chieftain's Anthony Mestas from letting Pueblo County GOP chair Becky Mizel prattle on unchallenged about how "disgusted" she is. If you understand the facts, which likely most readers of the Chieftain do not, the story was simply laughable–but the headline arguably was the whole purpose.
Today, the Chieftain's editorial board weighed in with a strongly and unabashedly pro-recall message to its readers. To be clear, the editorial board is the right place for opinions, as opposed to news coverage. But there's another, much more basic problem with today's editorial:
The immediate cause of those who signed the petitions was Sen. Giron’s support of a package of gun control statutes which caused many gun owners to seek a redress of their grievances. We agree with most of the opposition to those statutes and we stated that stance when the Legislature was debating the bills…
We urge voters living in Senate District 3, which includes all of the city of Pueblo, Pueblo West, Beulah, Colorado City and Rye, [Pols emphasis] to study the issues — and not all are gun-related — beginning now, because mail ballots will be sent out by Mr. Ortiz’s office on Aug. 19. Please become informed.
We'll do our part by "informing" the Chieftain that fully three out of the five cities they mentioned in the above editorial are not located in Senate District 3. Senate District 3 includes the urban area of Pueblo and Pueblo West. Beulah, Rye, and Colorado City are in fact part of Larry Crowder's Senate District 35. We have no doubt that the pro-recall Chieftain would like for those redder locales to take part in this recall, but they can't. In a special election already fraught with misinformation, piling on with more really does no one any favors.
Above all: if you're going to proudly go in the tank, make sure you have basic facts straight.
Not sure the usual rightie "This wasn't meant to be factual" excuse will work here. The no use for facty facts really shouldn't extend to providing important voter info, even at a rightie paper and even though facts, in general, are so darned liberal lefty biased. Seems as though, besides being too biased to be taken seriously as a legitimate newspaper, the Chieftan is just a very low quality rag with lousy reporters and editors.
The Chieftain covers high school sports and community festivities well, and that's what most Pueblans read it for. I think that only "true believer" conservatives, those who voted 44% for Rick Santorum over Romney in the 2012 Republican primary, rely on the Chieftain for political news and guidance.
Pueblo went 55% to 43% for Obama in 2012, so that makes the true believers about 20% of the total voting population. Hence the Cheiftain's pathetic attempt to inflate their numbers, by including Rye and Beulah.
Maybe there's a "gypsy voter" movement? Perhaps we should expect a wagon train of Rye and Beulah believers, showing up at the polls after August 19, demanding ballots and announcing their intent to move to Pueblo?
If so, county clerks will have their hands full explaining the penalties for voter fraud. Meanwhile, the Chieftain continues to embarrass itself by printing baseless stories about imaginary "ethics violations" by Giron.
The principal difficulty with the Chieftain is its smug certainty. As it editorialized, the members of its board do enjoy the same speech rights as anyone else. Pursuing those rights in such a situation, though, is at the expense of its credibility.
Locally we hear rumors the Chieftain is in finacial trouble. The outcome of this recall election may exacerbate its vulnerability.
The Chieftan regularly practices the type of local journalism that has to bring a tear of envy to Dean Singleton's eye …
AGREE WITH THIS. So what is the problem again?
Not a thing, as long as you don't want anything resembling Journalistic Ethics from your newspapers. You might consider a subscription to the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, they'd be right up your alley.
CPOLS would be delighted and supportive if any media outlet including the Chieftain were to sign a recall petition aimed at a Republican.
What I hear Cpols saying, is that certain people do not have free speech , they must do as Cpols says and if not , Cpols will pathetically attempt to humiliate these people on their tiny blog…
Egad, Holmes…how do you do it?
Elementary (school), my dear Watson …
. . . and, you'd regale us with a genius theory of remarkably astounding reasoning as to how how a criminally confiscatory and evil government had coerced that liberal media conclusion . . .
(PS Holmes, when was the last time you saw a "media outlet's" signature on a petition???)
What you mostly hear are the voices in you head.
Before anyone regales us with tales of the "liberal media" I want them to point out to us all precisely which of the handful of megacorporations,some multinational,that own or control the majority of media are liberal and why.
You have freedom of speech. You have freedom to petition. That doesn't not, however, give your actions immunity from ethics.
1) You post on said "tiny blog" – it is obviously worthy and influential enough for you to come in here and attempt to "refute" and "put down" it's postings.
2) positing about said "tiny"ness as a means to counter the argument implies worry of it's actual influence.
What are you afraid of Nock? Even the tiniest blogs get read by reporters who know how to do their job. Worried this might get picked up by the mainstream press?
At least Nocky's showing himself for who he really is, and what he's really about, and dropped the whole anarchist-libertarian/I hate both sides BS.
It's life-affirming, when someone comes out of the closet. I hope he's more comfortable with himself now.
Those are not 'voices in his head' they are beamed communications from a higher power. But Nockles is taking the proper precautions to avoid interference, as it has been conclusively proven that the afdb prevents bad signals.
gotta love that stuff….
Sorry, but I think you've bought into the stupid meme of Faux News. The owner of the paper has the right to print whatever he/she/it wants. They can lie, cheat, steal, do whatever they want, in both their editorial pages and in their news pages. That's part of the downside of a free press. People are entitled to report whatever falsehood they want as the truth.
That's why we have alternative papers and now blogs and such. To call a lie, a lie. Your ethics may not be the same as mine. OK, so what? It's a free country. Your high and mighty "ethics" are yours and aren't shared by everyone. Your job is to report when you think someone has played with the truth and point out the "facts" which support you. That's it. No name calling. No high and mighty we are better than them. The idea is that people will figure it out on their own. And It's Sen. Giron's job to keep them honest. You know, no one can stop Senator Giron from telling the truth as she sees it. With politics today, it's probably easier to do that via mail, TV and personal contact.
From my point of view this "ethics" stuff is just non-sense. People can print what they want. Media outlets of all kinds have bias. That's true of this site as well. Get over it.
When a supposed legitimate newspaper gives out completely wrong information as to which communities are in the SD in which a recall election will take place, that's not bias. It's just really lousy, lazy journalism. Pointing out such a glaring error is not nitpicking or evidence that someone needs to get over something It's a public service. The fact that the paper can't be trusted on such simple factual, public service information matters is evidence of shoddy work and standards, regardless of questions of bias.
Much of what you said is true. However, you neglect a basic journalistic principle, which is that a journalist's first obligation is to the truth. That means one uses observed facts and statistics by non-interested parties, scientific studies, actual recorded quotes and videos. Journalists are not supposed to just pull stories out of whatever orifice is handy.
The problem with Chieftain is not that it's biased; as you say, most organizations have a bias. The problem is that the Chieftain is biased in its news stories, not just on its opinion pages.
So I'm a politics dork, as well as a former journalism teacher. "In the weeds" is where I live, pathetic as that may sound. I actually made a spreadsheet in which I have analyzed 48 (so far) articles which have appeared in the Chieftain since March 1, on topics of Giron, Recall, and gun legislation. I originally cited the 20 articles in the recall/special group, but I have included a wider sample to be thorough, because I do care about accuracy.
Out of those 56 news articles, editiorials, letters to the editor, and community announcements, 28, or half, have significant pro-recall, anti-giron, anti-gun legislation bias. Out of those 28, 8 are biased, but on the editorial or opinion pages. These are journalistically ethical, because they clearly are opinion pieces. Opinion is where bias belongs.
The others are supposed to be news pieces. Yet they quote Rivera or recall supporters 2-3 times as often as Giron or anti-recall spokespeople. They use loaded language such as "gun-rights supporters" when they describe who attends a meeting. They ignore or distort key facts (such as that both sides are spending huge amounts of money from outside Colorado) which would, if included, lead to a more complete picture of this complex issue. They include community announcements from the side which they support, and not from the one they do not support. The latest example is the article about Giron's supposed "ethics conflict", which was originally cited as "breaking news", then gradually toned down when it became evident that there is no ethics conflict. Having a state address & phone number is not prohibited in the legislature Campaign Finance Manual pdf, nor in Article 29 of the Colorado Constitution,available from Colorado's Independent Ethics Commission. These documents have to do with how candidates report finances, including gifts. Nothing about campaign websites in either document. Both Republican and Democratic senators have links or text referencing their professional address on their individual campaign websites, in conjunction with a "donate" or "contribute" link or button.
Yet the Chieftain chose to run a banner headline, accusing Giron of ethical conflict, without checking these facts which took me about 20 minutes, quoting the Republican chairperson about how disgusted and disappointed she is with Giron, without challenging her. That, my friend, is known as bias. It is pretending that opinion is news.
This isn't new for the Chieftain. It has been a biased paper for 145 years, not always for the conservative side, either. Its founder, Beshoar, planned for it to be an independent paper, and the Chieftain's editorial policy has wobbled side to side over the years of its existence.
You may say that less than half of news stories showing significant bias is not a concern. I disagree. Because most of the Chieftain's news stories are attempting to be neutral and unbiased, the inclusion of sneaky loaded language or unbalanced quotes or attributions misleads the public. Just saying that "Everybody does it," doesn't make it true that everybody does it. And it doesn't make it OK.
Great analysis and very thoughtful. One question– did you correlate the biased/unbiased articles by author? Just because half the articles aren't biased could simply be a matter of who was given the assignment.
I haven't correlated by author. The main trend I saw is that, prior to the recall petitions being circulated in April, Chieftain had reasonable coverage of Giron as a state legislator. There were even articles praising her work on division of lottery funding for the state fair, for example.
Then March 13, Gessler came to Pueblo, gave them a primer on how to run a recall election, and it started going downhill from there.
As far as authors go, Peter Roper has been the main offender for biased articles. Yet, Roper did pretty reasonable interviews with Giron and Rivera this last weekend. Jeff Tucker has a preposterous piece in today's Chieftain on how we should fear voter fraud in the recall elections.
That's what really drives me batshit. Every time they get a little bit more balanced, they seem to think that they have to double down on the fear mongering, probably to keep some kind of base happy.
Hmm, so when confronting Giron face-to-face, Mr. Roper keeps the claws retracted. It's just when the paper has an axe to grind, the facts get buried in the mud.
Chieftain did run a correction on the SD3 article. Do they read Pols?