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November 28, 2016 02:49 PM UTC

Advocacy journalism is expanding in Colorado. Can you trust it?

  • 4 Comments
  • by: Jason Salzman

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Denver Post reporter John Frank.
Denver Post reporter John Frank.

While most people were asleep last week, the Colorado Independent’s Corey Hutchins reported Denver Post political reporter John Frank’s view, offered during a panel discussion Nov. 15, that partisan news seems to be expanding in Colorado.

The Colorado Statesman is run by a former Republican lawmaker, The Colorado Springs Gazette started a great new political experiment I’m super excited about but their lead writer on their new political vertical is a former Republican staffer,” he said. “I am very concerned about us moving toward that partisan side of news but I think there’s a reason we’re moving in that direction— it’s because I think that’s where the money is.”

Not only is the Statesman run by a former Republican lawmaker, it’s controlled by Larry Mizel, a major GOP donor and supporter of Trump. (What’s worse, Mizel and the Statesman are mum about who owns the newspaper.)

It’s pretty clear that Frank is right that advacacy journalism is expanding here.

The sad story of the demise of Colorado Health News, as told to me last year by the publication’s former editor, Diane Carman, reinforces the point.

“You step on everybody’s toes when you are an objective journalism organization,” said Carman, who was editor and founder of Health News Colorado. “Everybody got burned a little bit at some point, because we took the role of watchdog seriously. So, when you do that, it makes it really easy for people to say, ‘I’m not so sure we have the money for that this year.’ I never got the impression we were being censored. There was never an impression of that. But I do feel that if we had been willing to cross over into the advocacy world, that we would still be alive.”

It not hard to see that a news outlet of any kind, nonprofit of for-profit, that’s struggling financially is more likely to lower its journalistic standards in order to stay afloat. You don’t have to be much of a media critic to see it happening in Colorado and beyond.

At some point, news consumers will have to trust individual journalists, more than their publications. For example, I trust some reporters at the Colorado Springs Gazette and Colorado Statesman, even though the publications have mostly lost my confidence

The same goes for advocacy jounalists and bloggers, who come clean about their orientation and/or their funding. Some of them I trust; others I don’t, based not on their claims to be accurate but on their work. Do they admit mistakes and make corrections? Do they respond to questions or have a by-line and contact information at all? Do they seek opposing views? You have to decide whether you trust these types of journalists (and, obviously, I’m one of them).

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