Jared Polis never struck me as the kind of guy who would try to intimidate news outlets into not running a story. But the people he’s hired are a reflection on him. And they’ve been acting just like Trump when it comes to the press.
Used to be that a Colorado governor dealt mostly with the two large daily newspapers in Denver, and much of the Denver radio and TV took their cues from those two papers. Well, those two papers have shrunk down to one surviving, much smaller paper, The Denver Post. That doesn’t mean journalism is dead. It means it is changing. Changing for the better? Well, that’s a judgment call.
Just as streaming services like Netflix and Hulu have turned consumers into their own TV programmers, watching what they want to watch when they want to watch it, local political coverage is becoming self-programed. Unlike The Denver Post which has to run a very expensive, but wicked cool, physical printing plant, new journalism needs only a website for delivery.
The “fourth estate” covering Colorado politics now has a dozen online watchdogs. The Colorado Sun, Colorado Politics, The Colorado Independent, Denverite, Chalkbeat to name a few. My favorite is CompleteColorado.com which, paywall free, aggregates stories from all over the state as well publishes original news and commentary from a more free-market perspective, which you might expect given its association with the Independence Institute, the organization I run.
What’s helpful for journalism statewide is that the stories created by these online sites can be shared with other papers, including small town papers, just like a story written by a Denver Post reporter could appear in your local town paper as an Associated Press story.
Another one of these feisty little online news sites is The Center Square. They cover state and local news in 17 states. Governor Polis is certainly aware of Center Square. A few months back. he shared one of their stories on his own Facebook page. That story (surprise) reflected positively on the guv.
The Center Square recently reported on the governor opening yet another new office, this time the Office of Future of Work. This is the third such feel-good office he has opened. Center Square’s sin? They did what journalists are supposed to do – obtain an opposing view on the story. And they got a zinger from a GOP spokesman: “The Democrats’ insistence on creating a new layer of bureaucracy sure feels like a Monty Python skit. We may need an Office of Coffee because we’re getting tired of trying to keep up.”
This Center Square story was picked up by a few small-town newspapers and run on their websites. That’s when Polis’ version of Sean Spicer sprang into action. His press secretary, Conor Cahill, pressured at least two offending newspapers to remove the story because The Center Square “is not a reputable news source.” To their credit, none did.
Cahill didn’t say the story was in error. It wasn’t. If it was, he could have demanded a correction. Cahill just didn’t like that they printed a quote from someone who disagreed with his boss. And THAT needed to be removed.
No one on team Polis now has the right to criticize Donald Trump and his press secretary for doing the same.
“Not a reputable news source” is code for “Team Polis doesn’t like the bias of that news source.” Unlike mainstream media in Colorado, Center Square admits their bias. They claim to report with a “taxpayer sensibility.” As Polis is currently trying to blow the spending caps off our Taxpayer Bill of Rights with Prop CC, I think it’s fair to say that he does not share that “taxpayer sensibility.” Ergo, they must not be reputable.
To Jared and his press team, all I can say is, welcome to our world. Those of us with a taxpayer sensibility cringe constantly at the bias of the “respectable” media, from what we read in The Denver Post, to what we see on 9news, to what we hear on Colorado Public Radio.
But we don’t call them unreputable, because they are reputable. What they report is accurate. Their bias lies in their story selection.
Gov. Polis didn’t get his way in a few small town papers so he sought to bring down the power of his office on them. Sounds like Gov. Trump. Touchy.
Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.