UPDATE: Today, the Chieftain's editorial board — made up of Bob Rawlings, his accused daughter Jane, Charles Campbell and Tom McAvoy — fired back at its critics, sort of.
"While Sen. Giron apparently believes she’s been treated poorly by The Chieftain, we maintain our news coverage of her has been fair and balanced," reads the piece, adding later: "As far as Chieftain executives signing recall petitions, that’s another freedom guaranteed ALL Americans in the Bill of Rights."
The actual complaint — that some of the paper's executives were involved in these causes, and that this was not disclosed to the daily's readers — remains unaddressed.
------ORIGINAL POST: Tuesday, July 30, 2013, 4:23 p.m.------
How the über-conservative Pueblo Chieftain does so well in a county where 55.4 percent of 2012 voters colored in the oval for Barack Obama is anybody's guess. But it does, with managing editor Steve Henson telling the Indy back in September that the paper enjoys "awful good penetration."
Henson also weighed in on a problem common to any newspaper with a perceivable political slant: the question of newsroom neutrality. Said the editor: "The news coverage is just about as balanced as [it] could be," and people "really work hard on that."
That sentiment took a blow in March, though, when the paper's general manager, Ray Stafford, used his work e-mail account to write Pueblo Sen. Angela Giron — Senate President John Morse's companion in recall — with the hope that she not support several contentious gun bills being considered at the time.
"We met on one occasion when you visited The Chieftain in the fall of last year, " he wrote, according to a good report from KRDO. "I am the General Manager and responsible for the entire newspaper, including the newsroom."
And of course the last part, along with his signature of "General Manager, The Pueblo Chieftain, And gun owner," came off as a threat to use his position at the paper to influence coverage of the senator. However, by way of explanation, assistant publisher Jane Rawlings (daughter of publisher Bob) told KRDO: "As a way of identification, as he still is fairly new to the area, Ray Stafford told Senator Giron that he is the general manager of The Chieftain and in charge of its operation, including the newsroom."
If you look at Stafford's LinkedIn page, it seems that's true. In fact, it seems like he might well have wound up with a similarly gun-pimping organization: Stafford apparently worked for Freedom Communications, former owner of the Gazette, for over a decade.
Either way, Stafford fell from the news until Sunday, when ProgressNow Colorado — a Denver-based organization whose mission "is to build and empower a permanent progressive majority" — said it had "clear evidence" that Rawlings, Stafford and production director Dave Dammann signed recall petitions against Giron.
"The Pueblo Chieftain faces a major credibility problem reporting on the recall election in Senate District 3," said Amy Runyon-Harms, the group's executive director, in the statement, "with upper management at the paper clearly biased against Sen. Angela Giron — without disclosing that bias to their readers."
It's tough to check that claim because of the newspaper's paywall, but if Rawlings, Dammann and Stafford are involved in news-gathering — as Stafford said he is — the least the paper could do is disclose. Certainly, we encounter this issue often enough, and endeavor to keep participating parties away from all news involvement; when that's not possible, we try to let readers know.
We've reached out to Henson for comment and will update this post if we hear back.
The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb went off without a hitch last Sunday, with the biggest headlines coming from Sébastien Loeb, and his 875-horsepower Peugeot 208 T16, just crushing the previous course record.
Of course, if you were following along online, on Red Bull TV (posted below), you might have had a harder time watching it happen. Helicopter shots kept cutting in and out, images were static-ridden and unreliable, and at times it was just generally difficult to figure out what was happening. This was hell for the people watching, but it was certainly hell for the announcers, one of them being Colorado Springs media member Dan Cochell.
And, of course, this was also the first time an attempt had been made to broadcast the race, now in its 91st year. Despite that, thousands of commenters on YouTube and Facebook ripped the production up and down. Here's a few from Sunday (everything sic-ed):
"Thanks for posting this video," Ivan Nenov wrote. "The redbull.tv broadcast was less than impressive though. Gearheads want to hear the car engine, not two gentlemen talking."
Or, from Ralph Gaume: "Amazing race by Loeb and Peugeot, but redbull this coverage suck! Espacialy the two guys, they seem nice but I wasn't here to listen to them."
Or Mario Sergio Arcanjo's thoughts: "WHAT A CRAP TRANSMISSION, HOPEFULLY RED BULL HAS A BETTER COVERAGE OF THE RECORD RUN.....USELESS TV STATION THAT COVERED THE RUN.......BUNCH OF AMATEURS!!!!"
We even received letters written to Cochell's personal e-mail address, which was posted in the comments, CC'd to our newsroom. It's all just a little ridiculous, Cochell says in a phone interview with the Indy.
"The Hill Climb partnered with me to be the play-by-play announcer, but the production crew didn’t have their shit together whatsoever," he says. "So, when we arrived up on the hill to do the race, my audio cables aren’t even plugged in four minutes before race time; I didn’t have IFB; I had no contact with any of the announcers up and down the hill; I didn’t have any monitor to see any footage.
"We essentially did what turned out to be a six-hour race with about 15 minutes of the race, and the rest of it, all the cameras were failing from the connections. And then the cameras, as you saw, on the helicopter would freeze. And that’s what happened all day, so what was I supposed to do?"
Cochell says all the cameras were linked over Wi-Fi, but a 14,115-foot mountain sort of got in the way.
"If you understand how big Pikes Peak is, to hook up all the cameras on a wireless Internet system and have all that technology work flawlessly is asking a lot," he says. "And the person that did the production arrived on Wednesday, and really didn’t have any chance to set up any of the cameras, which didn’t even arrive until Saturday at 5 p.m. Saturday! I went up there on Saturday to do a run-through, and it was pouring rain by 3 in the afternoon so they couldn’t even hook up anything."
Eventually the summit camera was hooked up — 15 minutes before the race started, Cochell says. A second camera at the 16-mile mark failed to ever come online, leaving the helicopter camera as the main one. Of course, the announcers couldn't speak with the pilot, and had no help determining which car was on the road.
"I don’t want any PR off this," Cochell says. "I wasn’t gonna say anything, but when you have 20,000 people commenting and ripping you apart, and ripping the Hill Climb apart — and part of this is me defending the Hill Climb, because these people have no idea what they’re talking about. They have none. They just sit and watch the thing and think it should just come off magical, and it doesn’t happen that way. It doesn’t work that way in the real world."
Cochell says he also built the broadcast set in the first place, though was not responsible for getting it into shape.
"So, the moment I walked on the set and nothing is set — I mean, no cables are run, no power cord for the monitors — I mean, when none of that is in place, and it's still not in place four minutes before we go on the air ... What was I gonna do?
"If I go into that set and I know everything that's laid out before me and it's not ready to my standards and all of a sudden I say, 'We're not gonna do this' ... all of a sudden it's a disaster from the beginning. But when I do go on the air and try and make something out of it, and it still turns out bad, then I'm really looked at as being unprofessional and unprepared, which is the furthest thing from the truth."
And, for fun, here's some fans who were nearly killed by Loeb while crossing the road:
This means lots of local money and, naturally, lots of students, with plenty of charming college complaints and observations. Luckily, those pupils already have a dedicated public platform: @OnlyAtUCCS.
(The Twitter account just makes me feel old. Back in my days at UCCS, Facebook had just come out. My first profile picture? An image from South Park that read "Don't fuck with Wendy Testaburger!")
With 455 followers and 221 tweets, the account's well-stocked with snippets of mountain lion life, some of which are more universal than the account can claim:
@onlyatuccs Pretty sure I just paid $5.22 at the bookstore for a single pencil...😳 #whatthe #UCCSprobs
— Shae Lynn (@toushae12) May 8, 2013
Email from Sallie Mae, offering a credit card: "helps pay down your student loans".Entrapment or double jeopardy? @onlyatuccs
— Ryan Johnson (@RyTriGuy) April 30, 2013
From issues uniquely UCCS-related, like parking ...
@onlyatuccs will your friend get a boot on her car when she is in four diamonds and has no prior fines! #whatthehell #areyouserious
— Lauren Murphy(@LaurenNicole735) May 2, 2013
@onlyatuccs Do you want to graduate just so that you can get away from having to find parking. Oh, and also tests. Obviously.
— Emily Bellizio (@emilybo_bemily) May 2, 2013
... and its weird weather-cancellation record ...
Finally gets another snow day, not really any actual snow...so is this technically a "wind day"? 😏 #nocomplaint #OnlyAtUCCS
— Only At UCCS (@OnlyAtUCCS) April 9, 2013
Today is our karma for having a snowday when there was no such snow. #UCCSprobs
— Only At UCCS (@OnlyAtUCCS) April 17, 2013
... to those tweets that remind everyone that, hello,
your you're still learning:
@onlyatuccs is their a couple that passes notes in class like they're in middle school
— Savannah Mahoney (@mahoneys1340) April 16, 2013
Ah yes, there is much to look forward to.
Actually, if there are any hardcore electronic music fans on your Facebook timeline, you probably have already seen their obsessive posts this week about “BOC,” which normal people would assume stands for Blue Oyster Cult.
But this particular BOC is a semi-obscure electronica duo that hails from Scotland and has been teasing the public since Record Store Day with snippets of digital code conveyed via the BBC, NPR and, this past weekend, a Cartoon Network ad. It’s all led to a kind of music-geek treasure hunt, where the prize, assuming there would be one, remained unknown.
Earlier today, Warped Records sent out a press announcement that Boards of Canada’s new album, Tomorrow’s Harvest, is due out June 11. They also included a link that takes you to a retro MS-DOS page, complete with bright green text, ominous black background, insistently blinking cursor, and a prompt for a log-in password that the label chose not to provide.
Of course, after posting this to my own Facebook page, it took little time for my most electronica-obsessed friend to post her fully-assembled password in the comment section. And it is:
699742 628315 717228 936557 813386 519225
If you want to check it out, be advised that you have to type in the numerical sequence by hand, which is a very strange thing to do in our cut-and-paste world. Once you've done that, you’ll be "rewarded" with a screen full of wavey static, the kind of thing rural folks would get on their TV sets before the arrival of cable. This goes on for minutes — long enough to bore even Andy Warhol — before unexpectedly dissolving into some pretty cool synthesized music followed by an image of the album cover art.
And ... that’s it. At least for now.
Whether the album will live up to all the crypto-hype is anyone’s guess. But in the meantime, click below for Boards of Canada’s “In a Beautiful Place Out in the Country,” from an early EP of songs thematically linked to the Branch Davidian cult and its doomed Waco retreat.
Then scroll down a bit further to watch an ad for “Fair and Lovely” skin-whitening product.
We'll leave it to you to decide which one’s weirder.
In case you've missed it, Andrea Chalfin and Michelle Mercer at KRCC have been doing good fire reporting of their own in a series called "Flash Point," which explores "how wildfire is changing life in Colorado."
And though it's radio-centric, of course, the web reports have some cool features, like a timeline of major events in the history of forests and wildfires, or the intense video of live footage shot at the time by the Colorado Springs Fire Department. (Embedded below, the action gets going at the 1:39 mark.)
There's also a report that pairs nicely with our March 3 story about some of the tools the National Institute of Standards and Technology is employing to map the risk in our wildland urban interface. Here's Chalfin:
The Wildland Urban Interface spans more than 28,000 acres north to south, crossing Interstate 25, and touching Academy Boulevard in places near Palmer Park. [Now retired] Fire Chief Rich Brown recently put it another way.
“This is the most affected urban interface in the state of Colorado,” Brown says, “which is in our jurisdiction of Colorado Springs, and it’s the 9th most threatened community in the western United States, right over here west of I-25.”
Pieces entitled "The Double Bind: Forest Treatment in the Age of Megafires," and "Wildfires and Climate Change Perception," are scheduled to air today and Friday, respectively. Check 'em out, and maybe drop some dollars on the station's pledge drive while you're at it.
Today, the Independent learned senior reporter Pam Zubeck has been awarded a Sigma Delta Chi award from the Society of Professional Journalists for her reporting on the Waldo Canyon Fire. (Click here for the winning entries.) The entered category, "Public Service Journalism (Non-Daily Publication)," was national in scope and was not limited by a publication's circulation. Other winners included writers from the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and the New York Times.
"Judges selected 84 honorees from nearly 1,700 submissions," reads the SPJ's press release. "Entries included selections from television and radio broadcasts, newspapers, online news outlets and magazines."
Zubeck's reporting was the first to reveal some of the many problems that plagued the city's response, and included gripping on-the-scene details from the firefighters' perspective, like this passage from one of the pieces, "Inside the nightmare":
"We had places where our fire guys were going in with 1-inch fire line [garden hoses], between houses that are 10 feet apart and this one's on fire and this one's not, trying to spray the houses down. Guys pulled the decks off, knocked down the fire on the outside of the windows, and the guys jumped in the house with a garden hose. If the fence was on fire, we'd knock it down. We were knocking stuff down, cutting trees out of the way, dragging them into the street."
Additionally, Zubeck has previously been called "one of the best reporters in the state" by the Colorado bureau chief of the Associated Press, a sentiment echoed today by Indy editor-in-chief Kirk Woundy.
"Pam's work on these stories was nothing short of amazing, especially since she was also responsible for writing other stories, every week, all along the way," he says. "We're thrilled that she's getting some of the recognition she deserves."
The Society of Professional Journalists has been honoring writers since 1932. The winners will be feted at an awards banquet on June 21 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
Update, 5:30 p.m.: We just heard back from Gazette editor Joe Hight:
"Yes, we have hired Monica Mendoza as our city hall reporter," he writes. "We had a great pool of candidates, but thought Monica’s experience at the business journal as well as major metropolitan dailies provided a great fit for the Gazette and this important beat."
Fran Zankowski, CEO of both the Independent and the Colorado Springs Business Journal, has confirmed that Journal reporter Monica Mendoza will be leaving the paper to cover city politics for the Gazette. The important position was previously filled by Daniel Chacón, whose reassignment caused several community members to question Mayor Steve Bach's influence over the daily.
As far as Mendoza, CSBJ managing editor Rob Larimer wrote in an e-mail to the staff that, "She’s been a solid part of the Journal’s staff for nearly two years, covering tourism, banking, small business, entrepreneurs and the business of aging. She worked as a military reporter at the Schreiver Sentinel before joining the CSBJ staff."
E-mails to Mendoza and Gazette editor Joe Hight have not been returned as of yet, but we'll update this post if they are. Her LinkedIn page lists time spent at the Arizona Republic and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. In the mean time, it's not known to us when she'll start for the daily, but her last day at the business paper is April 19.
"She’s a great writer and reporter," wrote Larimer, "and we’re sad to see her go."