Almost exactly two years ago, this column took a difficult stance, both personally and on behalf of the Independent. We have enough hurdles and challenges in our work without taking shots at other media. So we usually avoid direct confrontation, especially with the Gazette, which has been Colorado Springs' main daily newspaper for, let's see, 145 years now.
But in March 2015, there was no choice after the Gazette published a four-part series, "Clearing the haze," billed as serious journalism but in reality a one-sided, unethical, fully biased attempt to undermine legalized marijuana in Colorado. After the Indy led the chorus of angry reactions, my idea was to shine a light on a bigger-picture concern. Here's what I wrote then:
If you're a Gazette reader, you need to know the paper has taken a dark turn. Many in its newsroom still are dedicated journalists, but upper management — including the editorial board — has different motives. For that group, the news pages are a tool to use as desired to further the right-wing agenda that has infiltrated the entire paper.
What next? From now on, any headline or placement of a news story might be questioned. That's a departure from generations of ethical standards, in which daily newspaper owners espoused any beliefs they wanted (for years the Gazette was purely libertarian) on the editorial pages — but didn't invade the news realm.
That series on marijuana is the official warning signal. So let's really clear the haze: Your daily paper, unfair and unbalanced, officially now is the FOX News of print for Colorado Springs.
The dust eventually settled, and memories can be short in this world of endless news cycles. But in the past month we've seen another "dark turn," more egregious than the marijuana series in 2015. This time the Gazette's editorial board is trying to manipulate reality — yes, you could use terms such as "alternative facts" — and influence the city election.
We've seen three ridiculous editorials, two hatchet jobs against Richard Skorman and one against Jill Gaebler, timed to coincide with voters making their decisions. It's not worth wasting our space to recycle the manure from those editorials, as well as the Gazette's shallow endorsements. If the paper simply wanted to focus on the attributes of its favored candidates, that would be one thing. But to play the Trumpian game of denigrating "their" candidates' opponents, and making stuff up or distorting the truth, is beneath what many of us know as professional journalism.
We have seen more disturbing trends, such as errors that go unacknowledged and uncorrected, letters with an opposing view that either aren't published or are inappropriately edited, and stories or editorials related to The Broadmoor and its interests without reminding readers that its owner, Philip Anschutz, also owns the Gazette. Or just botched pieces. Here's what I mean:
Just last week, a story referred to City Council committing $500,000 from Lodgers and Automobile Rental Tax (LART) revenues to the U.S. Olympic Museum and Hall of Fame. The initial story also covered comments made to Council by "William J. Hybl, chairman and CEO of El Pomar Foundation and treasurer of the museum's board." Actually, those comments were made by Bill Hybl's son, B.J. Hybl of Griffis Blessing and the museum board. First, the Gazette changed the story online to say B.J. Hybl, but still giving him his father's El Pomar title. Finally, the story was corrected online — but left an editor's note on the bottom saying the name had been changed from William J. Hybl to B.J. Hybl "at the request of El Pomar Foundation." What? Not because it was the right thing to do, correcting an embarrassing mistake?
The point is simple. When the Colorado Springs daily paper doesn't know the difference between two people as prominent in our city as Bill and B.J. Hybl, separated by a full generation, that's not just a reporter's mental error. That reflects on every editor on the staff, especially when we've still not seen any kind of correction in print. And if you think that's the only mistake in print that the Gazette has tried to ignore, hoping it would go away, our diligent Indy investigative reporter Pam Zubeck has been noticing them for months, even years. That would be a very long list.
This time, though, the "alternative facts" editorials have gone too far. We're hearing from many more offended Gazette readers than usual, as you'll see in our Letters to the Editor in this issue. They can see the daily paper now for what it really is.
But we know the best response to the Gazette and its agenda. Be sure to cast your vote in this election. That's the best message you could ever send.