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Separate paths in journalism 

Between the Lines

Let's take a close look at two approaches to journalism in today's world.

First, Monday afternoon, came the red-hot news from Colorado Springs' daily newspaper. For hours into the night, an explosive headline screamed out from the prime spot of the Gazette's online homepage:

'Deadbeat dad' accusations not true, Skorman says

Obviously it was a grabber headline, drawing the reader in to what looked like a sensational exposé on mayoral candidate Richard Skorman.

Great story, if there'd been anything to it.

What followed were four paragraphs featuring Skorman on the defensive, denying earlier online accusations — comments by nameless, faceless sources — that he had been a "deadbeat dad" to an alleged daughter from a long-ago relationship.

Then came the fifth paragraph, saying a "notarized DNA test" long ago had determined he was not the father. (Never mind the fact that, until that test, Skorman had accepted the possibility — and, even after it, tried to be a positive presence in the young woman's life.)

So, in reality, it wasn't just Skorman saying the accusations were wrong. Conclusive DNA test results said so. Oh, and in the 21st paragraph, the child's mother called Skorman a "terrific human being" who "has always treated me fairly."

Tuesday morning, that story was on the front page of the newspaper. Nice job, Gazette, blowing a nonexistent story out of proportion. It should have been a few paragraphs online, answering those anonymous allegations, and nothing more.

This is why so many condemn all the media.

In recent days, we'd heard the daily had nasty stuff on both mayoral finalists, Skorman and Steve Bach. Already, on April 1, the Gazette had published allegations by Bach's first wife of physical brutality in their short marriage that ended in 1969. Bach and his supporters dismissed those charges as "fabrications" — and the paper has effectively let that response stand as the last word.

So it was easy to wonder if this Skorman story was a feeble attempt at smearing the other side to look even-handed in covering the runoff. A Gazette blog tried to justify its newsworthiness, citing the paper's need to answer the online charges. That didn't suffice. It was wrong.

With that, let's switch to the Independent's approach. We haven't done anything about Bach's treatment of women in previous relationships, as we've tried to put together a more thorough story. Until we can achieve that, we're not printing anything on that topic. But in the process of examining both candidates, we have assembled a different angle — based on facts and public records obtained by us, not dropped into our lap — about Bach's past business dealings.

We think that if Bach wants to run our city government, and bases much of his candidacy on his experience as a businessman, his business credentials should be scrutinized. What we've found, what Pam Zubeck reports here, should raise legitimate concerns. Yet, when we asked Bach's campaign Monday — and Bach in person Tuesday — for an interview to hear about our story and respond as he saw fit, there was never a follow-up.

It will be hard for Bach to dismiss our reporting as a bunch of lies or fabrications, since it's based largely on legal public documents (a restraining order, foreclosure papers, etc.).

Our motive remains simple. You, our readers, deserve the truth. The entire city deserves the truth. You're about to choose the most important leader for this city in modern times, with the power to make sweeping decisions about staff and policies. If Bach or Skorman has past troubles that would affect, or reflect poorly on, either's capability, everyone must know. But only when the story is solid. And valid. False online innuendo doesn't belong in print.

This isn't what the runoff campaign needed. The city deserved two candidates beyond reproach, talking about their specifics for moving the city forward, not dealing with character-related issues.

It's too bad our Bach story couldn't have come out sooner. At least it's available now, a week before the ballots hit the mail.

With its publication, perhaps we'll also become a target. But in truth, we're only the messenger, trying to give you the facts and information you need to make the right decision about our next mayor.

Because the ultimate choice, Skorman or Bach, is still yours.

routon@csindy.com

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