Gazette can print its own opinions, but not its own facts 

In the Sept. 29 Gazette, reporter Ed Sealover wrote a news article focusing on a statewide poll commissioned by the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce. Sealover's story, headlined "VOTERS LUKEWARM ON RITTER AGENDA," in all caps, mangled the results so badly that it's hard to know where to begin, especially since every distortion and innuendo supported his paper's anti-government agenda.

Three days later, the Gazette's lead editorial compounded the error by twisting the Denver Metro Chamber polling data even further in an unsigned Our View editorial titled "Reality check: Poll results should give Ritter & Co. pause."

Sealover's first egregious error was in reporting that with 39 percent of the 602 respondents in the survey calling their tax burden too high, Ritter was risking "voter tax revolt."

In fact, the actual poll results showed just 15 percent of those questioned thought that their current tax burden was "much too high." It is hardly a voter revolt when 85 of every 100 Coloradans questioned do not think they are being significantly overtaxed.

Bill Ray, of the Denver Metro Chamber, concurs.

"Our poll did not at all indicate a revolt against new taxes whether the increases would be for health care, transportation or education. What it did show was that Colorado voters are cautious about new taxes, and they want to understand the costs and the benefits before supporting any measure to increase revenue."

Says Texas pollster David Hill, whose firm conducted the survey: "Our polling does not indicate Colorado voters are in revolt about their current level of taxes. Anyone who stated such from our polling misread the data. If more than 40 percent of voters responded that taxes were significantly too high, that would bode ill for a tax increase. But only 15 percent of Colorado voters expressed such sentiment in our latest poll."

When asked why he wrote that Colorado citizens were near "voter tax revolt," Sealover responded that he just reported what the pollster, Hill, had told him. When informed that in a recent phone interview with the Independent, Hill had directly contradicted his reporting, Sealover stuck to his story, replying, "I could not explain his new answer to you."

The Denver Metro Chamber poll also noted that Gov. Ritter enjoys a 3-to-1 favorable-to-unfavorable rating.

"Any governor who has a 3-1 favorable-unfavorable rating," says Hill, "would be the envy of most of his peers."

Nevertheless, Sealover's article stressed Hill's comment that Ritter could be "vulnerable if he is seen as supporting an initiative with which most residents disagree."

Ritter ran on a platform promising government initiatives that would catalyze needed changes. If the governor did not seek to implement significant reforms in the health-care, education and energy arenas, he would be abrogating his campaign pledges. And when would the Gazette suggest a politician attempt to propose bold initiatives, if not when he has enormous public goodwill?

The Denver Metro Chamber polling also indicated that 91 percent of those questioned were concerned about "health-care affordability and access," with 72 percent of those responding that they were either "very" or "extremely" concerned about this issue. The poll showed that 20 percent of Colorado citizens reported that health care was their very top concern an eight-fold increase compared to the results from a November 2001 poll.

These numbers parallel other survey results. For example, a November 2006 Gallup poll reported that 71 percent of Coloradans are very concerned about the state's health-care system, with 16 percent reporting that the system is in a "state of crisis" and 55 percent believing it "has major problems."

Nevertheless, the Gazette's Oct. 2 unsigned editorial stated that the Chamber poll showed "these numbers can't be of comfort to those angling for a major overhaul of the [health-care] system in Colorado. ... Most voters remain wary of higher taxes. They don't seem to think the health care system is in crisis."

Despite being informed of the clear errors in its reporting of the poll results, the Gazette has not yet responded. Most notably, it has not issued a correction to Sealover's statement that Colorado citizens are near "a level that is close to voter tax revolt."

If the Gazette does not see the light, its management needs to feel some heat. We still continue to urge the Gazette to make a formal correction, in print, of Sealover's mistaken reporting and to note the correction in its electronic archives.

Of greater importance, readers especially Gazette subscribers should contact the paper's managers and urge them to fill the void left by recently departed editorial page editor Sean Paige with someone who will not simply cherry-pick and distort information in order to propagandize, Soviet-style, for a predetermined ideology.

For our democracy to thrive, citizens need quality information. Even with recent cutbacks, the Gazette has the Pikes Peak region's largest news-gathering organization. Our community deserves far better from its monopoly daily.


A milder version of this column was submitted to the Gazette, which declined to publish it. Share your thoughts with the Gazette at 632-5511 or at opinions@gazette.com.

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