Yesterday's news 

Here's an interesting approach to the news. Last week, we predicted that on Tuesday, Election Day, readers of the Gazette would pick up their newspapers and find staring back at them former national education secretary Rod Paige, in town to pump up the candidacies of the pro-voucher crowd.

Instead, on Tuesday, a brief editor's note appeared on the front page of the Metro section, announcing that the newspaper purposely was not running stories about any "election-related events that occurred Monday, including those involving Colorado Springs School District 11."

The rationale was that voters' attitudes might be impacted on Election Day, before opponents had adequate time to respond.

But the "Daddy knows best, and Daddy ain't giving you the news of the day, at least today" approach definitely was not appreciated by Suzanne Burkle, for one.

Burkle is the mother of a District 11 student and, for three short weeks -- until she cancelled her subscription on Tuesday -- a Gazette reader.

"This is ludicrous; I've never heard anything so ridiculous," she said. "I would assume that the local newspaper would report on local news."

And Monday indeed was a day filled with the kind of news most daily newspapers salivate over. Paige indeed came to town, and, escorted by his benefactor, developer Steve Schuck, made the rounds to the Gazette, to a fancy Economic Development Corporation luncheon, to a "town hall" meeting with lawmakers and favorite local school board members, and then to the Joseph Michelli radio talk show.

One event that didn't happen was a planned trip to Hunt Elementary School, where Schuck, Paige and 15 others planned to give the principal an award. D-11 spokeswoman Elaine Naleski said the visit was cancelled after it became increasingly clear that it was becoming political, and the district was notified that demonstrators planned to show up in opposition. The cancellation, she said, made Schuck "very angry," and he later complained about the disinvitation on the airwaves.

But, Naleski maintains, "everyone's best interest should be the safety and security of the students, and not having disruptions in their education."

The other big "election-related" story not reported by the Gazette was splashed on TV on Monday night and in the Rocky Mountain News on Tuesday. During a special D-11 board meeting called on Monday, elected officials voted 5-0 to investigate bombastic board member Eric Christen's criminal record.

Christen was not running for re-election this year, and the rumpus the Gazette declined to report actually began at last Wednesday's school board meeting -- six days before Election Day. From the podium, Colorado Springs activist Dave Therault spent three televised minutes talking about Christen's criminal background.

As the Independent first reported on Feb. 19, 2004, Christen was convicted in 1996 of criminal mischief in Oregon after pleading no contest in a road rage incident in which he pounded on another driver's car door and windows and kicked a dent in the door. He received a three-year deferred sentence, with bench probation, for the misdemeanor.

Therault also noted that in 2002, the year before Christen ran for the school board here, someone with the same name and birth date was convicted of third-degree theft. In that case, the man tried to return $8 worth of trash bags to a Safeway store in Portland, Ore., that had not been purchased at the store. He received a default judgment for failure to appear, and a court spokeswoman says that Christen still owes an unpaid fine of $856.

Last Wednesday, Therault spent several minutes posing a series of questions to Christen and the school board, and erroneously asserted that Christen had spent nine years on probation.

"Did Steve Schuck and your other financial backers know they were running a criminal for school board?" Therault asked.

Christen crisply delivered the following threat to Therault: "I hope you understand the meaning of slander, because you're going to pay deeply for it ...

"Understand the fable that you've labeled tonight is going to come back to haunt you for the rest of your life."

Was the timing of Therault's public statements, and the resulting special board meeting, politically motivated? Of course they were.

Did the suddenly discerning Gazette have five days before Election Day to thoroughly vet the story about Christen? Of course they did.

That's politics for you.

-- degette@csindy.com


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