Denver Post

Denver Post strengthens sponsored content designation on energy section

Center for Western Priorities | ThinkProgress | Wonkette

Following articles that said a Denver Post-sponsored energy section wasn’t marked clearly enough, Post President and CEO Mac Tully told Poynter in an email the paper decided to “strengthen the sponsored content designation and included a definition of custom content.” Tully said he hadn’t “seen one complaint that misunderstood the content to be Denver Post generated.”

The change comes after reports in several publications about the “Energy and Environment” section, which is sponsored content from Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development, a group formed by Anadarko Petroleum Corp. and Noble Energy “to provide scientifically sound information about fracking.”

The section looks too much like regular Denver Post content, Erin Moriarty writes for the Center for Western Priorities: “Advertising is, of course, crucial to newspapers’ existence, but there is a line that has been crossed.”

A “former Denver Post staffer who asked not to be named” told ThinkProgress’ Katie Valentine, “If I weren’t a journalist, I’m not sure I could tell the difference here.”

(As long as we’re discussing the Post’s decisions, why on earth did ThinkProgress let a former employee zing his former employer under cover of anonymity? “​​The source was concerned about the impact of commenting publicly on his current employment,” TP Editor-in-Chief Judd Legum told Poynter in an email. “We wanted to try to get various perspectives in the piece and thought it was valuable to include.” Here’s more of me spouting off about anonymity.)

Tully said the paper’s “goal is to be just as clear online as we have been in the print editions by clearly designating the custom content as advertiser sponsored. We feel that’s the key to maintaining the separation of news and paid content.”

In a funny post about the section, Wonkette’s Doktor Zoom made a discovery about the section: “If you have Adblock Plus turned on, everything but ‘The Denver Post: Energy and Environment’ is blocked out.” Read more

This July 20, 2012 file photo shows police outside of a Century 16 movie theatre in Aurora, Colo. after a shooting during the showing of a movie. Police and fire officials failed to tell each other when and where rescuers were needed following the Aurora theater shootings, according to reports obtained by the Denver Post. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski, File)

Learning from prize-winning journalism: how to cover a breaking news story

In Poynter’s e-book, “Secrets of Prize-Winning Journalism,” we highlight and examine 10 award-winning works from 2013 through interviews with their creators.

These works are inspiring. They’re also instructive. Starting with the “secrets” shared with us by their creators, we’ve extracted some great lessons about how to learn to do better journalism, and paired them with questions to ask in your own newsroom.

In this first installment, we explore lessons learned from The Denver Post’s coverage of the Aurora theater shootings, which earned the newsroom recognition for its work, winning the ASNE distinguished writing award for deadline news reporting, the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News and The Scripps Howard Award for Breaking News. The Post also received positive feedback from the community, which pleased Post’s News Director Kevin Dale even more.

In “Secrets of Prize-Winning Journalism,” Dale examines the factors that contributed to the Post’s multiplatform coverage of a news story that broke shortly after 1 a.m., when only one person — the night digital producer — was left in the newsroom.

In Dale’s interview with Poynter affiliate faculty member Chip Scanlan, he shared some helpful lessons for covering breaking news:

Aim for accuracy

In breaking news stories, information develops rapidly, and credible sources are even more critical to understanding the true story. The Post didn’t publish a tweet or post until someone in the newsroom confirmed it.

“We knew we would be the source that people in Denver and around the world would turn to for accurate information,” Dale said. The lesson: keep your standards high even in a news frenzy when you see other organizations reporting information that hasn’t been verified.

Ask: what standards do you have for vetting information? How do you ensure the information you distribute is credible?

Use social media to listen and report

The Post dedicated a team to monitoring social media in the wake of the shooting. But it also used social media in three ways: to get information to the public, build stories and find sources. The newsroom posted entries to social media and compiled reporter and photographer tweets of verified facts. Reporters used Twitter and Facebook to find people who were in the theater. That let the Post obtain material, including raw phone video taken by people running from the theater after the shooting.

Ask: how could you more effectively use social media to listen for news and story ideas? How could you find (and vet) sources online (e.g. Facebook’s Open Graph search tool)?

Seek to understand developing narrative, craft strategy to deliver it

The Post’s coverage reflected a remarkable marriage of old and new media.

When the news broke, Dale knew it would be more than 24 hours before anything would be printed in the paper. But he immediately sent reporters and photographers to the scene, organized planning sessions and prioritized story assignments to publish digitally.

Most breaking news situations have several moving parts. Faced with this, the Post decided to prioritize creating a profile of alleged shooter James Holmes. Several reporters collaborated to create a complex and thorough story that took advantage of the strengths of both new and old media. They posted verified facts as online snippets throughout the day, then crafted a long-form narrative for print that put those details into better context.

Ask: what’s the most important content from a breaking news situation? How can you put your best resources to the most effective use? How do you decide on the best publishing vehicle?

Have a process, practice it often before breaking news happens

Faced with the question of whether or not to name the shooter, Dale and his team used previous experiences and discussions to guide their decision-making process. That process, coupled with social media and digital training, has helped the newsroom refine a “full-court strategy” that it put into motion for many major stories throughout the year.

“Plans can be written and put in a drawer and forgotten,” Dale warned. “I’m a fan of practicing solid breaking news, multiplatform journalism every single day. If that is the daily mission, the staff can respond to any story.”

Ask: what processes do you have in place for ethical decision-making on deadline and assembling resources to cover breaking news stories on multiple platforms?

Related: A victim’s mother asks journalists not to name suspect | Denver Post covers yet another shooting, ‘and the whole newsroom gets it’ | The story behind a compelling investigation into how Aurora shooter got his ammo

Resources and Training: Resources for Covering Gun Violence | Telling Smarter Stories about Gun Issues | Ethics and Credibility of Breaking News Online Read more

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Reporter at Arapahoe: ‘I have to hug every student I interview, I can’t help it’

Among the members of the media reporting via Twitter from the scene of Friday’s shooting at Arapahoe High School in Colorado, Denver Post reporter Ryan Parker’s tweets stood out. He posted photos, news and on occasion wrote about what it’s like to cover an event like this.


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In a Q&A, a Guardian reader asked new Denver Post marijuana editor Ricardo Baca whether writing about pot for a mainstream paper meant “generalising this to cooking, gardening, for example.” Baca replied:

James, we already have been reporting on pot as an ingredient in the kitchen (, pot in your backyard garden ( and Want a killer recipe for a cannabis-zucchini bread? Check that first link, which ran in print in The Denver Post a few months ago. Post readers will see much more of this (as well as stories addressing the culture of cannabis in our daily lives) in the coming year in addition to the news coverage that we’ve focused so much on.

Marijuana leaves (Depositphotos)

Denver Post marijuana editor named

Denver Post

Denver Post has announced the appointment of entertainment editor and music critic Ricardo Baca as its first marijuana editor as Colorado braces for the legalization of recreational marijuana in the new year.

News Director Kevin Dale provided details in a memo to the newsroom on Tuesday:

I’m happy to announce that Ricardo Baca has been appointed the editor of the marijuana website we are building. In this new role, Ricardo will be responsible for building the community and engagement around the site much like he did with Reverb in its early days. Ricardo will be working with editors and reporters in every department to ensure the site is lively, authoritative, in-depth, educational and packed with content spanning regulations to reviews.

Marijuana legalization will be the newspaper’s biggest story in the coming year, Dale said. Read more


Denver Post, San Antonio Express-News among Scripps Howard award winners

Scripps Howard Foundation
Spencer S. Hsu won the Ursula and Gilbert Farfel Prize for investigative reporting in this year’s Scripps Howard Awards, announced Thursday. Hsu’s articles on forensic science “exposed the Department of Justice’s use of flawed data in more than 20,000 criminal convictions,” the awards text reads.

Other winners include Patricia Callahan, Sam Roe and Michael Hawthorne of the Chicago Tribune for their series on flame retardant furniture, Lisa Krantz of the San Antonio Express-News for her photojournalism, and the Denver Post for its breaking-news coverage of the July 2012 Aurora, Colo., theater shootings. The New York Times won in the digital innovation category for “Snow Fall.” The Post’s Aurora coverage and “Snow Fall” also both won ASNE awards.

Previously: SABEW, Selden Ring, SND winners announced as awards season heats up | Austin Tice, David Corn win Polk Awards Read more


How the media scene has changed in Colorado since the Rocky Mountain News folded

The media landscape in Colorado has changed dramatically in the past five years.

In 2008, Colorado’s main content providers were the same traditional print and broadcast news organizations that had been providing the state with news for decades.

That all began to change when the Rocky Mountain News folded in February 2009 after publisher E.W. Scripps Co. failed to find a buyer for the paper. The Denver-based Rocky was Colorado’s oldest paper and had won four Pulitzer prizes in the decade before it folded.

Some Rocky Mountain News journalists who lost their jobs joined The Denver Post. Some left the field altogether. Others looked for ways to preserve what was lost — particularly investigative and enterprise reporting. They created sites such as The Rocky Mountain Independent, Inside the Rockies and In Denver Times, all of which struggled to find their footing. But there were some sites that did well and that have continued to grow in recent years, effectively changing the way that news is distributed and consumed throughout the state.

Startups helping traditional news outlets

Ann Imse, a former investigative reporter at the Rocky Mountain News, created Colorado Public News with Colorado Public TV in 2009. Around the same time, Laura Frank — also a former Rocky Mountain News investigative reporter — created the Rocky Mountain Investigative News Network, or I-News. Through partnerships, they’ve been able to expand their reach and provide traditional news outlets with content that deepens and diversifies their coverage.

Colorado Public News started out as a small investigative news site; now it distributes content to 44 news organizations throughout the state. The site publishes mostly in-depth pieces, many of which focus on health-related issues.

“We’re concentrating on the stories you can’t find anywhere else. We’re not doing very much breaking news, because we believe that is being covered by the traditional media. They want stories they can’t get to; the kind of thing you have to dig up,” Imse said by phone. “We’re also concentrating on providing stories the way they need them — state-wide interest stories, stories that can be localized, stories that can fit their broadcast times, or the size of their newspaper.”

The stories don’t completely fill the void that’s been left by the Rocky’s closure, and downsizing at other Colorado papers. But they help.

“I think it’s very clear that the public misses this kind of coverage and is very aware that what they’re seeing is very limited compared to what they used to get,” Imse said. “I think there are a lot of journalists who are aware that they would like to be getting more, but the question is how to pay for it.”

Colorado Public News, which has six staffers, offers its content for free and supports itself through foundations and grants. The site has asked the news outlets it works with for financial support, but to no avail. “We have asked and they say they don’t have any money,” Imse said.

 Smoke rises in the distance framing trees burned by a wildfire near Conifer, Colo., on Wednesday, March 28, 2012. (Ed Andrieski/AP)

Former Rocky Mountain News Editor and Publisher John Temple, who’s now a managing editor at The Washington Post, said via email that the Rocky had its own state wire service whereby it provided other Colorado news organizations with content.

The Durango Herald, which was part of that news service, now relies on Colorado Public News’ stories instead.

Amy Maestas, news editor of The Durango Herald, says the paper publishes just about every story Colorado Public News writes and shares. The stories offer coverage that the Herald wouldn’t otherwise be able to produce as a small local paper with limited resources.

“We are closer to Albuquerque than we are to Denver – our state capitol and our source for statewide news. On one hand, that makes us unique as a population and it underscores the value of a locally owned and operated newspaper. On the other hand, the distance often feels as if we are an entity unto ourselves,” Maestas told me.

“With the disappearance of the Rocky Mountain News and with the drastic changes at the Denver Post, news consumers in Southwest Colorado often feel detached from what is going on in the rest of the state – save for the Broncos.”

Compounding the issue, she said, is the fact that Durango doesn’t have a local news radio or TV station. Depending on which satellite TV provider residents use, they may get news stations in New Mexico and none from Colorado.

“The Herald has a one-person Denver bureau, but our reporter there focuses mostly on the Legislature. Given his workload, we don’t have the staff resources in Denver to chase down stories of the kind CPN does,” Maestas said.

“As the economy has affected our area, our news budget has shrunk and we don’t have the funds to have reporters travel too far in the state to write stories beyond our region. These belt-tightening measures have generally kept our reporters to coverage in La Plata County. CPN has helped fill those gaps with some of their coverage.”

The paper also relies on stories from the Associated Press, which has 15 reporters, editors and photographers in the state — six fewer staffers than it had in 2008.

“The AP is still one of the key pieces in Colorado’s media ecosystem. We’re one of the few organizations left that covers the legislature full-time, and we have the widest distribution across formats,” Jim Clarke, AP chief of bureau of Colorado, Montana, Utah and Wyoming, said via email. “We’re covering and filing breaking news at all hours, either off the desk in Denver or, overnight, from Phoenix.” Two of the 21 AP staffers who used to work in Colorado have since moved to Phoenix.

When the Aurora theater shooting happened just past midnight, Clarke said, “Phoenix started the filing, but by 4 a.m. [local time] Denver was staffed, AP reporters and photographers were at the scene and help was headed in from Cheyenne and Helena.”

Creating a multi-platform news organization to expand, diversify coverage

Similar to Colorado Public News, I-News has been distributing content to news outlets around the state. For years, I-News partnered with Rocky Mountain PBS on stories and projects.

It also collaborated with daily newspapers and public radio outlets, as well as Colorado Public Radio, PBS Channel 6 and NBC Denver affiliate Channel 9. Its “Losing Ground” project, a decades-long look at the social progress of Hispanics and blacks in Colorado, ran on front pages around the state.

Recently, I-News announced that it’s merging with Rocky Mountain PBS and radio station KUVO to create a multi-platform news operation. (Justin Ellis’ good Nieman Lab piece about the partnership inspired me to write this story.)

The new operation could potentially help all three media outlets reach a more ethnically and geographically diverse audience.

The setting sun reflects off of the Denver skyline in this photo taken Oct. 27, 2006. (David Zalubowski/AP)

“Rocky Mountain PBS is a unique partner, with broadcast outlets not only in Denver, but also Grand Junction, Pueblo and Colorado Springs, and Durango,” James Trotter, I-News’ managing editor, said via email. NPR affiliate KUVO, meanwhile, “has a rich and prominent voice in reaching out to a racially and ethnically diverse audience.” I-News brings longtime journalism and investigative reporting to the mix.

The partnership is different from many others because it involves a nonprofit newsroom joining forces with public media.

“Nonprofit investigative newsrooms have sprouted like wildflowers around the country in recent years,” said Trotter, who worked for the Associated Press in between his time at the Rocky and I-News. “It strikes me that sustainability is a key issue for many of these outlets, just as it is with many newspapers.”

Doug Price, president and CEO of Rocky Mountain PBS, explained that the partnership makes sense financially. It’ll “decrease core operating costs in order to increase content yields,” he said by email.

“The idea of ubiquitous content delivered by multiple partners through broadcast, print and intentional engagement promises to deliver important and impactful investigative and public affairs packages at far lower price points per media impression. It’s an audacious plan with plenty of risk but great potential for reward.”

Dealing with cutbacks, benefiting from partnerships

In the first six months after the Rocky Mountain News closed, The Denver Post retained 86 percent of the paper’s home-delivery customers. The Post is one of the largest U.S. papers, with a circulation of about 412,700 (including digital and branded editions).

The Post has let go of several staffers in recent years, including columnists Mike Littwin and Penny Parker, who the paper had hired from the Rocky. Last year, the paper announced that it had eliminated its copy desk.

Despite the cutbacks, investigative journalism continues to be a focus. Denver Post Editor Greg Moore told me the paper has six people on its investigative team — more than it had when the Rocky folded.

“I would say that we have tried to get deeper and be more responsive than ever. With the Rocky gone we assumed we would get more tips and that it was important to be aggressive and to turn those around as soon as possible. We are doing more enterprise than ever. We are not trying to do everything but the things we focus on we are trying to do better than ever such as education and government,” Moore said. “We really value investigative, in-depth journalism and were doing it long before the Rocky disappeared.”

To strengthen its coverage, the Post has been using content from I-News, Colorado Public News and ProPublica.

“If it is a good story and available to us, we try to give it to our readers,” Moore said.

The Denver Post has also published stories produced by the CU News Corps — a class that’s part of the University of Colorado Boulder’s Journalism and Mass Communication Program.

Students in the class — which originated last summer as an effort to teach students how to produce quality breaking news pieces — produce stories and then share them with media outlets throughout the state. So far, students in the class have produced stories about the Colorado wildfires, the Aurora theater shooting, campaign spending and more. Several news organizations — including The Denver Post, the Boulder Daily Camera, Fox 31 News and 9News — have picked up their stories.

Steve Outing,  founder and program director of UC’s Digital News Test Kitchen, said the goal of the CU News Corps is to provide news organizations with “alternative supplemental coverage,” including written stories, photography, video and data analysis. This semester, the CU News Corps has licensed the Homicide Watch platform to collect data and report on homicides in Colorado.

“The students,” Outing said by phone, “can do the kind of stuff that local media aren’t able to do because they don’t have the resources.”

The university, traditional media and startup sites are all realizing that partnerships are key to surviving and thriving. Together, they’re helping to shape the complex story of modern-day journalism in Colorado. Read more

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Denver Post’s new iPad app ‘advances how news apps should look’

Garcia Media | Digital First Media
Design expert Mario Garcia has high praise for the new iPad app launched by Digital First Media’s Denver Post. “It advances how news apps should look like, it does not pretend to look like a newspaper … Bravo. … a news app appearing today does not need to remind us of the iconic newspaper look,” Garcia writes.
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Denver Post writer ‘weirded out’ by alt-weekly adding whip sound to black mayor’s message

Westword editors thought Denver Mayor Michael Hancock’s new Denver International Airport underground train greeting “begs for the sound of a cracking whip” because the African-American city leader’s “Welcome to the MILE HIIIGH CITY!” has the twang of a rodeo announcer. Joel Warner wrote:

Cowboy-speak? Really? Sorry, but most folks don’t want to imagine themselves on a dude ranch when they’re packed like sardines in an underground train after a four-hour red eye from Newark.

The Denver Post’s Lynn Bartels, who was in Albuquerque in 1992 covering March Madness when Bobby Knight cracked a bullwhip across the butt of one of his black players, says she was “weirded out” by the whip sound, but media critic Michael Roberts points out:

Post readers haven’t flooded its website with angry invective. As of now, there’s just one comment on the item, which doesn’t really take a stand one way or the other. And on Westword’s original post, published yesterday, only two of six comments were critical — and neither mentioned race.

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Denver Post kills ‘Doonesbury’ in print edition, readers yawn

Westword | Denver Business Journal
Editor Greg Moore says he’s heard “zip” about “Doonesbury” and the other strips that were cut, including the weekday ‘Peanuts,’ ‘Non Sequitur, Overboard,’ ‘Rhymes with Orange’ and others. (Managing editor/administration Jeanette Chavez got one complaint about the missing “Doonesbury.”) “There’s no mystery why the strips are bidding farewell, print-wise,” writes Michael Roberts. “Last week, [editor Moore] confirmed a 4 percent budget cut and shrinkage to the feature section, where the comics appear, as well as the sports section.”

Denver Business Journal new media editor Mark Harden reacts to the news:

I’m sure the Post is armed with a sheaf of readership data that told its editors that, for example, Beetle Bailey – about a guy who’s been a private for 60 years in an Army that never seems to get deployed anywhere — was worth saving. But still, I was stunned Sunday when I went looking for Doonesbury in my Sunday Post and couldn’t find it – Doonesbury, arguably the most influential, most talked-about strip of the last generation.

“I don’t think ‘Doonesbury’ will be a legacy strip,” says Trudeau (Nov. 2010) Read more


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