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  • Most major Colorado newspapers fail to mention climate change in editorials about fracking-related ballot initiative

    Only one of 12 editorials mentioned climate change in relation to Proposition 112. In light of the recent U.N. climate report, that’s very worrying

    Blog ››› ››› TED MACDONALD


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Proposition 112 in Colorado would require new oil and gas wells to be farther away from occupied buildings, which would seriously limit fracking in the state. Media Matters analyzed 12 Colorado newspaper editorials expressing a position on Proposition 112, and only one of them mentioned climate change.

    Colorado's Proposition 112 would rein in oil and gas drilling and help fight climate change

    Proposition 112 would require that new oil and gas development projects, including fracking, be at least 2,500 feet away from occupied buildings and "vulnerable areas,” including schools, hospitals, parks, lakes, and rivers. The current minimum setback distance for wells is 500 feet. The initiative would not affect federal lands or Colorado's 55,000 currently active wells.

    Colorado Rising, the main advocacy group supporting this initiative, points to a growing body of research showing serious health and safety effects related to fracking, especially when residents live within a half-mile of wells. Protect Colorado, the chief opposition group, contends that the initiative would effectively ban new oil and gas development in the state, costing thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic benefits.

    Spending on this initiative is incredibly lopsided. Opponents have raised over $31 million, most of it from oil and gas companies including Anadarko, Noble Energy, and PDC Energy. The Koch brothers' network is pitching in too; the Colorado chapter of the Koch-backed group Americans for Prosperity recently formed an issue committee to fight Proposition 112. On the other side, supporters of the initiative have raised only about $1.6 million, with the biggest donor being the Food and Water Watch Action Fund.

    Much of the debate around Proposition 112 has involved the health impacts of fracking and the economic influence of the oil and gas industry, but climate change is another critical issue. A scientific study in 2015 found that half of the world's gas reserves and a third of oil reserves need to stay in the ground if we are to prevent the average global temperature from rising 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. More recently, a major report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that 2 degrees of warming is too much and humanity would suffer greatly if the average temperature rises more than 1.5 degrees, further underlining the need to keep fossil fuels in the ground.

    Only one of 12 Colorado newspaper editorials on Proposition 112 mentioned climate change, and only two endorsed the measure

    Media Matters analyzed 12 newspaper editorials that took a position on Proposition 112, including the largest newspapers by circulation in Colorado. Only one of them made note of climate change.

    On September 29, Boulder’s Daily Camera published an editorial that placed Proposition 112 into the broader context of the climate crisis:

    In the bigger picture, Proposition 112 comes before voters amid ubiquitous signs of a climate change emergency. The last four years saw the hottest January-June periods ever recorded on Earth. Scientists have tied climate change to a greater number of large wildfires in the West and bigger and stronger hurricanes, among other environmental disasters. This week it was reported that the climate change-denying Trump administration itself assumes global temperatures will rise an apocalyptic 7 degrees by 2100. Job losses are always lamentable, but the transition toward green energy sources is a practical and moral imperative, and Proposition 112 would play a role in achieving such progress.

    Only two of the 12 editorials endorsed Proposition 112 -- those in the Daily Camera and The Aspen Times. The overwhelming newspaper editorial opposition to Proposition 112 does not reflect recent public polling in the state, which found that 52 percent of Colorado voters supported Proposition 112.

    The 10 editorials that opposed Proposition 112 and failed to mention climate change were published in these papers:

    Some of these editorials parroted industry talking points. For example, both The Pueblo Chieftain and Steamboat Pilot & Today argued that if Proposition 112 passed, over 147,500 jobs could be lost by 2030, and the state could lose more than $1 billion in tax revenue. These numbers are trumpeted by the opposition campaign and come from a report by the Common Sense Policy Roundtable (CSPR), a right-leaning, free-market think tank whose founders are tied to the oil and gas industry. In 2015, CSPR was found to have been working on behalf of Koch-backed groups and the fracking industry, and selectively editing studies in ways that would help promote fracking in Colorado.

    Of the 10 editorials that recommended a "no" vote on Proposition 112, four of them completely neglected to mention the health effects of fracking, which has been the main issue driving the "yes" campaign -- those in the Colorado Springs Gazette, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, The Pueblo Chieftain, and The Durango Herald.

    Media Matters also reviewed the Canon City Daily Record, the Lakewood Sentinel, the Longmont Times-Call, the Loveland Reporter-Herald, the Telluride Daily Planet, and the Vail Daily, but the editorial boards at these papers do not appear to have taken a position on Proposition 112.

    Ballot measures in Colorado and other states are among the most important climate-related votes this year

    If Proposition 112 is approved, it could have major implications not just for the oil and gas industry in Colorado but around the country, as industry executives are “fearful that it could encourage similar measures across the nation,” The New York Times recently reported. Ballot measures in Arizona, Nevada, Washington, and other states could have serious repercussions for fossil fuel companies and greenhouse gas emissions as well.

    In light of the recent U.N climate report and worsening weather disasters around the U.S., it’s worrying that an overwhelming majority of Colorado newspapers ignored climate change as they weighed in on an energy-related ballot initiative. They appear to have decided that short-term economic gains and industry support are more important than the long-term health of both Coloradans and the planet.

  • Colorado Newspaper Misstates Background Check Law To Defend Gun Activist's Lie

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    More than six months after two Colorado state senators were recalled over their support for stronger gun safety legislation, Colorado newspaper The Pueblo Chieftain continues to push false information to defend supporters of the recall.

    Controversy in Colorado has erupted over the February 3 testimony of primary recall organizer Victor Head before the Colorado Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee. In calling for the repeal of a 2013 law that created a requirement for background checks on most gun sales, Head testified that he gathered recall petition signatures by telling people that the background check law would prohibit firearms loans between immediate family members for longer than 72 hours without a background check.

    In fact, Colorado's background check law allows "a bona fide gift or loan" without a background check "between immediate family members, which are limited to spouses, parents, children, siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, first cousins, aunts, and uncles" with no time limit. State Democratic Sen. Angela Giron -- one of the two senators targeted by Head for recall -- was responsible for authoring this family exemption.

    In a February 7 article (subscription required), the Chieftain attested to the accuracy of Head's testimony in an article that stated, "But Head, a Republican who is running for Pueblo County clerk, was right when he told petition signers the new gun law blocked family members from loaning guns to each other indefinitely without a background check."

    Again positing that Head was "right," the Chieftain article went on to inaccurately state: "It may seem like a technicality, but indefinite loans without a check -- like a brother to a brother -- are not allowed."

  • Colorado Newspaper Runs Pro-Gun Group's Anti-Semitic Ad

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    A Colorado newspaper has repeatedly run an anti-Semitic ad depicting New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is Jewish, as a puppet-master who controls a state senator the ad's sponsor is seeking to recall from office for supporting stronger gun laws.

    The September 8 and 9 editions of the Pueblo Chieftain featured the half-page advertisement. The group responsible for the ad, Pueblo Freedom and Rights, is credited with starting the campaign to recall the ad's target, State Sen. Angela Giron, over her support for legislation that expanded background checks on gun purchases and imposed a 15-round limit on firearm magazine size. Early voting is underway with the election concluding on September 10.

    The depiction of a Jewish leader as a puppet-master is widely acknowledged as anti-Semitic imagery because of its relation to conspiracy theories about Jewish control of the political process or global economy.

    The ad apparently is a play on the fact that a group backed by Bloomberg has contributed a substantial amount of money in opposition to the recall effort. The recall elections targeting Giron and Senate President John Morse (D-Colorado Springs) have drawn significant outside spending both for and against the recall, including more than $361,000 spent by the National Rifle Association in favor of the recall.

    The Chieftain's decision to allow the publication of Pueblo Freedom and Rights' ad follows a call by progressive groups for a local media outlet to disaffiliate from the Chieftain over its coverage of the recall election.

  • Colorado Newspaper Misrepresents Public's Opinion Of State's New Gun Safety Laws

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Colorado newspaper The Pueblo Chieftain failed to note Colorado voters' overwhelming support for the state's new gun background check law and instead provided a misleading generalization that "Colorado voters oppose the state's stricter new gun-control laws."

    In response to the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and the  movie theater mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed three gun violence prevention measures into law on March 20. The new laws expand background checks on gun sales, limit magazine capacity to 15 rounds, and impose a $10 fee on background checks. State Sens. Angela Giron (D-Pueblo) and John Morse (D-Colorado Springs) are facing a September 10 recall election over their support for the new measures.

    The Chieftain's claim about the popularity of Colorado's new gun laws in the lead story for August 23 was based on a new Quinnipiac University poll that paradoxically found that the majority of voters oppose "the stricter new gun control laws in Colorado" by a 54 to 40 percent margin, but approve -- to varying degrees -- of the specific pieces of gun violence prevention legislation. The August 22 poll found that voters support requiring a background check on every gun sale by an 82 to 16 percent margin and support the limit on magazine capacity by a 49 to 48 percent margin. Quinnipiac did not ask voters about their opinion on the background check fee.

    Unlike other major Colorado newspapers, the Chieftain reported on the general opposition to "the stricter new gun control laws" but failed to acknowledge support for the specific measures.

  • Colorado Newspaper Hyped Non-Existent Ethics Charge Against Recall-Targeted State Senator

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    The "ethics complaint" against Colorado State Sen. Angela Giron reported on by The Pueblo Chieftain and Colorado ABC affiliate KRDO was never accepted by the Colorado Secretary of State for review, as revealed in an open records request by a local government watchdog group.

    Reacting to media coverage of the complaint -- which alleged that Giron's listing of her state email address on her campaign website constituted a violation of ethics rules -- Colorado Ethics Watch director Luis Toro told Media Matters in an August 6 interview that the allegation was "extremely thin" before predicting that it would be "almost certainly dismissed as frivolous." Toro also questioned why the complaint did not appear on the Secretary of State website, noting that it is standard procedure for even a frivolous complaint to be posted and then referred for adjudication.

    Giron is facing recall over her support of legislation to expand background checks on gun sales and limit firearm magazine capacity to 15 rounds.

    According to emails obtained by CEW on August 15, an employee from the Secretary of State's Election Division responded to the ethics charge with instructions on how to file a campaign finance complaint. An internal email between Secretary of State employees indicated confusion over the complaint with one staffer emailing another, "Not sure if this is meant to be a campaign finance complaint under the $50 rule." This is likely because the complaintaint's allegation centered on Giron's conduct as a candidate meaning it would be properly characterized as a campaign finance violation rather than an ethics complaint.   

    [Colorado Ethics Watch, accessed 8/16/13, personal email address redacted]

  • Colorado Newspaper Baselessly Hypes Voter Fraud Fears Ahead Of Recall Elections

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Colorado newspaper The Pueblo Chieftain is misrepresenting Colorado's new voting law in order to stoke fears that a recall election targeting Democratic State Sen. Angela Giron will be marred by fraud. The paper's editorial board falsely claimed that the new law would allow individuals who live outside of Giron's district to vote in the election "but then later say they had a change of heart and have abandoned plans to move into that jurisdiction."

    Giron is facing recall over her support of legislation to expand background checks on gun sales and limit firearm magazine capacity to 15 rounds. Ballots in the election are to be mailed to voters beginning on August 19.

    Claiming that "the Democrats who control the Colorado Legislature have passed a new voting law, one which literally invites fraud," the Chieftain editorial board distorted Colorado law to manufacture a voter registration fraud scenario:

    Under the law passed this year, people need only to swear under penalty of perjury that they have lived in Colorado for at least 22 days and reside or plan to reside in the precinct or county where they wish to vote. Once they have done that, they are allowed to cast ballots.

    The problem is, if there were groups from outside a jurisdiction who want to affect an election in that jurisdiction, they could vote under the conditions outlined in the new law, but then later say they had a change of heart and have abandoned plans to move into that jurisdiction.

    The Chieftain's claim that voting is allowed by those who only profess an intention to move into the district is false. In fact, the new law allows an individual who has already moved into a district to vote immediately, so long as they attest to their intent to stay. Voting from outside of the district is not allowed. Furthermore, prior to the enactment of new voting laws Colorado already had a rarely used same day voter registration provision known as "emergency voting." As the Colorado Springs Independent explains:

  • Colorado Newspaper Acknowledges Flaws In Ethics Complaint It Previously Promoted

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    ChieftainAfter facing criticism for uncritically reporting on an ethics complaint against a Colorado state senator who is facing a recall election after supporting stronger gun laws that an expert called "frivolous," The Pueblo Chieftain is now pointing out the flaws in those allegations.

    Following Colorado's passage of legislation to expand background checks on gun sales and limit firearm magazine capacity to 15 rounds, State Senator Angela Giron, who supported that legislation, became subject to a recall election.  The recall is supported by the Chieftain, which has faced criticism following the revelations that three of the paper's executives signed petitions to recall Giron and that one executive allegedly threatened Giron with negative coverage if she were to support stronger gun laws.

    According to a story in the August 3 edition of the Chieftain, "An Avondale man sent an ethics complaint in an email to the Colorado Secretary of State's office Friday" alleging that Giron "is using her state-provided email address and phone number on her campaign website." The story also quoted Becky Mizel, chairwoman of the Pueblo County Republican Party, who falsely claimed that "Angela Giron has chosen to use state resources and taxpayer money for her own political gain," and added that she was "disgusted" by Giron's actions.

    In response to the Chieftain article, left-leaning political blog Colorado Pols noted that a number of Colorado state legislators -- both Republicans and Democrats -- feature state contact information on their campaign websites. In fact, a Media Matters review of Colorado's 100 General Assembly members' campaign websites found that 53 members listed a state phone number, e-mail address and/or mailing address.

    Media Matters also contacted Luis Toro, director of the ethics watchdog group Colorado Ethics Watch, who called the allegations against Giron "extremely thin" and predicted that the complaint would "almost certainly [be] dismissed as frivolous." 

    In an August 7 article following up on their original piece, the Chieftain pointed out these flaws in the complaint:

    State Sen. Angela Giron's use of her state email and telephone number on her campaign website drew fire from her recall foes last week, but it's a practice followed by other state lawmakers.

    [...]

    Giron's campaign shot out a press statement Wednesday saying 53 Colorado lawmakers do it, citing a review by Media Matters, a Washington, D.C., group that scrutinizes press coverage of Democrats.

    A quick check showed that Grantham and Baumgardner do.

    "This is a thinly devised partisan attack -- both Republicans and Democrats use their state contact information on their websites," said Jennie Peek-Dunstone, manager of the Pueblo United for Angela Giron committee. "This is perfectly legal and gives constituents information on how to contact Angela."

    She also said Giron deserved an apology from Pueblo County Republican Chairwoman Becky Mizel, who had called Giron's use of her state contact numbers "disgusting."

    [...]

    Wednesday, a spokesman for the state office said it would only investigate the Giron complaint if there were allegations of campaign finance violations.

    The question of Giron or other lawmakers listing their state office contact information on their websites was not a question for that office, he said.

  • Colorado Newspaper Props Up "Extremely Thin" Ethics Charge Against Democratic State Senator

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Colorado newspaper The Pueblo Chieftain is credulously reporting on an alleged "ethics complaint" by Democratic State Sen. Angela Giron, which, according to a Colorado ethics watchdog group, will be "almost certainly dismissed as frivolous."

    The Chieftain's reporting on the complaint -- that Giron posted her state email address and phone number on her campaign website -- is latest piece of questionable Chieftain coverage of the recall campaign targeting Giron over her support for stronger gun violence prevention laws.

    Following the Colorado General Assembly's passage of legislation to expand background checks on gun sales and limit firearm magazine capacity to 15 rounds, Giron and three other Senate Democrats who supported the gun violence prevention measures were subject to recall petition drives. On July 18, a Denver judge certified recall petitions against Giron and Senate President John Morse, setting the stage for a September 10 recall election.

    According the top local news story in the August 3 edition of the Chieftain, "An Avondale man sent an ethics complaint in an email to the Colorado Secretary of State's office Friday" alleging that Giron "is using her state-provided email address and phone number on her campaign website." The complainant reportedly does not live in Giron's district, but contacted the Secretary of State because "he is not a fan of her politics, especially her votes on the state's gun control laws." The story also quoted Becky Mizel, chairwoman of the Pueblo County Republican Party, who falsely claimed that "Angela Giron has chosen to use state resources and taxpayer money for her own political gain," and added that she was "disgusted" by Giron's actions.

    In response to the Chieftain article, left-leaning political blog Colorado Pols noted that a number of Colorado state legislators -- both Republicans and Democrats -- feature state contact information on their campaign websites. In fact, a Media Matters review of Colorado's 100 General Assembly members' campaign websites found that 53 members listed a state phone number, e-mail address and/or mailing address.

    Furthermore, the allegation against Giron is likely baseless and was not accurately reported by the Chieftain.

  • Colorado Newspaper Dismisses Charges Of "Unethical Conflict Of Interest"

    Pueblo Chieftain Leaves Out Key Information From "Threaten[ing]" Email To Support Newsroom Executive

    Blog ››› ››› SALVATORE COLLELUORI

    A Colorado paper defended its conduct in a state legislative recall campaign by dismissing critics' conflict of interest charges while failing to provide adequate context of an email a newsroom executive sent to a senator involved in the recall.

    Earlier this year, the Colorado legislature passed a series of bills aimed at strengthening gun laws, including requiring background checks for private transactions and limiting the rounds of ammunition in magazines. Soon after the bills passed, local gun-rights supporters began a recall drive on four Democratic senators who supported the new laws. Two of the petition drives failed; however, Sen. Angela Giron (D) and State Senate President John Morse (D) will face a recall election slated for September 10.

    On March 3, while the gun bills were still being debated in the legislature, Ray Stafford, general manager of the Pueblo Chieftain sent an email from his Chieftain account to Giron declaring his opposition to a package of bills seeking to strengthen the state's gun laws. In the email, in which he claimed the bills represented "a challenge to our Second Amendment," Stafford disclosed his position at the newspaper and said he was "responsible for the entire newspaper, including the newsroom." Critics charged that this email was a threat to the senator due to the Stafford's top position at the paper.

    In response to Stafford's actions, the paper's assistant publisher and vice president, Jane Rawlings, wrote that Stafford used his affiliation in the email "as a way of identification, as he still is fairly new to the area." Although Rawlings said that after "a careful review of The Chieftain's coverage" she found the paper provided balanced coverage, Morse said Stafford essentially "threatened" Giron with critical coverage and that Giron "was in the paper and on the front page for a week straight, including within pictures that weren't very flattering, almost deliberately." Morse's account has been corroborated by local television station, KDVR-TV.

  • Did A Top Colorado Newspaper Executive Threaten A State Legislator Over Stronger Gun Laws?

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    A top executive at a Colorado newspaper has sparked controversy after he sent an email to a state senator opposing legislative efforts to strengthen gun laws that the legislator took as a threat of retaliation by the paper.

    Ray Stafford, general manager of the Pueblo Chieftain, sent a March 3 email to State Sen. Angela Giron (D) in which he highlighted his position with the paper and said he opposed legislation to strengthen the state's gun laws. Giron had been undecided on the legislative package under discussion, but ultimately voted for the five bills which passed the state Senate on March 11.

    The email from Stafford, sent on his official Chieftain email account, stated: "I am the General Manager and responsible for the entire newspaper, including the newsroom ... I have never written a legislator, but I want you to know I oppose all the bills currently being considered involving guns, ammunition, magazines and ownership transfers because I think they're poorly written and a knee-jerk reaction to recent deaths. I also believe such legislation is a challenge to our Second Amendment."

    Stafford denies that his email was intended to intimidate Giron. But Jane Rawlings, assistant publisher of the Chieftain, criticized Stafford for failing to clearly indicate his complaints were his own opinion in the email in which he emphasized his role at the paper.

    "A person who works for us should identify this as their personal opinion and he did not state those words in his email, 'this is my personal opinion' and he probably should have," Rawlings told Media Matters.

    Giron told KRDO-TV in Colorado Springs, "You don't use work e-mails to send personal stuff out and you certainly don't send and he's literally typed in his name, general manager of The Chieftain and a gun owner. I didn't even know his name so if he didn't send it from The Chieftain, if he didn't say he was the general manager, if he didn't say he was in charge of the newsroom, it probably wouldn't have even been noted."

    Stafford's email also did not sit well with Colorado Senate President John Morse, who raised concerns during an appearance on Friday with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, stating, "He threatened her with how he's going to cover her and then followed through, really, she was on the paper and the front page for practically a week straight."

    The dispute comes during a highly charged gun debate in Colorado and elsewhere across the country, during which state legislators who support stronger firearms laws have been subjected to intimidation and threats.