Inside the News: Twitter’s War With NPR Trickles Down to Colorado

  • Corey Hutchins is a journalism instructor at Colorado College and a contributor to Columbia Journalism Review, The Washington Post, and other news outlets. This column is produced with support from the Colorado Media Project, and is distributed statewide via the Colorado News Collaborative.

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This week, the social media platform Twitter added a label to NPR’s account that called the national broadcaster “state-affiliated media” and “government-funded media.”

In response to what NPR has said was inaccurate and misleading designations, the broadcaster stopped posting content to Twitter, which is owned and controlled by billionaire Elon Musk. The move has impacted public radio stations in Colorado.

“We’re taking a little break,” says Dave Burdick, the digital managing editor at Colorado Public Radio, about posting on Twitter from his station’s institutional account. He added, however, that if CPR felt there was an urgent need to get information out regarding public safety, for instance, they might use Twitter to do so.

Colorado Public Radio is separate from National Public Radio but NPR is its primary news partner; plenty of programming listeners hear on CPR comes from NPR.

But “we make our own decisions,” Burdick says. That means CPR might not follow NPR’s lead if and when NPR decides to start tweeting again. Colorado Public Radio might do so earlier or later at its own discretion. (CPR also runs the hyperlocal digital site Denverite. KRCC, which is operated by CPR, also paused its Twitter use.) Individual journalists are free to tweet if they want, Burdick said.

“I’m sticking around for now, but understand those who’ve made a different choice,” Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner, perhaps one of CPR’s most high-profile journalists, tweeted on Wednesday.

Tammy Terwelp, president and CEO of KUNC in northern Colorado, told listeners this week that the station and its music service are also on a Twitter hiatus.

“The U.S. government does not directly fund NPR,” Terwelp wrote. “However, NPR does receive some funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), a nonprofit corporation created by Congress in 1967 to promote public broadcasting.”

Colorado Public Radio also receives funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which makes up less than 5% of its revenue, CPR’s president and CEO Stewart Vanderwilt wrote to listeners in an email Friday, adding, “95% of our revenue comes from our community of supporters — that’s you.”

He said CPR was “standing with NPR” by suspending its use of Twitter.

Tami Graham, executive director of KSUT in southwest Colorado, which includes tribal radio, told the station’s audience they are “deeply concerned about the potential of Twitter’s inaccurate labels to cast doubt” on their editorial integrity.” While KSUT’s Twitter account has not been labeled, “KSUT has decided to suspend Twitter activity for the foreseeable future,” Graham said.

Rocky Mountain Community Radio, a coalition of non-commercial radio stations in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming — many of which are NPR affiliates — doesn’t have a Twitter presence as a network and some stations don’t use the platform, says the coalition’s managing editor Maeve Conran.

“Some stations that do use twitter are pausing their twitter feeds,” Conran said, adding, “the organization is having conversations about how to respond to this collectively as we stand firmly on the side of independent journalism and stand in solidarity with our colleagues in public media.”

The reverberations also rumbled through public television in Colorado.

Rocky Mountain Public Media “is no longer active on Twitter, as an NPR member station,” Kyle Cooke, the station’s digital media manager, said on Twitter Wednesday.

For my part, I’m still active on Twitter. I use it a lot for work. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t been a headache. Last week, Twitter throttled links to Substack, where this newsletter you are reading appears online, making it harder for people to find and engage with it on Twitter.

Effort in Manitou Springs seeks to ‘re-create’ town’s former newspaper as a nonprofit

A group has banded together in the mountain town of about 5,000 outside Colorado Springs to bring back a weekly local newspaper after it folded in the aftermath of the transition-and-struggle of Sixty35 Media, née The Indy.

That paper was called The Pikes Peak Bulletin and had been around in some capacity since the late 1800s.

Since January of this year, residents in Manitou Springs have been missing their paper, said its former journalists and community members who met this week with a class I’m teaching at Colorado College called “The Future and Sustainability of Local News.”

“You felt like you were a part of something when you were reading the Bulletin,” Chris Briggs-Hale, a former principal of a local elementary school there, told students.

But, the group is not merely out to save their local paper, said Lyn Harwell, a local entrepreneur and community organizer who his helping lead the effort. “We’re going to hit a reset button. … we’re going to be a nonprofit newspaper … the fire is hot. People are missing their newspaper.”

In the absence of a local print newspaper, residents have turned to word of mouth and Facebook groups for local news and information, said Rhonda Van Pelt, who edited the Bulletin and was laid off in mid-March. “We’re hearing stories that are alarming,” said Bryan Oller, the paper’s former photojournalist. “I think it’s very important to have a local newspaper that holds people accountable,” said Annie Schmitt, a former Springs TV journalist who serves on the board of the Manitou Art Center.

Harwell said the group this week expects it will acquire the rights to the paper’s brand from Sixty35 Media and hopes to have more details on what emerges from it soon.

Why Colorado Democratic Party staffers joined the Denver Newspaper Guild

Here was the lede of a story this week that appeared in Colorado Politics along with its sister papers The Gazettes in Denver and Colorado Springs:

Staffers at the Colorado Democratic Party officially joined the Denver Newspaper Guild and the unionized workforce reached a collective bargaining agreement with the party, Democrats announced on Friday.

Plenty of those on the political right often respond to unflattering reporting by saying something along the lines of: Democrats and their allies in the media. I figured such a lede in a news story about this particular choice of a union by the Dems might open the door to: “see!

The news items didn’t get into the details of how this came about, but Anthony Mulligan, administrative officer for The Denver Newspaper Guild, says the labor union represents workers at a lot of organizations.

“We have more non-newspaper unions than newspaper unions,” he said over the phone this week. They include local staffs of the Service Employees International Union, Colorado WINS (which includes state employees), legislative staff at the Capitol, an immigrants rights coalition, and others. “We have multiple units that are non-newspaper,” he said.

The only newspaper employees in Colorado represented by the Denver Newspaper Guild are at The Denver Post (about 100), The Pueblo Chieftain (about 20), and The Loveland Reporter-Herald (a handful). The union also represents newspaper employees in other nearby states.

Mulligan made a distinction that it’s the staff of the state Democratic Party being represented by the newspaper union — not the political party itself. “I think they look to us because we do represent a lot of nonprofit workers, people who do similar work on organizing and advocacy,” he said. “So they fit in.”

The Denver Newspaper Guild — also known as CWA Local 37074 — falls under the larger national Communications Workers of America labor union. Mulligan said The Denver Newspaper Guild would welcome staff of any political party to approach them for representation should they need it.

“Each unit is an individual unit,” he said of how unions operate within The Denver Newspaper Guild, adding, “each part of it is a separate union.”

Billionaire Colorado newspaper owner ‘likely settled’ consequential state tax lawsuit

Phil Anschutz and his wife Nancy, who were suing Colorado as they sought an $8 million tax refund, have “likely settled” it with the state, Jesse Paul reported for The Colorado Sun.

From the story:

Lawyers for the couple didn’t respond to multiple Colorado Sun requests for comment this week or last. The Department of Revenue declined to say whether there was a settlement reached or if there was another reason the case was dismissed. 

“The court found in the taxpayer’s favor and that resolves the case for us,” said Daniel Carr, a Department of Revenue spokesman. 

Several lawyers who reviewed the case at The Colorado Sun’s request said the quick dismissal indicated there was likely an agreement made between the Anschutzes and the state.

Paul reported that nonpartisan legislative staff who determine economic forecasts “warned lawmakers that the case could have broad financial consequences,” saying “the tax revenue hit may be even larger, and poses a ‘significant downside risk to the income tax revenue outlook.’”

The couple “are among the nation’s wealthiest people. Their net worth is estimated to be nearly $11 billion,” Paul reported, adding, “The pair’s Colorado assets include The Broadmoor hotel and resort in Colorado Springs, as well as several media outlets, including The Gazette, based in Colorado Springs, The Denver Gazette and Colorado Politics.”

Colorado Politics reported on the dismissal and cross-posted it at The Gazette in Colorado Springs. Boulder Weekly published a column by Dave Anderson about Anschutz and his activities this week.

When a state agency refused an interview request, CPR wouldn’t take answers in writing

This week, Colorado Public Radio’s Sarah Mulholland reported an accountability story about a rebate program that directs taxpayer money to support private weddings in order to lure tourism dollars to Colorado.

Included in the story was this line:

The state tourism office refused repeated requests by CPR News to be interviewed in person or over the phone for this story and said it would only answer questions in writing. CPR News declined to accept that condition from a state agency.

At a time when it’s so easy to communicate across our digital devices, I asked Colorado Public Radio’s executive editor, Kevin Dale, to explain why it’s still so important for a news organization to actually speak with government officials in an interview setting instead of agreeing to emailed responses to questions.

“The state tourism office has a public information officer that is paid with state tax dollars,” Dale said via email. “We believe in a story like this they should answer questions in an in-person interview.”

Dale added:

An interview allows for follow-up questions, it allows for better context and nuance. We see in our daily lives how easy it is to misinterpret an email or text message. And, we are an audio organization — voices are important to our storytelling. We do accept email interviews with certain sources, but when we’re dealing with elected officials, taxpayer-funded agencies and public information officers on a story like this, we believe they should sit for an interview.

“We gave them an extraordinary amount of time to set that up and they chose not to,” the editor said.

🔎 Sponsored | Keep digging, Colorado | Colorado Media Project 🔍

Colorado Media Project believes our democracy works best when the public has transparency into powerful institutions. That’s why accountability journalism is so important to our civic infrastructure. We chose to sponsor this section of Corey’s newsletter to showcase some of the important watchdog work Colorado journalists and their news organizations have been producing so far this year. Corey chose which ones to spotlight.

Recent Colorado accountability coverage

  • Aspen Journalism produced a two-part series that examined the childcare landscape in the Roaring Fork and Colorado River valleys. The first installment shed light on a childcare gap across the Aspen-to-Parachute region. The second looked at how early-childhood educators are adapting to that gap. The nonprofit Aspen Journalism’s data reporter, Laurine Lassalle, authored the series, which appeared in print in The Glenwood Springs Post-Independent and The Aspen Times.
  • The Denver Post spent a year on an investigation called “Looted” about stolen relics, laundered art, and a since-deceased Colorado scholar’s role in it. Last month, reporter Sam Tabachnik, who led a three-part series on the topic, reported that the Denver Art Museum is removing the scholar’s name from its gallery and is returning $185,000 in donations.
  • KUSA 9NEWS in Denver has been digging into why Xcel Energy customers are seeing skyrocketing bills, decoding charges on those bills (while pressing executives about them), showing viewers who they can complain to, exploring how customers of smaller utility companies aren’t paying as much, and more. Reporter Marshall Zelinger has led the charge on the nightly newscast ‘Next’ where anchor Kyle Clark has said, “I would say not since the start of the pandemic have people been so fixated on one issue” — high energy bills — “and they want to know more about it.”
  • The Denver Gazette spent six months investigating how commissions evaluate the performance of Colorado judges and found what reporter David Migoya called a “critical flaw”: The commissions make voter recommendations “without ever having considered a judge’s full appellate record — the frequency a judge’s decisions are reversed on appeal and why, which some say is at the very core of assessing their legal knowledge.” The Gazette’s Colorado Watch unit “analyzed more than 15,700 appellate decisions from the past decade involving about 365 district court judges in Colorado and found dozens of them —  many still on the bench — were being reversed so frequently for errors they made that it left some legal experts the newspaper consulted breathless.”
  • Sentinel Colorado’s Investigative Reporting Lab has produced “In the Blue,” an in-depth series looking at “police reform and related issues” in Aurora. Brian Howey is currently serving as the Sentinel’s investigative reporter in residence; reporter Max Levy and former reporter Kara Mason have contributed to the series. The Reporting Lab’s mission is to “engage with readers, journalists, decision makers and residents around impactful accountability reporting that serves all communities of Aurora.”

To submit a local accountability story for consideration in the future, send me an email. If you or your organization would like to sponsor a recurring newsletter section like this, hit me up.

‘The community needs this,’ says author of new Springs culinary news outlet

In the fallout from a financial earthquake at the Colorado Springs alt-weekly, the paper’s laid-off veteran food and drink writer, Matthew Schniper, has gone out on his own. He has launched a weekly Substack newsletter and podcast called Side Dish with Schniper.

Here’s part of its mission:

I’ve gotten to professionally know hundreds of people in our local culinary industry, from chefs and restaurateurs to bartenders, baristas, roasters, bakers, brewers, distillers, kombucha crafters, winemakers, wine reps, sommeliers, GMs and culinary educators. Good people. My people.

I love this city and it’s an honor to play the critic role. Documenting, policing, championing — just telling peoples’ stories while providing a utilitarian service to the community. (I recently made the podcast series State of Plate as an equal parts lament and love letter to the Springs’ industry.)

He’s not alone in the Substack food-and-bev world.

In Charleston, South Carolina, where I used to live, legendary food writer Hannah Raskin has been publishing The Food Section on Substack to more than 6,000 subscribers after she left the local daily newspaper in 2021. (She was one of Substack’s first local news grantees.) Charleston is a foody city if there ever was one. Will Colorado Springs, the setting for “Fast Food Nation” two decades ago, be as fertile ground for successful culinary entrepreneurial journalism?

“Fast Food Nation persists,” Schniper said over the phone this week when I checked in with him about his new endeavor. “We’re a town where people line up for In-N-Out and have fist fights in the parking lot, but we don’t support our local restaurants — not the way we should.”

That said, he says there’s a passion — “almost like the resistance” — of people who want the Springs to be a better food city and there are pockets of exceptionalism. “I think there’s an appetite for this type of journalism for sure, though,” he said.

Since launching roughly three weeks ago he has racked up an initial 800 subscribers, more than 10% of them paid. (Paid subscribers get exclusive or early content.) He comes with a built-in audience after more than 15 years at The Indy where he served multiple roles including three years as editor.

That start gives him an optimism that, with some anchor sponsorships and underwriting from, say, industry supply companies, the work can become a full-time job.

JL Fields, a local vegan chef and cookbook author who quit the daily Gazette’s freelance team in 2021 in protest of its Trumpy editorial board, will write for the Side Dish, Schniper said, adding that he hopes to do some content sharing with other industry institutions in town.

Schniper, who moved to the Springs from the South to attend Colorado College and stayed after graduating in 2001, is known for not holding back with sharply critical restaurant reviews. As a journalist, he says one thing working against him is a rise of “influencer” food reviewers on social media. “They’re kind of eating our market share with monkey business,” he said, noting that he finds himself sometimes the odd man out during media invites to restaurant openings as the only one conducting serious interviews while others sit around and snap photos and videos on their phones.

Sixty35 Media, which had to lay off Schniper during its recent turmoil, is reverting back to The Indy brand and trying to rebuild its newsroom, bringing some writers back in some capacity. As of this week, Schniper began syndicating a portion of his news content with The Indy.

With this new role comes wearing plenty of hats.

“Before I could just go to my desk and worry about the content,” he said. “Now I’m worried about the content, the design, the social media, the marketing of it, the meetings with these potential partners, the meetings with potential sponsors, shaking down all my network to get to meetings with the sponsors or the right people in the room. It’s like being the publisher, editor, the sales director, and the ad rep all at once.”

But, he said: “I do believe the community needs this and I want to keep doing it.”

Rethinking descriptions upon reflection

In last week’s newsletter, I described The Pueblo Chieftain in terms that after reflection I regret. Chieftain reporter Anna Lynn Winfrey reached out to me with the kind of criticism that for a writer can be the worst kind — the the kind where you know they’re right. It has me thinking about how to better effectively focus future fault-finding where it belongs when describing institutions.

During years of chronicling the damage that large out-of-state companies have done to local newspapers, this newsletter has sometimes compared local news organizations to their former selves in descriptive language. Perhaps that’s not so useful. For instance, saying a faraway company has “gutted” a newspaper is different from saying the newspaper resembles a “gutted trout.”

“I think you’re trying to make a creative dig at our corporate overlords, but you make no distinction between them and the tiny news staff,” Winfrey told me. “The coastal bigwigs who hold the fate of my job security aren’t reading your newsletter and don’t care what people say about how they like to ‘cut costs.’”

That’s probably right. And there certainly is a distinction between the excellent work that smaller-than-should-be staffs of journalists do at many newspapers every day and the actions of their owners. So it is probably unfair to write the way I sometimes have about these organizations without making that distinction clear. I will seek to do a better job of that in the future.

More Colorado media odds & ends

➡️ The Center for Community News at the University of Vermont spotlighted Colorado College’s Journalism Institute this week as a higher-education program that gives students “real-world experience while they support community news in Colorado.” The center tracks what colleges and universities are doing across the country to help mitigate a crisis in local news.

🥳 The Colorado Springs Indy published its first weekly print edition since bringing back the Indy brand after an experiment with calling itself Sixty35 Media. (Which paper is more of a collector’s item — this week’s issue or print editions of the short-lived Sixty35?) Help The Indy out here as it rebuilds. (Ralph Routon, former executive editor of the Indy, Business Journal, and Pikes Peak Bulletin, wrote a column this week titled “Long Live The Indy.”)

💬 A Falcon, Colorado school district and its school board president “are facing a lawsuit, accused of violating free speech rights by two women who were escorted from a late February board meeting” after they held up signs, Annabelle Childers reported for KRDO.

🗞 Broomfield Enterprise Editor Christy Fantz wrote a story about what it’s been like launching a local newspaper club at her child’s elementary school, and made the case for her own paper and what she plans to do as its new editor.

🗣 Spencer Wilson, a reporter for CBS News Colorado, testified in a major murder trial in the Springs involving a suspect he interviewed on camera in 2020 when he was working for KKTV 11 News.

💨 “In the past, we made the announcement that comments would be reserved for subscribers only,” The Colorado Springs Gazette told readers recently. “Due to various technology issues, that has not worked seamlessly.  As a result, we are eliminating comments on”

📲 9NEWS journalist Chris Vanderveen offered a master class in media literacy on social media this week, explaining point-by-point how to determine the credibility of a purported news site after a former public official posted a link to a piece of online content about crime in Colorado.

📰 Northeastern University Professor Dan Kennedy wrote about Colorado this week on his What Works local media site, saying, “it was heartening to see that several papers whose owners wanted to move on have been acquired by a small chain,” in reference to O’Rourke Media Group’s purchase of multiple papers in the central mountains region.

🆕 Rocky Mountain PBS “has a new home in Western Colorado,” Gabriel Gonzalez reported for KJCT in Grand Junction. The new location is in downtown Fruita. “RMPM is also making extensive capital improvements to its broadcast infrastructure in the region to better serve Coloradans across the state,” Rocky Mountain Public Media said in a statement.

📡 Sixth graders in Estes Park are “learning to use an amateur radio to talk to amateur radio operators (known as hams) in far away places,” reports Bob Leavitt in The Estes Park Trail Gazette. “At the same time they are studying, with the help of the Estes Valley Amateur Radio Club, to obtain their FCC ham radio license.”

🏆 Colorado Public Radio’s Allison Sherry won a Gracie Award from the Alliance for Women in Media in the interview feature category.

🗣 Adam Kaplan, a specialist in democracy and mediawill speak about lessons on democratic backsliding at the latest Herrick Roth Community Seminars on Democracy event in Denver. The event is April 27 at 5 p.m.

📺 “Farewell to a newsroom leader who had our back when powerful people didn’t like our journalism,” said 9NEWS anchor Kyle Clark about news director Megan Jurgemeyer, known as MJ, who served in the role since 2019. In the clip linked there, Clark also explains on air what a local TV news director does.

➡️ “After CU School of Medicine data scientists found that most sources quoted in the science publication Nature identified as male, leadership made a pledge to focus on increasing diversity in reporting,” Kara Mason wrote for an item at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.

I’m Corey Hutchins, co-director of Colorado College’s Journalism Institute. For nearly a decade I’ve reported on the U.S. local media scene for Columbia Journalism Review, and I’ve been a journalist for longer at multiple news organizations. Colorado Media Project is underwriting this newsletter, and my “Inside the News” column appears at COLab, both of which I sometimes write about here. Follow me on Twitter, reply or subscribe to this weekly newsletter here, or e-mail me at CoreyHutchins [at] gmail [dot] com.