Thursday, August 1, 2013
CONTACT: Amy Runyon-Harms, Executive Director at [email protected]

DENVER: As The Pueblo Chieftain’s management doubled down on their unethical conflicts of interest regarding coverage of the recall election attempt against Senator Angela Giron, ProgressNow Colorado, the state’s largest online progressive advocacy organization, called on upper management at the paper to listen to ethics experts who have identified serious concerns. The Chieftain published an editorial today rejecting allegations of conflict of interest, and downplaying threats made by the paper’s general manager in his official capacity against Sen. Giron.

“Today’s editorial in the Chieftain attempting to justify their undisclosed political activities is nothing less than an insult to their readers,” said ProgressNow Colorado executive director Amy Runyon-Harms. “We thank the management at the Chieftain for finally disclosing that members of upper management at the paper signed the recall petition against Sen. Angela Giron. But the manner in which they did so reveals their contempt for journalism ethics and numerous journalism ethics experts who have denounced the paper’s handling of the recall effort.”

Fred Brown, former political reporter for The Denver Post and Vice chairman of the Society of Professional Journalists’ ethics committee, told a reporter in response to this story that signing a recall petition “should be forbidden” for “anyone associated with the newsroom”—or failing that, full disclosure should have been a “baseline requirement.” 1

Kelly McBride, a senior faculty member on ethics at the Poynter Institute, says that if The Pueblo Chieftain “wishes to maintain an appearance of neutrality,” they should explain how their management keeps their politics separate from news coverage. 2

Media watchdog and blogger Jason Salzman wrote this week, “After Stafford’s ill-advised email to Giron earlier this year, I’d think he’d be extra careful to be thoroughly transparent about his political activities, to ensure that Chieftain readers weren’t left with the impression that the newspaper was underhandedly opposing Giron in the recall election. But I can’t find anything in the Chieftain saying Stafford personally favors the recall effort, much less the fact that he signed the recall petition personally.” 3

“A community’s newspaper of record has a much higher obligation to be ‘fair and balanced’ than the Fox News Channel, but the Chieftain isn’t even living up to the most basic journalistic standards,” said Runyon-Harms of ProgressNow Colorado. “Pueblo voters need an honest source of information about the upcoming special election, not slanted coverage from those who are supporting the recalls. If this is the way the Chieftain is going to cover the election, we will hold them accountable—and expose their double dealing to their readers before it’s too late.”