Colorado Gov. Jared Polis shouldn’t tell media what to publish or “unpublish.”
Everyone in media seems to agree on that.
Polis' press secretary attempted to interfere with the public’s right to know when he leaned on small-market Colorado newspaper editors in the hope they would remove a story the governor didn’t like.
But media outlets then accepted what Polis falsely said about Franklin News Foundation and The Center Square, never challenging it.
As illogical as that may sound, it happened.
Now consider this: Polis’ bizarre attempt to interfere with the news wasn’t an isolated event. It had happened elsewhere in Colorado – and had nothing to do with our work.
Polis, who acted on a story about his Office of Future of Work initiative, which The Center Square reported after receiving transcripts of his office’s emails to these newspapers, also had his staff reach out through phone calls to another independent Colorado newspaper to remove a story about immigration it had published and that Polis didn’t like.
The Associated Press published a statement from Polis in its story about the first two attempts Polis made to censor the news that claimed The Center Square was “not objective,” called TheCenterSquare.com “a branded website funded by the Koch Brothers’ political organization,” and accused our journalists of being “partisan.”
AP never asked anyone at Franklin to respond to those remarks before it transmitted its story across its wire. The New York Times, The Washington Post and many other newspapers across the country republished the AP story.
If that doesn’t seem right to you, that’s because it isn’t.
The fact is, there was no error of any kind in The Center Square story Polis' team targeted.
The “story” from the blog site PRWatch.org that Polis offered up in defense of his statement about our credibility was written by a blogger who has never spoken with anyone at Franklin or requested an interview.
That blog post contained untruthful allegations regarding our funding, which AP had taken from Polis.
Franklin News Foundation participates in the Poynter-Koch Media & Journalism Fellowship program, and does so proudly. The fellowships exclusively focus on journalistic excellence and developing newsroom talent. And it’s Franklin’s only association with either Poynter or Koch.
This year, the Poynter-Koch Media & Journalism Fellowship program will fund a portion of the salaries of journalists who work for legacy newspapers such as the Miami Herald, New York Daily News, Dallas Morning News, Detroit News and Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Gazette – as well as smaller, nonprofit, digital pure-plays such as The Federalist, The Contributor and Franklin News Foundation.
This year’s class of fellows will receive training from CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent Major Garrett, PolitiFact, the Brookings Institute and National Public Radio’s Ashley Messenger.
Franklin has participated in this program for the past two years – as long as Executive Editor Dan McCaleb and I have been associated with Franklin. We are proud to be part of world-class training that will ensure our participants – and staff as a whole – become even better, more competent and complete journalists.
Franklin’s journalists have published nearly 9,000 stories over the past two years. Feel free to read them. Our team digs in on state-level fiscal issues, and reports with a taxpayer’s sensibility. To suggest The Center Square’s work is not objective is woefully inaccurate.
And perhaps we actually get it right sometimes: Earlier in 2019, Polis liked a story about Colorado job growth published by The Center Square so much that he shared it on Facebook.
Words authored by politicians are not sacrosanct, and they should not be free from scrutiny.
Polis’ team authored a misleading statement in an attempt to deflect perhaps the worst First Amendment misstep any governor in the country has made in recent memory. His suggestion that any outside entity controls our editorial product was salacious, and he owes every staffer at The Center Square an apology.
The Associated Press and any other outlet that picked up Polis’ statement and ran with it unchecked – which, sadly, nearly all did – committed one of the greatest sins in journalism: They didn’t do their work.
The AP took Polis’ word, which had taken the word of a blogger who had posted an un-sourced story on a website that publishes only stories like the one it wrote about The Center Square. Not exactly sound journalism.
When journalists consider the telephone game to be good enough, society loses.
Each of them owes Franklin News Foundation and The Center Square a correction.