Back in March, when the Colorado legislature was considering a series of gun safety bills which later passed, Sen. Angela Giron (D)—who now faces a Sept. 10 recall election along with Senate President John Morse (D)—got an email that stood out from the rest.
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."That sure sounds more like a direct threat about the coverage the paper would give Giron if she voted for the bills than the concerns of any regular constituent. A local television station reporting on the story noted that in subsequent coverage of the vote, the paper did regularly home in on Giron, and "repeatedly defined Giron as the key vote on bills to mandate universal background checks and banning high-capacity magazines and referred to her in its headlines," even though the close margin of the votes meant that any of the Democratic senators voting on it could be called the key vote.
The paper's assistant publisher and vice president, Jane Rawlings, wrote a strong defense of Stafford. She said he only identified himself as general manager of the paper in the email because we is "new to the area," and thought that would help his case. She also said that after a "careful review," she found the paper's coverage of Giron and the votes balanced.
The problem for Rawlings—and for Stafford—is that ProgressNow Colorado decided to take a closer look at the controversy, and found a clear conflict of interest.
The Chieftain's assistant publisher, Jane Rawlings, general manager Ray Stafford and production director Dave Dammann all signed recall petitions against Sen. Giron. In addition, Rawlings' husband David Dill actually contributed to both the recall committee and to Giron's possible opponent, Republican George Rivera.
The Society for Professional Journalists calls for—at minimum—disclosure that management at the newspaper is politically active.
Did the Chieftain disclose any of that political activity? Hell no. In fact, the paper's editorial board has doubled down with an editorial that takes a page directly from Fox News, even calling their coverage "fair and balanced." And, of course, Freedom!!! Because sending threatening emails to legislators and signing recall petitions and giving money to political campaigns is "freedom guaranteed ALL Americans in the Bill of Rights." Not disclosing that political bias to your readers is just the icing.
The Chieftain is the major paper in Pueblo, a major source of news for Giron's constituents. She needs our help in fighting it.