Hits and misses for dailies as Tancredo enters race

Announcement coverage merely adequate

April 7, 2007

by David Kopel

When U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo announced his presidential candidacy on Monday, both Denver dailies did adequate jobs of reporting the event, but failed to use their columnists or their Web sites to advance the story.

M.E. Sprengelmeyer of the Rocky Mountain Newsand Karen Crummy of The Denver Postboth wrote good articles about the announcement in Des Moines, Iowa, where Tancredo appeared on WHO radio's Jan Mickelson Show.The newspaper Web sites, unfortunately, added nothing to the story - not even a link to the podcast of the WHO program.

The Web sites also could have linked to the transcript of Tancredo's contentious Monday appearance on the national Hugh Hewitt radio show, where the Republican stalwart host chastised Tancredo for opposing President Bush's immigration bill last year, and for endorsing a third-party candidate in a California race.

TheNewsalso sent columnist Bill Johnson to Des Moines, and Johnson reported that, to his surprise, Tancredo was a nice guy in person, "not at all as he has been portrayed - a bomb-throwing, them-against-us, kill-'em-in-the-river political hack bent simply on grabbing headlines." Since most readers haven't met Tancredo personally, Johnson's column added some value.

Not so the columns of Mike Littwin in the News and Diane Carman in the Post,which were trite "kill-'em- in-the-river" portrayals.

Perhaps the most revealing item was Carman's expression of her attitude toward talk radio listeners.

Carman wrote that "talk radio regulars" are "a rather narrow slice of Americana." Relying on Talkers Magazine(a radio industry publication), she stated that talk radio listeners are 65 percent non-Hispanic white. According to the Census Bureau, so is 69 percent of America. She sneered that that "only 33 percent of them are college graduates" - which actually is more than the 27 percent of Americans over the age of 25 who have a college degree, according to the Census Bureau.

The only major difference between the talk-radio audience, as described by Carman, and the American norm was that the former are much more likely to be registered independents - 57 percent vs. about 38 percent of the general population. And rather than being unrepresentative of America, keep in mind that independents are the group that decides who wins many elections.

Carman also declared that "only 10 percent read local newspapers." In fact, the Talkersstudy said nothing about how many listeners read local newspapers, only that "local daily newspaper" was the "favorite" nonradio source of news for 10 percent of them.

Both papers overlooked some important anti-Tancredo news. A new poll by American Research Group shows Tancredo as the first choice of only 7 percent of Colorado Republicans. In contrast, another longshot, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, is polling 40 percent in his own home state, ARG found.

On the left-leaning political news Web site ColoradoPols.com, a commenter contrasted the absence of Tancredo endorsements from the Colorado Republican establishment with the widespread support that Gary Hart received in 1983 from leading Colorado Democrats. A Newsor Postarticle examining Tancredo's support in Colorado would have added depth for local readers, and would have been a useful resource for national ones.

Disclosure: From 1993 to '98, Tancredo was president of the Independence Institute, where I work.

"Academic researchers who have studied taxi deregulation say the free market doesn't work as well as some may think for this particular commodity," declared Postreporter Alison Sherry (April 2). For support, Sherry cited "An article in the Transportation Law Journal." Oddly, she failed to point out that the Journalis published locally, by the University of Denver Law School.

The only study of the effects of taxi deregulation in the Transportation Law Journalwas written by DU law professor Paul Dempsey in 1996. Dempsey's lone article was not, however, the last word on the subject.

An article in the January 2006 issue of Econ Journal Watchasks "Do Economists Reach a Consensus on Taxi Deregulation?" The article summarized economic research on the issue, and also noted some of the various articles by non-economists, including Dempsey. Of the 32 articles and studies authored by economists, two-thirds found that deregulation was beneficial.

In short, "academic researchers" of taxi deregulation are divided on taxi deregulation, notwithstanding Sherry's incorrect assertion that there was only one academic point of view.

A March 29 Associated Press story in both papers touted "male circumcision" to prevent AIDS. Wrong term, since it implies that there's an equivalent called "female circumcision." The story thus indirectly normalized something that is properly called "female genital mutilation," a practice in some barbaric nations of the Old World and a crime under Colorado and U.S. law.


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