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The Denver Post: Media Bias And Factual Reporting Analysis

The Denver Post published in Denver, Colorado, in the United States, has both a newspaper and a website. Owned by Digital First Media, it is largely considered a reliable source of information, however, there have been allegations of fake news. During its research, Mediabuzz found that The Denver Post favours Democratic party candidates. The left-inclination can be seen in its editorials. Having said that, it does not refrain from publishing stories that call out the Democrats. The Denver Post exhibits minimum biases in its news reports and articles. The stories are mostly factual with credible sources. However, there have been instances where the newspaper tried to present advertisements as news.

We at Mediabuzz consider several factors while evaluating the bias and reliability of news media outlets. The parameters taken into consideration during the bias and factual reporting assessment of The Denver Post includes headlines, usage of adjectives, political endorsements, the sources used by the organisation, allegations, controversies and instances of publishing fake news among others.

The Denver Post Media Bias Summary

Media Bias Result: Left-Center

Since 1980, The Denver Post has mainly endorsed Democrat Presidential candidates. Though the news stories and articles are reported with minimal bias, the editorials reek of a slight left bias. The editorial page didn’t even refrain from calling out its owners and went on to call them ‘vulture capitalists’. Mediabuzz didn’t find any instance of misleading headlines or use of adjectives in the headers.

left center

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The Denver Post Factual Reporting Summary

Factual Reporting Result: Slightly Reliable

On the factual reporting scale, The Denver Post score is above average. It intentionally blurs the line between advertisements and news. However, it also conducts fact-checks of statements made by politicians during campaigns. Mediabuzz also found a few instances where the newspaper didn’t verify the information before publishing the news. The Denver Post can be considered slightly reliable.

slightly reliable

*Image is for reference purpose only

A. The Denver Post Media Bias Analysis

The Denver Post reports on a vast range of subjects such as news, sports and business. It also has an opinion and a classified section on its website. The daily presents news with no or negligible bias, however, one can notice a slight left-inclination in its editorials. However, it does not refrain from carrying anti-Democrat stories. The Denver Post relies on The Washington Post and Associated Press for national and international stories.

1. Analysis Of The Denver Post’s Headlines

Both stories and headlines of The Denver Post generally have a balanced tone. It does not go all out promoting a particular ideology. Its editorials are not just about the party and seem impartial. Despite that, its left inclination is evident in its editorial page. Some of the examples have been cited below:

I. Republicans must stop this madness by dispelling Donald Trump’s lies

An editorial published on January 6, 2021, starts with, “Let there be no mistake, Trump is responsible for this madness. If he truly loves America and not just the power this country bestowed upon him in January 2017, he will announce he was wrong and concede defeat in a free and fair election. He must tell Americans the truth; he lost in November; there was no fraud, and Biden is the rightful president”. The editorial rightfully criticised Trump left, right and centre, thus substantiating its pro-Democrat stance.

The editorial published on June 20, 2021, slams those spreading rumours against Rep. Lauren Boebert, who belongs to the Republican party. Despite being an originally Democratic newspaper, The Denver Post called out when misinformation was being spread against the rival party leader.

“The fact that U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert is getting a taste of her own medicine – unsubstantiated claims spreading like wildfire on social media – does not make it right. Nor can we sit idly by without condemning the blatantly sexist and elitist attacks being lobbed at one of Colorado’s elected officials. It’s disgusting to circulate sexualized photos of Boebert under the guise of political scrutiny. It’s unprofessional to call her a “bimbo” or use other terms reserved only for women with power. And referencing her education in a demeaning manner will only alienate the millions of Americans who also have not gone to college or graduated from high school,” states the editorial.

III. Defiant Biden is face of chaotic Afghan evacuation

The Denver Post carried this Associated Press story that slammed US President Joe Biden for his role in Afghan evacuation. Despite backing Democrats, it published a story that slams the President from Democratic Party. Published on August 16, 2021, the introduction of the story stated, “Four presidents share responsibility for the missteps in Afghanistan that accumulated over two decades. But only President Joe Biden will be the face of the war’s chaotic, violent conclusion“.

“The president fought that reality Monday as he spread blame for the Taliban’s swift and complete recapture of Afghanistan. He pointed to a previous agreement brokered by then-President Donald Trump, expressed frustration with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and lamented the performance of Afghan national security forces. Republicans overwhelmingly criticized Biden and he found few vocal backers among fellow Democrats,” states the newspaper.

2. The Denver Post’s Endorsement Of Presidential Candidates

I. An Overview

The Denver Post has mainly endorsed Democratic Presidential candidates since 1992. While in the 1980 elections, it didn’t endorse any party, it went to the same stance in the last 2020 Presidential elections. The newspaper backed Republican candidates in 1984, 1988 and 2004. Except for these, it has been a Democratic newspaper editorially.

II. 2008 And 2016 Endorsements

On October 16, 2008, The Denver Post published an endorsement with the header, ‘Barack Obama for president’. “The Post believes Barack Obama is better equipped to lead America back to a prosperous future,” states the piece. It further adds, “Frankly, neither Obama nor McCain has a comprehensive plan to end the economic crisis, or to even calm our jittery nerves. But Obama’s promise to surround himself with this country’s top economic thinkers, such as Warren Buffet, is at least somewhat comforting”. “In unsteady times, it may seem obvious to gravitate toward the veteran politician, but in this campaign, it’s been the newcomer who has had the steady hand,” it writes.

It’s an easy call: Hillary Clinton for president,” reads the endorsement published on October 7, 2016. “Democrat Hillary Clinton, the first woman ever to win a major-party nomination, is without question the most qualified candidate in the race for president and an easy call to make when considering the challenges confronting the nation. Her nearly 40 years in public life have instilled in her the temperament she needs to face the many challenges that await,” states The Denver Post.

The next paragraph reads, “Donald Trump purports to be a conservative, and he managed to hoodwink enough primary voters to win the Republican nomination. But he is in fact a lewd, bigoted, untested blowhard whose reckless actions and thoughtless decision-making processes put him in a class never before seen on such a stage. A vote for Trump would support an unconscionable threat to core American values and national security”.

3. The Oregonian: Controversies/Allegations

I. Layoff

The Denver Post’s parent company Digital First Media, the country’s second-largest newspaper chain, is owned by a New York City-based hedge fund, Alden Global Capital. Since taking the charge in 2010, Alden has made “relentless cost cuts” mainly by downsizing the staff. This was done despite the reported profit of the Post. The ownership had to face extensive criticism from the media industry including editors and workers at the newspaper.

The Denver Post employed 250 journalists before 2010 and by April 2018, the number of staff was reduced to 70. When 30 more layoffs were announced in March 2018, it triggered a denunciation of the owners from the daily’s editorial board. The editorial called Alden Global Capital as “vulture capitalists” who were “strip-mining” the newspaper. It further said, “Denver deserves a newspaper owner who supports its newsroom. If Alden isn’t willing to do good journalism here, it should sell the Post to owners who will.” The board also mentioned that the continuous layoffs are hampering The Post’s ability to provide quality coverage of the region. Such an “open revolt” received backing from the fraternity.

“We take the moment to acknowledge fundamental truths. When newsroom owners view profits as the only goal, quality, reliability and accountability suffer,” The Denver Post editorial board wrote as quoted by The Washington Post in an article published on April 9, 2018.

In one of the opinion pieces, former reporter Ricardo Baca wrote, “To an extent, this is the opposite of what we’ve been trained to do since Journalism 101. But these are also desperate times, and if we don’t speak up now, then we will be destined to witness the demise of our city’s largest and most essential news-gathering operations — and what would happen to democracy then?” In 2016, because of Alden’s “harvesting strategy”, Greg Moore, the editor from 2002 to 2016, steped down.

This series of opinion pieces spearheaded by the Editorial Page Editor Chuck Plunkett. After he was told he couldn’t carry more pieces against Alden, Plunkett resigned followed by the two other senior editors. The staff that remained at the office rallied around wearing shirts that declared “News Matters”.

II. Denver Post Columnist’s ‘Disrespectful’ Tweet

On May 30, 2017, The Washington Post published a story written by Scott Allen and Cindy Boren. The headline of the report read, ‘Denver Post columnist fired after ‘disrespectful’ tweet about Japanese driver’s Indianapolis 500 victory’. “Terry Frei, a columnist who has been named Colorado’s sportswriter of the year four times, is out of a job after tweeting that he was “very uncomfortable” with Japanese driver Takuma Sato winning the Indianapolis 500 on the day before Memorial Day,” said the opening line.

“Nothing specifically personal, but I am very uncomfortable with a Japanese driver winning the Indianapolis 500 during Memorial Day weekend,” Frei had tweeted after Sato became the first Japanese driver to win the race.

Later, publisher Mac Tully and editor Lee Ann Colacioppo issued an apology for the “disrespectful and unacceptable tweet” and announced that Frei is no longer a part of the company after the social media outrage. “We apologize for the disrespectful and unacceptable tweet that was sent by one of our reporters,” the statement mentions. “Terry Frei is no longer an employee of The Denver Post. It’s our policy not to comment further on personnel issues. The tweet doesn’t represent what we believe nor what we stand for. We hope you will accept our profound apologies,” it further stated.

Frei apologized for the tweet saying, “I made a stupid reference, during an emotional weekend”.

B. The Denver Post Factual Reporting Analysis

The Denver Post has been putting its reliability at stake lately. Besides publishing fake stories at one instance, it even went on to mislead the audience by writing an event where its reporter wasn’t present. The newspaper issued an apology after a couple of days and corrected the story. The Denver Post has also been accused of passing advertisements as real news. Apart from these points, the daily has largely stuck to the facts and reliable sources. It also conducts fact checks of the statements made by politicians.

I. The Denver Post’s Sponsored Section

In February 2014, The Denver Post introduced a new section titled “Energy and Environment” on its website. The section was funded by Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development (CRED), a pro–natural gas group, and the banner on the top of the page rightfully mentioned so. However, the attempt had to face the wrath of the critics, who accused The Post of confusing the readers about the difference between advertising and reporting. The articles were not written by the reporters but by the outsiders.

“Even the most seasoned Denver Post readers can be fooled by a new advertising ploy” by CRED “in which fake, industry-sponsored news stories are being published as part of a special “Energy and Environment” section on the newspaper’s website”, reads a report on westerpriorities.org, published on April 11, 2014.

II. Advertorial or Real News?

An article published in the Colorado Times Recorder on July 25, 2018, called out The Denver Post for passing an advertorial as news. The report written by Jason Salzman reads, “Ironically, the newspaper’s precarious financial condition is undoubtedly the major reason its accepting fake news advertisements that brazenly aim to manipulate the loyal audience that continues to love and cherish the newspaper: old people. I’m sure they’re hated by the fine journalists who work at The Post, but that doesn’t make the ads, often with fake bylines and disclaimers too tiny for the eyes of many oldsters, any less disgraceful”. He went on to cite several examples to substantiate his claims. For example: ‘New arthritis pain killer works on contact and numbs pain in minutes’, ‘New pill reverses memory loss in amazing way’ and many more.

III. The Denver Post’s Connection With One Of The Biggest Fake News Stories of 2016

CNBC published a story on December 30, 2016, with the title, ‘Read all about it: The biggest fake news stories of 2016’. The Denver Post story found a mention in the infamous list.

The story of “FBI agent suspected in Hillary email leaks found dead in apartment murder-suicide” that went viral on Facebook was published by the Denver Guardian on November 5. Though the website was deleted soon, it called itself “Denver’s oldest news source”, the title that originally belongs to The Post since 1892. The Denver Guardian article prompted the Post to publish a piece titled “There is no such thing as the Denver Guardian, despite that Facebook post you saw.” In its article, The Denver Post draws attention to the fact that the contact address listed for the Denver Guardian is actually just a vacant car park,” CNBC further wrote.

IV.. A Case of Erroneous Reporting on Republican Congressman Mike Coffman’s Public Constituent Meeting

Columbia Journalism Review in its story titled ‘In Colorado, a reporter’s error becomes evidence for ‘fake news’ claim’ on January 26, 2017, explained how the daily’s error triggered fake news.

The story states that a TV reporter for Denver’s 9News, assigned to cover a public constituent meeting held by Republican congressman Mike Coffman, “caught him walking out a back door and getting into a waiting car a few minutes before the event was scheduled to end”. The reporter posted it on social media and in no time it went viral. However, a conservative local blog, Colorado Peak Politics, called it a fake story and quoted The Denver Post that directly contradicted 9News. However, The Post had no reporter at the event.

“The Denver Post corrected its error three days later. (The correction notes that “Coffman left his 90 minute constituent meeting early.”) But the Post error was enough to give Coffman-friendly forces cover to label a credible news report as ‘fake news’.” the CJR story further stated.

V. Fact Check By The Denver Post

At the same time, The Denver Post also publishes fact-checking articles verifying the statements made by politicians of Colorado in debates, campaigns, ads and press releases. It even doesn’t refrain from carrying out a fact-checking story that might go against its pro-Democrat ideology. For example, The Denver Post published an AP story on August 16, 2021 that contradicted Joe Biden’s statement. The header read, ‘AP FACT CHECK: Biden skirts U.S. failures in Afghan chaos’.

C. The Plain Dealer Bias Reliability Ratings by Fact-Checking Websites

Some of the prominent fact-checking websites such as Ad Fontes Media and Media Bias/Fact Check have rated The Denver Post on the basis of its biases and credibility. Below, we have summarised what these sites have to say about the Colorado newspaper.

1. Ad Fontes Media

After evaluating some of the articles, Ad Fontes Media rated The Denver Post” in the middle category of bias”. As far as credibility is concerned, it rated the daily “as most reliable”. Each news article was reviewed by a team of at least three analysts, comprising one conservative, one liberal and a moderate.

2. Media Bias/Fact Check

Media Bias/Fact Check rates The Denver Post as Left-Center Biased as its editorials moderately favor the left ideologies. “We also rate them High for factual reporting due to a clean fact check record and solid reputation for fact based journalism,” states Media Bias/ Fact Check.

D. Brief Introduction of The Denver Post

History
The Denver Post is a daily newspaper and website based in Denver, Colorado. Its origin goes back to August 1892 when it was launched as a Democratic newspaper, The Evening Post. However, within a year, the publication of the newspaper was suspended in August 1893. In 1894, the paper was resurrected and on October 28, 1895, it was purchased by a group of new owners. Though neither of them had experience in the newspaper industry, they knew how to use the promotion strategy. Soon The Evening Post surpassed the circulation of three other daily newspapers, thanks to ‘sensationalism’. It got a new name Denver Evening Post on November 3, 1895, and on January 1, 1901, ‘Evening’ was dropped from the masthead.

Ownership

The Denver Post has been owned by hedge fund Alden Global Capital since 2010. Alden Global Capital acquired MediaNews Group, which went bankrupt. In April 2018, a group known as ‘Together for Colorado Springs’ stated that it was raising funds to purchase The Denver Post as “Denver deserves a newspaper owner who supports its newsroom”.

The Denver Post was the flagship newspaper of MediaNews Group Inc., which was established by William Dean Singleton and Richard Scudder in 1983. MediaNews acquired The Denver Post from the Times Mirror Co. on December 1, 1987, which had purchased the daily from the successors of founder Frederick Gilmer Bonfils in 1980.

 E. The Denver Post Bias And Factual Reporting Summary

After going through several research papers, fact-checking websites, and evaluating and analysing several reports, Mediabuzz arrives at the conclusion that The Denver Post does not exhibit any sort of biases in its news stories. However, despite keeping an impartial tone even in editorials, the section indicates a slight left-inclination. However, it didn’t fare pretty well on the factual reporting scale. It published misleading information and verified it only after a few days. The Denver Post even carried advertisements as real news stories. Having said that, we did not find any sensational headlines. However, at the same time, it even did fact-checking stories. Apart from a handful of instances, it largely remains a reliable source of information.

Reference Links

https://www.adfontesmedia.com/denver-post-bias-and-reliability/

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-05-15/the-rapid-devastating-decline-of-the-denver-post

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2018/04/09/in-the-editorial-pages-of-the-denver-post-a-rebellion-against-its-vulture-capitalist-owners/

https://coloradotimesrecorder.com/2018/07/ads-disguised-news-illuminate-plight-denver-post/10304/

https://westernpriorities.org/2014/04/11/why-a-new-industry-sponsored-fake-news-section-in-the-denver-post-threatens-the-newspapers-reputation/

https://www.cnbc.com/2016/12/30/read-all-about-it-the-biggest-fake-news-stories-of-2016.html

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-37896753

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Denver_Post

https://www.kbia.org/politics/2018-05-08/views-preview-denver-post-editorial-page-editor-resigns-others-follow

https://www.cjr.org/united_states_project/mike_coffman_leave_crowd.php

https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/05/13/denver-post-profits-newspaper-industry-218360/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/early-lead/wp/2017/05/29/denver-post-sportswriter-issues-apology-after-facing-backlash-for-indy-500-tweet/

https://www.colorado.edu/today/2016/11/07/journalism-students-fact-check-election-local-media

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