May 20, 2006
by David KopelDuring the middle of the day on Tuesday, the University of Colorado investigative committee released its report on charges that professor Ward Churchill had committed academic misconduct. While the Rocky Mountain Newsand The Denver Postboth had reports on their Web sites within an hour, the Newswas superior.
The Postoffered a quick story of a few hundred words which adequately summed up the events, while the Newsreport - published 10 minutes faster than the Postreport - was twice as long, and provided a much more detailed explanation of the particular charges against Churchill, and of the committee's precise finding on each charge.
The Newsdid make one mistake, however. Charge F involved Churchill's alleged misuse of an essay by Rebecca L. Robbins. The Newsreported that the committee found "No misconduct." In fact, while the committee did not find Churchill guilty of plagiarism regarding the Robbins essay, it did find him guilty of "Failure to comply with established standards regarding author names on publications."
Commendably, both papers provided Web links to the official committee report.
The Wednesday printed editions of both papers had much more extensive coverage, but both papers failed to report on one important item: Churchill's written response to the committee's findings. On Tuesday, Churchill published a response, titled "A 'Travesty' of an Investigation" on the Web site of Counterpunch,a far left magazine with an affinity for conspiracy theories. The Newsreported nothing on the Counterpunchessay; a Post photo caption vaguely referred to "a Web essay published under Churchill's byline," but provided no information about where readers could find the essay.
Kudos to the Pirate Ballerina weblog for breaking the story, on Monday, that Churchill's wife, ethnic studies professor Natsu Saito, has resigned from CU, and will be commuting to her tenured position at Georgia State University.
Analyzing the 5th Congressional District Republican primary for the U.S. House of Representatives, the Post'sErin Emery claimed that six of the seven candidates were "running hard to the extreme right." The headline repeated the claim that the candidates in the Colorado Springs-based district were "extreme" and the subheadline called the candidates "arch-conservative." In support of the epithets, the article supplied a large chart detailing the candidates' views on three issues: abortion, gay marriage, and embryonic stem-cell research.
Yet according to a Postpoll (Feb. 12), 55 percent of Coloradans favor a state constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, and only 33 percent oppose it. In March 2006, a national Gallup poll asked "Would you favor or oppose a law in your state that would ban all abortions except those necessary to save the life of the mother?" Thirty-six percent said "favor." In August 2005, Gallup asked "Do you think the federal government should - or should not - fund research that would use newly created stem cells obtained from human embryos?" Forty percent of the public said "No, should not."
In other words, Emery's assertion that the primary candidates were "extreme right" was ludicrous, since taking positions favored by 55 percent, 36 percent, or 40 percent of the public could hardly be considered "extreme." The article was an example of the extreme lengths the Postsometimes goes to in using news stories to denounce candidates who take politically incorrect positions on social issues.
The Newstook its own misdirected shot at the Colorado Springs area on May 13, when Fernando Quintero penned an article claiming that the Colorado Springs City Council was "not allowing gay or lesbian representatives on its new Cultural Diversity Advisory Board." The wording created the misleading impression that there is a rule against gays or lesbians serving on the board. Actually, the new board consists of 13 members, with four slots reserved for race-based organizations (e.g., the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce). There are no rules stating that members be of any particular sexual orientation. Similarly, there is no requirement that any number of members be of a certain sex, but it would false to say that Colorado Springs is "not allowing women representatives" on the board.
Every Friday, the Newsruns a syndicated column about poker in its Spotlight section. The Postruns a similar column every Sunday in its Sports section. I suggest that poker - like chess, blackjack and dominos - is an interesting game that requires considerable mental skill, and relatively little physical ability, other than stamina and control of one's facial expressions and body language. So the Postought to move poker out of its Sports section, and onto pages with columns about bridge or chess.
And congratulations, by the way, to the Postfor finally improving the graphics on its Sunday chess puzzle. Now, the puzzle is as sharp and clear as the puzzle in the News. Previously, Postchess puzzles were so grainy that they looked like they had been printed from a bad copy of a fax transmission.
Dave Kopel is research director at the Independence Institute, an attorney and author of 10 books. He can be reached at davekopel@RockyMountainNews.com.