‘It’s not up to a government official to police the news or try to withhold certain information from the public…’
(Joshua Paladino, Liberty Headlines) The press secretary for Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, sent emails to two of the state’s newspapers, requesting that they remove a story about a newly created, taxpayer-funded state office.
The story had originated from a upstart enterprise journalism site, The Center Square, which allowed the other outlets to republish it.
The site, a nonprofit funded by the Franklin News Foundation, says it is devoted to public interest journalism related to economic issues at the state and local level.
Upon seeing their investigation into the new Colorado office, Polis’s press secretary, Conor Cahill, emailed Eric John Monson, the editor of The Chronicle–News in Trinidad, and Chris Sorensen, publisher and online editor of the Kiowa County Press, The Center Square reported.
Monson then informed Derek Draplin, Colorado news editor for The Center Square, about the request.
“I checked you guys out before we started using your stories,” Monson wrote to Draplin in an email. “Really, just a little shocked and dismayed to get something like that from a state office.”
After Draplin learned about the request, The Center Square filed a Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) request for all communications in the governor’s office that mentioned The Center Square.
That’s when The Center Square discovered that Cahill emailed both Monson and Sorensen.
“I see you have run a recent article published by The Center Square which is not a reputable news source,” Cahill wrote, according to emails obtained from the CORA request. “Would you consider removing it?”
Despite Cahill’s description of The Center Square as “not a reputable news source,” Polis himself shared a story from The Center Square, which was republished by the Montrose Daily Press, in June.
Monson rejected the request in an email response.
“No. I see no issue with the story,” Monson wrote. “Very surprised you would make such a request.”
Sorensen initially removed the article from the Kiowa County Press website.
“Pending clarification, I suspended the article from the website,” Sorensen said, according to emails obtained from the CORA request. “Is there a factual error that needs to be corrected?”
Cahill did not respond to the question. Rather, he sent a link to a “left-leaning advocacy website that inaccurately described The Center Square and its state-government-focused reporting efforts,” The Center Square reported.
After Cahill failed to produce evidence that The Center Square “is not a reputable news source,” Sorensen republished the article.
“The whole interaction falls short of what I would expect from any spokesperson or press secretary, no matter which political party might be involved,” Sorensen said.
Draplin wrote the original story for The Center Square, “Polis creates ‘Office of Future of Work,’ third new taxpayer-funded office this year.”
Jeffrey Roberts, executive director of the Colorado Freedom of Information Council, said Draplin’s article is “fairly straightforward.”
Draplin reported that Polis created the new office by executive order and that the governor’s office did not say how much “the new office will cost taxpayers.”
The Center Square filed an additional CORA request, seeking information about the cost of the Office of Future of Work and the other two offices that Polis created this year.
Neither Cahill nor Polis’s communications director, Maria De Cambra, responded to The Center Square’s inquiries.
“It’s not up to a government official to police the news or try to withhold certain information from the public,” said Chris Krug, publisher of The Center Square. “The public also has the right to know why the governor’s office would overreach and ask editors to remove content it had published.”