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Reporter risks losing press pass over bias claim

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    NMU         COLORADO         Newsgathering         Jan 30, 2002    

Reporter risks losing press pass over bias claim

  • A free-lance broadcaster must answer allegations of being a Democratic Party operative.

A Colorado free-lance broadcast journalist will be required to defend his impartiality or lose his press access to the legislature after Republican members accused him of being a Democratic “operative.” The Colorado Broadcasters Association, which controls broadcasters’ press passes, will hear evidence from both sides today.

Jim Rettew, a broadcaster who provides legislative coverage for several rural television stations in Colorado, dismissed the claims that he’s a Democratic spy as “groundless.” Rettew said he worked as a precinct captain in 2000 but that he is no longer employed by the Democratic Party.

House Speaker Doug Dean (R-Colorado Springs) has turned over material evidence in support of his allegations which will be presented at Wednesday’s meeting, according to Marilyn Hogan of the broadcasters group.

Dean did not return repeated phone calls for comment.

Dani Newsum, spokeswoman for the Colorado Democratic Party, said Rettew was not a “spy” but referred to Dean as a “maniacal paranoid.”

Rettew founded the Colorado Regional Report, a nonprofit organization that covers state legislative events for television stations in rural Colorado.

“It’s an asset to have this experience to better report on public policy politics,” Rettew said.

Although KOAA-TV news director Dan Dennison, one of Rettew’s clients, said Rettew’s reporting was objective, he opted to forgo Rettew’s services until the Republican leadership dropped its objections to his employment. Both Rettew and Dennison agree that the station’s lack of resources to deal with the situation were a major factor in the station’s decision.

Several reporters in Colorado, including former Republican State Sen. Tillman Bishop of KREX-TV, have not received the type of scrutiny about their party affiliations that Rettew has, both Hogan and Rettew claim.

Hogan said Rettew’s party affiliation is not the issue, but that, unlike Bishop, Rettew’s affiliation was not common knowledge.


[Editor’s Note:

House Speaker Doug Dean (R-Colorado Springs) says that he never accused broadcast journalist Jim Rettew of being a spy for the Democrats. In fact, Dean says local Republican legislators, after being asked what they felt were “leading questions” by Rettew, brought the matter to his attention. As house speaker, Dean has the authority to investigate the allegations. He then passed the material on to the broadcasters association, he said. Dean also said that he told local news stations that he did not have a problem with them subscribing to Rettew’s service.

While Dean claims he never asked that Rettew’s press credentials be revoked, he nonetheless feels that the charges were not “groundless” as Rettew has said. Dean said his press office staff checked into Rettew’s background, and found that Rettew had been a regular precinct member of the Democratic Party in May 2000, which Rettew admits.]

© 2002 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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