Power to the People ECS | Newspapers, City Council, and Public Radio
On Friday morning, the Power to the People ECS loaded up into the van to visit our city’s news media and municipal governmental institutions. Our first stop was at The Gazette where we were met by John Boogert (the managing editor). He gave us a quick briefing, and then proceeded to lead us to a meeting room. We were then introduced to Vince Bzdek (the editor) and were allowed to ask both any questions we had. They told us about their mission to report objective journalism and stay non-partisan. Our question session was briefly interrupted when about four more people entered the room and began a meeting. This meeting was fantastic to see firsthand, as it was a really great way to live in the moment. They discussed issues in our city, state, and country, and discussed which ones would get the most reads as stories. Our question session then continued, and we were able to learn all kinds of behind the scenes aspects of journalism.
Our next stop was at City Hall, where we met with City Council President Richard Skorman. Everything he had to say was absolutely fascinating, and he gave great answers for all of our questions about the city, its problems, and the function of its government. He also told us interesting dilemmas the city has been facing (and what the council has been doing to deal with them). For example, did you know that 35% of the city’s population can’t afford to live here? To live comfortably in Colorado Springs, you need to make at least $19 to $20 an hour. To help solve this, the city has been working on introducing new affordable housing complexes downtown. This is just one of the myriad of interesting solutions for challenges/dilemmas the city has been faced with. Another job of the council is environmental protection. For example, the city bought Stratton Open Space to prevent it from becoming a housing project. Towards the end we also met with Councilman Don Knight and Councilman Tom Strand, where we also got to ask them questions. What was quite interesting is how their answers to certain questions differed from those of Mr. Skorman. For example, Mr. Knight and Mr. Strand had a very different opinion on recreational marijuana than Mr. Skorman. Lastly, we were given a very captivating tour of City Hall and its history.
Our next stop was to The Independent (known colloquially as The Indy). I must say that this stop was absolutely amazing. We met with John Weiss, the founder of The Independent. He gave us an amazing lecture, where he talked about the history of the weekly paper and its mission and about issues both local and national. He took a very different stance from The Gazette, as he said that he didn’t believe that there was any such thing as objectivity in journalism. He believed that everyone naturally has a bias that’s defined by who they are, so he sees it more honest to just admit his biases as a journalist rather than pretending to not have any. The Indy also has a mission of representing those in our city who usually don’t get a voice so that all may have their voices heard. I gained a whole plethora of captivating lessons from Mr. Weiss, and I’m so happy to have been able to learn from him. For me, this and City Hall were the two most interesting stops on this trip (not to say the others weren’t fantastic).
Our final trip was to KRCC (Colorado Springs’ local station, recently purchased by Colorado Public Radio, that hosts both NPR content and some of their own content). I must say that this stop was quite fascinating. We were first given a tour of the 3-story house they use to broadcast their shows and segments. It was quite interesting to see what goes into making a radio station. After our tour, we sat down and were allowed to ask questions. One thing we learned from this session is that KRCC has three basic principles when reporting news: be right, be fair, and avoid conflicts of interests (real or perceived). We also discussed the problems in our city and what their definition of fairness in the media is.
Overall, this day of ECS was absolutely incredible. I am extremely thankful to have been able to meet/experience the media and governmental institutions of our city. To discuss and learn from them was nothing short of tremendous. I have gained a new respect for both our city’s media and its city council. Thank you to all those from each of these institutions who took the time to discuss with and lecture our class, and thank you to Mr. Benson, Ms. J.S., and Dr. Gillon for allowing us to have this experience.