Jeff Ruane

An Open Letter to Kyle Clark

Dearest Kyle Clark,

Before making potentially harsh claims, I greatly respect you and the Next/9news team. Local journalism in this country is in trouble, and Coloradans should not take your team for granted (along with some folks at CBS4, The Sun, The Post, The Times Recorder, Westword, and, of course, Your Morning Show with Willie B on KBPI).

The country agrees that your recent moderation of the CD4 debate was a masterclass. And who would've heard about an entire school board collapsing over fears of being infiltrated by a critical race theory sleeper agent without your team? As hilarious and absurd as the situation is, it significantly impacts the community in Elbert County and needs a spotlight. Your team's work is deeply appreciated and continues to make a significant impact across the state.

But let's get to brass tacks. I've noticed a pattern of borderline insincere (or specious, maybe?) coverage of left-leaning and socialist politicians. I brought this up on Twitter with you, hence the open letter.

First of all, to address your question in the tweet, I'm not suggesting that there are inaccuracies in the reporting. I'm concerned about the amount of time spent on sensational quotes and allowing nuance and context to fall to the wayside.

By the way, you're an expert in this Kyle. It could be my own biases clouding my judgment, but it seems like you're less willing to do that with left-wing politicians.

Before the 2023 election, former city council member Candi CdeBaca1 participated in the Greater Metro Denver Ministerial Alliance Forum with her opponent Darrell Watson and, by all accounts, made a disastrous gaff. Specifically, she said the following:

You could be collecting those extra taxes from white-led business all over the city and redistributing them to Black and Brown-owned businesses

There are questions about the constitutionality of such a plan, but even beyond that, from an electoral standpoint, framing reparations as a punishment administered to one group to benefit another is a complex platform to run on. I don't have the data, but anecdotally, I have friends who know only one thing about Ms CdeBaca: that she wants to punish white people. They're generally uninterested when I mention all the good she did in my neighborhood and the rest of North Denver. Globeville's getting a library now! Isn't that fantastic? But after that bombshell, it was hard to sell it.

I agree. It was a mistake. Such a plan is likely not even legal, and the framing could be better for a candidate forum. I'm 100% in favor of reparations, but that's not how to message it.

When we look at her response to the incident, she says she wasn't proposing polity. It was more akin to brainstorming possibilities in her allotted two minutes. I'll come back to that shortly.

Kyle, your story on this forum focused almost entirely on that single comment, and the inner workings of BIDs (business improvement districts). It also mentions Libs of TikTok, who unfortunately made Ms CdeBaca her main character for a few weeks. And, hey, you're a newsman. It's newsworthy. I get it. What I don't get is how that became the only headline that mattered, the only headline that was presented to the voting public.

My problem is the article contained absolutely no push back on Mr Watson's arguments. He touted the Denver Basic Income as a path for reparations, but that's absurd. As Ms CdeBaca rightly pointed out, the homelessness crisis is not the same as reparations, these are entirely different goals. Conflating the two is incorrect, could potentially set back both causes, and should've been called out (judging by your performance in the CD4 debate, I'm thinking you might not have let him get away with that).

Additionally, the reason Ms CdeBaca was brainstorming about reparations in the context of BIDs is because Mr Watson claimed that the BID is a form of reparations. In my estimation, Ms CdeBaca's point was that if we were to call the BID a form of reparations, taxing white owned businesses is what it would take to make that work (I recognize that I could be stretching here and reading between the lines of what she actually said). My hunch is that she only brought that up as a counter to his claim about the BID.

Look, I dropped out of CU. I wear slip on shoes because laces confuse and upset me. I don't know the nuts and bolts of this stuff. Is the BID taxing Black and brown businesses out of existence as Ms CdeBaca suggested? Or is it lifting up Black and brown folks as Mr Watson argued? I don't know, but I really wish that Next and 9news had chosen to dig into that instead of taking the one quote and making it a front page story. And your obviously not at fault for bigots on Twitter getting a hold of it, but committing to that narrative certainly made it easier for them.

We could also dig into Mr Watson's claims about "trying to hire more people from HCBUs" as a form of reparations. I'm risking egg on my face, because I don't know anything about the actual polity, but my immediate impression is that it's a cop out. That's not reparations in a meaningful way.

Your coverage of Tim Hernández in the aftermath of October 7th raised my eyebrows as well. It seemed patently obvious that he was baited into saying something flippant and hurtful by a cameraman who wanted to go viral. And to be fair, Marshell Zellinger called out the hypocrisy of GOP lawmakers calling for his resignation. However, the headline persisted.

Your interview with him about not explicitly condemning violent revolution frustrated me as well. To your credit, you never accused him of being a violent revolutionary by any means, but it's still framing the story in such a way that fuels irrational hatred for a guy who, as far as I can tell, just very genuinely cares about his city and it's residents. If I'm being honest, it feels either naive or an attempt to push a narrative to act so shocked that someone would recognize that violence is occasionally necessary.

Of course there are times when violent revolutions are necessary. Should the striking miners at Ludlow have turned the other cheek while Pinkerton and the Colorado National Guard murdered their wives and children? Should Zelenskyy have just let Putin have free reign in Ukraine? Should the Jayhawkers have just left all of those imprisoned slaves in Missouri? I'm not sure what exactly Mr Hernández was referencing when he mentioned violent revolution, but can we get into the nuance instead of creating a news cycle out of ear catching quotes?

I'll reiterate what I said earlier. I think you're a true asset to Denver, Colorado, and the public good. But I can't help but wonder if you have some unacknowledged bias when it comes to left wing politics. I've seen multiple Colorado journalists (not you) proclaim something along the lines of "both parties pushed the extreme elements out, and they're better off for it." Comparing Dave Williams, Fred Phelps cosplayer extraordinaire, to Tim Hernández or Elisabeth Epps is lazy, deeply unserious, and harms the public good.

I hope you read this, because I'm happy to be corrected and told I've got it all wrong, or that I missed followup stories that would've helped alleviate my concerns. As it stands right now, I trust you, your team, and your coverage on basically everything aside from sports coats and left wing politicians. And I don't want to live in an echo chamber where "my 'side' is always right," so correct me where I've erred.

Again, thank you for asking for my feedback. I hope it's not too much of a novel. In general, keep up the good work, Kyle. Oh, and go Nugz, and just for you, go Bills.

Sincerely, Jeff Ruane

  1. Briefly, for non-Denverites, Ms. CdeBaca is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America. She was more left leaning than most other folks on the Denver city council during her tenure.

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