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More Messages: 9News Wants to Know (Sometimes)

Categories: Media

In the April 27 Message column, Channel 9 news director Patti Dennis explained why her station didn't offer any advance coverage of an April 19 student walkout to protest immigration policies; approximately 2,500 young people left school to participate. According to her, she feared that "we would become part of the energy and advertising for it. We collectively felt that by covering it, we would sort of be an advocate for walking out of class, and that's not our role. We're here to talk about what happens, not to instigate it."

Channel 9 appears to be taking a similar approach to the impending May 1 rally, at which thousands upon thousands of employees who've left work, and students who've split from class, will gather to further their cause. A search of the station's website turned up no stories, at any rate. In some ways, this is a brave decision, since virtually every other major media outlet in Denver is focusing upon aspects of the event, including its potential impact on businesses that rely upon undocumented laborers. But there's something deeply contradictory about the stance, too. Did 9News refuse to report about impending parades or rallies after the Denver Broncos won two Super Bowls, or the Colorado Avalanche took a pair of Stanley Cup championships? Doubt it -- yet station personnel had to know that a huge number of employees and students would be ditching their responsibilities to attend the festivities. (I know I did.) So what's the difference between those rallies and this one? And if the answer to that question has anything to do with politics or ideology, is it really the place of a television station to impose such standards when deciding whether or not to offer any coverage? Or should news value be the most important criterion?

Granted, Channel 9 has done some excellent work when it comes to the immigration controversy, including its sponsorship of Bordering on Reform, a town-hall meeting hosted by reporter Adam Schrager that I lauded in a piece published in January. But whether out of an excess of political correctness or other more personal reasons, the station is shortchanging its viewers if it's declining to fully inform them about what's all but certain to be May 1's biggest local news event. -- Michael Roberts


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