David Sirota bars Education News Colorado reporter from Emily Sirota on election night
Update about the Jimenez-Draper Carson race below. By now, you've heard that Anne Rowe and Allegra "Happy" Haynes won seats on the Denver Public Schools board, and that incumbent Arturo Jimenez narrowly claimed victory over reformer Jennifer Draper Carson. As for Rowe opponent Emily Sirota, you won't read her reaction on Education News Colorado, because Sirota's husband told its reporter he wasn't welcome at his wife's party.
Sirota's husband is, of course, radio host and author David Sirota. A story about the election results posted by Education News Colorado last night included an uncomfortable moment between reporter Charlie Brennan and David Sirota.
At a subdued gathering for Sirota at a Beau Jo's Pizza, efforts to get comment from the candidate were blocked by her husband.
"Do not go near her," cautioned David Sirota, as she stood nearby sipping a glass of wine. "You do not work for a real news organization."
David Sirota says his comment refers to Education News Colorado's funding. The site is connected to the nonprofit Public Education and Business Coalition, whose donors include the pro-reform Donnell-Kay Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation, which funds many reform and charter school organizations nationwide.
"This is not a news organization," Sirota says. "I don't know how you'd characterize it. It's a propaganda website with a vested interest in trying to skew media coverage."
Sirota says it's important to add that there were reporters from other news organizations at the gathering. "They were welcome to be there, we were happy to have them," he says.
Guerin Green, publisher of the Cherry Creek News and North Denver News, was also on hand. Brennan wrote that Green followed him out of the restaurant and said, "It's a good thing this isn't 100 years ago. You'd be hanging from a tree."
Green says he was misquoted. "What I actually said was, 'A hundred years ago, you'd be swinging from a tree,'" Green wrote in an e-mail to Westword.
"A hundred years ago, if somebody came to town waving around huge corporate donations to spread their agenda and then somebody took up their agenda, the people of Denver would not tolerate that very long," Green says.
Education News Colorado's website is up-front about its connection to the Public Education and Business Coalition. However, it states that its editorial content is independent. From the website:
We make it clear to our philanthropic funders and paid sponsors that they cannot influence our editorial product.
Some of our funders and sponsors take strong positions on education policy, though these positions vary widely. But all understand that their beliefs do not influence our editorial decisions.
Editor Alan Gottlieb says Education News Colorado has "never felt an iota of pressure to write or not write something." He adds, "I'd rather not be in business than have to follow the dictates of a funder."
The reality, Gottlieb says, is that online news sites have to rely on foundations for funding. It's a fairly new type of partnership and he admits that both sides are still working out the kinks. "I think it's a conversation to be had and new terrain to be negotiated about nonprofit news sites and the people who fund them," he says. "But to assume anybody trying to negotiate a new frontier is in the pocket of funders is a reactionary, knee-jerk, non-thinking, non-intellectual position to take."
Last night, after Brennan was barred from Sirota's party, Gottlieb tweeted the following:
Meanwhile, on the northwest side of town, Draper Carson hasn't conceded to Jimenez just yet. The unofficial final vote tally from the Denver Elections Division shows Draper Carson with 7,628 votes and Jimenez with 7,742, a 114-vote difference.
So why are the results "unofficial"? According to spokesman Alton Dillard, the division has until November 16 to deal with any ballots that were not signed or ballots on which the signature looks suspicious. In the case of either, a letter would be sent to the voter in question and he or she would be given the opportunity to either sign or re-sign their ballot.
But Dillard doesn't expect the results of the Jimenez-Draper Carson race to change much as a result. "We have never seen a race sway" in the days between the unofficial results and the official ones, he says. "Sometimes, the margin will move," he says, but that's it.
Still, Draper Carson is waiting before admitting any loss. "We have not conceded yet," says her campaign manager, Greta Twombly. "We realize the lead is unlikely to change, but we are waiting for the final result from the election division."
More to come, dear readers.
Update, November 3: Jennifer Draper Carson has conceded the race for the school board seat representing northwest Denver to incumbent Arturo Jimenez.
Read an e-mail she sent today to supporters below:
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the support you have given this campaign. Earlier today I called Arturo Jimenez to congratulate him and officially concede the race. We came extremely close and I am so proud of the campaign we ran.
While we might disagree on the most expedient and inclusive methods of providing access to great schools, I think everyone in NW Denver can agree that there are real problems with the education system and we must come together to better address them. No matter where you stood or for whom you cast your vote, we must come together as a community. Our children cannot wait a minute longer and I plan to keep fighting for great schools in every neighborhood.
Over the past several months I have had the opportunity to speak to thousands of families, parents, and teachers across District 5. Every single comment and piece of feedback I received went back to the same core principal: we all want the best schools possible for our children. It is time to move forward, together, and keep working towards this goal.
We received nearly 8,000 votes in this campaign, thanks to the efforts of so many people who chose to get involved, and to join me in calling for better schools in NW Denver. I hope all of my supporters remain involved and join me in bringing the community together to fight for the best education possible for every child in NW Denver. There is too much at stake to sit on the sidelines and I hope to see a renewed involvement in our schools from across District 5. Political campaigns are just one way to achieve a goal. The election may be over, but our work together, to improve our schools, has just begun.
Thank you again for your support-this has been the experience of a lifetime and I look forward to continuing my work in every neighborhood, fighting for every child.
More from our Education archives: "Emily Sirota on MSNBC to talk about 'America's Wildest School Board Race' (VIDEO)"