Colorado Springs advocacy group protests Gazette opinion pages, charging bias

March 20, 2017 Updated: March 21, 2017 at 6:38 am
photo - Brothers Graeme Fair, 4, and Korbyn Fair, 5, hold a sign during a protest outside The Gazette Monday, March 20, 2017. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette
Brothers Graeme Fair, 4, and Korbyn Fair, 5, hold a sign during a protest outside The Gazette Monday, March 20, 2017. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette 

Some 25 people gathered outside The Gazette on Monday, holding signs reading "stop bias" and largely protesting what they said were unfair editorials and a lack of diverse opinions on the newspaper's opinion page.

The rally was organized by Together For Colorado Springs, which announced its formation in February, saying it wanted to move the city in a more progressive, moderate direction.

A 501(c)4 nonprofit, it is led by seven people, including John Weiss, chair and co-owner of the Colorado Publishing House, which owns the Colorado Springs Independent and the Colorado Springs Business Journal. He was among the demonstrators Monday.

The group has endorsed three candidates vying for City Council: Richard Skorman in District 3; Yolanda Avila in District 4 and incumbent Jill Gaebler in District 5.

Dawn Haliburton-Rudy, one of the group's board members, said too many far-right viewpoints appear on The Gazette's editorial page, and said recent editorials about Skorman and Gaebler lacked context.

She said not enough letters to the editor are published that break from the editorial board's point of view, and that The Gazette's opinion pages seem "to be driving polarization within our community."

She also criticized delays by The Gazette in running one of the group's advertisements.

Dan Steever, the newspaper's publisher, said an advertising manager initially asked the group to "tone down" its rhetoric. Learning of the issue Monday, however, Steever said he overrode that decision and agreed to run it "as-is."

"Rhetoric is not a reason not to accept an ad," Steever said.

He took issue with the notion that The Gazette's opinion and editorial pages are misrepresentative of the community. "The voters disagree with that statement," he said.

Steever said The Gazette has an election season policy barring candidates from writing about their candidacy, and candidates cannot rebut The Gazette's endorsements, but that they can write about issues.

Otherwise, he said, "All our editorial pages would become advertising space for candidates."

While the vast majority of demonstrators said they only sought to raise concerns about the newspaper's opinion pages, Haliburton-Rudy said her concerns about bias were for the entire newspaper.

Vince Bzdek, editor of The Gazette, said The Gazette maintains a clear distinction between the newspaper's opinion pages and its news gathering operations.

"It's one of our highest ideals to write objectively and fair," Bzdek said.

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