Gazette Editor says CO Springs officials didn’t apply pressure to re-assign or fire reporter

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Colorado Springs Gazette Editor Joe Hight told me this morning that he received "no pressure" from CO Springs government officials to fire or re-assign former City Hall reporter Daniel Chacon.

The Colorado Springs Independent reported Friday that Hight had not responded directly to its question about whether officials connected to CO Springs Mayor Steve Bach pressured the Gazette to remove Chacon from the City Hall beat.

The Independent cited a Facebook post by former mayoral candidate Buddy Gilmore, raising concerns about the unproven allegation that pressure from Bach's office was applied. (This apparently led to the formation of the "Free Daniel Chacon" Facebook page.)

"There was no pressure," Hight told me. "This is the transition of a reporter from one beat to another. Does City Hall express concern? That's part of what you'd expect."

But he said there was no pressure from Bach's office to fire or re-assign Chacon.

Chacon and Gazette State Capitol reporter John Schroyer was also assigned a new beat, the Independent reported. Hight told the Independent.

"It’s perfectly reasonable for newsrooms to realign reporters and their beats, especially those who have been on ones for periods of time," Hight writes. "It is even more reasonable considering our focus on expanding our news and information products and services. We are a growing organization and need to make moves and transitions, similar to the newsroom management realignment we announced last week, as well as bring in new people to meet those needs. John and Daniel are experienced journalists who will be assets in their new positions and provide talent to important newsroom endeavors."

Publications like the Gazette obviously get pressure from all quarters, and it's no surprise that Bach's office could have been angry over Chacon's reporting.

But if a public official demanded the firing or reassignment of a reporter, and did so on the record, a newspaper should definitely report it.

Hight did the right thing by talking about the matter to me and the Independent. There was a day when an editor might have refused to discuss it.

A call to Colorado Springs government offices was not immediately returned.

In November, Philip Anschutz's Clarity Media Group purchased The Gazette from a California-based newspaper chain.

Follow Jason Salzman on Twitter @bigmediablog.

6 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. ElliotFladenElliotFladen says:

    Personally, I remain very suspicious.  Why have a reorganization scant months before a major City election? Why not wait until after the election?

    However, suspicion does not equal proof.  Thank you Jason for taking time to look into this. 

  2. ElliotFladenElliotFladen says:

    Hight said: "Does City Hall express concern? That's part of what you'd expect."

    When was this concern expressed, to whom was it expressed, and how was it expressed?

  3. ProgressiveCowgirlProgressiveCowgirl says:

    How much concern over a good reporter's reporting on his beat is it "expected" that City Hall express, I wonder?

  4. Awen says:

    That's not the only change at the Gazette; long-time capitol reporter John Schroyer is back in Colorado Springs permanently. He's doing video editing among other things. His replacement is a reporter who came to Colorado from Oklahoma.

    My guess is that the purchase of the Gazette by Phil Anschutz has a lot to do with some of these changes; he's putting a lot of money into the Gazette and some of that means hiring MORE reporters, not laying off them or other newspaper personnel like so many other papers (including the Gazette) have done in recent years. 

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