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CORA Wars

Winston Churchill had a saying: “Arguing over the internet is like competing in the Special Olympics – even if you win, you’re still retarded.”

Well, maybe it wasn’t Churchill who said it, but any web surfer who's suddenly found themselves spending hours crafting witty cyber comebacks over topics such as Lindsay Lohan, salt water taffy or Barack Obama – comments that will only be read by a half-dozen other anonymous assholes – eventually realizes the pointlessness of endless forum board quarrels.

But the blogosphere, disparaged just a few years ago as a cottage industry for the over-educated and under-employed, is emerging as a defining medium our age. This is especially true in the politics category where several local websites have earned props for their refreshing commentary and investigative footwork that have repeatedly fed into mainstream news stories. Much of this can be credited to the fact that these sites have shrugged off the gossipy ranting stylings of most informal blogs and evolved toward some of the infrastructure and technical standards seen at professional journalistic outlets with a staff, funding sources, quotes from sources and everything.

Yet, recently, the curious back-and-forth between the liberal Colorado Confidential and its conservative counterpart Face the State is beginning to look like a petty blogger gotcha war dressed in the official-looking uniform of a legitimate news story. This piece posted yesterday on Colorado Confidential aims to take Face the State founder Brad Jones to task for submitting a string of requests for information under the Colorado Open Records Act. Jones, a Republican consultant and self-styled media maker birthed from the hairy haunches of the Independence Institute, has often used CORAs to make headlines like in the brouhaha he stirred in March over Democratic Representative Mike Merrifield’s “email from hell” or about the stink this month over Governor Bill Ritter talking with union reps about collective bargaining. Now Jones has dropped CORAs on the Senate Majority Office for communications linking Democratic officials to writers at Colorado Confidential, Progress Now, and Colorado Media Matters.

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The outrage being cultivated over Jones’ actions is puzzling, however. After all, Face the State is just following strategies also employed by these same progressive websites – namely the use of information requests to dig up financial and other dirt on elected officials from the other side of the political aisle. In fact, it was Colorado Confidential that first submitted a CORA on Jones back in April, seeking information that would connect him to the Senate Minority Office. Colorado Confidential reported that Jones had worked on several Republican campaigns in its effort to expose Jones as a party insider with a tainted agenda. But Erin Rosa, who penned the recent articles on Jones and writes frequently about union issues, was two years ago a Colorado branch delegate for the International Workers of the World and had organized campaigns to unionize local companies.

At what point can one activist website funded by moneyed outside sources accuse another activist website funded by moneyed outside sources of being a mouthpiece for political ideologues? And, in the up-front bias of the new media age, does anyone care? After a while the accusations become a cannonball being thrown back and forth over the liberal/conservative divide. As Lindsey Lohan once said, “One man’s news is another man’s propaganda.”

What, she didn’t? Well then leave a comment, bitch, and let the debate begin. – Jared Jacang Maher

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