Without the "idiots" memo, the Post's new Colorado Democracy Alliance exposé is ultra-wonky

The "Idiots" stamp proves more important than Jon Caldara thinks.

"Where Democrats Dumb Enough to Write This 'Idiot' Memo," the October 9 Message, deals with documents related to the left-leaning Colorado Democracy Alliance, including one whose authenticity has been disputed: It features a notation about a so-called "Educate the Idiots" campaign. As pointed out in the column, both Channel 7 and the Rocky Mountain News decided not to report about any of the documents -- even ones the Alliance authenticated -- when their reporters couldn't confirm that the "Idiots" memo was genuine. Moreover, the Denver Post only published a piece touching on the topic after the conservative website had already done so. The mainstreamers' reticence puzzled the Independence Institute's Jon Caldara, who started shopping the documents to the media earlier this year. "If they couldn't authenticate the 'Educate the Idiots' memo, they didn't have to use it. That memo was just a few pages in a hundred pages of incredible stuff that the Colorado Democracy Alliance did authenticate," he said. In his view, the other documents told what he saw as "a huge frickin' story."

Maybe so -- but as demonstrated by today's "Cracking the CoDA: Liberal Web Effective," Post reporter Jessica Fender's latest Alliance salvo, it's not nearly as likely to entrance the average reader sans the "Idiots" material.

At the outset, Fender makes it clear that the Alliance's methods are technically on the up and up:

The web of liberal nonprofit and political groups operating under the umbrella of the Colorado Democracy Alliance may tiptoe around tax and campaign-finance rules, but the efforts are completely legal, its architects and an expert say.

From there, she adds more details about the Alliance's approach, complete with a graphic breakdown of its power structure, affiliated organizations and behind-the-scenes players -- among them Rutt Bridges, Tim Gill and Pat Stryker. But while this sort of stuff will no doubt fascinate political junkies on either side of the ideological divide, it qualifies as inside baseball in ways the "Idiots" memo doesn't. Perhaps that's why the Post gave the new article such modest play. Although other Fender reports on the Alliance have made the front page of the A-section, this one was relegated to a modest chunk of Denver & the West's cover, located below the fold.

Caldara believes that it's the media's job to report important stories even when they're not, in journalism parlance, sexy -- and he's right. Still, the wonkiness of the today's article makes the decision by Channel 7 and the Rocky Mountain News not to go forward without the "Idiots" memo that much easier to understand. -- Michael Roberts

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts

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