Does 9News Have a DEI Problem?

This column – “LatinXed: 9News Got Rid of Three Latina Reporters This Past Year, Including Me” – by former 9News journalist Lori Lizarraga is all over social media today, and it is primarily journalists, including many of color, who are sharing it. It seems to have struck a chord.

You may remember Lizarraga for her comments in February 2020 calling out her colleagues at 9News for doctoring her headshot to make her “look whiter.”

The Power of Visuals

Egypt’s Suez Canal Authority wanted to show the world that it jumped into action to free a cargo tanker that became stuck while traversing the canal earlier this week. After all, every second that the ship blocks traffic, the global supply chain becomes that much more impacted.

However, I don’t think the official photo the authority released conveys exactly what they wanted to:

Photo courtesy of the Suez Canal Authority

Why Gaslighting Shouldn’t Be Part of Your Crisis Response Plan

General Mills is a 154-year-old company that has $17.6 billion in annual revenue, a $35 billion market cap and 40,000 employees. That’s all to say, it should know what it is doing. But even big brands make stupid decisions when they are caught off guard.

Yesterday’s reaction to a consumer complaint – shrimp tails allegedly found in a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch – only served to infuriate the customer, escalate the issue, and draw media and social media attention. And it has cost the company about $1.7 billion in market cap today.

What can we learn from General Mills’ response? First, you have to understand what you are dealing with. If a customer – especially a high-profile customer married to a Hollywood actress – claims they found shrimp tails in their breakfast cereal, use some of your $17.6 billion in annual revenue to hire an investigator to grab the box and interview the individual to understand what is going on.

Second, don’t rely on a superficial understanding of the situation to try to gaslight the customer. Claiming shrimp tails were “accumulation(s) of the cinnamon sugar” is the type of colorful detail that only escalates media and public interest. The only thing worse would have been to try to claim the shrimp tails were the special toy included in every box.

And third, try to end the situation as quietly and quickly as possible. This story is now a mystery the country is watching to see how it turns out. The customer has sent the box to a lab be tested to confirm what was found in it. It will be an entire new chapter in this saga when he announces the findings. Which will then lead to the “whodunnit” phase of the story. All of this could have been handled in the background by General Mills if they had taken the appropriate steps from the start.

Denver Post Story Prompts Interesting Disclosure

One of the cardinal tenets of journalism is not to accept items of value from sources or individuals whom you are covering, That’s what makes a Denver Post article today interesting.

Reporter Shelly Bradbury, along with photographer Kathryn Scott, reported on a COVID-19 vaccination event at the Colorado Muslim Society. The news hook was solid – the event was “part of the state’s larger effort to remedy racial inequities in vaccine distribution. There have been more than 100 such ‘equity clinics’ across the state aimed at all sorts of communities,” Bradbury reported.

But the disclosure that was added to the article was interesting:

Editor’s note: The reporter and photographer on this story received extra vaccine doses, after reporting this story, that clinic representatives offered because they needed to be used before going to waste.

There’s no question Bradbury is eligible for the vaccine according to 1B.4 guidelines, and the value of the shot is technically $0 since it is free to everyone. But as Coloradans scramble to try to gain access to the vaccine, is it ethical for a reporter to leverage a source relationship – presumably just hours after reporting on a story – to get access to a vaccine?

It appears the Denver Post is comfortable with the situation since it simply added a disclosure rather than pulling the story. I am curious where the line is, though. If, say, Centura Health offered reporters covering it access to hard-to-find COVID-19 vaccines, would that violate the paper’s guidelines?

Update: The always thoughtful Drew Kramer raised a few points in his comment to this post, and I wanted to acknowledge in the body of the post that “leverage” is probably too strong a term. Shelly is a respected reporter – a member of a Pulitzer Prize-winning team and an individual finalist for another Pulitzer Prize – and I did not intend to imply that she shook down a source. Fundamentally, my point is that I don’t know where that ethical line is. I’m genuinely interested in understanding what journalists think. I traded emails with Corey Hutchins, who teaches journalism at Colorado College and writes for the Columbia Journalism Review, and he is thinking about addressing the issue in his weekly column. I hope he does, because I’m very interested to learn what he thinks. If you want to subscribe to Corey’s weekly Colorado media newsletter – and it is great – you can do so here.

German Soccer Coach ‘Ordered’ to Train Women’s Team as Punishment

Heiko Vogel, a coach of the German professional soccer team Borussia Monchengladbach “was ordered to train the women’s team as punishment for ‘unsporting behaviour’ toward a referee during a match,” Stephan Uersfeld of ESPN reported.

Nicole Selmer of the Frauen im Fussball (Women in Football) network criticized the decision, saying it sent “a fatal message.”

“This punishment for the Gladbach coach puts coaching a women’s team on a level with social work,” Selmer said. “Women’s football is a sport and those who participate in it are as professional as their male counterparts. If you strip away everything and give it to them they have good intentions, it is still sending a fatal message as coaching a women’s or girls’ team is part of a punishment for a misconduct.”

Prominent Black Attorney Declines Board Seat at Tegna after CEO Confuses Him for a Hotel Valet

“Media attorney and consultant Adonis Hoffman has withdrawn a bid to be a board member for broadcast company Tegna, citing a conflict of interest and that CEO Dave Lougee assumed he was a hotel valet at an industry event,” Thomas Moore at The Hill reports.

“That incident Hoffman had recalled (and which Lougee acknowledged in an SEC filing) happened in 2014 when he was seated at an industry dinner with Lougee. Though they had a significant discussion at the table, Hoffman said, after the event ended Lougee handed him his valet ticket thinking he was a hotel employee.”

“’The incident was a matter of principle as I thought about it if I was elected to a board and had to be in meetings with a man who I had interesting encounters with over the years,’ said Hoffman, who is Black.”

Three Comms Professionals Honored as ’40 Under 40′ Winners by Denver Business Journal

Congratulations to the 2021 Denver Business Journal 40 Under 40 award winners who come from the communications industry:

Kayla Garcia – Kayla is the community affairs director at Molson Coors. A Colorado State graduate, she previously worked at Mile High United Way and Denver Inner City Parish.

Maria De Camba Gonzalez – Maria is the director of communications and community engagement at the Colorado Governor’s Office. She previously was a senior associate at Hilltop Public Solutions, and she is a former mayor pro-tem of the Westminster city council.

Leanna Clark – Leanna is a former 40 Under 40 award winner who is being recognized as this year’s Hall of Fame award winner. She is the CEO of Girl Scouts of Colorado, but most of us know her as the former vice chancellor of University Communications and Marketing at the University of Colorado Denver and a principal at Schenkein.

Media Lessons from Oprah’s Interview with Meghan and Harry

The dust is still settling on Oprah Winfrey’s interview with Royal free agents Meghan and Harry, but Brian Stelter and Oliver Darcy at CNN have assembled a list of media and PR lessons:

 – Don’t give it all away ahead of time. “If anything, all of the hype underestimated just how revealing this interview would be,” Brianna Keilar said to me on CNN. She’s right. The teasers generated a week’s worth of attention ahead of time but didn’t spill any of the tea. Oprah’s team ensured that nothing leaked. As a result, the palace couldn’t prebut the interview and the special contained maximum shock value.

 – Let it breathe. The interview “really showed the power of the long-format interview, which is almost totally gone from TV nowadays,” THR’s Alex Weprin commented. “Everything is crunched into tight, fast-paced segments now, to the detriment of all involved.” 

 – Follow-up questions make all the difference. “Oprah best displayed her interviewing chops by relentlessly circling back to emotional or newsmaking comments like a heat-seeking missile,” WaPo’s Margaret Sullivan wrote. But Winfrey didn’t rush or interrupt. She sometimes waited half an hour before circling back “to clarify, to get the specifics, to nail down the news.” And that, of course, is the luxury of a taped interview.

 – Leave something on the cutting room floor. Winfrey’s announcement at the end of the broadcast that additional clips would air on Monday’s “CBS This Morning” was a nice bit of synergy…

 – Broadcast TV still has juice, but it’s getting harder to squeeze. Legacy networks still have the ability to convene large numbers of people, but it takes something huge – something like Oprah, Meghan and Harry.

 – History has an echo. “It was hard to escape the eerie parallels between Princess Diana’s 1995 Martin Bashir interview and this one,” Brian Lowry wrote. “And give Netflix an assist, since ‘The Crown’ has brought that back to life for millions…”

 — Don’t forget about the streamers. On Sunday I encountered lots of complaintsfrom cable-free households who wanted to watch the special but seemed lost. Networks that are constantly promoting their streaming services need a plan and proactive outreach for moments like this. (The special is now streaming for free on

Denver PR Salaries Lag National Averages, According to PRWeek Survey

PRWeek is out with its annual salary survey, and the results showed a mixed bag during the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the survey’s findings:

  • Denver saw the median PR salary increase 11% to $85,000.
  • Denver’s median annual salary significantly trails markets such as San Francisco ($153,000), Chicago ($110,000), Boston ($122,000) and Washington, D.C. ($127,000), but is ahead of markets such as Atlanta ($76,000) and Seattle ($80,000).
  • PR agencies saw salaries rise 6.8% on average nationally, while corporate positions saw a 4.2% increase. Non-profit salaries languished, with an average increase of 0.6%.
  • 23% of respondents said their salaries were reduced at some point during the year due to COVID-19.

2021 Off to a Tough Start for Jeep

It has been a tough month for Jeep. The auto manufacturer had one of the most talked-about Super Bowl commercials with its spot featuring music legend Bruce Springsteen, only to have to pull the spot from the post-Super Bowl rotation less than a week later when reports of The Boss’ arrest on DUI charges surfaced (a blood test showed he was at about one-fourth the legal limit and the DUI charges were later dropped).

More recently, the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation demanded that Jeep stop using the term “Cherokee” in the names of its SUVs – a demand that affects Jeep’s best selling (Grand Cherokee) and third-best selling (Cherokee) vehicles. Jeep parent company CEO Carlos Tavares announced yesterday he is open to dropping the Cherokee name.