The relationship between the press and the government is often seen either as antagonistic or sycophantic, depending on whether a reader sees an article as overly critical or flattering towards government officials. In reality, it’s far more complex, but with most people acting in good faith and professionally.
At The Denver North Star we try to bring you articles that make you smile, articles that update you on community events, and articles that hold government and government officials accountable to you — their constituents and taxpayers. Many articles from the last category come from tips or requests from readers. That is the role of the fourth estate and one we take seriously. Several articles in this issue, with one in particular, push for answers to tough questions from several departments and elected officials.
Most of The Denver North Star is written almost two weeks before it starts arriving on doors. For this issue, that means a large amount of work just before and during Labor Day weekend. Due to budget constraints, the City created a number of furlough days for staff, including the Friday before Labor Day weekend, causing a long weekend with staff not available to press. It was also the first real time off many city staff had had in months. That also meant city staff had a choice when they get press inquiries on a short week — push them off until after a long weekend or try and answer everything beforehand. In the case of public records requests, staff easily could ignore them until after print deadlines, but in almost every instance we found staff working to fulfill requests and help journalists do their jobs. One open records request to Technology Services that could have by law taken eight days took one hour.
I would like to thank the dedicated staff of Denver Parks and Recreation, Denver Department of Public Health and Environment, Denver Police, and several other departments who all helped answer inquiries and gather information for pieces in this issue. Those staff know that at times answering press inquiries results in articles that aren’t always flattering to their offices or departments, but the Thursday before the long weekend we received responses into the evening long past business hours. While we didn’t ask them to, other staff responded on a day off. That’s dedication to their role as city workers. As a resident, I’d also like to thank the Parks staff who had the incredibly bad smelling job of cleaning up Sloan’s lake even as community members and this paper pushed their department leadership for answers about the unprecedented fish kill. As noted in our front page story, many departments have also had serious reductions in staff. That’s not to say anyone should ignore problems when there are issues of public concern, but to give grace in understanding that everyone’s jobs are harder in this pandemic and many people are doing more than ever before.
We hope you continue sending in article requests and continue reading. We’ll keep writing.
The Denver North Star