When Factchecking Goes ‘Gray’: The tale of two Denver news outlets, an attack ad and two different conclusions
Denver’s two dominant media outlets—The Denver Post and 9NEWS KUSA television—recently conducted factchecks on a 6th Congressional District campaign ad in which incumbent Rep. Mike Coffman accuses Democratic challenger Joe Miklosi of being soft on child predators.
The ad in question is one of many in this hard-fought congressional race in the working-class neighborhoods east of Denver, but one that has attracted special attention because of its subject matter and timing.
On October 5, ten-year-old Jessica Ridgeway left her suburban Denver home to walk to school, but she never arrived. Her disappearance—which ended tragically last Friday when her body was found about seven miles from her home—has been a top story here. Coincidentally, Coffman’s ad aired at the same time the story of Ridgeway’s disappearance was breaking. In other words, as KUSA had it, this ad struck “a nerve.”
A look at the two factchecking efforts—the Post’s “Political Polygraph” by Kurtis Lee and 9News’s “Truth Test” by Brandon Rittiman—finds many similarities. Both reporters start with the ad’s claim that “258,000 children are abducted in America this year,” which KUSA describes as “misleading” and the Post calls “rather inflated” (both outlets note that the majority of these abductions are family-related, and a far smaller number of children—roughly 115—are the victims of “stereotypical” kidnapping by strangers.)