I'm going to name three Colorado political figures, and you tell me how they became embroiled in mini-media frenzies over digitally altered images or websites.
Here are the answers: GOP gubernatorial candidate Marc Holtzman's photo was altered in 2006 to make him look taller than Reagan. GOP gubernatorial candidate McInnis' 2009 website portrayed the Canadian Rockies as our own. And Democrat Romanoff's campaign doctored a photo on his 2010 Senate campaign website to make a crowd look more diverse.
If you got any of the right answers, and you should have, it's because of all the media attention they got.
And deservedly so. Maybe they aren't the biggest deal in the world, among all the ways political candidates are polished and handled, but digital alterations are tangible stories, unlike so much political spin. They can get real people, none of whom read this blog, thinking about politics and the real issues involved.
Same with expensive hair and mustache cuts by candidates.
Such a story presents itself today, in an article broken by the Colorado Independent, a progressive news site:
It reported Monday that the Colorado Observer, a conservative website, posted a story Saturday with the following quote from Rep. Scott Tipton's campaign Manager, Michael Fortney:
"With gas prices doubled, the national debt doubled, and unemployment has barely moved, we feel good."
Then, after the Washington Post spotlighted the Fortney quote, it was changed on the Observer website to:
"Voters in the 3rd District are rejecting Obama's policies that have led to gas prices doubling, the national debt doubled, and unemployment has barely moved. We feel good about our chances."
Fortney told The Post that the Observer originally quoted him out of context. He told The Denver Post:
"I was not out talking to him about policies," Fortney said this morning. "I was talking to him about electoral prospects, how the campaign was going to go in 2012 ... Scott is voting for a budget that will rein in the deficit, rein in high gas prices."
Fortney told The Post that the phase "about our chances" had been left out of the Observer article, and as you can see, it was added to the Observer's corrected quotation, along with other changes.
So what's up with the Observer? What exactly did Fortney say? How did the changes to the quote come to pass?
I can hear skeptics, two of which read this blog, saying that the fact that the Observer changed the quote, and not the Tipton campaign, lessens the news value of this story.
But we're talking about the Observer, a right-leaning entity, here. If The Denver Post had changed or altered a quote, the political significance would not be the same, and a correction would surely have been written. As it is, there could be more to this story than meets the eye.
The Observer remains mum about the incident. The Colorado Independent reports that it did not return e-mails, and its website provides no enlightenment.
I was able to reach Observer Valerie Richardson, who told me:
"I've got to tell you, I was completely out of the loop on that," she said I hear. "It wasn't my story. I probably know as much as you do, if not less. Mac would be the one to ask."
She was referring to editor Mac Zimmerman, who's listed as the"copyright agent" for the site. He did not respond to my email. He's in Malaysia, Richardson told me, but she had been in touch with him via email an hour before I tried. Among other things, I wanted to confirm that he was the same Mac Zimmerman who worked for Republicans Josh Penry and Tom Tancredo, but he didn't get back to me.
More local reporters at the legacy news outlets should cover this story, and try to get an answer from the Observer on what happened and why. What's the relationship between the Observer and Tipton?
This is the kind of political story that sheds light on how political campaigns operate nowadays.