Run Ins

I’ve never reported in an unethical way, but I have ran into a breech in what I believed to be my first amendment rights and there have been a few instances in which my staff and I were accused of acting with a bias or encouraged to take back certain articles.


CHSAA Now & NFHS

Each year, usually around the time of basketball playoffs, we have to deal with the Colorado High School Athletics Association teaming up with the National Federation of High School Associations to restrict our rights to broadcasting our own events.

This year, somewhat surprisingly, we had to deal with it early when our football team scored a home-field advantage during their first playoff game against Denver East High School.

Even though the showdown was on our own turf, CHSAA and NFHS originally restricted our broadcasting rights as Denver East was already locked into contract with the two.

This immediately upset me. I had been to every football game of the season (with the exception of the senior night game against Regis Jesuit as it was the same night as the Douglas County Board of Education forum) and knew how important the night was to every player on the team. To say to their families that couldn’t make it that there would be no way to access the game was unacceptable in my opinion. To force them to pay $10, which is more than an admission ticket to the live event, to watch it stream off the Vista Now Cube was also unacceptable.

After a lot of unnecessary stress in the days leading up to the game, Vista Now Video was able to broadcast directly from the press booth at our home stadium. Alternatives methods originally including hoisting the camera and commentators in a bucket truck, accessing a nearby roof or streaming live from Parascope using a cellular device.

To help the broadcast crew, I acted more as their lawyer than anything else. After collecting documents that explained both our state and county laws, it was apparent that Mountain Vista Media maintained the right to act independently from Mountain Vista, thus nulling the contract requiring between CHSAA, NFHS and, indirectly, Mountain Vista.

I also helped run the camera during the second and third quarter, because it isn’t simple to stay out in freezing weather for a full two-and-a-half hours.

The full broadcast has now expired, but highlight clips can be found here


BOE Forum

The Douglas County Board of Education election was likely the most important political event throughout Highlands Ranch in years. Like in most debates, there were the incumbents and there were the challengers, each of whom sported massively different ideas.

In an attempt to spread the word of each candidate to parents, teachers and, most importantly, students, Mountain Vista Media held a forum that was entirely student run – questions and all.

Following the event, an email surfaced from the incumbents’ campaign manager that called the “debate” a “set-up.”

This was a screen shot of the text in Margo Knutson’s email. I tweeted it at her asking for some sort of justification, but never heard back.

On the contrary, the debate was ran in a very professional way. I had bared the majority of the responsibility in organizing the event, speaking equally with every candidate and ensuring them the audience was open to the public for whomever they wished to have in attendance.

When it came time to formulate questions, I worked to guarantee it was clear that students were the focal point of every issue. Tara O’Gorman, Christian Holton and Kelsey Pharis, three individuals each with three different political stances, also helped to formulate questions that would be asked at the debate.

Some self-inflicted harm occurred at the debate when one incumbent, Richard Robbins, accused a challenger, David Ray, of stuffing “money in his pockets” from the district. He was asked how to increase spending in classrooms to allow teachers to get the proper amount of supplies needed for their children.

Though I was accused of putting together a bias forum, it’s worthy of noting that every candidate was also interviewed individually following the event. I interviewed by Kevin Larsen, the incumbent candidate for the Mountain Vista feeder area, and Craig Richardson, another incumbent candidate. I spent nearly an hour trying to understand their stance on things such as the Douglas County voucher program, allowing them to provide a defense on what many have claimed to be an unconstitutional funding of private schools using public money.

Following the forum, all three challengers replaced the incumbents by at least 16-point differences in every matchup.

Still, the more progressive members are outnumbered three to four, so it’s unlikely much will even change before the next election.


The Eagle Eye

Christian Holton and I don’t talk about things lightly in our political column of the Eagle Eye, and it was unsettling for many people during the first go-around when we jumped straight into race relations throughout the United States.

Christian’s piece on the left made the statement that all lives matter. While I agree with him to an extent, I believe black lives are more often jeopardized in American society, so I took an approach to addressing institutionalized racism instead of looking solely at one statistic.

My side received some verbal backlash, but nothing too out of the ordinary. I can recall more people praising my work than criticizing it. Christian, on the other hand, received multiple written emails from all around Highlands Ranch.

When I was walking to class one day, someone instructed me to spit in his face the next time I saw him. I may completely disagree with 95 percent of his ideas, but the kid doesn’t deserve spit in his face.

The same people that were saying things of the like also wanted Mountain Vista Media, our principal Michael Weaver, our adviser Mark Newton and the editorial staff to release an apology regarding Christian’s underhanded racism.

While statements within his piece such as the reference to peace walks as “unwarranted riots” are enough to grind my gears, he still has every right to say it in our newsmagazine as we live in a state that operates under the Tinker standard, not Hazelwood.

Better said by Voltaire:

“I detest what you write, but I would give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write.” 

It’s hard to explain the above statement to an angry teen hell-bent on eradicating racism and creating a color-blind society, but I gave it my best shot.

I felt sending out email responses and releasing a statement across Vista Now wasn’t the type of response anyone who had complained truly wanted, so I made an effort to talk to some of them in person. While one individual, senior Bailey Gordon, still detested everything Christian wrote, she walked away with a better understanding of why it isn’t my job, Weaver’s job or Newton’s job to stop him from doing so.