National News Literacy Week: Behind the scenes look at Denver7’s editorial & news gathering process

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DENVER — A typically news day at Denver7, at least in the COVID-era, starts with an online editorial meeting.

“Now, we start on a Zoom call,” said Denver7 reporter Ivan Rodriguez. “So, everyone from the assignment desk, to news directors, assistant news directors, producers and reporters will jump on the Zoom call. I’ll bring a couple ideas every day.”

But on this day, Rodriguez and the photojournalist he’s working with are heading out to cover breaking news.

“It’s Inauguration Day,” Rodriguez said. “We’re seeing protests from people who are opposed to the new administration coming in and people who are protesting the protesters.”

Those protesters are gathering in Cheesman Park, which is just blocks from the Colorado State Capitol building.

“These kinds of situations sometimes tend to change quickly,” Rodriguez said.

His goal today is to interview a good cross-section of protesters on both sides as quickly as possible, in the event things get too chaotic later in the day.

“We’ve seen these protests devolve into violence,” Rodriguez said. “If we ever feel like we’re in a situation where things are getting out of hand, the story at that point becomes the least important thing and your safety is the most important thing.”

Jack Kennedy teaches journalism at Metropolitan State University of Denver and Colorado State University. He says in instances like the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol, sometimes – when reporting – you simply start with what you know.

“You start with the best obtainable version of the truth,” Kennedy said. “You can’t wait until you know every answer.”

That speaks to the very essence of news literacy. Getting news viewers and consumers the most credible information available at any given time and then following up.

“You can’t make arguments without any support,” Kennedy said. “We can’t just settle for one view of anything.”

Kennedy says journalists must also be skeptical, not cynical, especially with anonymous sources.

“You don’t just leap into that and start reporting,” Kennedy said. “You ask yourself, ‘Why is it this person wants to remain anonymous? Is that a valid concern?’ We do have a practice of objectivity where we try to find out alternate viewpoints and do our best to get a wider array of sources.”

That’s partially why Denver7 had two news crews on the story at the State Capitol on Inauguration Day. An effort to cover all sides.

Which brings us back to Rodriguez. Demonstrators burned an American flag while Rodriguez was covering the protests, but things remained otherwise peaceful.

“I think now more than ever, it’s more crucial that we cross all the boxes of people who we reach out to,” Rodriguez said. “It’s our responsibility to reach out to them. Maybe we get a statement back, maybe we get an interview out of it, but we want to be able to get all of those opinions into our story.”