‘I’ve had it’: Family-owned Colorado paper threatens state legislator with lawsuit

Columbia Journalism Review: When a Republican lawmaker in Colorado recently called his hometown newspaper “fake news,” the family-owned Grand Junction Daily Sentinel didn’t let it go unchallenged.

On Saturday, the paper’s publisher, Jay Seaton, wrote a pointed column taking the state senator, Ray Scott, to task over the allegation.

“I don’t think I can sit back and take this kind of attack from an elected official,” the publisher wrote. “We are brokers in facts. Words have real meaning in this business. Sen. Scott has defamed this company and me as its leader.” And then the kicker: “To borrow a phrase from another famous Twitter user, I’ll see you in court.”

It was no joke, either, Seaton told CJR over the phone Monday.

“That’s my intention,” he said about a potential lawsuit, “but we’re going to have some cooling-off period before I file anything.”

Here’s the background: The state senator called his local newspaper “fake news” on Twitter and Facebook after a February 8 editorial in the Sentinel urged him to move along a bill that would update the Colorado Open Records Act, or CORA. The bill would require government agencies to release digital copies of documents in a machine-readable format (if they have them), something they currently aren’t required to do. Scott chairs a committee in the state Senate that was scheduled to hear the bill last week, but he cancelled the hearing. The Sentinel urged its local lawmaker, who the paper endorsed in 2014, to set a new hearing and push the bill forward.

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