Vince Bzdek, the editor of the Colorado Springs Gazette, had already forced Megan Schrader to lower her ethical bar — as a journalist — well below her comfort level.


Her months-long investigation of Republican Senate candidate Robert Blaha had been, as she tells it, gutted by Bzdek at the insistence of Dan Steever, who was the publisher of the Gazette, which is owned by Phil Anschutz, a billionaire GOP donor.

Then, on the Saturday morning after her “heavily edited” story was published, Schrader got a call from Bzdek, demanding — at the request of Steever — that she delete what she called a “hard-hitting tweet” she wrote to promote her story. In the tweet, she’d revealed some of the edited-out details about Blaha.

“It was awful,” she said of the June 2016 phone call.

The situation was especially frustrating for Schrader because, she says, Bzdek agreed with her that not only did investors need to know about Blaha’s risky business practices documented in her story, but so did voters.

“Vince was very open and honest with me about what was driving the edits of the story — Steever’s desire to protect Blaha and his business from criticism so close to the election,” said Schrader. “And he made it clear he agreed with my arguments about the right for the public to know what we knew.”

After her call with Bzdek, Schrader deleted the tweet, as ordered, but it pushed her over the edge. She decided to find a new job.


“I couldn’t work under those conditions where I didn’t ever know if I was going to step on some kind of a sacred cow that I couldn’t criticize,” said Schrader, adding that the story about Blaha was one of two “very blatant instances of interference,” in long-term investigations that were gutted not due to “differences of opinion,” but to protect the personal, business, or political interests of Anschutz. The other incident involved a 2014 story, which wasn’t edited by Bzdek, about the financing of the Gaylord Rockies hotel in Aurora.

“I immediately started looking for another job, and I found one,” said Schrader, who a couple of months later landed a position as an editorial writer for The Denver Post. “I felt I had to leave to maintain my journalistic integrity.”

“There is no doubt in my mind that Vince was an advocate for the newsroom, that he was trying to maintain the bulwark between the ownership of the paper and their interests and our independent news-gathering operation,” said Schrader, who’s now opinion page editor at The Denver Post.

“But when I was there, he couldn’t hold it back, because, at the end of the day, [the president of Anschutz’s media company] Chris Reen and Phil Anschutz are the owners of the paper who make the final call and can kill a story, demand significant edits to a story, and push the direction of the news coverage, ‘Hey, we want this one specific thing investigated because it aligns with our business interests.'”

“I loved my job,” said Schrader, who was the Gazette’s Denver-based political reporter at the time. “And I had no desire to be an editorial writer. But when I heard there was an opening (at the Post), I said, ‘I’ll apply. I can do that, I think.’”

Bzdek had been the editor of the Gazette only about two months when Schrader quit in June 2016, but he’d already been dragged into a dispute between Steever and another Gazette journalist, Ryan Maye Handy, who’d also resigned after a story she wrote was not published at the last minute at the apparent behest of Anschutz and his underlings.

Some Gazette journalists at the time hoped Bzdek, who arrived with a top-shelf reputation from the Washington Post three weeks after Handy left the Gazette, would find a way to publish Handy’s spiked piece, which, as she tells it, revealed that the Broadmoor Hotel — which is owned by Anschutz — was threatening to sue Colorado Springs Utilities for allegedly causing a disastrous landslide that the Broadmoor itself may have triggered. The Broadmoor didn’t want the story to run, and it never did, according to Handy and another journalist familiar with the incident. Handy’s full story will be told in a future article.

“Everyone [in the newsroom] knew why I left, and they were very upset,” said Handy, who was there off-and-on from 2011 to 2016. “Their impression of Vince, I think, was that he was going to come in, and he was going to fix it. And would reverse this. The other reporters sold this to me as, ‘Talk to him. Maybe he can get the story published, and you can come back.’

“So they had Vince call me not long after he started, and he asked me to tell him the story. And I can’t remember the details, but he was like, ‘I’m going to look into this, and I’ll be back in touch.’ That didn’t happen. Maybe he found something that made him uncomfortable. I honestly don’t know what he encountered on the other end. I never heard from him again.”


A veteran journalist like Bzdek, with contacts throughout the journalism community, had to have known about the tumult — and credible accusations of Anschutz interference — at the Gazette before he started his job there and heard Handy’s resignation story. Alleged ethical lapses at the Gazette had received national attention. You can get a sense of the scope of the reported problems there by reading former Gazette journalist John Schroyer’s meticulous memoir, posted in 2017, documenting the newsroom manipulation by Anschutz after the billionaire acquired the newspaper in 2012.

“Yes, that was absolutely why I left,” said Schroyer, who resigned from the Gazette in 2014, when asked if Anschutz’s meddling in the newsroom prompted him to leave, two years before Bzdek arrived. “There was a sense that permeated the newsroom that Anschutz didn’t care about us or journalism, but only how he could use the Gazette to further his own interests, both in business and politics.

“I spent a solid calendar year desperately looking for any other job in journalism in order to escape the toxic atmosphere created at the Gazette by Anschutz and his cronies,” said Schroyer.

Schroyer says multiple journalists, in addition to himself and Daniel Chacon, left the Gazette after Anschutz purchased the newspaper.

“The attitude for a lot of the old timers was, ‘I’m going to stay. I’m too embedded in this community. I can’t go,” said Handy, who left the Gazette before Bzdek arrived. “For those of us who were younger and not deeply embedded, the answer was, ‘Go.’ I was lucky to be able to go. I knew other reporters who started to feel the influence, and they got new jobs and left.”

It’s true that the Gazette produced great journalism after Anschutz bought the newspaper in 2012, including the 2013 Pulitzer prize-winning series “Other Than Honorable.”

That said, there’s no doubt that a big question when Bzdek arrived was, could the ballyhooed editor succeed at being the firewall that he was supposed to be, preventing the billionaire owner from using his newspaper as a tool to serve his business and political interests?

Anschutz Meddling Continues After Bzdek Arrives

An investigation by the Colorado Times Recorder shows that Bzdek has failed to stop Anschutz or his lieutenants from siphoning unwanted information out of the news at the Gazette; that news affecting the interests of Anschutz gets special scrutiny and extra editing; that journalists steer clear of stories touching on Anschutz; that former and current Gazette journalists are clamming up when asked about Anschutz; that Anschutz-owned news platforms align with conservative groups; and more.

What’s up for debate now is not whether Bzdek has blocked Anschutz from influencing the newsrooms — Bzdek hasn’t — but how deeply tainted the newspapers are and what readers should do in response.

Anschutz’s Expanding Media Empire in CO

Stories about Anschutz’s influence in Bzdek’s newsroom are coming to light as Anschutz is expanding his media holdings across the state — from Colorado Springs to Denver and creeping toward Aurora.

Anschutz’s Clarity Media Group, which owns not only the Colorado Springs Gazette but also the (online) Denver Gazette (launched in 2020), and, since 2016, Colorado Politics, a political print/online newspaper built on a century-old publication, the Colorado Statesman, which Clarity Media took over in 2017. And Clarity Media’s Washington Examiner injects national conservative content into Colorado via these platforms.

Asked by Republican radio host George Brauchler in April whether an “Aurora Gazette” was in the works, Bzdek replied that he’s already hired an Aurora reporter who’s working for the Denver Gazette.

“We feel like we’re adding to coverage there already,” said Bdzek. “But I would love that.”

“We’re not going anywhere,” Bzdek told Brauchler last year, in explaining why journalists join the Gazette. “We are going to grow. And we have grown. We’ve doubled our staff in two years already. And we continue to add. We tell these guys, ‘Listen, we’re in this for the long run.'”

A “Shadow Rule

The ownership’s influence on any journalist in the Anschutz media empire may not be overt, like the kind Schrader felt.

Another former Gazette reporter who worked under Bzdek says he didn’t feel the pressure from ownership directly, but said there was a “shadow rule that was really clear.”

“You’re not going to bite the hand that feeds you,” said the reporter, who did not want their name used so that they could preserve relationships at the newspaper. “At the Gazette, you’re not going to go out of your way to find a major scoop about the Broadmoor or anything that has to do with Anschutz.”

“There are and have been very talented journalists there, but that’s all a means to an end, and the end is a mouthpiece for Anschutz. I don’t think anybody would deny that,” they continued.

The mouthpiece goes beyond the opinion page and into the news coverage, they said.

“There is undeniably an Anschutz influence on the news side,” they said. “How strong it is depends on the day, depends on the story, depends on which editor. There’s no broad conspiracy, where the editors tell people what to write or how to write it.”

Despite this, they said, “I had lots of freedom at the Gazette, and aside from a sort of shadow rule I was never told what or how to report.”

Journalists Say Some Stories Get Extra Scrutiny

Two journalists who worked at Anschutz media platforms say they didn’t experience interference, but they did endure extra scrutiny of sensitive or progressive subjects.

“Even if you had to make sure that on sensitive subjects there wasn’t going to be any pushback, there was still an independence to the newsroom,” said Joel Millman, a former Colorado Springs Gazette editor who worked in Bzdek’s newsroom from 2016- 2021. “I didn’t feel like anything was totally off-limits or that we had to slant anything in a particular way to appease the owner.”

“In my experience there, I was not aware of interference in our coverage. I thought we were an independent newsroom,” he said.

Linda Shapley, who was managing editor at Colorado Politics from 2019 – 2021, came to expect a “closer inspection” of stories with a “progressive lean,” but she said this resulted in better journalism.

“We didn’t shy away from stories that had a progressive lean to them,” said Shapley, who is now publisher of Colorado Community Media, which owns newspapers in eight Colorado counties. “I would say that I felt like that coverage would get a closer inspection than something that came from a more conservative viewpoint.

“But more focus on them isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It would be like, ‘OK, it’s going through another round of people looking at it. OK, it’s going through another round of someone looking at it.’ But, you know, in a lot of cases he asked some really good questions, like, ‘Do we need to have something about this.’ And we’d go and look into that and report what we found, and it made the story better. I’ve always respected that.”

Shapley said she reported directly to Publisher Jared Wright, a former GOP state lawmaker, not to Bzdek, who was an advising editor.

“Vince never discouraged me or our reporters from taking Republicans to task, from holding them accountable,” she said.

The Gazette’s Threat to Colorado

As the Gazette expands with underwriting from an owner with bizoodles of money, the future of some of the biggest professional journalism entities in Colorado looks uncertain at best, bleak at worst. The Denver Post, which Anschutz has long wanted to purchase, is owned by Alden Global Capital, a hedge fund that is apparently pocketing as much money from the Post as it can while it kills the paper by slow bloodletting. And most of Colorado’s local TV, print, and digital platforms are in the experimental stage, vulnerable, or teetering.

Against that backdrop, an Anschutz media empire in Colorado, funded with pocket change from the billionaire, could evolve to deliver a conservative wallop of influence that could undermine not only progressive leaders and ideas but spread corruption into business and political life.

In Private, Bzdek Acknowledges Anschutz Influence

Bzdek has denied that Anschutz has meddled in his newsroom, telling journalist Corey Hutchins last year that “our owner does not control or engage with us in news coverage at all.” Bzdek made a similar statement shortly after starting his job. This appears to be either an outright falsehood or a gross manipulation of the truth.

While Bzdek promotes the “our-owner-does-not-control-or engage-with-us” line publicly, he has privately acknowledged, according to Schrader, that the Gazette publisher, who reported to executives at Anschutz’s media company, dictated at least one major newsroom decision.

It’s worth stating again that Bzdek was transparent with Schrader that the order to remove potentially damaging information about Blaha from her 2016 story — to reduce the piece to, as she put it, a “press release” — came from the Gazette’s publisher, Steever. Bzdek thought withholding the information was unethical even as he was being a foot soldier of ownership, said Schrader.

Bzdek’s failure to stop the Anschutz axe from falling on Schrader’s Blaha story comports with another former Gazette journalist’s assessment of him. “My opinion is that Vince just does what he’s told,” they said. “If The Bigs want things a certain way, that’s what they get from him. And we all know what they want.”

Schrader suspected that Anschutz himself was involved in the Blaha story but doesn’t know for sure. But she was told repeatedly that the interference with the Gaylord investigation was a “directive” of Anschutz.

Asked via email if edits of the Gaylord story were made at the direction of Anschutz himself, Joe Hight, who edited the story at the Gazette, wrote, “As I said earlier, all stories go through editing processes, particularly front-page stories, and reporters sometimes don’t agree with the edits, the timing of the story, etc. It doesn’t mean the owner directly influenced it.”


“I agree with you that reporters often feel that way,” I emailed Hight, “but in the case of the [2014] story referenced below about the Gaylord Hotel of the Rockies, was the reporter correct? Did the owner directly influence the story?”

“The referenced story was actually 9 1/2 years ago,” Hight, who was the Gazette’s editor at the time, responded. “The reporter has their perception; I have my own. I had no conversations with Philip Anschutz before or after that story.”

“Just to be clear,” I asked Hight, “did you have conversations with – or get direction from — someone else who got a directive from Anschutz or someone representing him? Or were your decisions based solely on the journalistic merits? I’m sorry to be kind of aggressive about the questions, but I’d like to report your answer with as much specificity as possible.”

“I answered your questions about one story to the best of my ability,” emailed Hight, who’s now the chair of journalism ethics in the Department of Mass Communication at the University of Central Oklahoma. “As I told you earlier, too, there were spirited discussions about a number of stories and issues. I think everyone, including me, was trying to do the best job possible with every story, including that one. It would be unfair to all involved for me to respond further. Your quest for specificity is appreciated, but you’re addressing one story many years ago. We’ve all moved on from there. At least I have.”

So who knows for sure if and how Anshutz got his opinions about the Gaylord story to Hight, but you’d have to conclude, based on this exchange with Hight, that he found a pipeline somewhere — and that Hight faced a similar ethical dilemma as Bzdek did, and he made the same call.

Does It Bother You That the Owner Wants Stories To ‘Lean Conservative’?

And there’s this illuminating incident when Bzdek allegedly warned a potential employee about the conservative owner, asking a journalist during a job interview last year whether it would “bother” her to work for a newspaper whose owner wants “editorial content to lean conservative.”

“When I interviewed with him, one of the things he said was that the paper’s owner wanted editorial content to lean conservative, and did that bother me,” the veteran journalist told the Colorado Times Recorder. “I think I said something about reporting just the facts and letting the chips fall as they may.”

After the interview, Bzdek told the journalist, who was a former editor at the Pueblo Chieftain, to speak to the editor of the Denver Gazette.

“I told that guy that I was unashamedly liberal, and I didn’t hear back from them after that, which is OK because I remember going home and saying to my sister, and my son over the phone, that I don’t think I would do well with an openly right-wing boss,” said the journalist, who asked not to be named due to possible reprisals. “At one point I would probably lock horns with him. So I wasn’t sorry that they didn’t get back to me.”

Clamming up

Colorado Politics editor Luigi del Puerto answered a cold call from me to discuss the story about the job interview, and he said he’d call back. He never did. My subsequent phone messages went unreturned.

Del Puerto’s refusal to talk to a progressive journalist like me, who writes for an openly progressive news site, stands in contrast to his decision to join a panel of right-wing activists kicking off June’s Western Conservative Summit, a conference sponsored by a far-right think tank associated with Colorado Christian University.

Bzdek at least returned my email requesting an interview for this story, but he declined to comment.

But he likes to talk to conservative media figures, appearing on right-wing radio shows and lapping up gentle questions from Republican hosts, like KNUS’ George Brauchler, who offers not a peep of pushback to comments by Bzdek that beg for follow-up questions.

For example, here are Bzdek’s thoughts on Anschutz, as aired on Brauchler’s show in September of last year.

Bzdek: “We have a hometown owner [Phil Anschutz]. He’s doing this not because it’s a great business investment for him. He’s doing it because he’s committed to the Denver community, and he lives in this community. We are like a hometown newspaper. … We are rooted in the community. We want to build up journalism, where a lot of publications like The Denver Post continue to cut back because they are not owned by people who care about the mission of journalism as much as the bottom line. Does that make sense, George?”

Brauchler: It does.

Listen to Bzdek say Anschutz is a “hometown owner” who cares about journalism.

If you listen to his radio comments, Bzdek almost sounds like he’s trying to make himself believe his own words. But since he won’t talk to me, I can’t ask him about it.

Reen, who’s president and CEO of the Clarity Media Group, which owns the Gazette and other Anschutz media companies, responded to my request for comment with an email stating: “Phil Anschutz is not at all involved in the news operation and management of this company.  All content decisions are made by our editors and me, as Publisher.”

Efforts to reach Steever were not successful.

About half of the 25 former or current Gazette journalists — who themselves mostly rely on interviews in their jobs — either declined my interview requests for this article or didn’t respond.

The clamming up of Gazette journalists looks bad because, why not talk if things are going well in the newsroom? Maybe it’s just me they don’t trust.

Or, as former Post reporter Fred Brown says, “There’s a tendency among journalists to behave like a lot of cops do. That is, you don’t criticize anyone in the profession.”

But, says Brown, “The only way that journalists can preserve the profession is to police themselves.”

The power of a billionaire donor who makes giant donations across Colorado and beyond could also keep former and current journalists mum. Maybe Anschutz will drop a check on you that will transform your organization overnight into greatness — if he hasn’t already. Why criticize him?

Bzdek: The Worst Kind of Conservative Media Critic

The alarming stories about Bzdek emerge as he has been revealing his own conservative views about the news media — views that appear to provide an undergirding or justification for his work for a boss who, as Bzdek allegedly says, wants conservative news coverage.

Bzdek, who returned to his home state of Colorado to take the Gazette job after growing up in rural Colorado and starting his journalism career here, wrote last year that other Denver news outlets (Colorado Public RadioThe Colorado Sun, The Denver Post, Westword) lean left in their news coverage. Bzdek, whose parents were journalists, claims his outlet’s journalism is truly balanced.

Drawing on the Trump style of media criticism, Bzdek cited no proof or report or credible utterance to back up his claim of liberal media bias among his Colorado competitors, apparently unconcerned that such unsubstantiated and sweeping allegations are destructive not only to news outlets in Colorado but to the profession of journalism, even if they serve to draw conservative audiences to Anschutz’s media properties.

Reflecting Bzdek’s view, the Gazette launched attack ads last year urging people to leave The Denver Post “in the past” and to turn to “reliable news you can trust” in the Gazette, implying — without evidence, in Trump-like fashion — that you cannot trust The Post.

Bzdek, who spent 18 years at the Washington Post as a writer and editor, told Hutchins that he fully supports the campaign, explaining that it’s intended “to distinguish ourselves, and communicate that Denver has an alternative news source.”

“We talk to and understand our subscribers, and many are former and disenfranchised Post readers. So it stands to reason that, with part of our overall campaign, we would compare and contrast ourselves to them and let the reader decide for themselves,” Bzdek told Hutchins.

We don’t know specifically whether Bzdek supports the ad’s implication that you cannot trust The Post — a serious accusation, especially in light of questions, which flow from this article, about whether you can trust Bzdek himself and the Gazette.

Bzdek seemed to be looking at the world through the same conservative glasses when he told right-wing KNUS radio last month that he’s “not sure” he sees a “distinction” among “CNN, MSNBC, and Fox,” arguing there are “activist kind of journalists on the other side of the equation, and that needs to stop as well.”

Other Conservative Signals from the Gazette

Bzdek’s string of conservative media comments sits atop a mounting pile of anecdotes — beyond the claims of Schrader and others — pointing to conservative leanings at the newspaper that employs Bzdek, even if he’s not in charge of the non-news side of the operations.

Colorado Politics was a sponsor of last month’s Western Conservative Summit, an ultra-right-wing gathering of conservatives, and its editor, Luigi del Puerto, was the only journalist who professes to be impartial to speak at the gathering.

During Colorado’s last gubernatorial race, Colorado Politics used its official Twitter platform to push out a news story that called Democratic candidate Jared Polis a “cheat” and a “fraud,” even though its news article made no such claims.

The Gazette and other Anschutz publications were spotlighted by Hutchins (here, and here) for initially not covering an unflattering lawsuit by Anschutz and his wife against the state of Colorado, which had the potential to net them an $8 million tax refund. But in April Colorado Politics was among the first media outlets to cover the outcome of the dispute, which ended in an apparent settlement.

Undoubtedly fully aware of the scoffs he’d trigger from journalists, Bzdek refused to tell Hutchins why the Anshutz-owned publications first ignored the story about Anschutz.

On the opinion side, the Gazette employs a right-wing editorial page editor, who once stated that Antifa was “probably” responsible for Jan. 6 insurrection. The editor, Wayne Laugesen, oversees the production of extremist editorials, for example, endorsing Colorado Congresswoman Lauren Boebert and former President Donald Trump, jumping on conspiracy bandwagons, spreading misinformation about abortion, and more. He recently directed his opinion writers to reject the recommendation of the Associated Press and not to capitalize “Black” when referring to a person’s race.


Bzdek defends the conservative editorial stances, telling KNUS’s Brauchler that “one of the reasons we started the Denver Gazette” was that “some opinions from the right side” were “missing that really added to the conversation.”

But, as Schrader points out, the Gazette’s editorials function more like an arm of a political campaign — or an instrument for Anschutz to promote his political agenda — far different from a traditional editorial page’s role as providing a springboard for conversation.

As an example, Schrader points to the fact that the Gazette wrote not one or two, but four crusading editorials in support of Kelly Brough for Denver mayor (one in February, another in May, and two in March, with another mention in an April summary of endorsements).

“I think that their editorials supporting Kelly Brough heading into the mayoral election were inappropriate,” said Schrader. “It’s one thing to do an endorsement. It’s one thing to follow issues and write about campaigns. It’s another thing to try to deliberately try to tip the scales for a candidate because you’re seeking a particular outcome of an election. If you look at editorial boards across the country, it’s just not how they conduct themselves. We shouldn’t be so heavily invested in the outcome of an election.”

“I Would Have Quit If That Ever Happened”

No one interviewed for this article spoke favorably of the Gazette’s editorial approach under Laugesen, but several former and current Gazette journalists told me flat-out that neither the conservative leanings nor the business interests of Anschutz bleed into the news coverage — that Bzdek runs an independent news operation.

“I worked for him for four or five years, and I gotta say, it was the highlight of my career to work on a story with Vince and [editor] Jim [Trotter],” said Joey Bunch, who was the first journalist hired at Colorado Politics. “And I never, in the entire time that I was there — hand on a stack of Bibles — nobody even suggested I lean to the right.”

“And I was concerned about that when I came on board,” continued Bunch, who left Colorado Politics in December for health reasons and is now in Alabama.

“If you were going to do that anywhere, Colorado Politics would be the tip of the spear. It was never any secret that I would quit if that ever happened.”

Should Bzdek Quit?

It appears that Bzdek has been told to lean to the right; he didn’t quit, but should he have?

I asked three journalism ethicists what an editor might do if they faced interference from an owner, without telling them any of the details or allegations about Bzdek. So to be clear, none of these folks was commenting about Bzdek but about a generic editor facing pressure from an owner.

One said an editor should go public with information about interference from an owner “regardless of the consequences.”

“If an owner is attempting to influence what gets in the news and is preventing the news source from letting its audiences know about that influence, the owner’s interfering in the editor’s job,” said University of Denver Professor in the Department of Film, Media, and Journalism Studies Lynn Schofield Clark, who teaches courses in media ethics. “It’s the editor’s responsibility to the community to go public with that information regardless of the consequences. Otherwise, the community can’t trust that the journalism it’s receiving has been ethically reported and is free from undue influence.” 

Fred Brown, a co-author of the ethics code of the Society of Professional Journalists, said that the overarching ethical guidepost for a journalist is to serve the public.

So, he says, “You have to decide what to do in the public interest; sometimes it’s necessary to deal with decisions from above that make you uncomfortable, but you have to keep trying.”

“I would say in a situation where it’s possible if you were to leave, the situation would get worse, then you do your best to keep it under control by staying.”

“Ethics at a lot of organizations is looser than it used to be,” he said. “But it’s never been perfect.”

Rick Rodriguez, former executive editor of The Sacramento Bee and a faculty member of the Cronkite School of Mass Communication and Journalism, also said an editor might take different paths, depending on the circumstances.

“Some editors have a line they won’t cross, and there are some who will feel like they will continue to fight for a better day,” said Rodriguez. “It’s not an easy situation to be in, particularly these days. You’re under economic pressure. You’re trying to keep the staff together.”

Who Can Best “Wrangle the Ownership?”

Former Gazette journalists who worked with Bzdek said they could see him justifying ethical lapses by convincing himself that he was doing as good a job as anyone could under the circumstances.

“I could see, very easily, Vince having that sentiment if, ‘I’m the best person who can wrangle the ownership. This is the best it’s going to get out of anybody. And somebody’s got to do it,” said one former reporter who worked with Bzdek. “I could see him pretty easily taking that line.”

Schrader could see Bzdek was struggling with how to handle her situation, and she felt sorry for him.

“Vince fought for my story to be published,” she said. “He’d just started. He just moved. The very first thing is, he’s stuck between his reporters and management.”

Asked what she would do if she’d been in Bzdek’s position, Schrader said as a journalist she errs on the side of transparency, though she didn’t go so far as to say Bzdek should have quit.

“I do think the Gazette is still doing really good journalism,” said Schrader, emphasizing that she doesn’t know what Bzdek has faced from ownership since she left seven years ago. “And so, from Vince’s perspective, yeah, stay and keep doing the good journalism and fighting the good fight. And who knows, maybe that interference has decreased over time.”

And as Schrader points out, resigning in protest sometimes has “zero effect” anyway.

“People resign in protest and it has no effect,” she said. “I do think there is value in staying and fighting the battle.”

Schrader said she was lucky to be able to leave, have found a new job, and continue to pay her mortgage. Not all journalists have that luxury, she and other journalists said.

Bottom Line: You Can’t Trust the Gazette

Evaluating Bzdek, who is widely seen as a decent human being and expert editor, is complicated by the fact that we don’t know how many stories, if any, he’s saved from Anschutz’s axe. He would do himself and all of us a service if he addressed this someday, the sooner the better.

For my part, I can say that Bzdek should quit because he shouldn’t play any role in Anschutz’s long game of conservative influence, sometimes subtle and sometimes not, powered by money that won’t run out until the billionaire or his family get bored. After reading this article, you’d probably agree — at least to some extent — that Bzdek legitimizes a latent propaganda bomb that may explode at a critical moment, for maximum impact, on someone like a progressive U.S. Senate candidate — or it could shield a conservative one from criticism. That’s the role Bzdek plays now, even going so far as to be an embarrassing booster for his “hometown owner” Anschutz on conservative radio.

And any fair-minded journalist can see that even the Gazette’s extra scrutiny of progressive-leaning articles — regardless of whether it improves them journalistically in the end — is completely unfair and a blazing red flag.

Still, I can’t say everyone should agree with me that a talented editor like Bzdek should quit, when you think about the potential good he can do at the Gazette’s helm.

But, given the totality of what I’ve presented in this article, you can definitely conclude, sad as it is given the quality of many of the journalists working there, that you can’t trust the Gazette newspapers.

Can you trust that Bzdek would let us know if a story was guillotined or turned into propaganda? No.

Can you trust that any Gazette reporter would let us know, even the best ones? No. What if their need to pay their mortgage prohibited it? Or what if … any number of real-life things makes this impossible for them? I wouldn’t blame them for going along and, as Schrader put it, “fighting the battle.” You can hope Gazette journalists would blow the whistle if their ethical line were crossed. And I think many would if they possibly could.

So those advertisements telling you to “turn to reliable news you can trust” at the Denver Gazette? You can’t trust them.

What’s a Reader To Do?

Does all this mean you should stop reading the Gazette publications? No, but you shouldn’t rely on them, and, as Shapley and others say, it again spotlights the elusive necessity of having an abundance of journalists and news outlets to choose from — as long as they are not all owned by the same Republican billionaire.

Ryan Maye Handy sums up the long-term problem under Anschutz at the Gazette — maybe less under one editor, then more under the next, but always in the background — from her perspective as a former Gazette reporter (before Bzdek arrived).

“The thing that I came to learn at the Gazette is that to think that you would be untouched by the influence of Anschutz and the publisher was naïve,” she said. “They influenced everyone. At some point, we all were thinking, ‘That’s happening to that reporter. That really sucks. But it’s not going to happen to me.’ But then it did happen to you. Multiple people, including myself, went through this, where you thought, ‘I’m okay. My beat is ok. I haven’t been asked to do something. I haven’t been asked to change something. I haven’t been asked to avoid a story. And then invariably it came for you.”

CORRECTION: This article initially mischaracterized comments by Lynn Schofield Clark, stating that she said an editor should resign if an owner is stopping information from reaching the public. She actually stated that an editor should inform the public about the interference, regardless of the consequences.