Written by Dominic Dezzutti

Michael Hancock’s odd Denver Players club accusations adventure that has played out over the last couple of weeks may end up being forgotten as quickly as it arrived on the scene. However, the media roller coaster that ensued has made figuring out who you can trust and who is a trusted source far more complicated.

The research into the accusations that Michael Hancock was a client of the Denver Players prostitution ring came from accusations from the former owner of the ring, who is a convicted criminal. The accusations became renewed news after the peculiar theft of his computer and past client lists within just a few days of the Denver Mayoral runoff election.

But the craziness doesn’t stop at the accusations or even the sources. The media coverage of the entire event brings an entirely new part of the journey into the picture.

For a variety of reasons including, but not limited to, the source of the story and the fact that the story was actually a couple of years old, different media entities in the market handled the issue very differently.

Going over the details of the accusations or the time line of coverage really isn’t my intent here. My point is that this is an example of how we the audience have a very tough job on figuring out how and who to trust.

First of all, the idea of a convicted criminal as the key source to a story kicks off the madness. It’s not like convicted criminals are never trusted, they testify in criminal cases all of the time. Without them, we would have never had the movie Goodfellas.

But when one is the single key source in an issue involving the newly elected Mayor of Denver, it really deserves different consideration. It isn’t Michael Hancock’s fault that a pimp’s word was taken almost as seriously as a man just elected mayor of Denver, it’s simply just a sign of the times we live in.

Despite fitting naturally in our times, it’s still sad to see trust in our elected officials get to this point. On our own behalf though, it’s not like our elected officials on the national level have done much to reverse the trend lately.

And when we examine how the media has covered, or not covered this story, we see up close and personal the very real challenges and evolutions of investigative journalism in the 21st century. Reporting the news in any outlet has become a far more complicated job.

My grandparents grew up in an age where what was written in a newspaper was fact and the political affiliation of the person reading the news on television was never questioned.

In our media age, news sources often come with a label, as in, conservative blog or progressive news aggregator. It seems the agenda of each source must now be part of the story itself.

And even the way our elected leaders interact with us has changed to the point of making us wonder what we can trust. Are Twitter feeds the straight talk form our leaders without any slanted interpretation or are they simply a marketing tool without any checks and balances?

At this point, who has the bigger machinery, a media outlet consisting of three bloggers or a political campaign made up of an entire voter interaction division? Does the size or the experience of the machinery even matter, or does it matter who tells us their version of the story first?

I am the last person who believes he has the answers to these heavy questions. Frankly, they sound like a basis of a mass communication ethics philosophy course, if you ask me.

But they aren’t the basis for any college class, they are the challenges that all of us face as the audience and as the voters in this country. They are the distinct and difficult questions media outlets of all sizes try to answer each day. And of course, they are the puzzles our elected leaders are trying to figure out as they work hard to serve the public, and yes, get re-elected.

None of this analysis is meant to indict or criticize the different entities involved. Everyone has acted in what they feel is in the best interest of their organization.

But if at any point this or any other political story has you confused, it is probably for a very good reason. Historians may end up calling this the “Age of Wonder”, but we’ll know the real reason behind the title. It’s because in this age, we’re all wondering what the heck is really going on.

About The Blogger

– Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out, hosted by Raj Chohan, on Colorado Public Television.


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