Another chapter of the simmering dispute between 9 News and three Latina reporters is about to unfold.
This October, the Colorado American Civil Liberties Union is set to honor three former 9 News reporters who accused KUSA of discriminatory behavior.
“Lori Lizarraga, Sonia Gutierrez, and Kristen Aguirre will receive the Larry Tajiri Media Award for fighting discrimination in the newsroom,” the event’s website reads.
Lizarraga and Aguirre have since departed Colorado, but Gutierrez remains employed as a reporter for Rocky Mountain PBS. In April, Gutierrez said she would discourage Latinos from working at 9 News.
The optics of a liberal organization like the ACLU publicly castigating 9 News for discrimination, itself a left leaning news station, is unprecedented in Colorado and is sure to push this story right back into the headlines.
The row between KUSA and their former Latina employees was set off in March after Lizarraga published an opinion piece about her disturbing experiences working at the station.
“After six months, I was instructed not to wear my hair in a bun with a middle part anymore — a style I have seen and worn as a Mexican and Ecuadorian woman all my life. Not a good look, I was told.”
Lizarraga’s accusations set off a firestorm that resulted in TEGNA, 9 News’s parent company, being accused of racist workplace practices in a federal filing by one of the firm’s largest shareholders.
Standard General, a New York-based hedge fund, used their securities filing to try and replace several members of TEGNA’s board at the company’s annual shareholder meeting in May.
Ultimately, TEGNA crushed the shareholder revolt and defeated all of Standard General’s board nominees.
In response to the federal filing, a group of Latina Democrats including state Sen. Julie Gonzales also announced they were boycotting all interactions with the station.
Whether that boycott remains in effect is unclear.
What is clear however is this ACLU event next month could not come at a worse time for 9 News.
KUSA’s contracted security guard Matthew Dolloff remains on trial for the November murder of Lee Keltner, a conservative activist, at a Civic Center Park rally.
Lizarraga told KNUS in April that she attempted to get more answers about why 9 News had used an unlicensed security guard from the private security firm Pinkerton, all to no avail.
Former @9NEWS reporter @LoriLizarraga tells @710KNUS she felt like “we had lost our integrity” after a security guard for 9News gunned down Lee Keltner last fall. #copolitics pic.twitter.com/XrFJ0HnnGg
— CO Peak Politics (@COpeakpolitics) April 8, 2021
“I was not alone in feeling like we had lost our integrity, or our ability to hold other people accountable,” she said.
Pinkerton has since been booted from operating in the City of Denver.
Yet no management changes at 9 News appear to be on the horizon.
The National Associated of Hispanic Journalists reportedly demanded 9 News fire the head of the station and their news director following Lizarraga’s accusations, but were rebuffed.
Pursuing accountability, it seems, is something 9 News preaches when it comes to conservative politicians, but not something they practice when it comes to misconduct at the station itself.
And as the ACLU’s decision to implicitly rebuke the station makes clear, that leaves 9 News’s credibility in tatters – no matter which side of the aisle you sit on.