Editorials

Statesman cover: foul play or a good call?

The Colorado Statesman

Clever. Or contemptible? We’ve been called both this week, and while we gladly accept kudos for what we thought was an eye catching and fun interpretation of the upcoming 2013 legislative session on the front page of our Jan. 11 issue, not everyone agreed.

Well, one person complained, but more on that later.

The front page, which is pictured here in a reduced format, featured local artist Matt Milner’s rendition of the anticipated legislative session now that Democrats control both chambers. With the obvious football frenzy that had enveloped the city at the time, he drew legislative leadership in blue and red football uniforms to reflect the partisan colors of Senate President John Morse, D-Colorado Springs; Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs; House Speaker Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver; and House Minority Leader Mark Waller, R-Colorado Springs.


The legislators were pictured in their football duds with an elephant or donkey emblazoned on their shirt, depending, of course, whether they wore the Republican or Democratic colors. Recently- elected Speaker Ferrandino was holding the ball as if in a victory pose — naturally — and new Senate prez Morse had a smile on his face as he proudly puffed out his shoulders. Cadman was pictured defiantly holding his arms across his chest and looking a little cross-eyed at the whole situation, and Waller, the new minority leader in the House, was drawn toppled on the ground, as if he’d suddenly been caught empty-handed by the change in field direction at the House. The caption at the top of the cartoon read: ‘Legislative Session ‘13. Democrats on Top.’

“Colorado Democrats are on quite a roll to kickoff the 2013 legislative session (controlling both houses and the governor’s office) and have good reason to be dancing in the end zone,” Milner suggested when we asked him to come up with front page design for our special issue.

And we both agreed that we should include some reference to football since we were in the midst of Broncomania and the liklihood that Denver was heading to the Super Bowl when Matt designed the cover shortly before Christmas. The football scene seemed like an effective tie-in to the political landscape.

We first became aware of Matt’s distinctive artistic flair after we saw some of his cartoons in the former Face the State conservative blog. At the time Matt was was working for the Colorado Republican Party as its spokesman. But his politics didn’t matter to us, it was his talent to draw that impressed us and we feel fortunate that we’ve been able to display his work on our pages over the last few years. In 2012, Matt received first place for his editorial cartoons in the Colorado Press Association Better Newspaper Contest.

Matt is currently finishing a degree at the Art Institute of Colorado in Web Design & Interactive Media and will be graduating in March. He operates a design business (Milner Creative, LLC [website in development]) and has a degree in Political Science and Studio Drawing from Colorado State University in Fort Collins.

We thought Matt did a wonderful job capturing the new dynamics at the legislature in a setting that all of us politicos/Bronco and football enthusiasts could appreciate. The cover rivaled one he did for us two years ago when Hickenlooper took over the reins as governor and four different legislative leaders graced the front page: Back then it was a happy new Republican Speaker, Rep. Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch; a beaming Brandon Shaffer, Democratic president of the Senate; a somewhat sulky Rep. Sal Pace, the minority Democratic leader from Pueblo; and Mike Kopp, the Jefferson County Republican minority leader in the senate, looking just a little askance at Shaffer in anticipation of the new 2011 session.

We received lots of positive feedback about that cover and also the one from last week, with several people asking for reproduceable copies and one state legislator imploring us to make a poster out of the front page to be framed and displayed at their Capitol office.

Even the Denver Post took notice of our front page with an item in The Spot titled “Helmet-to-helmet collision: Colorado Statesman’s cover talk of the Capitol.”

Post reporter Tim Hoover teased in the item, “If the 2013 Colorado legislative session were a football movie, what would be the title?

“Remember the Titans”? “The Longest Yard”? “The Waterboy”?

Hoover then described the four legislative leaders on the cover. “But the Democrats, in blue uniforms, appear delighted and victorious, while the Republicans, in red uniforms, have angry or confused looks on their faces.”
Everyone — or nearly everyone —seemed to enjoy the front page and appreciated the humor in which it was drawn.

But, as we mentioned, one person took umbrage with our artistic endeavor.

Maybe we should have picked up on it when Hoover penned in his column that Waller was “somewhat displeased” with his depiction, “which he said looked more like me. Totally wrong.)”
But we didn’t.

So when Rep. Waller telephoned last week and began with, “I suppose you know why I’m calling...,” in all truthfulness I didn’t have a clue.

Well, actually I thought he might be asking for a copy of the photo which appeared of him and his cute daughter on opening day of the legislature. We frequently get requests for copies of photos which appear in the newspaper and we were ready to oblige the state representative if that’s what he was calling about, especially after he spent five minutes last week telling us all about the plastic rings depicted in the photo that his daughter had made for legislators after seeing similar rings by political consultant RD Sewald’s wife when the couple had dinner together at the Waller’s Colorado Springs home.

But that wasn’t it.

Waller was calling about his own depiction in The Statesman, which he said he was “terribly disappointed to see.”

The House Minority Leader told us that we had hugely upset his 13-year-old son who had gotten a glimpse of his Dad on the front page in question.

Waller told us about the negative impact it had on his son, who he said told him that it was “incredibly disrespectful and rude.”

“That is not what Dad looks like,” Waller described his son as saying.

Waller then related to us how he had to have a 20-minute discussion with his early adolescent son about the inflammatory incident.

“I was going to let it go,” Waller told us, but he felt the magnitude of the situation warranted his informing us of his deep displeasure. “We have families and children,” Waller reminded us. “I was the laughing stock at the Capitol.”

While we are sincerely sorry that Rep. Waller’s son became upset by viewing the X-rated Statesman, we are not sorry for running the front page artwork to begin with. In our minds, it was an accurate — if somewhat satirical — depiction of the 69th General Assembly. We strive to be fair and objective in news articles, of course, but an artist’s rendition is more subjective. Milner designed a front page which we felt was not only appropriate given the new changes at the Capitol, but done in a fair and creative way. The fact that it poked a little fun at our elected officials, we hope, won’t scare you away.

Jody@coloradostatesman.com