Joe Hanel, reporter for The Durango Herald in southwestern Colorado, has done good work reporting on (and providing additional context for) Tipton’s and ATR’s use of the $716 billion claim. On October 6, Hanel wrote about a misleading Tipton ad that invoked the figure. On October 17th, he reported on ATR’s ad and how it “makes a now-familiar [$716 billion] attack against Tipton’s main challenger, Democrat Sal Pace, on the subject of Medicare.” Hanel then clearly walked readers through the dubious claim, citing PolitiFact and Kaiser Family Foundation.

It doesn’t take much to tell readers what they need to know to evaluate this well-worn claim. Hanel’s October 17th piece, for example, was under 300 words total. In the tight presidential race here in Colorado—and the hard-fought 3rd Congressional District contest—those few extra words could make a real difference. It’s unfortunate that reporters here haven’t consistently made the effort.


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Mary Winter has worked for seven newspapers, most recently the Denver Post, and was assistant managing editor at She spent the bulk of her career at the Rocky Mountain News, first in features and later managing the legislative and state government teams. In 2008, she oversaw delegate coverage at the Democratic National Convention for the paper. She wrote a weekly column for the News for 10 years.