OFF LIMITS

Strike while the irony is hot: Timing is everything--particularly when you're Ken Hamblin, Denver's mouth that roared, then bored. "Hamblin ramblin' to be `black Rush,'" read a headline in the Washington Times last week. "Mile-high talk host climbing fast." Anyone who read last January's New York Times profile of Hamblin or caught Eye to Eye With Connie Chung can guess what followed: descriptions of Hamblin's conversion to conservatism, his categorization of inner-city Denver as "Darktown," last year's threatened boycott by the National Black Caucus of State Legislators after Hamblin referred to them as "quota-blacks," some fresh words of wisdom from Hamblin himself ("I'm not in crisis about being black") and this quote from Chuck Green, his editor at the Denver Post: "It's ironic, really, how Hamblin's star is rising."

Ironic is the word, all right. The Times story appeared on October 26--the same day Hamblin's Post column was suspended for three months because of plagiarism.

Hard copy: Meanwhile, over at the Rocky Mountain News, that every-few-years festival of hard feelings--contract negotiations with the Denver Newspaper Guild--is now in the center ring. While talks thus far have been relatively temperate, the current guild newsletter could add fuel to the fire. In an article titled "Strutton's Cheap Date," arts and entertainment writer Mary Chandler--who may have the guild's longest-running, outstanding grievance against the News--welcomes her colleagues to the maquiladora. Chandler had had the misfortune to catch News management in action at a July board meeting of the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District, where News publisher Larry Strutton made a case for the Cherry Creek Arts Festival, which was trying to get a cut of the culture tax and just happens to be sponsored by the News (which loses money on its special section hyping the festival, Strutton assured the group). "Our investment in the arts festival led to our sponsoring the Year of the Arts," Strutton told the meeting. "It's a fine line to walk to cover the news and be part of the community. I'm here to walk that fine line." That he'd strayed into dangerous territory was obvious when the board approved a hefty subsidy for the flush festival, an act that immediately outraged struggling arts groups across the six-county district.

But the News publisher didn't stop there, according to Chandler: "Strutton repeated that the paper was part of the community, then said: `We don't make widgets. We can't move down south where the labor is cheaper.'

"The room was quiet. Was it my imagination, or did Barry Hirschfeld--SCFD boardmember, arts festival boardmember and noted union-buster--smile? I know I did."

Banned on the run: In honor of Banned Books Week, Colorado's public libraries recently tallied the titles challenged most frequently last year. Among the winners: The American Library Association poster announcing 1993's Banned Books Week. When the posters--which listed some of the books that have been challenged across the country--were displayed at Jefferson County libraries, parents complained they were "negative and confusing."

Also potentially confusing was last week's announcement that Jean Otto will receive the Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award from the Playboy Foundation later this month. No, it's not for Otto's work as the News's way-balanced readers' representative, but for her role in establishing the Denver-based First Amendment Congress.

 
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