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Off Limits

Mild in the streets: As if to justify Parenting magazine's recent pick of Boulder as the top place to raise your kids (into spoiled brats), bored white youth rampaged through the town this past weekend, throwing espresso mugs into bonfires and rallying to the cry of "We're too young to drink beer, but we're old enough to go to war!" Er, and which war is that?

If Colorado is the Center of the Universe, as past (the A-10), current (the Oklahoma City bombing trial) and upcoming (Denver Summit of the Eight) events indicate, then Boulder is the rotten core. It continued to draw national attention last week, as TV news crews with cameras still hot from Thursday's John and Patsy Ramsey infomercial hurried to the Hill. Extra bonus: Viewers across the country were treated to several new wardrobe items from Boulder police chief Tom Koby's closet, including riot gear (at least Denver cops covering Federal Boulevard ditched the helmets) and a SWAT-like baseball cap.

If Boulder's brats wanted to protest a true outrage, they should have targeted the Ramseys' appearance before seven hand-picked media reps who may not be reporters but play them on TV. The magnificent seven--Paula Woodward from 9News, Bertha Lynn from 7News, Phil LeBeau from News4, Charlie Brennan from the Rocky Mountain News, Marilyn Robinson from the Denver Post, Clay Evans from the Boulder Daily Camera and Carol McKinley from KOA, et. al.--had been notified of the top-secret time and place, told of the rules regulating the half-hour press conference (no questions about the Ramseys' interviews with Boulder cops that had taken place the day before; no questions involving "substantive facts" about JonBenet's murder; no identifying of the Ramsey attorneys in the back of the room) and given a code word to get access: "subtract."

By sticking to those rules, the media subtracted any possible substance from the session, although we did learn that the child-beauty pageants for which JonBenet had been bleached, buffed and paraded for cameras across the country were "just one very small part of JonBenet's life," according to John--"a few Sunday afternoons," added Patsy.

Although only the seven made the cut (yes, that's right, Westword was not invited), several of the snubbed worked overtime analyzing the event. The Post's Chuck Green popped up on NBC's Dateline; even McKinley, who's billed as an NBC "consultant" on the case, admitted to Today's Matt Lauer that the Ramsey questioning lacked punch. And Denver district attorney turned golf-magazine magnate Norm Early, formerly limited to talking about the Oklahoma City bombing trial, can touch on the Ramsey case now that he's resigned his job at Lockheed Martin--the defense giant that happens to own Access Graphics, where John Ramsey is still employed.

Get me rewrite! If you can't dazzle them with numbers, baffle them with bluster. Tuesday the dailies added a new layer of confusion to Denver's newspaper war, releasing the latest circulation figures in a fashion that allowed each side to claim to be on top. While the Post chortled over its widening overall daily lead, the News touted its continued "strong growth" and "momentum" in the six-county metro market; the tabloid even ran a hastily slapped-together two-page ad charging that "The Post is trying to cover up the fact that the News is number one in the 6-county market." The source of the News's unhappiness: Not only did the Post sneer that the "smaller paper" had hit a ten-year low in average daily circulation, but the broadsheet redefined its primary market so that it wasn't required to release six-county figures that could be compared to those of the competition; consequently, the News was reduced to boasting about its six-county "lead" based on last year's figures.

Fortunately, there's a way to decipher this mess. Take the incomparable Post's average daily lead in the town of Cortez (where the News stopped delivering papers a year ago); divide by the number of columns Chuck Green has devoted to the Ramseys; multiply by the number of bad News courtroom sketches of witnesses in the Tim McVeigh trial; add the number of misleading graphs, house ads and headlines devoted to jerry-rigged circulation figures; and subtract by the number of daily reporters who subtracted their way into the Ramsey press conference. Hey, the numbers speak for themselves.

Set your sights: Tom Clark, president of the Boulder Chamber of Commerce, is moving to Denver to become second in command at the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce. Pray his duties don't extend to press relations; Clark was the Boulder bureaucrat who compared the media covering the Ramsey case to uninvited dinner guests.

 
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