They Came From Denver!

What's really going on at those Denver Post "town meetings"? Westword investigates.

I diddled the Denver Post.
If I were Governor Roy Romer, maybe I would explain that nothing more than "deep affection" made me want to go undercover to the Post's Snapshots of Colorado town meeting last week in Colorado Springs.

But there was no affection. Just diddling. Find 'em, fool 'em and forget 'em.

So on May 13, I plastered some pomade into my hair, slapped an even-more-foolish-than-usual grin on my face and headed south into religious-right country, knowing full well that I was about to violate one of journalism's most sacred canons: the "harrumph" rule, which forbids a newspaper from publicly poking fun at another newspaper.

I also had two nobler purposes. I had said to myself, "Hey, man, what's up with these 'town meetings' the Post is conducting all over the state? Who goes to them? What goes on at these civic brainstorming sessions?" And I must confess that I wanted to rub shoulders with the top editors of the Post and bask in their reflected glory. Golly.

I figured to lose myself in the crowd that would flock to the meeting. But I also wanted to make my presence known to these big-city journalists. Knowing that the Springs is inhabited by thousands of right-wing religious zealots, I concocted an appropriate cover story: I was Martin L. Roberts, a management consultant who was home-schooling his children, the oldest of whom, Ezekiel (we call him "Zeke"), was thirteen and wanted to be a journalist but thought the Post was too liberal, while I, on the other hand, liked the Post.

I lied.
Armed with two homemade signs, I showed up at Pikes Peak Community College for the meeting and waited for the crowd to arrive.

And I waited.
And I waited.
Where was everybody?

Finally, I went inside the meeting hall and started to circulate. I didn't lay any religious rap on people. All it took was for me to say "home-schooling," and everybody just assumed I was a wingnut. The president and sole member of the Colorado Springs League of Liberal Jewish Women Who Don't Want to Be Hassled Anymore by Meshuggenah Christians Like James Dobson and Will Perkins (CSLLJWWDWBHAMCLJDWP) suggested that I have "Zeke" read The Nation or The Progressive. "Too liberal," I told her with a smile. She didn't smile back.

Then I introduced myself to the Post bigwigs. Editor Dennis Britton (the paper's top dog under owner W. Dean "Dinky" Singleton, who wasn't there) agreed to my request for a photo. He asked me what I was going to use it for. I lied and said it was for my kids. (Memo to myself: Call the Post editors and ask them to transfer my resume to the "inactive" file.) Britton pulled managing editor Jeanette Chavez into the picture. I handed my camera to a Post flunky. It was over in a flash.

Suddenly it was time for the meeting. I looked around and realized that fewer than ten people had shown up! Out of a city of 300,000! Then it dawned on me. I was the only religious-right wingnut at the meeting. A sense of responsibility washed over me as I silently accepted the burden of representing the tens of thousands of true believers who have made the Springs the headquarters of more than 100 evangelical Christian organizations.

I looked around the room. Had a neutron bomb decimated the city? After all, we were literally in the shadow of NORAD's command post. I stepped outside and observed thousands of cars crawling along the Springs' clogged streets. Apparently, nobody cared about the town meeting.

Several Post reporters and circulation people sat down to join the handful of residents. I looked forward to a most lively discussion.

Britton greeted the throng by explaining that the purpose of the town meetings (the last of which will take place this week in Denver) was to learn "how we as a newspaper could better report the issues of the state." It struck me that this meeting hall was probably the only place in the state where there was absolutely nothing happening.

That was proved when Britton introduced the next speaker, Chavez, whom he called "one of the most important woman editors in the country."

I had to start the applause for her.
Then Janet Day, the project editor of Snapshots of Colorado, was introduced. "The best way to find out who we are and what we are," she said, "is to ask people."

I was too baffled to applaud for her, so no one else did, either.
Also on the dais was Christopher Lopez, the state editor and Sunday metro editor. He didn't say anything worth writing down.

I realized that aside from the well-spoken and energetic Britton, there wasn't enough brainpower emanating from these editors to light a forty-watt bulb. I uttered a silent prayer for Post reporters everywhere.

Britton snapped me out of my reverie by asking the citizens of Colorado Springs to speak.

C'mon, people!
Finally, the woman from CSLLJWWDWBHAMCLJDWP spoke up. She complained about growth, called the El Paso County commissioners "the worst bottom-feeders you've ever seen" and railed on and on about how "Jimmie Dobson" of Focus on the Family and "Willie Perkins" of Colorado for Family Values were ruining the Springs.

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