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The Man You Hate to Love

The toughest executive in Denver radio pleads his case.

Such talk won't win Visotcky many fans, but he's not about to adjust his style for public-relations purposes. "I'd be lying to you if I told you what some people have said didn't bother me," he concedes. "But the people who work for me know I care about them immensely. I care about their families, too, and I sleep very well at night knowing that I'm giving it the best I've got. So if people want to throw rocks at me, go ahead. Throw all you want."


Shortly after last week's issue hit the streets, Robin Bertolucci, director of AM programming for Clear Channel in Denver, confirmed what's been rumored for months -- that former Denver Bronco Reggie Rivers, a late shifter at KOA-AM/ 850 for the past two years, is taking over the 3-7 p.m. slot at KHOW manned until August 20 by Jay Marvin. (Daily papers in Chicago report that Marvin will start gabbing at WLS-AM early next month.) "People love Reggie, and we think he'll kick butt in the afternoon drive," Bertolucci says. "He's a fixture in the community, and he's smart, personable, insightful, thoughtful. He's got it all."

There's something to that: Rivers is indeed an articulate host, and as a bonus, he specializes in current events, not the jock talk that's not exactly in short supply around here. But at this point, the idea of Rivers is frequently better than the experience of actually listening to him. He's not nearly as unpredictable as Marvin was and can be a bit dull, since he tends to stake out a position and reiterate it endlessly rather than elaborate on his ideas or move into surprising areas. But Rivers has the potential to improve, which is more than can be said of most of the mooks KHOW could have chosen.

Marvin's departure isn't the only personnel move at Clear Channel; Jeff Hillery, the program director at KHOW and KTLK-AM/760, and Zach Gilltrap, the production and imaging director at both outlets, split to work at a small FM talk station starting up in Philadelphia. But Bertolucci maintains that "there will not be any radical changes here -- because I'm still around."

Likewise, the Rocky Mountain News, whose execs apparently believe that the Pulitzer Prize committee determines winners using a scale rather than by reading, shows no signs of modifying its policy of ballyhooing any item even tangentially connected with Columbine High School, no matter how unnecessary or unenlightening. A laughable low point was "Paint Thief Stirs Up Hard Feelings by Stealing From Columbine Victim's House," an August 19 article about a five-gallon bucket of paint lifted from the home of shooting victim Sean Graves. (If this was judged newsworthy, expect to see the headline "All Light Switches Seem to Be Working at Columbine" in the near future.) But this offense was minor compared to August 22's "Fatal Friendship," a twelve-page, no-ad special section (read: contest entry) detailing "the untold story of the Columbine killers' deadly bond." In fact, the article, accompanied by a noxious illustration that looks as if it were painted on black velvet, added only a handful of semi-fresh details and a slew of photos from junior-high annuals to a tale that has been told and told and told again. At this late date, such a piece serves only to rebrutalize a community that has had far more than its fill of exploitation.


Cecil B. DeMille, director of such films as The Ten Commandments, specialized in a vastly enjoyable brand of hypocritical sanctimony: When staging an orgy scene, for example, he seemed to be saying, "Depravity is bad -- and I'll prove to you how bad it is by showing you examples in extraordinarily lurid detail." During its 10 p.m. newscast on August 18, KUSA-TV/Channel 9 employed the same tactic in a report about the media's use of 911 calls. After viewers heard a recording of a hysterical William Shatner informing an operator that his wife was at the bottom of his swimming pool, wonderfully theatrical reporter Phil Keating, whose fabulous hair has been looking a bit mussy of late, supplemented footage of the Post's Sue O'Brien arguing that such material was exploitative with a generous sampling from 911's greatest hits, including Nicole Brown Simpson's post-abuse call fingering then-husband O.J. Simpson and a teacher desperately alerting authorities to the Columbine High School assault.

When they do a story about the problem of sexually explicit TV programming, how much nudity do you think Channel 9 can work in?

Have comments, tips or complaints about the media? E-mail "The Message" at Michael_Roberts@westword.com.

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