A World of Possibilities

Peter Boyles does some fast talking regarding his on-air speculation about the Emily Johnson murder.

Hudson doesn't hold the Post solely responsible for opening the floodgates in this matter; he acknowledges that "the police department is a sieve" when it comes to keeping supposedly confidential info confidential. But he adds, "In general, the public expects the press to be more careful when juveniles are involved. So that's an institutional decision the Post is making about whether it's the right thing to do after they've been told it might jeopardize the district attorney's case."

"Institutional decision" is right. McPhee says he handed in his January 12 story without the suspects' names because of his sense that one of the three won't be charged with murder, but editor Glenn Guzzo and assistant managing editor for news Frank Scandale convinced him to include them. Guzzo doesn't tiptoe around when asked about his reasoning: "We will name juveniles who are charged with crimes where deadly force is used with intent to kill," he says. "Expect that to be a consistent pattern."

The Post was less bold when it came to McPhee's discovery that Emily Johnson had worked at the Diamond Cabaret; the fact was excised from one of his stories in what McPhee, in typically straightshooter fashion, calls "a moral judgment by the copy desk, which is bullshit." But overall, the paper's reporting on the Johnson slaying made the most of what was available at the time and generally avoided syrupy lapses like a January 9 News report about Johnson's funeral in which reporter Katie Kerwin McCrimmon wrote that Cassius the dog "seemed to have red eyes." (She didn't reveal if the pooch also wore a drawn expression and held a moist tissue in its paw.) But the Post did make one significant gaffe: A January 7 article credited to McPhee and Marilyn Robinson claimed that police had pulled over Johnson's Lexus prior to impounding it, when in reality, cops found it wrecked. Among the people who publicly pointed out this mistake was Boyles, who McPhee thinks has no room to talk. "He turned on all of us, but his own reporting on this was lousy," he says. "The way things worked out really stunned all of us, and we all have egg on our faces. But Peter won't admit that he has egg on his face, too. His ego won't let him."

Naked truth: Peter Boyles's theories about the murder of Emily Johnson angered a lot of people  --  including the mayor.
David Rehor
Naked truth: Peter Boyles's theories about the murder of Emily Johnson angered a lot of people -- including the mayor.

That's not quite right, but close. Boyles doesn't go so far as to say he saw the latest twist coming, but neither does he see the validity of the criticism raining down on him. "To think that anything I could say would impede or influence the investigation is ridiculous," he says. "If I was able to do that, John and Patsy Ramsey would be in jail, and so would O.J. Simpson." Yet he's decided that the time has come for Hudson and him to put their disagreements behind them: "It's gotten to the point where it's like the Vietnam war. We fight every day, but we don't even remember why anymore." So he and Hudson are scheduling a bury-the-hatchet luncheon in the hopes that the hatchet won't be buried in either of them. But that doesn't mean Boyles is planning on altering his style.

"This is the age of new media -- talk radio and the Internet and desktop publishing and Web sites and e-mail," he says. "The old political stalwarts could try to control the mainstream press by denying people access or the kinds of things we've seen happen in this town, where no one wants to ask a sports figure a difficult question or no one wants to piss off the mayor or the governor. But new media doesn't give a shit about that, and neither do I."

Meanwhile, back at the Post, staffers are departing at a dizzying rate. Stephen Keating, one of the paper's most prolific business writers (and the author of Cutthroat: High Stakes and Killer Moves on the Electronic Frontier, a recently published cable-industry exposé), is departing at the end of this month to become director of research for the Privacy Foundation, a startup headed by former Liberty Media chief Peter Barton that's dedicated to developing credit cards and the like that give users more control over what personal information winds up in the hands of Internet companies. Also going the telecom route is assistant city editor (and onetime Westword scribe) Arthur Hodges, who just left to flack for Level 3 Communications, a Broomfield firm currently marketing a new fiber-optic network. Roger Fillion, the man charged with covering Level 3 as part of his Post business beat, has decided to become a full-time freelancer. And Chris Lopez, a former reporter and deputy state editor hired back in 1993, left on January 14 to found Lopez Communications, which will specialize in what he calls "online communications and traditional media communications."

What sparked this recent rash of defections? Numerous gossipmongers suggest a link to management restructuring ballyhooed in "Newsroom Reorganized," a January 2 piece that detailed multitudinous moves intended to "widen the Post's newsgathering ability in Denver, the Front Range, Colorado and the Rocky Mountain Empire." The theory makes sense in some instances: For example, the elevation of Don Knox to business editor hints at a shakeup in that department. Moreover, the shifts create a new level of bureaucracy -- not one, not two, but three managing editors -- that has left some staffers wondering who is in charge of what. But none of that explains the decision made by Lopez. He was announced as the new city editor in the aforementioned article, yet he resigned less than a week later.

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