The Making of a Media Event

The Columbine anniversary promises to be the biggest thing since...well, Columbine.

The spirit of cooperation is in the air. But as the assemblage filters out of the Ascot, it's clear that it only goes so far. "I understand why she asked that," says one network bigwig to another, referencing Petrone's call for Harris, Klebold and videotape of their treachery to be cut out of anniversary coverage. "But it's not going to happen. It's just not going to happen."

Come on, guys: Can't we all just get along?

Last April 22, two days after the Columbine shootings, News publisher Larry Strutton wrote "A Letter to Our Community," in which he pledged that his paper would "lead the charge" in either financing a new school or rebuilding the damaged campus -- and while the News isn't out front from a dollars-and-cents standpoint, it hasn't entirely gone back on Strutton's pledge. A reliable source reveals that in addition to loads of free advertising space, the News has ponied up approximately $31,000 in cash. This same source says that although the Post has donated ad space, too, it hasn't parted with any folding green. If HOPE moneytenders are smart, they'll publicize this information soon, to put the papers in a position of having to top each other. To hell with a newspaper war; how about a compassion war?

The circulation war is already raging: Featured in this space last week was a News memo asking employees to watch out for attempts by the Post to inflate its numbers by dumping copies. But a Post worker discloses that staffers there received a nearly identical memo several weeks back accusing the News of the same sin. Add to that the testimony of Linda Lyman, who works at an area school. She says her school ordered the Sunday News, only to have issues start showing up several other days of the week -- and after she called to ask for the extras to be cut off, they began coming even more frequently. The News is now arriving six days a week, Lyman reports, with most of them being tossed directly into recycling bins "still in their blue plastic bags."

So they can be turned into more newspapers, I guess.

Have comments, tips or complaints about the media? E-mail "The Message" at Michael_Roberts@westword.com. To read related stories, visit www.westword.com.

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