It's Black and It's Proud

In the Black isn't seeing red anymore.

"A lot of people are surprised that something like this is coming out of Denver," he says. "They think it should have come from Chicago or someplace like that. But we're in Colorado -- and we're not alone."

Out of ranger: On March 19, amid considerable ballyhoo, Denver Post head man Glenn Guzzo wrote a "letter from the editor" announcing that he was bringing back the "Rocky Mountain Ranger." The idea, a Post staple from 1950 until the late '80s, called for a reporter to roam the region in search of those tales that everyone else had missed, and Guzzo was clearly high on the man he chose to revive it: Mike Ritchey, a former columnist at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (where Guzzo had also toiled) who'd become a publisher based in Telluride. But what seemed on the surface to be a heavenly match wound up in divorce court mere months later. Ritchey, whose last bit of Ranger-speak ran on July 2, has packed his bags, and Guzzo, who'd promised that his old pal would be writing "romantic stories about the vestiges of the Old West and the urgent stories of the New West, with a special sensitivity for the collision between the two," is currently searching for a replacement.

Guzzo declines to say whether Ritchey jumped or was pushed, and Ritchey didn't return a call seeking comment. But reliable sources say neither side was satisfied with the situation, which makes perfect sense given the mediocrity of the copy Ritchey churned out. His first piece, about a dispute over the Glen Canyon Dam in Arizona, added precious little to the many stories that had previously been written on the topic, and its successors were even lamer. A March 27 effort about Monument Valley, Utah, offered the patently untrue contention that filmmakers hadn't shot movies there since 1973 as a way of honoring the late director John Ford (the Post later printed a correction), and an April 2 report about Bob Dylan's tour of smallish western cities was so staggeringly corny ("It has to be understood that artists, artists who matter, are first and foremost brave") that it should have come with its own cob.

Ellsworth Grant and Frances Grant are  In the Black.
Ellsworth Grant and Frances Grant are In the Black.

Ritchey never sank so low again, but his dispatches about rural publishers not unlike him (the subject of four separate columns) and other ephemera provoked about as much interest as Darva Conger will twenty years from now. The columns' placement in the paper suggested that editors shared this opinion: By the end, Ritchey's well-intentioned but hackneyed scribblings were being relegated to the pre-print sections that most Posters regard as the newspaper's graveyard.

Even so, Guzzo is actively looking inside and outside the Post for someone new to wear the Ranger badge. "I'm excited about the concept," he says. "I think it adds personality and character to our coverage."

In theory, anyway.

Meanwhile, the proposed joint operating agreement between the Post and the Rocky Mountain News continues to garner support from organized labor; last week, the Post reported that the national office of the Communications Workers of America had urged the Justice Department to give the pact a thumbs-up. But there's some irony in this vote of confidence given a June 30 ruling by the National Labor Relations Board. In a case previously cited in this space ("Look for the Union Label," June 8), the NLRB determined that the Los Angeles Newspaper Group, a property in the portfolio of Post owner Dean "Dinky" Singleton, "was intentionally deceptive and untruthful" in its dealings with a local under the umbrella of (guess who?) the Communications Workers of America. As a result, the Newspaper Group has been ordered to pay 21 sacked workers over two years' worth of back wages.

Of course, Singleton would never do anything like that here. Right?Dialing for answers: The radio shakeup prompted by the divestiture of eight Denver Clear Channel-owned stations ("Clearing the Channels," March 9) was a real bombshell. But because the Federal Communications Commission hasn't signed off on the deals, many of which have yet to be finalized, there's been no explosion yet. A case in point is 96.5 FM/The Peak, which has been peddled twice -- first to Hispanic Broadcasting in a transaction that was later nullified, and later to Indianapolis's Emmis Communications. Peak insiders report that they've been promised no changes before the dawn of 2001, but Joe Schwartz, the outlet's new general manager, won't confirm that, because "nothing's been finalized." He adds, "We're presently doing research to determine any holes in the market, and getting that research done will take a while. So things might stay the way they are until the end of the year -- but they might not."

That clears everything up.

More questions will be raised about a special event planned by Alice, at 105.9 FM: From 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, August 11, at the Rock Bottom Brewery, during the afternoon show helmed by Greg Thunder and Bo Reynolds, fans will get a chance to rub elbows with former Alice morning hosts Frosty Stillwell and Frank Kramer, whose partnership with yakker Jamie White was abruptly severed last year ("White on White," February 3). Alice program director Jim Lawson calls the event "a chance for Alice to give closure to our listeners," adding that there are no plans at this time to bring back the pair, who are now free from a contract binding them to AMFM (Alice's former owner), on a more permanent basis. But if you think that will stop the speculation, I've got a bridge I'd like to sell you.

It's in my mouth right now, but I promise to wash it off.

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