Show Them the Money

The business of writing about business can be mighty profitable these days.

"Operations that may have less stability pay a premium to recruit proven talent," chimes in Post editor Glenn Guzzo. "Those who have chosen the electronic route, especially, have done so at some risk."

Writers seem to realize as much: The caution exhibited by the ex-Newsies now at Interactive Week suggests that they don't want to make any enemies because they may someday need to return to the Rocky and humbly ask for a second chance. But some observers think more journalists than ever before are focusing on business because they think their decision will eventually lead to a windfall. The News's Reuteman isn't sure about that, but he concedes, "I don't know that someone would necessarily admit that to me." Still, he reveals that he's "had half-joking conversations with people at the metro desk who've said, 'Jeez, it's so obvious to me that business is the place to be hired away from that I want to go to work in your department.'"

There's also the perception that business writing is a more pleasant gig than many others on a daily. Lewis believes that a good many "reporters just starting their careers are thinking, 'I can spend my nights chasing cops and running through sleazy neighborhoods, or I can work nine to five, meet with the greatest minds in the business community, and call up the smartest CEOs in the world and have them call me back.'" Yet the possibility of a fiscal bonanza probably holds even more appeal. "Quite frankly, anybody who's a business reporter in this town, no matter what they're making, can make two to three times that amount working out of their houses if that's what they choose to do," he says.

Jay Vollmar

But for how long? The tale of Aldo Svaldi is cautionary, albeit just mildly so. A month after he came on board, Energy Insight, which boasted a readership Svaldi estimates at just 7,000, launched three subscription-based "modules" in an effort to boost sagging revenues, but only about a dozen companies signed up to receive the telecom module, for which he wrote. The endeavor subsequently began scaling back (a managing editor's position opened up but was left unfilled), and rumors began circulating that Financial Times wanted to sell the division that encompassed Energy Insight. This gossip turned out to be accurate.

But Svaldi wasn't made to suffer another prolonged stretch of unemployment -- not in today's sizzling business-journalism environment. In the midst of uncertainty over the outlook for Energy Insight, he received a call from a headhunter, and before he knew it, he had four prospects from which to choose. "I didn't really even have to look," he says. He ultimately decided to return to the inky world of newspapers, signing up with the Post, in part because he liked the idea of reaching a larger audience. "I definitely feel more connected to the community," he says about the new position, which he started on November 6. But the moolah was nice, too: The Post agreed to count his years at the weekly Denver Business Journal as if he'd been at a daily, thereby bumping him up the union pay scale.

"When I was in journalism school, there were very few people interested in business," Svaldi adds, "but it's worked out great for me."

What a difference ten years make.

The name game: As the item above makes clear, the commanding officers at the News should be accustomed to employees abandoning their ship, but that doesn't seem to be true. Stories continue to circulate about editor John Temple going thermonuclear whenever his minions choose to go elsewhere, and insiders say his reactions are amplified if the destination is the Post. Yet he's also capable of quieter acts of retribution.

Consider the matter of Tina Griego, who's written some of the best long-form pieces that have appeared in the News during the past several years. (She's also married to Westword columnist Harrison Fletcher.) Early this month, Griego accepted an offer at the Post to become a columnist -- she'll be supplementing, rather than supplanting, Diane Carman and Chuck Green -- and when she broke the word to Temple, he held himself in check. Granted, he neglected to present her with a sheet cake, and he didn't allow her to clean out her desk or say goodbye to co-workers; when her chat with him was over, she was directed to the exit. But throughout the conversation itself, Griego says, "he was extremely gracious."

He became less so later. Specifically, Griego's final effort for the News -- "Feudin' and Fightin'," a sprawling look at north Denver Democrats published on November 5 -- ran without her byline. Instead, it was credited generically to "News Staff."

Typically, Temple failed to respond to a request to comment on this topic. (What must I do to get a call back, Mr. Temple? Plead? Beg? Apply for a job as a business reporter?) For her part, Griego herself is, to use her phrase, extremely gracious. "It was a really difficult decision to leave," she allows. "And since they've treated me very well at the Rocky Mountain News, that made it all the more difficult. I couldn't say, 'I hate this place,' or, 'You've just run me into the ground,' because that was never the case. I can understand that they were hurt, and I was thankful that they didn't pull the story. A lot of people spent a lot of time talking to me about it, and I would have hated to see that happen."

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