Off Limits

No good deed goes unpunished.

They don't call sunny skies "chamber of commerce weather" for nothing; the last thing any of these membership organizations wants is clouds on the horizon. That's why officials at the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce were taken aback last week when they were criticized for their portrayal of pioneer businessman William Bent, one of six Coloradans inducted into the Colorado Business Hall of Fame on February 8.

In a chamber press release faithfully reproduced by both Denver dailies, Bent, who died in 1869, was described as "partner of Bent, St. Vrain Co. and founder of the first permanent American settlement in Colorado." But as Ben Sherman, chairman of the Western American Indian Chamber, noted in a letter published in the Rocky Mountain News on February 11, there were plenty of permanent Native American settlements long before Bent built his fort. Colorado wasn't even Colorado until years later.

"Ben pointed the facts out. I apologized," says Chris Power Bain, communications director at Denver's chamber. The release, which is posted on the chamber's Web site, now reads that Bent was the "founder of the first business establishment in what would become Colorado."

Of course, the folks at the Rocky should have known that already -- after all, the paper is 142 years old. Then again, the tabloid hasn't been itself lately. No, as was hammered home by Denver Post owner William Dean Singleton during his own induction speech into the Hall of Fame, the Rocky is now the bottom half of the Denver Newspaper Agency, the entity that controls the nuts and bolts of both papers as part of a recently cemented joint operating agreement. Singleton also chairs the DNA, which anted up for a table at the chamber banquet that was filled by top people from both the Post and the Rocky -- a few of whom cringed as the Voice of the Rocky Mountain Empire droned on about his personal victory in the newspaper war.

(When she wrote about that table-sharing on February 11, Rocky gossip columnist Penny Parker misspelled the name of DNA president and CEO -- and former Post exec -- Kirk MacDonald [she forgot the first a]. Sweet revenge, perhaps? Hardly, responds Parker. "I have no ill feelings toward anybody at the Post. I didn't check it." The mistake, which was corrected the next day, was "just D-U-M," she adds.)

Singleton's unusual bombast inspired one banquet wag to refer to him as "William the Conquerer," while another settled for a simple "Windy." Come to think of it, either would be a much more fitting nickname than "Dinky," a name bestowed on a nineteen-year-old Singleton by grizzled newspaper veterans when he was promoted over them in a Texas newsroom decades ago. And so we're going to permanently retire "Dinky" -- the name, not the man; he's got about a hundred more newspapers to conquer -- and are looking for a suitable replacement. If you have a suggestion, send it to our Dinky Needs a New Nickname Contest by e-mail, fax or phone.

 
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