Paper Trail

The Colorado Daily has been on a long, strange trip for over a century. Is the journey ending or starting anew?

Not that cashing in was on anyone's mind back then -- not with so much injustice in the world in need of exposing. The Lange-led Daily didn't shy away from diving into national and international stories, some of them only tangentially connected to Boulder. Lange and writer S.K. Levin wrote frequently about U.S. policy in Nicaragua and even traveled to that country to do ground-level reporting; their main local hook involved Boulder's establishment of a sister-city relationship with the Nicaraguan community of Jalapa. The pair also investigated what became the Strategic Defense Initiative (aka Star Wars), coming out with an in-depth multi-part series a month before President Ronald Reagan unveiled the program in a 1983 speech.

But Lange also found ways to take area news nationwide, as he did when he unveiled the inner workings of a Federal Emergency Management Administration civil-defense plan intended for use in the event of a nuclear strike in Boulder and many other American cities. A meeting to explain the previously secret program drew around 1,200 dumbfounded Coloradans and the folks from 60 Minutes, and led to the dropping of the entire idea everywhere. Articles like these induced Nation scribe Alexander Cockburn to declare the Daily the best leftist newspaper in the country.

Despite the soberness of these topics, however, the Daily was neither bland nor laugh-free. It developed an innovative entertainment section overseen by Jennifer Heath, who has gone on to become an author of books on a slew of subjects, and dabbled in often-self-deprecating humor courtesy of Todd Moore, who was also largely responsible for its grabby look. Moore, who's described with great affection by former colleague J. Gluckstern (now a CU film instructor and contributor to the Daily Camera) as a "fuck-you anarchist," wrote under the name Tao Jones and manned the regular feature "Tommy Tofu's Field Guide to Boulder," in which he described creatures such as "Liberal Man (Homo Pinko)": "Listen for the roar of Homo Pinko as he gathers in large herds to affect events thousands of miles away -- 'SMASH THE STATE...please.'" And that's not to mention his "Apocalypse Poll," in which readers were given the chance to predict whether the world would end in a "bang," a "whimper," or "other (please specify)."

Randy Miller is the new owner of the Colorado Daily.
Susan Goldstein
Randy Miller is the new owner of the Colorado Daily.
The cover of 1984's anti-Reagan issue.
The cover of 1984's anti-Reagan issue.

Moore's adventures are notorious. On one occasion, he and a photographer decided they wanted to take a photo of Rocky Flats and drove onto the facility's grounds to get one without asking permission; they wound up spread-eagled on the ground surrounded by armed men in black commando outfits. On another, he penned an editorial, later published as a letter, about a suspicious fire at a fraternity house that convinced Boulder authorities and frat boys alike that the letter's mysterious author, identified as "T. Moore," was a female arsonist. "I remember standing at a cash machine and these two guys behind me were talking about what they were going to do when they got ahold of this bull dyke T. Moore," he says.

But his most infamous accomplishment was 1984's anti-Reagan issue. There's some disagreement over who sparked this notion: Moore says the idea came from singer Gil Scott-Heron, while Marty Durlin, Moore's former spouse and a onetime Daily staffer (she's presently station manager at Boulder public radio station KGNU), believes the responsible party was poet Amiri Baraka. (Both Scott-Heron and Baraka contributed to the issue.) Moreover, support for an all-editorial edition in advance of the 1984 election, in which Reagan's main competitor was Democratic candidate Walter Mondale, wasn't universal, with some employees fearing the concept would damage the Daily's future credibility. But the stone-throwers eventually won out, and on November 5, 1984, the Daily unleashed "Ronald Reagan: A Commentary."

Viewed from a distance of seventeen years, some of the anti-Reagan issue's content seems a bit curious. S.K. Levin's somber piece about Reagan's military buildup ages well, as does Durlin's personal commentary about the dearth of worthy candidates, but they're juxtaposed with wackiness like Nan De Grove's "What's in the Stars for Reagan, Mondale?," an attempt to analyze the election via astrology. ("Mondale's Sagittarius planets all fall near the ascendant in the United States chart, which indicate he could help the country recover some of its lost idealism...") But what hasn't dated are the incendiary graphics: a smiling Reagan dressed as Darth Vader, a poster of two elephants mating labeled "The Making of a Republican," and a doctored photo showing a football placekicker about to boot Reagan's head. This last image prompted a memorable moment for Moore: "These guys threatened to beat the hell out of me because it was their friend's leg kicking it."

That was hardly the only negative reaction. Numerous Daily sources swear that ad revenue plummeted 40 percent after the issue, but Lange, who by then had added publisher duties to his editorial responsibilities, says that's not so: Only a few advertisers bailed. Yet university conservatives voiced their disapproval in larger numbers. Pam White, who started contributing to the Daily in 1984 and holds the distinction of having written a pro-choice article for the Reagan edition that was withheld because it was "too extreme even for us," tells the tale. "I was sitting at my desk when a bunch of campus Republicans barged in with armloads of the paper that they'd picked up from all over town -- and they threw them on the floor and called us 'fucking communists' and spewed profanity and otherwise demonstrated their commitment to the First Amendment. I always thought that was funny."

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