Paper Trail

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

So, too, does Mike O'Keefe, a Daily staffer who also worked on the Reagan edition -- but his view of the project as a whole is a measured one. "Compared to all the really great stories the Daily did, a lot of the anti-Reagan issue was bad journalism," says O'Keefe, who went on to work at Westword and is now a sportswriter at the New York Daily News. "But now I look at where we are today, with another Bush in the White House, and I think, 'We were right.' You know? We were right."

The following year, Lange received a job offer from the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner. He turned it down because he was in the middle of overseeing several capital improvements at the Daily. But when the Herald Examiner phoned again in early 1986, he was more receptive. The improvements at the Daily had been made, and, he notes, "I was 39 years old and had been in that small circle of journalism in Boulder for a long time. I thought I'd done as much as I could do at the place, and I felt I was leaving it in good hands."

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.

That was clearly true from a financial standpoint. Dennis Dubé, hired at the Daily in 1981, succeeded Lange as publisher and ushered in an eight-year period of expansion and relative prosperity. Even setbacks such as the flop of a Daily spinoff called the Boulder Courier, a home-delivered weekly paper edited by Paul Danish that wound up $50,000 in the red after just six months, didn't prove fatal. "It was a rough and tumble time in the market," says Dubé, who is currently on the faculty of the CU journalism school. "Growth was flat in real estate and everything else. But the Daily still did well in that environment."

Editorial changes were more controversial. Replacing Lange as editor was Clint Talbot, who started at the Daily as a reporter in 1984 and is now a columnist for the Boulder Daily Camera. Talbot quickly shifted priorities. "I had a couple of things I thought were important," he says. "One was to get back to our roots journalistically. We existed because of the university campus, but our campus coverage seemed to be sort of secondary at that time. So I wanted to focus on things relevant to the university's students. And the second thing was to try to make sure, to whatever extent practicable, that we kept opinions on the opinion pages. I'm not averse to opinions; I do it for a living. But I thought there was too much opinionizing in the news columns and also in the graphics."

That was a shot across the bow for Todd Moore, who didn't last long under the new regime. He was philosophically at odds with Talbot, who, in his opinion, "writes like he's pounding on the piano with a frozen mackerel. He doesn't hear the music in the words." The end finally came after Moore arrived at the office one day to discover that the decorations he'd put on the wall over his desk had been taken down and replaced by a world map; afterward, he says, "I went to Dennis Dubé and lit up on him about basically selling our souls for advertising revenue. And he fired me for insubordination."

But Moore, who ran a widely admired, now-defunct newspaper in Illinois for several years and is currently working at a Boulder garden store, didn't leave quietly. In a scorching goodbye letter, he wrote, "What's wrong with making a newspaper interesting, exciting, personal and possibly even (horrors!) subjective? For all the freeze-dried, short-term bullshit that passes as news in this town, the Daily has in the past provided an antidote. But nobody's saying much about the Daily these days. And that's because we're not saying, or doing, anything of interest."

This opinion was shared by many veterans of Lange's reign; numerous folks loyal to his way departed by their own choice or were pink-slipped. But those who came later tend to portray the Talbot Daily in much more positive terms and point out that it still had its eccentricities. Luke Cyphers, now a colleague of O'Keefe's in the New York Daily News sports department, remembers a sentence that appeared on the copy-editing test he took in 1987: "The problem of teen pregnancy is mounting."

"When I read that, I thought, 'Somebody has a sense of humor here,'" Cyphers says. But serious journalism was produced as well, including a Cyphers story that turned into one of the Daily's biggest-ever scoops: the revelation that then-CU basketball coach Tom Miller was, in Cyphers's words, "Bobby Knight-ing some of his players." The story was directly responsible for Miller being placed on notice by CU in June 1988; he was fired in 1990.

Bronson Hilliard, a communications consultant who also worked at the Daily under Talbot, thinks local reporting of this kind was of more use to Boulderites than the sort of journalism that preceded it. "My problem with Tim Lange's stewardship of the paper was that it was one-dimensionally focused on international politics and dismantling the Reagan revolution," he says. "Ideologically, I didn't have a problem with that. But from a practical standpoint, they really soft-pedaled local news. You could read about Nicaragua every single day and still not know what was going on in Boulder."

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