Stripped Down

Local reporters aren't digging into a hot strip-club case, despite its connection to Broncos star Terrell Davis.

Likewise, all five Denver television stations have refrained from assigning a reporter to the story, and as of last week, Channel 2 hadn't broadcast anything about the Gold Club at all. Carl Bilek, acting news director for WB2 News (he's been filling in since the recent resignation of veteran news director Steve Grund), doesn't think the story's earned airtime at this juncture, but he says he's been "following" it -- although not closely enough to know that Davis has actually been subpoenaed instead of simply linked to the case by rumor.

The other Denver TV outlets have gone beyond merely monitoring the situation. Channel 9 ran a package put together by WXIA, an NBC affiliate in Atlanta. "That was our lead story the night it broke," says news director Patti Dennis. Meanwhile, Channel 4, Channel 7 and Channel 31 have kept up with periodic "readers" -- updates delivered by anchors, sometimes with accompanying video footage. But this material was cobbled together from press reports generated elsewhere rather than investigated separately.

The assorted news directors justify this approach using variations on the argument voiced by Guzzo and Dale. "As details have surfaced, we reported them, along with the information that Terrell was merely a witness being called to testify and that prosecutors don't believe he did anything wrong," says Channel 4's Angie Kucharski. In the view of Byron Grandy, who's been in command at Channel 7 since January, "It's an interesting story, but with the exception of a Bronco's potential connection to it, there hasn't been anything that's made us think we need to spend much time on it in our local newscast." Channel 31's Bill Dallman concurs: "To me, this is a story about a strip club in Atlanta, and the only local connection to it is a witness who hasn't been charged with any wrongdoing. So localizing it isn't anything we're interested in doing" unless and until Davis testifies.

Cynics might well wonder if this lack of interest could be motivated by the fear of pissing off a key Bronco and perhaps losing access to him during football season. The decision-makers interviewed for this column have heard dark hints like this one over the years but summarily reject them. "I've never understood the basis for that kind of thing," says Channel 9's Dennis. "It's easy to throw out a theory, but we've reported a lot of unflattering stories about the Broncos. We covered what happened to Brian Griese and all the off-the-playing-field news about Bill Romanowski, too. So what story haven't we covered? Name one."

A persuasive point -- yet it's still surprising to hear from Broncos senior director of media relations Jim Saccomano that not a single local reporter has asked him about the Davis-Gold Club tie nor, to his knowledge, did any bring up the subject to Davis during his many public appearances at a mini-camp earlier this month. "When his name came out, I remember a couple of writers saying, 'Wow,'" Saccomano says, after passing along a no-comment from Davis to Westword, "and, well, the press usually has humorous comments to make about that kind of thing. But nobody told me, 'I need to talk to Terrell.' There haven't been any calls at all."

That leaves the News's Krieger as the only Denver journalist to truly sink his teeth into this juicy meal. Krieger admits that he didn't come up with the idea on his own; one of his e-mail pals, Howie Greene, morning host on the Peak, asked him why there'd been so little about the story in the local media, spurring him to take on the affair. The opening lines of his column contrast sharply with the suggestion that Denverites wouldn't give a damn about a little ol' trial in Atlanta. "I'm not big on rules," Krieger wrote, "but I think even my stodgiest editor would have agreed with this one: If you can put the King of Sweden and Madonna in the same sentence, tell that story. If you can stuff Terrell Davis, Patrick Ewing and the Gambino crime family in there, rent yourself a rack in the supermarket checkout line. And if you're fortunate enough to have reason to mention Michael Jordan, Donald Trump, George Clooney, Bruce Willis, Mick Jagger, Joe Montana and Sammy Sosa, go directly to National Enquirer heaven, and take your binoculars."

Krieger can only speculate as to why no one else in the Denver media came to the same conclusions. He figures that most writers on the football beat see the Gold Club as peripheral to more immediate concerns, like whether one of the Broncos' backs could be traded, and guesses that news departments at the dailies might have dispatched a reporter to Atlanta to assemble an in-depth weekend takeout "if the staffs were a little bigger -- but the newspaper war left everybody broke and down to skeleton staffs." He also cites a couple of more personal factors. "Terrell is a very popular guy, one of the nicest pro athletes I've ever covered," Krieger says. "There's a lot of affection for him at this point, especially with all the controversy about his injury last year. There were whispers in the organization and outside of it when he was saying he was hurt last year, and when they finally diagnosed a stress fracture, everybody ran for cover -- and that made him nothing but more sympathetic in the end. So I think people who know him and cover him are reluctant to take any further shots over this, since no one knows what's going to come out of it."

But at the same time, Krieger concedes, "It's a very appealing story." And that's what the media is in the business of delivering -- right?

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