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Bleep That

The FCC's fining of a Colorado radio station is giving broadcasters headaches from coast to coast.

To everyone from hip-hop boosters to free-speech advocates, this is bad news. But Liz Pipes, the woman who set this chain of events into motion, likes the sound of it just fine. "We're just inundated with offensive material every day," she says, "so I hope this sends a wake-up call to radio -- and to television and movies, too."

The McDonald franchise: On July 12, during this column's summer break, former Channel 31 executive Scott McDonald was indicted by a grand jury on eighteen counts, including securities fraud and forgery, in relation to a series of "business deals" that ended with numerous high-profile media and public-relations figures losing thousands of dollars ("OutFoxed," May 10). But this number would have been much higher had more of McDonald's partners sworn out complaints against him. Channel 9 anchor Adele Arakawa was peeved enough at McDonald, who admits to a gambling addiction, to tell her tale of woe to the Denver Post, but she's not listed in the indictment, nor are many others who anonymously confirmed to Westword that McDonald owes them money. For that reason, the roster of people cooperating with the Denver district attorney's office is a bit light on star power: It includes Joseph Sucharda, a onetime McDonald associate not involved with the media, and Jason Maggard, McDonald's second cousin. I'm guessing the next McDonald family reunion may be a bit tense.

That leaves Channel 31 troubleshooter Tom Martino as the biggest name in the D.A.'s corner -- but he wasn't content to sit back and let Bill Ritter do the heavy lifting. On July 19, Martino finally filed a promised civil suit against McDonald, and although he's not yet added Channel 31 to this document, he says "right now it's more likely than not that I will." He adds, "It's not going to be easy if I do it, because I like those guys a lot. However, I truly believe that they had serious responsibility in this case. They let this go on through a lack of supervision or by turning their heads, and either one isn't good, because a lot of people got hurt."

Martino says he offered to let numerous people join his civil suit, but "no one took me up on it. No one wants to do anything. They just want to talk, so the heck with them." These folks are missing out on an opportunity, he believes, because "the people without the nerve to come forward won't be part of the reimbursement order. And if I get a civil judgment for fraud against him, I'll be ahead of everybody in the indictment. I'll be able to garnish 25 percent of whatever he makes for the rest of his life until he pays me back -- and that's before reimbursement." Nevertheless, Martino insists, "I don't hate Scott McDonald. But what I'd really like him to do is for him to make his victims whole and for him to get help. There's always a vindictive part of everyone that goes, 'I'd like to see him really punished,' but I don't think in the long run that would do any good."

McDonald, meanwhile, is trying to keep a low profile -- a difficult task when even his work as a waiter at a Denver restaurant makes the Rocky Mountain News. He shies away from discussing his case because of pending litigation; his first court appearance is slated for July 26. But he does confirm a report from a reliable source that, despite his membership in Gamblers Anonymous, he visited the casinos in Black Hawk after being indicted. "I had a slipup recently," he says, after noting that he arrived in the gambling town with $100, and left once it was gone. "When you're an addict, you fight the battle every day. And on that day, unfortunately, I lost it."

A buyer's market: Most folks in the journalism business weren't impressed by the modest buyout offer the Boulder Daily Camera made to employees over fifty ("Out With the Old," June 7) and predicted that few would take it. Guess again: Ten staffers signed up, including five editorial types with a lot of years under their caps: Features writer Karen Mitchell (she started working at the Camera in 1987), news assistant Roberta Childers (1983), managing editor Thad Keyes (1977), sportswriter Craig Harper (1971), and sports editor Dan Creedon, who's departing one year short of his fortieth anniversary with the paper. Add to that next month's retirement of Barrie Hartman, a columnist and editor of the editorial page, and you've got an experience drain of sizable proportions.

The ever-grindin' rumor mill suggests that the proposal was so popular because E.W. Scripps, the Cincinnati company that owns the Camera and the Rocky Mountain News, made it clear that if the buyout failed to generate enough savings, layoffs would be next. But Camera editor/publisher Colleen Conant, who'll be handling the managing-editor duties as well until a new M.E. is found, describes such comments as unsubstantiated gossip and believes that the paper will maintain its quality despite losing so many longtimers. "That's the challenge we face every day," she says. "I don't think that's changed."

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