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Meanwhile, the Colorado Springs Gazette has been shaken by a major management shuffle. Editor Terri Fleming, who took the position in early 2000, was given her walking papers in late July, and managing editors Cliff Foster and Keith Briscoe are in limbo. Gazette associate publisher and vice president Jon Stepleton, speaking for the paper, says Foster is presently serving as "an editor at large, working on stories of major scope," while Briscoe has been assigned to handle "a variety of administrative duties" -- but neither is guaranteed similar positions under a new editor, who Stepleton hopes will be named before year's end. (Until then, Jeff Thomas, best known for his work with the Gazette's computer-assisted reporting program, will handle most of the editor's chores.) On top of that, city editor Bill Vogrin has been made senior writer on the metro desk, while executive sports editor Geoff Grant has handed over day-to-day oversight of the sports section to Jim O'Connell, who's been named interim sports editor.

Publisher Thomas Mullen, who was out of town and unavailable for comment, seems to be the person behind most of these changes, with newsroom scuttlebutt suggesting that he was unhappy with the quality of the Gazette under Fleming. (Mullen used to edit the paper back when it was winning major journalism prizes, the most noteworthy being Dave Curtin's 1990 Pulitzer, secured in the feature category. Curtin is now with the Denver Post.)

But business matters may have factored in as well. Although the Gazette's circulation numbers are up (Stepleton credits the rise to the end of penny subscription offers from the Post and the Rocky, as well as a vigorous Gazette campaign called "Operation Rebound"), its revenues have been hurt by dive-bombing classified-ad sales -- a common problem in the newspaper industry these days. "I think our experience mirrors what's going on around the country, and like everybody else, we're anticipating a turn next summer," Stepleton says. "But even if it's not as soon as we hope, we still have very high aspirations for the paper and think the editor's job is a great opportunity for someone who wants to work for an organization with a history of journalistic excellence."

illustration by Mark Andresen

The current turmoil notwithstanding.

TD scores: When Steve Kaplan, owner of the Gold Club, a high-rent strip establishment in Atlanta, agreed to a plea bargain on August 2, thereby putting the brakes on his sensational trial, few could have been happier than Denver Broncos running back Terrell Davis. Although Davis's name popped up in testimony, with one dancer saying he paid her $200 for "scoring" in a very special way, he wasn't called to the stand -- something local media reps wouldn't have been able to ignore.

Or would they? The two Denver dailies never assigned a staff member to look into the Davis-Gold Club connection ("Stripped Down," May 31), relying almost exclusively on wire copy. Likewise, they failed to investigate some potentially intriguing tangents, including Davis's being dropped as a spokesman by Campbell's soup and the potential repercussions he might have faced because of a morality clause in his contract. (In a John Fox piece run by the Rocky on July 27, Assistant U.S. Attorney Art Leach was quoted as saying he might not call Davis because of the clause -- a highly questionable stance for a prosecutor to take.) But at least local TV reporters had the nerve to ask Davis a couple of questions about his potential testimony when Broncos training camp opened. Channels 4 and 7 -- shock of shocks -- even broadcast his responses.

It might not be much, but at least it's something.

Saved by the bell: If you happen to be strolling through the Denver Post newsroom and hear a bell ringing, it doesn't mean an angel is getting his wings. No, it means an executive is calling his troops -- and his troops are rolling their eyes.

The bell ringer in question is Larry Burrough, the Post's managing editor for news, who says he wanted people throughout the newspaper to start attending news meetings at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. so that management could "hear more than the regular voices when we critique the newspaper and make news decisions." But when invitations alone didn't increase turnout, he came up with the lighthearted idea of clanging a bell -- in this case, a seven-inch-wide Italian brass bell that Burrough admits is "much louder than I expected" -- to let everyone know the meetings were about to start. "I thought it might add a little fun," he says.

The bell triggered some other responses, too, including, Burrough concedes, "some incredibly creative discussions about my sanity, and about how to sabotage it, how to melt it down, how to smuggle it out the door." The attendance at the meetings hasn't skyrocketed, either, but Burrough isn't ready to give up his noisemaker yet. "Will I keep using the bell?" he asks. "You betcha. What the hell."


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