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The five most important words in Denver newspapering this past week were not "who, what, why, where and when," as they should be, but "Invesco Field at Mile High." That's because the city's broadsheet, a paper originally known as the Denver Evening Post, has decided to call the place the "new Mile High stadium" rather than its actual name -- a decision that ignores three of those five basic tenets of journalism.
The policy doesn't apply to photojournalism, however, which is now the only form of journalism at the "new Evening Post" that can be trusted to report things as they are. In fact, the day after the paper wrote about its own policy shift, a photo on the front page revealed the stadium's official name -- just above a cutline that identified the structure as the "new Mile High stadium," taking journalism into bizarro world.
"A picture is a picture," says Kevin Dale, editor of the paper's sports section. "You take a picture of what's in front of you and run it in the paper. We wouldn't alter that, and we couldn't alter that." For the record, Dale has had several long conversations with editor Glenn Guzzo about the policy that Guzzo instituted, and he says he's "not in favor of the decision." But he insists that he won't raise a ruckus over it, and neither will his staff. "They pretty much represent the public," he adds. "Some are in favor and some are against it."
The policy doesn't extend to advertising, either. And that's handy, because for the last couple of weeks, industrious sales reps for the Denver Newspaper Agency, which controls the business operations of both the "new Evening Post" and the old Rocky Mountain News, have been pitching a special section that will appear in both papers on August 24 -- "The Invesco Field at Mile High preview section," to be exact. The DNA's Denver Broncos-themed advertising packages, which run anywhere from $75,000 to $250,000, include a thirty-inch ad in what is now a not-so-special section.
According to DNA spokesman Jim Nolan, though, the name-game controversy hasn't hurt sales. "We've seen no real impact in terms of the ads that are booked," he says. And despite the advertising blitz pushing "The Invesco Field at Mile High preview section," Nolan says it will be up to each newsroom to decide what to call the final product, since both papers will be producing their own articles and headlines.
Sports editor Dale doesn't want to reveal any proposed section names before the final piece comes out, but he says he doubts it will be called "The new Mile High stadium preview section." Says Dale: "That's a little clunky. Rest assured, though, we'll be following all of our editorial guidelines."
Any ads or promotions that appear in the section will definitely refer to the stadium by its full, official name, however, in accordance with the team's contract with the DNA. That includes the "100 Seats a Sunday" giveaway offered by the "new Evening Post," which lets Broncos fans win tickets to games and gives advertisers "unparalleled promotional visibility," according to the advertising material offered by the paper. "100 Seats a Sunday lets you brand your company alongside the Broncos, leveraging the Post's unique relationship with the team and Invesco Field at Mile High."
That relationship is becoming more unique by the second.
Steve Sander, president of the Denver sports and entertainment marketing firm of Sander GBSM, thinks the Post's Mile High-forever policy is ridiculous and confusing to both readers and advertisers. "It's one of the most disturbing editorial decisions that I have ever witnessed in all of my years dealing with newspapers and other journalistic organizations," says Sander, who worked with the stadium district board on the naming-rights deal. "For a newspaper to think that it can arbitrarily make up its own name for a facility without regard for what is factual -- it's mind-boggling. It begs the question of whether we can believe anything the paper prints or whether it is just them supporting their own positions on things."
Tom Philand, who worked in marketing for the "new Evening Post" before becoming vice president of marketing for Kroenke Sports Enterprises, which owns the Denver Nuggets, the Colorado Avalanche and the new McNichols Arena (occasionally referred to as the Pepsi Center), says the paper's stance is unique. "I have to assume it's enormously frustrating for Invesco," he says. "There is a lot of sentimentality associated with the name Mile High, but I think Invesco tried to take into consideration the heritage of the stadium. They could have demanded that it be called Invesco Stadium, but they took a look at public sensitivities, and there are those who will say that decision has come back to haunt them.
"If you are Invesco," Philand adds, "you are banking on the stadium branding standing the test of time."
Memo to Invesco Funds Group: Next time you have a choice between totally screwing the public (as in naming the stadium plain old Invesco Field) and offering a compromise (as in preserving a part of the old Mile High name), just go ahead and screw us. It will be quicker and less painful that way.