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As the Smoke Clears

How does the media get back to normal when no one can say what normal is?

The legacy Howe leaves behind is a complicated one. When he arrived in Denver during the late '80s as an employee of Jacor Communications (a firm Clear Channel subsequently swallowed), his company owned just two stations, KOA and what became the Fox. But in short order, Jacor picked up KAZY, which Howe used to destroy a rival outlet, KBPI, that Jacor later picked off the scrap heap and returned to powerhouse status. (Howe calls this accomplishment his greatest in Denver.) He was also at the helm when, following the passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 -- a law that allowed businesses to own eight stations in any market and an unlimited number overall -- Jacor hit the FCC maximum here. Denver, Howe notes, was the first city in which this happened. Finally, Howe birthed Jacor Concerts, a precursor to Clear Channel Concerts, currently the largest concert-promotion outfit in the nation.

Many observers see such consolidation as bad for competition and consumers alike, including the partners in Nobody in Particular Presents, a local promotion company that filed a lawsuit against Clear Channel in U.S. District Court, alleging innumerable monopolistic practices ("Taking on the Empire," August 23). NIPP's Doug Kauffman and Jesse Morreale declined to comment about what Howe's departure might mean to them, but Barry Fey, the venerable head of another Clear Channel adversary, House of Blues, wasn't so reticent. He feels Howe is being moved because of heat from the lawsuit and an ongoing Justice Department investigation of Clear Channel. "Don Howe and his merry men are responsible for all of that," he says. "The first domino has fallen."

Howe denies that the suit was factored into his new gig, and circumstantial evidence backs him up. When Clear Channel announced its regional supervision plan on August 27, former AMFM executive Jim Donahoe was named West Coast head. But weeks later, Donahoe resigned because of what he told Radio & Record were differences between his vision and Clear Channel's; Howe was then hurriedly recruited to take his place.

Still, Howe's departure may mean shifts in the way Clear Channel does business in Denver. Fey, for one, is thrilled that Larsen, whom he calls "a good, decent man," has been put in charge, and he's equally pleased that director of FM programming Mike O'Connor, who shares Howe's hard-nosed reputation, didn't get the nod. "That would be like putting Adolf Eichmann in charge of United Jewish Appeal," he says.

The normally pugnacious Howe doesn't rise to such bait. With the clock winding down on his time in Denver, he seems downright sentimental. "This is bittersweet," he says. "But it's the right move."

Turmoil a-Go-Go: The biweekly known as Go-Go has been among the more resilient zines to hit Denver in recent years. Founded by Gary Haney in 1999, it began life as a quasi-pornographic mag but was soon transformed into a more mainstream entertainment source -- and lately, its page count has been inching upward despite the generally lousy economic climate. But what took place behind the scenes last week -- specifically, the firing of longtime editor Chris Magyar and the resignation of art director Marilyn Taylor -- implies that Go-Go may be shakier than it seems.

Go-Go publisher Sean Weaver, who's also the editor of the Metropolitan, the Metro State student paper, insists that the paper is doing well largely because of a new and talented sales staff, and so does its owner, Trygve Lode, a local actor, bodybuilder and entrepreneur whose association with the magazine isn't known in many quarters. But as the paper expanded, Magyar suggests, the wallets of Go-Go contributors shrank. Specifically, he says, most freelance writers and drivers working for the circulation department weren't receiving checks for their work on time, with many payments late by as much as six weeks, not counting a standard thirty-day delay instituted by the accounting department.

Magyar says he received numerous questions from writers about this situation but received no satisfaction from Weaver -- and when a friend of his owed several hundred dollars by Go-Go was threatened with eviction, the editor finally lost patience. Before long, Magyar cooked up a plan with Taylor to shake some cash loose from Go-Go's coffers. The two decided they would confront Weaver about the non-payments, telling him that they would give him a disc loaded with the contents of the next Go-Go only if he either paid all the freelancers and drivers or contacted these individuals to explain why their money had yet to arrive. And on September 10, that's what they did.

According to Magyar, he and Taylor had no intention of actually sabotaging the issue; the articles and artwork were safely buried on Magyar's hard drive, and the disc they waved at Weaver was blank. But Weaver, who grabbed the empty disc from Magyar's hand during the confrontation, says their intentions are immaterial. As Weaver puts it, "Chris wasn't let go because of his demands. He was let go because of the way he handled his demands."

After Weaver told Magyar to fork over his keys and clean out his desk, Taylor quit in protest. "Chris is an extremely honorable person who's always been honest with me -- and honesty is one thing I didn't get from the other leaders there," she says. "That's why I followed him out."

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