Social Studies

The society columnist for a neighborhood newspaper is the talk of the upper crust.

 Glory Weisberg, longtime society columnist for the Cherry Hills Villager, was named after the American flag, and she's not averse to wrapping it around the beat she covers.

"After these terrorist strikes, there was a perception that people weren't really interested in attending gala benefits, because they weren't in the mood to celebrate," she says. "But I'm finding almost the opposite is true. The American idea of rising from the ashes and providing moral support and volunteerism is coming forward, and I'm seeing men and women rededicating themselves to the nonprofits they've championed in the past. Maybe the dollars are harder to come by now, but the individual tenacity has really increased dramatically. And that's what America's all about."

Society scribes at the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News -- Joanne Davidson and Dahlia Jean Weinstein, respectively -- don't put things quite the same way. They note that while some hat-passers have done well in recent months, others have experienced weak turnouts and donation shortfalls. But both say that since September 11, they've received numerous expressions of gratitude for providing an upbeat alternative to dispatches from Afghanistan. As Davidson points out, "I've had people come up to me and say, 'If it wasn't for your column, or for [columnists] Bill Husted and Dick Kreck, I wouldn't read the paper anymore, because it's nothing but war, terrorist attacks, yadda, yadda, yadda. I need some diversion.'"

Glory be: Glory Weisberg of the Cherry Hills Villager.
Anthony Camera
Glory be: Glory Weisberg of the Cherry Hills Villager.

Such distractions are in shorter supply than they once were. Following last April's implementation of the joint operating agreement that intermingled business operations at the News and the Post, Weinstein and Davidson saw the space allotted to swanky happenings shrink significantly. Weinstein's column went from appearing six days a week to four, and only her Thursday spread is as large as it was prior to the JOA. Davidson, meanwhile, still writes six days a week, but her space was reduced from between twenty and 32 column inches a day, including a photo, to twelve column inches squeezed into the slot above the TV-listings grid, with the only photo being her mug shot. In addition, Davidson is now able to publish just two half-page "party line" photo layouts per week, as opposed to the two full pages a week bestowed during the pre-JOA era.

Whether the word-count reductions and photo cutbacks at the dailies have made the Villager more important in social circles is a subject of debate. Weisberg, whose column is called "Gloryus Goings On," is among those who think it has, while numerous other observers of the scene who requested anonymity are more dubious; they suggest that ink from Davidson, who's been at the Post since the early '80s, and relative newcomer Weinstein are still the keys to an event's success. But there's no question that Weisberg is a frequent topic of discussion among society regulars: beloved by some, sniped about by others. Still, even those who find her overly demanding -- she's a person who likes to do things her way -- seldom dare leave her off the guest list.

Given the modest size of the Villager's estimated readership (30,000 weekly, less than a tenth of that boasted daily by the News and the Post), locals who don't rub shoulders with the city's swells may wonder why Weisberg has any pull at all. But the Villager, which is delivered each Thursday via third-class mail rather than tossed onto porches like many other neighborhood publications, happens to reach the right readership. "We cover Greenwood Village and Cherry Hills Village, which is where the primary benefactors for the major charities come from," Weisberg says. "When I drive through Broomfield and Boulder, I think, 'There are rich people there. Why don't they participate?' But for some reason, it's all out here in the southeast suburbs."

Weisberg, who received a degree in journalism from the University of Denver in 1964, began writing for the Villager just over seventeen years ago following a stint as a teacher in Littleton and Denver. She left teaching to raise the two children she shares with her husband, David, a computer consultant: Her daughter, Elizabeth, lives in Copenhagen, but her son, Steve, remains in the Denver area and often covers social events his mom can't squeeze into her schedule. At first Weisberg wrote about education issues for the Villager, but she wound up keeping tabs on the social whirl, in part because she frequently did volunteer work for area charities and knew many of the players involved.

Although her personal forays into the field haven't always been blockbusters ("I chaired one major gala five or six years ago that was a big flop," she concedes), Weisberg believes her efforts behind a keyboard have helped spread the word about innumerable admirable soirees. She's persistently positive: Judging by her sunny prose, all the events she writes about are worthy, all the causes just, and all the people pretty and noble and self-sacrificing. And like Davidson and Weinstein, whose coverage is equally bright and cheerful, she emphasizes her efforts to publicize bashes for causes that have traditionally been underrepresented in mainstream society reporting.

"There may be the perception that we're snobbish because we serve an upscale community," Weisberg says. "But there's not a degree of snobbery in my entire personality, and I've gone to extremes to champion minority events and to encourage everyone in those communities to get involved."

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