Dead Lines

The Denver dailies change the way they handle obituaries -- for better and for worse.

"There's definitely no lack of cool people to write about," he says. "Honestly, you could just close your eyes and point at any name on the obituary page, and chances are, you'd find a great story."

Green comes clean: Last week in this space, Denver Post columnist Chuck Green insisted that his sudden disappearance from the paper following his March 29 offering was no mystery: He'd simply decided to take some time off and would return on April 19. But as the previous issue was going to press, inside sources suggested that Green had actually been suspended after submitting an Easter Sunday column his editors spiked. Responding to this contention, Green explicitly denied the suspension rumor but added much more detail than he'd previously chosen to supply.

"It's true that the Easter column was pulled," Green conceded in one of two lengthy voice-mail messages. "It was not caused by a controversial topic or anything like that; it was more that the subject matter was deemed inappropriate for Easter Sunday. The column was about terrorism, and I talked about how terrorism and the global threat tends to be as a result of rogue agents who are not responsible directly to government control. It had rather a note of futility to it -- the tone was pretty pessimistic -- and when I called [Post city editor] Evan Dreyer to tell him I filed it, I told him he might find it rather depressing for Easter Sunday. And indeed they did. They thought it was kind of a bummer column for Easter, so that's why they pulled it."

Dreyer doesn't offer confirmation, choosing not to return oodles of messages on this topic. But Green accounted for his subsequent disappearance with the following: "I was just burned out, and I needed to recharge my batteries and reinvigorate myself. I told management that I thought I was at a stage of burnout and I just needed to get away, and they agreed. We talked about the direction of my column, and I think when I get back in the paper on the 19th, you will, over a period of time, detect a bit of a change. There'll be less of the essay style that you've seen in the past couple of years, and more back to the style I was writing in three or four years ago -- back to columns that have a bit more of a harder edge on specific issues or specific events."

Frankly, I have no idea what this last explanation means. But I can't wait to find out.

Watching the Rivers flow: The talk-show career of Reggie Rivers is winding down. On March 29, he announced that he'd be leaving his KHOW afternoon-drive program on April 26, prompting an outpouring of remorse and confusion from loyal listeners who wondered if he'd jumped or been shoved.

This isn't a silly question. Since September 11, Rivers has been under almost constant attack from self-styled patriots who regard his comments about privacy rights and the government's response to terrorism as un- American, as well as ardent supporters of Israel who have branded him misinformed at best and anti-Semitic at worst. Moreover, KHOW program director Elizabeth Estes-Cooper hasn't exactly showered him with praise ("Many Rivers to Cross," February 7).

"We've received some phone calls and letters about Reggie, and a lot of people would like us to make him shut up -- but I defend his right to have an opinion," she said at the time. "Still, radio is a business, and we have to be concerned that the product we're putting on the air is appealing to the largest group of people possible. And I'd be lying if I said I'm not concerned about that in his case."

Rivers, though, insists that he's leaving very much on his terms, and for personal reasons. "I really enjoy issues, and I enjoy a civil debate -- but too often radio just isn't a civil debate. It's people calling in with very personal attacks, screaming and yelling and being very unreasonable in a lot of ways." He adds, "I don't mean to be unfair to our listeners. I get a lot of very intelligent callers, and I know a lot of very intelligent people listen. But there's a percentage of our callers who are flat stupid, and they call a lot. They fit into this category of people who I'd never talk to in real life, but because of my job, I'm forced to talk to them. And I just got tired of it."

Estes-Cooper echoes Rivers's claim that he determined his destiny. "This is definitely not a situation where we went to him and said, 'Hey, we'll let you save face and resign.' And it frustrates me that I've gotten e-mails from people accusing me of pushing him out. These people who say they have such respect for Reggie are doing him a disservice by saying that, because this is a guy who would never go on the air and try to save face."

Even so, Estes-Cooper concedes that Rivers's ratings have remained at an unsatisfying level for far too long, and she hopes to find someone to fill the void who can appeal to a broader audience. "The show won't be syndicated," she confirms. "It'll be live and local, and I'm looking for a host who's pretty well-rounded -- who can talk about issues like Afghanistan or the Middle East, but who might also be able to do bits about the Academy Awards or things that are happening in Colorado. A lot of people say Reggie's show was very cerebral, very thick. It's not that I'm not interested in informing the public or that I want to dumb things down. But sometimes I feel like people who've been working all day don't want to deal with the finer issues of constitutional law."

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