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Three the Hard Way

Several high-profile columnists leave the media scene in very different ways.

Daily newspapering in Denver has been on a bumpy ride for the past several years, with many of the jolts coming courtesy of the joint operating agreement between the Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Post. But despite changes in publishing schedules, format and behind-the-scenes matters, the most prominent faces seen by readers each morning have largely remained the same -- until this month, that is. News columnist Gene Amole, News international editor Holger Jensen and Post columnist Chuck Green each left the stage within a span of ten days, resulting in a turnover of local print stars that's all but unprecedented.

Of course, Amole's departure was no surprise: He announced he was dying last year and spent the time leading up to his May 12 death recording his thoughts in diary fashion (see page 13). But neither Jensen nor Green gave any indication that they were going until they were gone, and the manner in which they vanished remains under a veil of secrecy that none of the parties involved seems eager to lift.


International news: At present, the Middle East is the mother of all tinderboxes -- a conflict in which the adversaries are armed to the teeth and equally certain that God is on their side. It's a situation seemingly made for Jensen, who filed dispatches from Israel's West Bank earlier this year.

But in the midst of this rapidly developing story, Jensen dropped off the radar screen. Shortly after his last byline, on April 17, his name, photo and biography were removed from the roster of columnists on the News's Web site, and his archived pieces couldn't be accessed using the search engine. Just over two weeks later, on May 3, Jensen resigned.

Why? No one will say, on the record or off. But despite the dearth of information, Rob Prince, a Metro State professor and member of the Colorado Campaign for Middle East Peace, has taken up Jensen's cause. Last week, Prince, who's never met the writer ("I have a feeling we wouldn't get along," he says), penned a piece dubbed "Back to Hick Town: The Purge of Holger Jensen" for the group's Web site, www.ccmep.org. In it, he theorized that Jensen was "nailed for maintaining his integrity in his international reporting, most specifically about the crisis in the Middle East." He added, "You can be sure that the pressure from the outside, especially from some of Israel's more enthusiastic and uncritical supporters of which this town has its fair share, has been unrelenting and that tonight -- or whenever it is that they learn the news -- they'll be dancing in the streets."

This article now forms the backbone of a "Where's Holger?" page, at www.angelfire.com/ co3/alaqsaintifada/Holger/where.html, that includes an archive of Jensen columns, a section imploring visitors to e-mail complaints to the Rocky and a guest book where fans can vent.

"Officially, I know Jensen resigned," says Prince, who's printing buttons emblazoned with the phrase "Where's Holger?" "But we all know when you want to screw somebody in style in this country, that's the way you do it. It's the kind of stuff that would have made Joseph Stalin smile."

To that, Rocky editor/publisher/president John Temple says Jensen's resignation "had nothing to do with pressure from anyone in the community. The News hears from an enormous array of individuals, and the News is committed to publishing a wide range of opinions on a wide range of topics. That's reflected in our commentary section and our Letters to the Editor page.

"The notion that somehow there's been massive pressure from one side on this issue is misguided," Temple continues. "I receive a tremendous amount of praise and criticism from all sides of this particular dispute."

Jensen is well-versed in international discord. His News bio touted his more than thirty years of journalism experience spent working for Newsweek and other publications in places such as Moscow and Beirut. Among the laurels he's received is "the Overseas Press Club's top foreign reporting award for his coverage of Palestinian guerrillas and the Turkish invasion of Cyprus."

His personal life has seen its share of strife, too. Jensen was arrested in June 2001 on suspicion of driving under the influence, an offense that was pleaded down to a DWAI (driving while ability impaired). In Jefferson County court records, he wrote that his bosses wanted him to travel overseas immediately following the September 11 terrorist attacks, but he couldn't because "of DUI classes, court and DMV hearings and my lack of a driver's license" ("Swing Shift," February 14). Then, after Jensen finally made it to the Middle East, George Kochaniec Jr., a photographer accompanying him, was injured in an Israeli attack on Gaza City.

Such assaults have escalated under the regime of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, whom Jensen has taken to task on many occasions. In an April 9 salvo, he referred to critics of Israel who warn that unless George W. Bush can find a way to stop the violence, "the 'Bulldozer' [Sharon] will succeed where Osama bin Laden failed: forcing us into a war of civilizations against 1.2 billion Muslims."

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