By Alan Prendergast
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The missive he received on June 18 from Jeanette Chavez, a managing editor at the Post, was considerably less laudatory. Recalls Newman: "It was a form letter saying 'We're re-evaluating all of our content, including columns, to make sure we're using our space effectively, and as a result, we've decided we will no longer publish your column. Your last column will appear this week, and it should be on a regular topic, not a goodbye or valedictory column.'"
Instead of meekly accepting this verdict and marching into the sunset, Newman phoned Chavez, and when that conversation failed to satisfy, he shot off e-mails to a number of high-level Post types, including new editor Greg Moore, who climbed into the saddle just eight days before Newman was disappeared. Moore's failure to respond to his message fueled Newman to speculate about what was behind his canning -- and one of his theories is particularly incendiary. "This is just a suspicion, and I have no hard-core basis for this," Newman admits. "But I'm wondering if this could have been a racial thing. I'm a Caucasian, military, middle-aged white guy with a conservative slant, but a member of no party, and because of that, I've been a victim of racism before."
Moore, who's African-American, reacts to such conjectures with impatience and undisguised annoyance. "It's very simple," he says. "I'm looking at a lot of things at the paper, and I think we have a lot of columnists." (He's made that point internally, too, leading insiders to believe that other changes will likely be made in this area. Expect some of these shifts to turn up soon in "The Scene," the weekday entertainment/lifestyle section, where Moore has already ordered that the highest-caliber stories be given the biggest play, with no guarantee that they'll deal with subjects traditionally put front and center on certain days -- such as food on Wednesdays, fashion on Thursdays.)
Did questions about quality doom Newman? "His column, in particular, I didn't think added very much value at the paper," Moore says. "And since we have no contractual obligation to him, we made our decision, and we wish him well.
"He wrote me a note accusing me of having racial motives for this, which is silly," the editor adds, explaining that he didn't answer Newman because "I'm not going to engage in that level of debate with someone who's not on our staff.... I have a staff of people here to deal with things like that, and he's just not worth the effort. He had an opportunity to write a column here for a while, and that opportunity has ended -- and that's it."
Newman, though, has no intention of simply fading away. His "Newman Report" is a regular feature on KOA's Colorado Morning News, and he hosts an outdoors show Sundays at 3 p.m. on the Zone, KOA's sister station. "That lowers my blood pressure," he says. He's also guested on numerous Fox News talk shows, including ones hosted by Bill O'Reilly and Greta Van Susteren, and last week, he and KOA's Alex Stone won a regional Edward R. Murrow Award in the investigative-reporting category for last year's broadcasts questioning the security at Denver International Airport. But he remains miffed at the way he was shown the door at the Post.
"It was so weird and unprofessional," he says, "that it can't help but make me curious."
Net results: Worries over proposed fees for Internet radio providers ("Digital Dilemma," May 2) weren't magnified by a June 20 ruling from James Billington, the Librarian of Congress, but neither were they squelched. Earlier this year, a Copyright Arbitration Royalty Panel, or CARP, recommended that Internet-only commercial outlets pay performance royalties of .14 cents per song per listener, with Internet simulcasters of standard commercial broadcasts owing half that amount. However, Billington ordered all commercial stations to pay the lower rate -- .07 cents per song per listener -- and reduced or tinkered with other portions of the fee structure.
Billington clearly was trying to balance the demand for royalties established by 1998's Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) with the fears of smaller Webcasters, who argued that these charges, retroactive to 1998, would smother the industry in its bassinet by forcing hundreds of Internet businesses to fold. On the surface, he succeeded, since industry groups like the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) complain that the rate is too low while their opponents hold the opposite view: The headline on the SaveInternetRadio.org Web site the day after the ruling screamed, "Internet Radio Now In Serious Jeopardy." Interested parties have thirty days to appeal, and it's likely that both sides will, further dragging out implementation and giving congressional representatives a chance to intervene legislatively.
As this maneuvering goes on, Denver's Howard Michalski, who runs the radio.wazee music site at www.wazee.org, is trying to remain philosophical. If the rates are unchanged, he feels he can survive as long as his audience doesn't grow -- but if it gets even 50 percent bigger, he might have to close up shop.
"I think most Internet-radio people agree that we'd be willing to pay something fair," Michalski says. "But we want it to be our fair share -- and if it's not, this industry may not develop the way it should."