The Times of Our Life

The Denver dailies' editorial sections often have a New York state of mind.

As for O'Brien, she says her decisions regarding Times columnists aren't influenced by data about dual subscriptions: "Even if there was a 40 percent overlap, we would still be worried about the reader who only reads the Post. And if you want dramatic proof that there's no editorial collusion in this era of the JOA, this is it."

How so? O'Brien is so sure Maureen Dowd makes the Post better that she regularly goes the extra mile to beat Carroll to the punch. "Dowd's column moves over the wire late in the day on Saturday, but neither the Post nor the Rocky editorial staffs work on the weekend -- which is why we both used to publish her on Tuesday," she says. "So I started coming in Sunday night and putting Dowd on our Monday page. So I have her on Mondays exclusively -- until Vince is willing to come in on the weekends."

For the birds: Denver Post reporter Mark Obmascik is best known for his sprawling investigative stories -- so it's not startling to learn that he's taking a year's leave from the paper to write a book. What is surprising, however, is the non-fiction tome's subject matter: bird-watching.

As Obmascik tells it, The Big Year, to be published in 2004 by Simon & Schuster, revolves around "three obsessed guys who, back in 1998, got into a year-long contest to break the North American bird-watching record. The guy who ultimately won traveled 250,000 miles, was away from home for 270 days and lived for around four weeks on an uninhabited Alaskan island waiting for winds to blow Asiatic species over to North American airspace so he could count them.

"To me, it's a really fun travelogue. But it's also a story about what happens when you surrender to your obsession. Most people live their lives keeping their obsessions in check. But these guys took the brakes off and went for it."

Obmascik hasn't entirely hidden his jones for winged creatures from Denver readers; in April, he wrote a piece for the Post about the Gunnison sage grouse. But since 1985, when he first became interested in the pursuit while researching a story about dedicated birder Thompson March, a University of Denver law professor, he's had to squeeze it into the margins of his life. "This spring, I went out on a bird-watching trip with my father-in-law, who's turning seventy, and my son, who just turned eight," he says. "And it was wonderful. How many things can you do with an eight-year-old, a forty-year-old and a seventy-year-old where you can all have fun?"

Now Obmascik has a full twelve months to indulge his particular passion -- and he plans to enjoy every minute of it. "In journalism, we do things by the hour," he says. "But a book is timed by the calendar -- which is nice for a change."

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