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The editor position at the Denver Post isn't synonymous with long-term employment.
Over the past decade, three men -- Gil Spencer, Dennis Britton and Glenn Guzzo -- have served as the Post's editor, and many journalists believe a fourth person, Neil Westergaard, deserves this designation as well. (In an exchange of letters in Westword a few months ago, Spencer and Post owner Dean Singleton disagreed over whether Westergaard ever filled the role officially, even though he led the paper for well over a year.) If the least secure high-profile job in the city remains "head coach of the Denver Nuggets," "Denver Post editor" isn't far behind.
But 47-year-old Greg Moore doesn't seem gun shy in the slightest. The Post's editor since June 10, he's forthright, commanding, direct, and not given to expressions of doubt. His self-assurance recalls Robert Duvall's character in Apocalypse Now, who strolls through battles without concern because he's certain that no bomb or bullet has his name on it.
Moore's resumé testifies to his resilience. He began his reporting career at the Dayton Journal Herald in 1976, jumped to the Plain Dealer in Cleveland, his hometown, four years later, and moved to the Boston Globe in 1986. In his sixteen years at the Globe, Moore ascended from assistant metro editor to managing editor, earning praise along the way from colleagues and rivals alike for his contributions to numerous blockbusters, including recent stories of sexual abuse among the Catholic clergy.
The low point of Moore's Globe tenure took place in 1998, when writer Patricia Smith, whom he edited, resigned after having admitted fabricating items in her column. There's no telling if this connection slowed Moore's upward trajectory at the paper. But when Globe editor Matt Storin stepped down in mid-2001, Moore, along with several other internal candidates, was bypassed for the top slot in favor of Miami Herald executive editor Marty Baron. Less than a year later, Moore accepted Singleton's offer to take over the Denver Post.
Support from the mercurial Singleton is critical for Moore -- but keeping the main man happy is hardly his only challenge. Despite being first among equals in the joint operating agreement that mated its business operation to that of its crosstown foe, the Rocky Mountain News, in 2001, the Post remains a house divided -- a workplace marked more by its backbiting and rumor-mongering than by high morale and professional satisfaction. Quality remains an issue, as well. The paper has an abundance of resources thanks to Singleton, who's often said he wants the Post to be one of America's great newspapers. Thus far, though, its aspirations have only intermittently translated to achievements. David Migoya's recent series exposing the dirty secrets of the meat industry demonstrates the heights to which the Post can rise. But most nights, no one at the New York Times is losing any sleep over what the Denver Post is doing.
The following exchanges took place on July 22 in Moore's office, where personal touches consist primarily of two framed posters: One near his desk commemorates the anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education, which led to school desegregation; the other is labeled "Field to Factory: Afro-American Immigration, 1915-1940."
Obviously, Moore, the first African-American editor of the Post, doesn't downplay his heritage. But neither does he overemphasize it in discussing his plans. Instead, he talks about instilling the paper with a new sense of energy, style, intelligence and urbanity -- and if a shakeup accomplishes these goals, so be it. His words can be blunt, as he demonstrates while critiquing specific parts of the Post; likewise, the messages he sends to beat reporters and columnists aren't subtle. No wonder many of his new charges are somewhat panicky about the future.
When Moore's robust sense of humor and surplus of charisma are on display, such fears seem unfounded. But he can also be snappish -- a side that emerges after he's told about some comments made by News editor John Temple in a conversation chronicled here last week ("Inside the Temple," August 1). The two editors have been friendly since spending time together at a journalism conference earlier this year, but Moore's manner makes it clear that camaraderie won't stop him from trying to best the Rocky day in and day out. For Denver readers, his attitude is a very good sign.
Westword: What were the events during your career that were the most formative for you?
Greg Moore: The first one was in Dayton, Ohio, when I was only 24 years old and I became a City Hall reporter. I was getting my butt regularly kicked by this veteran at the Dayton Daily News, the evening paper. He knew where all the bodies were buried, he knew all the reports that were about to come to fruition. He was just killing me. I was doing my own thing, and I'd had a number of page-one stories, but I was really despondent. So my city editor took me out, and I was like, "I'm really sorry. I don't understand what's happening. I'm working as hard as I can on my own stories." And he said, "I don't have any complaint with you. As long as you're doing stories that you think are important and we think are worth page one, well, that's the nature of competition. They're going to have some things we don't have. But if this is happening six months from now, we're going to have a serious talk."