Getting Racked

A local magazine says the city's news-box rules kick publications where it hurts.

In the meantime, Cypser is waiting to hear back from the city about her letter. Assistant City Attorney Kerry Buckey says he'll share Denver's position with her in a letter he intends to send "as a courtesy" prior to Go-Go's September 21 deadline. Cypser hopes whatever response it contains seriously addresses the questions she's raised.

"We'd prefer that the city take a look at our legal arguments and realize that they've got a problem, and take action without going to court," Cypser says. "But if going to court is what we have to do, we're prepared."

Cyber-oops: Most of us have misdirected e-mails -- hit the reply command on a message when we intended to forward it, say, or pasted in a note meant for one pair of eyes that wound up being seen by another. But few gaffes of this sort are as embarrassing as the one recently committed by Denver Post city editor Evan Dreyer.

Boxes, little boxes: The city is now confiscating graffiti-spattered news racks.
Brett Amole
Boxes, little boxes: The city is now confiscating graffiti-spattered news racks.

The victim of Dreyer's faux pas was an assistant city editor, or ACE, at the Post, whose name is being withheld at the employee's request. The ACE decided to leave the paper in order to write a book, and it fell to Dreyer to send out an internal e-mail to inform fellow staffers of the move. But somehow, someway (Dreyer declines to provide specifics), he accidentally attached to an otherwise benign farewell a rather negative performance assessment of the very person whose exit he was announcing.

Sources say Dreyer quickly realized his mistake, and because the Post e-mail system has a feature that allows folks to retrieve communications sent prematurely or inadvertently, he immediately tried to pull back his ACE good-bye. Unluckily for him, several minutes passed before he was able to do so, and during that span, one or more of the designated recipients discovered the bonus attachment and printed it out. News travels fast in the news business, and before long, all but a few of the journalists in town knew about the memo or had a copy of their own.

The document, dated October 24, 2001, faults the ACE for letting a "bad" mistake slip into one story, not filling holes in others and exhibiting a lack of "critical thinking" on a report. But more revealing of the management style at the Post, not to mention the overall atmosphere there, are items grouped under the heading "Suggestions for improvement," most of which sound like excerpts from Dilbert. They include:

•"Coaching reporters. Meet one-on-one with each reporter once every two weeks. Hold regular pod meetings once every couple of weeks."

•"Set goals for reporters. Help each reporter improve in one area. Set goals for story productivity and work with them to generate story ideas, and then stick to the productivity goals and monitor their progress."

•"Maybe spend a night shift just shadowing the copydesk [sic] and getting a better feel for how it all comes together.

•"'Coaching Writers' book." (This is presumably a reference to Coaching Writers: Editors and Reporters Working Together by Roy Peter Clark and Don Fry.)

The final three entries appeared under the "Follow-up" banner:

•"We'll meet every week to develop a more regular format for providing feedback."

•"At next week's meeting, we'll talk more about other steps to take."

•"Overall, we'll review again in 90 days. But this is serious and job is at stake."

Presumably, these difficulties were resolved, because the ACE left by choice almost a year later. For his part, Dreyer, who's ignored most calls or e-mails made to him by Westword over the years, promptly replied to a request for comment this time around. (Feel free to speculate about why.) I regret to inform you that the hearty blend of wheedling, pleading and threatening that he delivered took place off the record.

The one remark Dreyer presented for public consumption is: "It was a horrible mistake, and words can't describe how sorry I am that the document got out."

Let that be a lesson to you, America. Be careful with your e-mail, or what happened to Evan Dreyer -- and, more important, to the departing Post ACE -- could happen to you.

Moving on up: This may seem cruel to say, but veteran Denver Post sportswriter Jim Armstrong is the new Chuck Green. Last week, Post editor Greg Moore informed staffers that Armstrong -- best known for penning "Opening Shots," a regularly scheduled collection of opinions and wisecracks -- has been named the paper's new metro columnist, filling the spot vacated by Green earlier this year. In making this shift, Armstrong, whose new gig starts September 23, is following in the tradition of Post colleague Woody Paige. Of course, Paige subsequently returned to the sports section and now pens only occasional news essays, such as a September 10 report from Ground Zero -- perhaps the least imaginative column idea ever. Good luck topping that, Mr. Armstrong.

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