Not Kinder, Not Gentler

Channel 4's new boss wants his station to toughen up.

As DeHaven laughed, his eyes were ablaze.

Broken news: An astonishing amount of space was lavished on last week's 9/11 stories by local publications, particularly the Rocky Mountain News, whose gusher of coverage probably put some New York City publications to shame. But here's guessing that the energy, effort and space expended on these articles was totally out of proportion with the time subscribers actually spent looking at them. Did anyone read half the pieces in the Rocky from start to finish? A tenth of them? Even one?

The situation was different when it came to the electronic media; ratings were high during certain times of the day, but the content eventually left many news consumers too numb to comprehend what they were seeing or hearing. An example of this phenomenon may have taken place during the 11 a.m. Eastern/9 a.m. Mountain news update from CBS Radio, broadcast locally on KHOW. In the middle of the report, the anchor wedged in a breaking-news item that initially seemed of tremendous importance: He said that CBS-TV reporter Jim Stewart was reporting that suspected 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden was dead.

Walt DeHaven's goal is to make Channel 4 number one.
Mark A. Manger
Walt DeHaven's goal is to make Channel 4 number one.
Walt DeHaven's goal is to make Channel 4 number one.
Mark A. Manger
Walt DeHaven's goal is to make Channel 4 number one.

The news reader promised more information about what, on the surface, was a huge development, but none was forthcoming on Denver radio. KHOW segued directly into Dr. Laura's syndicated scoldfest, and no other area station sent forth further details. A little over an hour later, Jerry Bell, news director for Denver outlets owned by Clear Channel (including KHOW), found out why. CBS's Stewart had actually reported that a Sudanese Web site with alleged ties to the al-Qa'ida terrorist organization was the source for the Osama-is-a-goner story, which was otherwise unconfirmed. CBS Radio added this context in later reports.

Given how many times over the past year various parties have asserted that bin Laden is dead, or alive, or halfway between dead and alive, what at first appeared to be a major blockbuster was revealed to be rather inconsequential. Those tuned to KHOW at the time didn't know that, of course, and after checking out the incredibly provocative phrasing of the item, Bell says he would have expected the phone "to be ringing off the hook." But that didn't prove to be the case. The only person to inquire about it was yours truly.

Apparently the rest of the audience had already tuned out, either figuratively or literally. And who can blame them?

Another one bites the dust: For most people, September 11 was an extremely solemn occasion. But for certain staffers at the Denver Post, there was at least one ray of sunshine: They learned that their nemesis, managing editor Larry Burrough, was on his way out.

Burrough, who came to the Post in 2000 under the auspices of previous editor Glenn Guzzo, had a controversial run at the paper. In some quarters, he was seen as a smart newsman who was willing to do whatever it took to make the Post a world-class paper and had good ideas about how to attain this goal. In others, he was considered to be Guzzo's hatchet man -- a poor communicator who responded to criticism by shipping squawkers to the suburbs ("Swing Shift," February 14). He was also the subject of a whispering campaign that got louder in recent months. After an alleged incident during a staff party at ESPN Zone in July, the Post's human-resources department interviewed a handful of attendees about Burrough. But nothing came of these conversations, and no disciplinary action was taken.

In a September 11 memo, editor Greg Moore wrote that Burrough "had been exploring other options prior to my arrival but stayed on to work closely with me during the past three months to help in the hiring and creating of our new management team for the Post. Since that work is done and I have now made nearly all those changes, we thought it would be a good time to let the staff know about his pending departure." Moore said the announcement "allows me to begin openly pursuing a replacement to complete my new management team."

Burrough, who's leaving on September 27, didn't return a call seeking comment, but Moore's memo stated that "he has not made a final decision about what he is going to do next, though it most likely will take him back to California." (Previously, Burrough worked at the Orange County Register.) Moore added that "a special send-off for Larry" will be held in the coming weeks.

No location was announced.

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