Let's Get Together

The Denver Post and Channel 9 work to turn their media partnership into a beautiful marriage.

No one recalls the precise moment when the Post and Channel 9 began working together on some projects, but Channel 9 news director Patti Dennis guesses it was approximately the mid-'90s. Shortly thereafter, the organizations hooked up on some long-running stories (Woodward recalls teaming up with the Post for some JonBenét Ramsey reportage), as well as a few highly coordinated projects. "One was 'Digital Divide,' which was a month-long look at the haves and the have-nots of the computer world," Dennis recalls. "We organized editorial discussions of who wanted what story and deliberately diversified our coverage. And we also did a week-long series about 'What is CSAP?' and really introduced it as an educational component of the system before a lot of people had heard about it."

Dennis considers these efforts successes -- but because people at both organizations are so busy steering their own ships, they were also exceptions. "Many times, we'd get an exclusive story or access to something important and forget there was a partnership," she concedes. "I'd pick up the paper the next day and think, 'Here was a missed opportunity for both of us.'"

To Saltz, who joined the Post in 1996, a Channel 9 robotic camera that's been in the Post's newsroom since the early days of the venture epitomized this state of affairs. "It basically gathered dust for years," he says. "It's positioned next to a window, and during the day, it's turned around to pick up live shots of downtown for Channel 9's noon news or its Web site. But in terms of it pointing at anybody at the Post, it was certainly underutilized."

That began to change early in 2000, when Saltz was promoted to a position related to the one he holds currently. But because no one was assigned full-time to promoting cooperation between the station and the paper, plenty of chances to deliver a one-two punch were lost. For instance, Channel 9 wound up with videotape of Denver Nuggets coach Dan Issel spewing a racial remark amid an exchange with a belligerent fan -- a gaffe that indirectly led to his resignation. Too bad no one from the station called the Post, which was badly beaten on the story by the News ("He Got Blame," December 20, 2001).

In the wake of this embarrassment, Channel 9 and the Post looked for ways to keep info flowing between them, and they eventually gave the go-ahead to hire a person charged with doing just that. Roe's path to this job was a lengthy one. Because she's an employee of both Channel 9 and the Post, she had to sit for multiple interviews with executives at each -- a total of ten, she says.

Running this gauntlet turned out to be good preparation for a position that's all about juggling. Roe starts her day at Channel 9, where she attends an 8:30 a.m. planning meeting. Then she heads to the Post for its 10:30 a.m. editorial roundtable. "After that, I let everyone know what each organization is doing," Roe allows, "and if there's a clear, leading news organization on a story, then that organization will make the decision on the timing -- who goes first, and when." As an example, she cites a profile of Pejuta Wastewie Soldier Wolf, the first member of the Arapaho tribe to attend Arapahoe High School. "I was told the Post was working on it on a Friday, and the TV part of my brain went off. So I talked to an editor at the Post, and we decided to follow a Monday-morning newspaper story with an afternoon TV story. So I called Channel 9, got a photographer and shot the story on Friday afternoon. Then it was edited and put on TV the same day [October 21] that the story ran on the front page of the Post. That's convergence."

During most afternoons, Roe returns to Channel 9 to handle another convergence duty -- training Post staffers such as critic-at-large Kyle MacMillan and restaurant writer Kyle Wagner (a former Westword employee) on how best to translate their articles for television. "If someone like Cheryl Preheim at Channel 9 is doing a story, she could do it without thinking," says the Post's Saltz. "But our guys need training. Jessica gives it to them so that at a certain point they can do it for themselves." Post business reporters use these skills most often; they appear in front of the aforementioned robotic camera weeknights as part of a regularly scheduled segment in the station's 6 p.m. newscast.

Such crossovers move in the other direction, too. Channel 9's Mark Koebrich writes a weekly consumer column for the Post, and other station personnel, including reporter Adam Schrager, have received bylines for penning entire articles, as opposed to assisting on them à la Woodward. In most cases, Saltz says, such extra efforts are less time-consuming than they might seem at first blush: "To have a reporter do a TV version off of his or her story is a better use of time than having a reporter start something totally from scratch, and a big part of my job is to find ways to make that happen naturally. Mark Koebrich's column is a perfect example. He's doing a print equivalent of his TV reporting, so all he has to do is put it in a different medium."

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