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Let's Get Together

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

Of course, Koebrich's column is also one of the bigger wastes of space in the Sunday Post. That raises the question of whether convergence is more about promotion than better serving readers and viewers. Dennis and Post editor Greg Moore say high-caliber journalism is their first priority, and they believe convergence helps them in this respect. But they confess that finding the proper balance can be tricky, especially given the differences in culture between TV and newspapers.

"There have been a few bumps," Dennis notes, "and at any organization, there will be people who don't believe in this type of thing. But I think, generally, TV people are very receptive to working with print journalists and don't worry much about whether that's an appropriate thing."

Adds Moore, "There was some reticence on my part to embrace this. They had to beat on my head, because I'm accustomed to seeing other mediums as competitors, not partners. The idea of sharing with anybody is foreign to me. But we're trying to build partnerships, and this is a way for us to broaden our reach and, if we do it right, extend our brand. That's the way things are done now."

He's right. Corporate links between powerhouses like ABC, ESPN and the Walt Disney Company are commonplace today, and equivalents can be found at the local level. Take Tampa, where the Tampa Tribune and TV station WFLA not only share the same Web site, TBO.com, but occupy the same headquarters: a mammoth $40 million structure built with convergence in mind. With the Federal Communications Commission all but certain to relax current cross-ownership rules, which prevent companies from purchasing a daily newspaper and a TV station in the same market, Tampa-style operations will proliferate, for better or worse.

In the meantime, reporters at Channel 9 and the Post are seeing a lot of each other. "I have two short-term projects going with Post reporters right now, and one really long-term project, a six- or seven-month-long one," Woodward says. "And the people I've worked with have been great. We're really learning how to communicate and figuring out the best way to make this work. Because you're talking about really competitive people..."

The Armstrong experiment: If it seems like only last month that it was announced that veteran Denver Post sports columnist Jim Armstrong would be filling the city columnist role once performed by Chuck Green, that's because it was only last month. Editor Greg Moore let Post personnel know about the impending move in early September. But four weeks later, after Armstrong had churned out a handful of lackluster pieces, Moore took it all back. In a staff e-mail, he wrote that "Jim Armstrong is reversing field and returning to sports, where he will resume his former perch as a premiere [sic] takeout writer and columnist."

In the memo, Moore took some responsibility for this "lightning turnaround," acknowledging that "in my exuberance to think outside of the box in filling the Metro columnist slot, I might have pressed Jim into a suit that ill fit him." In an interview on the topic, Moore underlined this point. "I went to him; he didn't come to me," he says. "But it may not have been for the best -- and since I'm a huge fan of his, I want him to be in a place where he can be successful and comfortable. So that's why we decided to cut the cord right away."

Good call, because Armstrong's news-oriented columns offered few indications that he might develop into a writer on par with the Rocky Mountain News's Mike Littwin, a onetime sports scribe who managed the transition to news with aplomb. His introductory salvo for the Denver and the West section, published on September 24, was laughably lame: In it, he came to the startling realization that a lot of people have cell phones (egad!) but don't have very much interesting to say on them (stop the presses!). Other columns exhibited a similarly banal grasp of the obvious. Without Armstrong, Post readers might not know that talking with senior citizens can be sort of interesting ("Finding Value in Elderly Voices," October 4), families are nifty ("Parent, Teen Keep Family Ties Tight," October 11), and sport-utility vehicles aren't all they're cracked up to be ("SUVs: Speedy, Unsafe Vehicles," October 15). Armstrong's attempts to tackle topical matters were just as tepid -- and when he mentioned both Brian Griese and Terrell Davis in the lead of an October 1 dispatch from the parking referee's office, it was clear he'd prefer to keep his eye on the ball.

Armstrong didn't respond to an interview request from yours truly, and in the October 25 return of his "Opening Shots" sports column, he resisted the urge to share his brief experience in the real world. But his first line spoke volumes. "One big, happy notes column," he declared, clearly relishing his return to a gig that doesn't require him to write anything especially substantial. Nice work if you can get it.

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