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Internet Interruption

Web-radio legislation gets tangled in politics.

During the gathering, transportation writer Jeff Lieb asked Moore about the impending departure of an assistant city editor, or ACE. This exit was the second for a Post ACE in the past few months, but the earlier person chose to leave. (City editor Evan Dreyer announced that decision in an e-mail to which he accidentally attached a negative personnel assessment; see "Getting Racked," September 12, for more details.) Not so ACE number two, as Moore essentially acknowledged in a memo circulated the week before the meeting.

When contacted for this story, Lieb, a union steward for the Denver Newspaper Guild, which represents the majority of editorial types at the Post, noted that "management has leeway to make changes in certain circumstances" -- especially when it comes to ACEs, who aren't union members. "But I felt this termination was unfair, unjust, and I said so. The implication was 'Move people around, but don't take away their livelihood.'"

In response, Moore made it plain that he wasn't satisfied with the status quo by using a Western colloquialism of the kind that's probably foreign to the Boston Globe, his previous newspaper home. A gaggle of meeting attendees contacted by yours truly, including Moore, had trouble pinning down the precise wording of his key line, but the consensus is that Moore said, "I wasn't hired to move manure around the barnyard."

Several sources say the audience of Posters reacted to this bon mot with an "audible gasp," in part because the departing ACE, who's on the job until November 8, was present. Moore doesn't go quite that far, but he allows that "I saw some people's eyes get bigger." He emphasizes that the remark "had nothing to do with" the ACE, or anyone in particular. Instead, it was simply his way of stressing that "change is part of this process."

No doubt about that. Moore says he wants to amp up suburban coverage, confirming that "it's really important to us. That's where a lot of the new residents who are coming into Colorado and greater Denver are moving to, so I see it as a real battleground and an opportunity to grow our readership." He's equally intent on sweating the details in other areas of the Post -- even the corrections section.

Previously, the paper acknowledged mistakes as succinctly as possible, but of late, each confession has been accompanied by a mini-explanation intended to finger the department that screwed the pooch. At Moore's behest, clauses such as "Because of an editing error..." and "Because of a production error..." have become commonplace. An item in the November 5 Post even named the perpetrator of one ultra-embarrassing misdeed: "Because of the columnist's error, the name of Denver Newspaper Agency President and CEO Kirk MacDonald was misspelled in Bill Husted's column on Page 2A Sunday."

MacDonald, who oversees business operations for the Post and the News, should be getting accustomed to having gossip columnists spell his name as "McDonald": The Rocky Mountain News's Penny Parker did so last year (Off Limits, February 15, 2001). But the Post went out of its way to make things right this time around, even fixing the slip-up on its Web site, www.denverpost.com. Apparently, MacDonald has more pull than "sign man" Josh Hanfling, whose name was spelled "Hansling" in the same Husted-penned sentence that butchered MacDonald's moniker.

The tweaked correction phrasing is "an attempt at greater accountability," Moore says. "And it's intended to help the reader understand what the hell we got around. Before, we were so stingy that you couldn't figure out where the story appeared or when. We just want it to be more complete, more consistent, and have more accountability to our readers externally and to us internally."

Moore says the manure mention was similarly motivated: "I was trying to be as up-front and direct and honest as I possibly could be." But the statement soon took on a life of its own. Days after the meeting, staffers were greeting each other with salutations like, "Feeling shitty?"

"Yes" was a frequent reply.

Followups: "Let's Get Together," last week's column about the partnership between the Denver Post and Channel 9, was just hitting restaurant floors when the Rocky Mountain News and Channel 4 demonstrated that they're interested in playing the media-convergence game, too. "Solvent Taints Groundwater," in the October 31 News, bore the ultra-promotional credit "By News4 reporter Brian Maass" and was timed to tout a two-day Maass investigation that Channel 4 aired at the start of November sweeps, arguably the year's most important ratings period. A second article by the reporter, published November 4, bore a simpler byline: "By Brian Maass." A sign that embarrassment had set in, perhaps? If so, the Post showed no such compunction. Its November 3 edition featured a two-page puff piece about the Channel 9 morning show.

Elsewhere, Dean Singleton, who holds the deed on the Denver Post, was turning heads with pronouncements he offered during an October 25 meeting of Associated Press managing editors in Baltimore. Particularly grabby was his take on resource slashing at newspapers -- a tactic he knows well. "Newsroom cutbacks have gone far enough in this industry -- maybe too far," he said, prompting a round of applause from the crowd.

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