Calling All Columnists

A writer's departure from the Post raises questions about the paper's commitment to metro columns.

With Johnson on board, the News seemingly has the sort of columnist mix that most appearance-conscious dailies would envy: a Caucasian man, an African-American man and a Hispanic woman. But despite its mainly conservative editorial tone, the Rocky's three columnists all lean to the left, raising the specter of redundancy. This situation cropped up earlier this year at the Post, when Griego and Carman repeatedly had similar takes about matters related to Jesus Apodaca, a Mexican-born student who wound up in the crosshairs of fervid immigration reformer Tom Tancredo. Nonetheless, News editor Temple isn't worried.

"If I had the right conservative columnist that I thought other people would connect to, I would be interested in that," Temple says. "But the reality is, the first reason you connect with a columnist is not ideological. You connect with them because they're a human being who you can relate to. So what I'm interested in is columnists who can communicate at an extraordinary level -- and that's what we've got."

As for Moore, he's willing to throw philosophy into the pot when discussing the perfect Post-columnist candidate. "I'm looking for diversity here, and that includes ideological diversity. There's no litmus test, but I want someone who can talk to both sides of the audience -- someone who's not going to be all the way to the left or the right, but who can move across the spectrum and has a broad view of things, some ideological range. I'm looking for someone who can get around the city and write about it with a sense of discovery. And I'm looking to see that we have someone who can represent the views of the little guy, the outcast, the in folks and the out folks."

That Moore doesn't use plurals when talking about columnists may mean nothing at all. Then again, it might.

Reversal of fortune: In 1999, just three years before Greg Moore came to the Post, Dennis Britton, a veteran of the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Sun-Times, held the editor's job, much to the chagrin of many employees. Several of his more disgruntled charges channeled their displeasure into an Internet site dubbed the "Dennis Britton Go Home Page," and when he eventually did so, few tears were shed. Fewer still are apt to fall today, despite the fact that Britton has gone from running a big newspaper to running around for a much smaller one.

After he was given the heave-ho at the Post (the same fate that befell his successor, Glenn Guzzo, this past spring), Britton became editor of ChinaOnline, a Chicago-based Web service. Yet earlier this year, he and his wife, Tere, moved to Palm Springs, California, where Britton took a business-reporter position at the Palm Springs Desert Sun, a paper with a circulation just north of 50,000 -- a mere shadow of the Post's total. His recent articles identify his beats as "tourism and gaming."

"I started here last month, though Tere and I have been living in the desert since midsummer," Britton wrote in an e-mail exchange. "I am greatly enjoying the opportunity, and once the rust is off, it will be even more fun. I think I would have been a far better editor if I had been a reporter immediately before taking the job. The perspective is quite different."

Britton calls the hiring of Moore "an inspired choice. Given adequate resources and staff support, he should enjoy great success. He is inheriting a wonderful newspaper with a committed staff, from the composing room to the circulation trucks to talented reporters and editors."

A hefty percentage of whom are probably grinning right now.

All the hype that's fit to print: Considering Post editor Moore's emphasis on news, an article that turned up in the paper's December 2 entertainment section can't help but seem a bit contradictory. Headlined "Book Offers Safety Tips for Protecting Yourself, Your Possessions," the piece -- about Safe at All Times, penned by Janet Rodgers and published by Reader's Digest -- reads like a press release for a very good reason. It is a press release.

According to its byline, the item came from PRNewswire, a service that disseminates promotional copy to media organizations all over the world in the hopes that editors will choose to produce stories on the topics they pimp. But rarely do such outfits simply publish this material, and when they do, they generally are up front about its origins. Even Yahoo! Finance, which put the Rodgers promo online on November 29, clearly labeled it as a press release and identified its source as Reader's Digest -- two things the Post didn't bother doing.

With news like this, who needs advertising?

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