The Message

Boulder Weekly editor Pam White creates a world in which romance novels and feminism co-exist.

Along the way, there's plenty of sex, although not as much as romance-novel snobs might expect. "Only about sixty pages out of 352 have sex on them -- and that includes foreplay," White estimates. "And it's not like Penthouse letters. It's written in a way women can appreciate. You know exactly what they're doing, whether he's performing oral sex on her or doing something with his fingers. But it's all about emotions, which is what makes sex scenes in these books so hard to write. You have to have a strong emotional setup for sex. You can't have people just dropping their clothes on the floor and banging."

To assist readers, Romantic Times has created a scale to rate the frankness of such couplings. In the end, it determined that Sweet Release is "Very Sensual" ("Spicy, but goes beyond conventional lovemaking. Explicit sex") -- a couple of rungs above "Sweet" ("May or may not include lovemaking. No explicit sex"), but two notches below "Sexy" ("Borders on erotic. Very graphic sex"). Still, these sequences were fleshy enough to cause White occasional moments of maternal embarrassment. She named Alec, her hero, after the oldest of her two sons, both of whom are now teenagers -- "and over the period of seven years when I wrote it, he would come up to me every so often and say, 'What am I doing now?' And I'd have to say, 'Um, nothing.'"

In truth, White knows her fiction does a lot more than that. She has no plans to permanently leave journalism, but she's already up to her elbows in her next book, a semi-sequel to Release subtly named Carnal Gift. "It's set 25 years later in Ireland," she says. "The little brother of the heroine in the first book goes to Ireland and gets mixed into the English-Irish conflict." Along the way, she's sprinkling in Gaelic phrases translated by Mick Bolger of Colcannon, Denver's finest purveyor of Irish music, and digging into more controversial topics that, in this format, are unlikely to generate much controversy.

Turn the page: Pam White, aka Pamela Clare.
Brett Amole
Turn the page: Pam White, aka Pamela Clare.

"The cool thing about romance is that it enables me to write about the exact same issues I write about in my column, but no one gets angry with me," she maintains. "The pop-culture context is the proverbial spoonful of sugar. Sweet Release deals with race issues, genocide, abortion and contraception, date rape, domestic violence, class issues and gender equality, yet people read it and enjoy it. Go figure."

Return of the Seibert watch: Denver Post reporter Trent Seibert was practically a regular in this space last year, thanks to a trio of stories (two of which made the Post's front page) that had government officials in a snit over what appeared to be factual errors. And now, thank the gods, he's back as a result of another piece that's got critics carping.

Before we get to that, though, let's recap. On March 1, 2002, Seibert wrote that "Gov. Bill Owens is taking millions of dollars from the state's employee retirement program to help balance the budget" -- a statement that was simply false, as Owens said at a press conference later that day. Just over a month later, on April 2, a story of Seibert's said that House Minority Leader Dan Grossman was behind a proposal to stop the mailing of photo-radar snapshots to the homes of speeding motorists because he wanted to protect potential adulterers. For his part, Grossman insisted that he mentioned the idea as a joke on April Fool's Day, and others backed up this claim. Finally, on June 2, Seibert printed a misquote attributed to state treasurer Mike Coffman hinting that he has the power to cut taxes, which he doesn't. Coffman asked the Post for a correction and got one ("Pac-ing a Punch," June 20, 2002).

For more than six months afterward, there was relative quiet on the Seibert front. But in the wake of "Union Station Study Fee Growing," a Seibert-penned offering that ran on February 19, a new accuracy dispute surfaced, with longtime Rocky Mountain News reporter Kevin Flynn doing the finger-pointing.

Seibert's page-one article led with a grabby assertion: "A group of powerhouse consultants has asked cash-strapped city and state agencies for a nearly 40 percent pay hike -- bringing their payday to $5.56 million -- to contribute a study of whether Denver's historic Union Station can be turned into a regional transportation hub. The partnership of consultants includes Jones Lang LaSalle, a prominent development firm, and CRL Associates, one of Denver's leading lobbying and consulting firms that wields enormous influence in city government." The Post expressed its outrage over this apparent turn of events in a February 20 editorial called "On the Wrong Track," with columnist Al Knight penning a salvo dubbed "Don't Pay the Bribe" on February 23.

The next day, February 24, Flynn weighed in as well, arguing in a Rocky transportation column labeled "No Boogeyman Involved in RTD Study Price Hike" that the implications contained within Seibert's lead paragraph were extremely misleading. In his piece, Flynn, who referred only to "a breathless report in another medium" rather than naming Seibert and the Post, pointed out that the Union Station plan had originally called for an Environmental Assessment -- a relatively small-scale impact study. But the Federal Transit Administration had subsequently determined that a more sweeping examination known as an Environmental Impact Statement was needed. The extra costs were a direct result of this FTA order, Flynn declared, and not because of a request by "powerhouse consultants." In fact, the vast majority of the money was not going to Jones Lang LaSalle or CRL Associates; the latter "added only 37 more billable hours to its original 3,229, just over a 1 percent fee increase," he wrote.

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