The Message

Undercover Fox

As it turns out, Simone, Schneider's predecessor, took much the same stance, generally treating the public eye like a peeping Tom. While at Channel 31, he referred all interview requests from Westword to others at the station and didn't respond to queries for this article. Practically the only time he stepped out front was when he gave a tour of the new Channel 31 facility, whose construction he oversaw, to the Denver Post's Joanne Ostrow -- but even then, he shunned the spotlight. "Simone continually credits the staff, preferring to stay in the background," Ostrow wrote.

For his combination of achievement and reticence, Simone was rewarded with a move to WTXF-TV in Philadelphia, the country's fourth-largest television market (Denver is in eighteenth place). The station definitely needs someone who's good at avoiding headlines, since it earned poisonous publicity in the Philadelphia Inquirer and other newspapers under general manager Roger LaMay, whom Simone replaced, during 2002. Early that year, LaMay chose not to renew the contract of anchor Rich Noonan in apparent reaction to anemic ratings. Then, after Noonan allegedly made negative remarks during a newscast, he was disappeared weeks ahead of schedule, robbing him of the chance to offer an on-camera farewell. Come summertime, Noonan reacted by filing a complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, arguing that he was left on the roadside because he is white. He claimed management had decided that an all-Caucasian news team was a liability in a city as diverse as Philadelphia; Dave Huddleston, who replaced Noonan, is African-American.

Simone's trip east opened up a position in Denver for Schneider, who made his reputation working in sales capacities for Turner Broadcasting and Fox Sports Net South; the latter is a sister service of Fox Sports Rocky Mountain, a fast-growing local cable operation that Schneider also oversees. During the Van Allen-monitored interview, Schneider praised FSRM ("We have a very good sportscast, and the ratings are pretty remarkable") and Channel 31's late news ("The ratings show the relevance of the news product to the viewers in Denver and shows the strength of Fox's prime time as a lead-in"), but he steered clear of hints about future moves. Although the station seems to sponsor fewer charity functions and internal initiatives than its primary rivals -- all of which recognize the promotional value of events like the 9Health Fair -- Schneider said Channel 31 was actually "very involved" in the community and would assess further projects on a one-by-one basis. Likewise, he was mum about the possibility of expanding the news operation into the morning or afternoon hours, declaring only that "we're going to continue to evaluate opportunities in the marketplace as we see them." In respect to changes viewers might be seeing at 9 p.m., he denied that any were in the offing. "Nothing's broken here," he maintained.

Loose lips sink ships: Fox GM Bill Schneider is just 
one of the team.
Anthony Camera
Loose lips sink ships: Fox GM Bill Schneider is just one of the team.

That certainly was the case with Goosmann. He got off to a bumpy start in Denver, where he was saddled with a silly, and soon discarded, "On-Target Weather" feature that made his prognostications seem suspect even when they were close to the mark. But as time marched on, he won friends and influenced people thanks to the honesty of his presentations -- he never pretended to be an all-seeing weather god -- and his accuracy when it really counted. A couple of days before the March blizzard that struck Denver, Goosmann predicted a storm of historic proportions. He didn't become the punchline of talk-radio jokes for a very good reason: Those historic proportions developed just as he said they would.

What didn't materialize were the sort of contract talks Goosmann had hoped for. He knew the situation was grim when the station didn't bother promoting his first-place finish at the March 29 Colorado Broadcasters Association ceremony. "That was something I was very proud of," he says, "and I would think they'd want to put together something that let viewers know: 'Our employee won a very prestigious award.' It was their decision not to, which is fine, but it was disappointing to me."

He's equally distressed about the prospect of bidding farewell to co-workers and potentially leaving an area that he loves for a wide variety of reasons, not the least of which is the challenge presented by forecasting in the region. "I thought long and hard about the decision, because I have a family, a mortgage and car payments, like everyone else out there," he allows. "I had to really look at the pros and cons."

Will Goosmann share the options he debated? "I'd rather not," he says.

Because of Goosmann's silence, it's impossible to know how much of a role Schneider played in his choice -- and the top Fox isn't volunteering any guesses. No matter how much authority he wields behind the scenes, he prefers to be viewed as an interchangeable cog in the Channel 31 machine. As he put it, "We have 143 employees here, and Bill Schneider is one of them."

Not ready for his close-up: On April 7, shortly after the announcement that the Rocky Mountain News had earned a breaking-news-photography Pulitzer Prize for shots of last summer's Colorado wildfires, staffers broke out the bubbly -- and last week, yet another bash was staged. News editor/publisher/president John Temple feted each photog on the victorious squad by name, supplementing his kudos with $1,000 bonuses. Special Pulitzer keepsakes are also in the works.

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