The Message

Coming Attractions

The Sunday, May 4, Denver Post was first-rate from top to bottom. The front page was anchored by "The Pariah," a complex and thoughtful story by reporter Electra Draper that examined the case of a convicted sex offender who's completed his sentence and the New Mexico community that wants him gone anyway. In addition, the main section contained an impressive series of articles on the Denver mayoral race that rivaled the work done by the Rocky Mountain News, which has regularly bested the Post on this subject. Other noteworthy Sunday segments included Sports, which led with semi-scoops about Denver Broncos tight end Shannon Sharpe and Colorado Avalanche goalie Patrick Roy; Business, highlighted by a piece on a new cable channel aimed at Latinos but delivered mainly in English; Sunday Lifestyles, thanks to an entertaining look at rockabilly enthusiasts; and Perspective, featuring a timely drought package. The edition wasn't perfect, but it was a lot closer than usual.

Which is precisely the point. Just short of a year into the reign of editor Greg Moore, the onetime managing editor for the Boston Globe who was charged by owner Dean Singleton with turning the Post into one of the finest newspapers in the U.S. of A., the publication remains damnably inconsistent. Entire days sometimes go by between issues that are above average, let alone outstanding, and plenty of reports during these spans suffer from conceptual flabbiness, tedious writing and erratic presentation. As a result, those occasions when everything comes together stand out in ways they wouldn't if Dean's desire for excellence materialized with more regularity.

At the same time, it's clear that Moore is making loads of bold personnel decisions. Some of the new recruits have a history in the market, such as incoming assistant business editor Dana Coffield, who left the Rocky Mountain News in favor of a high-paying position at Interactive Week ("Show Them the Money," November 16, 2000) only to have the magazine fold beneath her feet when the tech boom went kerplunk. However, three of the most intriguing new Posters -- film critic Lisa Kennedy, Washington bureau chief John Aloysius Farrell and metro columnist Cindy Rodriguez -- either have antiquated ties to the community or none at all.

Lisa Kennedy is eager to make a critical impact.
Brett Amole
Lisa Kennedy is eager to make a critical impact.

Of course, Kennedy, Farrell and Rodriguez also have the potential to get the Post moving in the right direction. Whether they'll be able to do so when the Moore hires who've preceded them are still struggling to get the paper out of first gear is another matter entirely.

Kennedy was born in Boston but moved to Denver at age six with her family; she graduated from East High School. From there, she headed to Yale University and subsequently made her journalistic reputation while working for major print outlets based in larger media centers. She served in an editorial capacity for national magazines such as Out and Us, and played a variety of roles at the Village Voice in New York City. More recently, she lived in Phoenix, where she freelanced for the L.A. Weekly and Phoenix New Times, one of Westword's sister publications.

Stylistically, Kennedy's published film reviews bear the mark of the alternative weeklies where she's spent so much of her career. They're long, smart and discursive, avoiding the type of rote structure and gee-whiz language that many readers associate with movie writing in daily newspapers. As such, her arrival may be an exciting development for Denver cineastes -- if, that is, she'll be allowed to stretch out in ways that would be new for the Post. Kennedy, who also writes a bi-weekly column called "The Spin" for NiaOnline.com, a Web site targeted at African-American women, has gotten good vibes thus far.

"They've seen my clips, and they know what kind of thinker I am," she notes. "And they seem excited for me to bring intelligence and a freer style to daily film criticism. Everyone keeps encouraging me to not feel that I have to write down to readers, and I don't think I'll have to. It's amazing to me how much viewers know about film and how many of them say things that point to their grasp of film language."

At the same time, Kennedy, who officially joined the Post last week, doesn't want to come across as an elitist who'll slag everything except art-house exegeses and four-hour documentaries about leprosy: "I tended to be the populist at the alternative publications I worked at when it came to film. I'm a movie enthusiast." About review length, she says she hasn't been given specific restrictions, but she understands that expectations may be different. "I've been interested in trying to learn to write tighter and leaner -- and I've been noticing that paragraphs in newspapers can be really short." She laughs. "I'm like, 'A two-sentence paragraph! I've never noticed that before!'"

Those who remember Farrell from his first stint at the Post don't associate him with brevity, either. He toiled at the paper during the first half of the '80s, when it was owned by the Times Mirror Company, and he was known primarily for a pair of eight-part series: "Utah: The Church State," a peek behind the Mormon church's so-called "Zion curtain," and "The New Indian Wars," about Indian resource issues. Still, he's proudest of an investigation of faulty anesthesia machines that started at Rose Medical Center and eventually led to the nationwide recall of the devices and new federal regulations that require manufacturers to report flaws. For it, Farrell won the George Polk Award, a prize nearly as coveted as the Pulitzer.

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