The Message

Coming Attractions

This last remark echoes grumbling that's sounded intermittently since last year, when Eicher and Bullard took over the Rocky media column from Greg Dobbs, who gave it up after becoming the morning host for KNRC-AM. (The Independence Institute's Dave Kopel, who was originally paired with Dobbs, continues to write twice a month.) Eicher reported at the Post for more than two decades, and Bullard, her husband, was a managing editor during the Times Mirror era, yet many observers perceived them to be strongly anti-Post, particularly during their first six months on the beat.

Even Dobbs held this view, which he shared in a January 5 letter to the Rocky charging that the writers' "disproportionate focus on perceived errors of fact, omission or judgment at the Post" caused him to wonder if they'd "abandoned the spirit in which the column was envisioned." In a portion of Dobbs's missive the News chose to exclude, he went further, asking, "Do they have a grudge against the Post? Well, Bullard was fired, and although he recently wrote to me that Eicher 'has no axe to grind,' three different longtime Post staffers agreed that Eicher's departure was 'bitter.' Draw your own conclusions."

In separate interviews with Westword in January, Bullard -- who runs a Wheat Ridge business called Publication Design Inc. that has worked with the News on three sports-related books -- and Eicher, now pursuing a teaching career, scoffed at the notion that they're knee-jerk Post bashers. "I left of my own accord and on my own terms," said Eicher, who sometimes wrote about media subjects in her capacity as a Post feature writer. "I'd been there for 23 years, and I was writing the same stories. I wanted to do something else." As for Bullard, he stressed that he was removed from his position as managing editor of the Post a long time ago -- 1988, in fact. Moreover, Bullard was canned by Post columnist and controversy lightning rod Chuck Green, yet he and Eicher wrote in an October 2002 column that Green's arrest for driving under the influence after he left the paper last year didn't deserve to be reported. "He wasn't a public figure anymore," Bullard said.

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

Even so, the perception that Eicher and Bullard had a jones for the Post remained in the air during the first couple months of the year. When editor Greg Moore was asked at the time if he considered their work to be slanted against the Post, he said, "I do. And I don't like seeing it in my paper."

Indeed, Eicher and Bullard's columns ran on the sole Rocky page in the Sunday Post until March, when the media section was transferred to the Saturday News. Speculation arose that the change was made because the writers' bias against the Post made Sunday placement awkward, but Rocky editor/president/publisher John Temple said other considerations prompted the shift. "I think the media columns are a strong part of the Rocky that gets muddied in the context of the Denver Post," he said at the time. "When you're on an editorial page that's on page eleven of a twelve-page section that's buried inside a second A section and inside all those ads, it's very difficult to find and hard to have the impact you want to have." Temple is now using the News's Sunday page to try and lure Post readers to his paper with exclusive syndicated fare, including cartoons by the Washington Post's Tom Toles.

Regarding the accusation that Eicher and Bullard lack objectivity about the Post, Temple said, "They aren't very popular in either newsroom. Journalists generally have pretty thin skins; they don't like being attacked. And I can tell you there are editors at my newspaper who really bristle at what we allow the critics to say and believe them to be poorly informed, misinformed, ignorant." Dobbs, meanwhile, believes Eicher and Bullard are now doing a better job of looking for gaffes in both papers, rather than focusing too much of their energy on only one.

None of that makes Martin any happier that neither Eicher nor Bullard bothered to call her, or even identify her, before drubbing the obits she authored. Afterward, "Diane wrote me a very long e-mail in defense," Martin noted in an e-mail of her own, "although her response seemed, to me, to miss the point I was trying to make."

Eicher also sent Westword an e-mail on this topic. In it, she writes that she and Bullard left Martin's name out because their editors have asked them to avoid personalizing matters. "It's true that at times we have used the names of specific reporters, but in this case we felt there was no real point," she states. What's more, Eicher feels that their charge "is not to serve as ombudsmen or to explain to readers why reporters did something a certain way; our job is to critique and offer opinion." Contacting Martin would have served no purpose, she believes, "because any explanation she might have offered really wouldn't have changed our opinion."

Probably not -- but it would have offered readers more information to use when making their own judgments. A critic might call the result an example of good journalism.

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