The Message

Public Row

Regarding Head On, Andrews started fishing for financing before he was in the senate; the series debuted under the auspices of Synthesis Communications, a media firm he owns, when he was doing political programming for TCI. He didn't see the need to step away from the program after he became a senator. "In Colorado, we have a citizen legislature. All of us have another job, and my job happens to be in communication and idea entrepreneurship. Before I was in the legislature, Channel 12 agreed that I would provide this to them, and every month since then they've had the opportunity to pull the plug -- and they still could. The idea that I dictate anything to them is silly." He adds that his decision to part company with Newsum was personal, not ideological: "When someone calls you 'a contemptible fraud,' you think, 'I'm not sure I want to keep working with her.'"

Newsum, whose association with Channel 12 stretches back to 1988, says she knew Andrews was rounding up donors to pay for Head On, but she didn't understand that meant he owned the show, especially since the $100 checks she received for her participation each month came from a station account, not his. She believes Rowland, who signed on with Channel 12 after Head On began airing, was initially in the dark, too. Newsum recounts a chat with the general manager after her dismissal, in which he expressed surprise that Andrews owned the series, and she says he put the program on hiatus in May to investigate. For his part, Rowland declines to comment on what he considered to be a private conversation, but he emphasizes that Channel 12 personnel oversee Head On and can reject any segment that doesn't meet its standards. "We retain the right of refusal," he says.

What that means to the future of Head On is as clear as fog. Rowland says he received about five dozen e-mails or calls in the days immediately following the first mention of the Andrews-Newsum divorce, with about half of the respondents griping and the rest supporting the change. (Also chiming in were politico Penfield Tate and Maggie Fox, wife of Congressman Mark Udall, who wrote a letter decrying the situation.) Nonetheless, Rowland is standing behind the show, which should return in early July with new cast member Barnes-Gelt, who shone during Channel 12 election coverage. Barnes-Gelt is enthusiastic about crossing swords with Andrews. "I didn't feel I had stepped into anything," she says. "What happened between Dani and John was between Dani and John. To me, this sounds like a fun thing to do."

Dani Newsum is out at Head On and outraged 
to boot.
Brett Amole
Dani Newsum is out at Head On and outraged to boot.

That isn't how Newsum would describe it. "I would not have been involved," she says, "if I knew someone with whom I disagree so strenuously on almost everything under the sun had the ability to literally veto me off the show."

Back to the barnyard: If nothing else, Denver Post editor Greg Moore is a straight shooter -- the rare executive who doesn't squeeze the juice from his words before uttering them. In the case of former Post assistant city editor Arnie Rosenberg, however, Moore may wish that he'd been more circumspect. Rosenberg, a veteran of over three decades in journalism, is suing Moore and the Post because the editor said "the way to clean up a place is not to move manure around the barnyard" following an observation about Rosenberg's firing made at a well-attended staff meeting last year.

"I was hurt very badly," notes Rosenberg, currently an assistant city editor at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "It was a horrible thing to say. How can you say that about somebody in front of five people, much less a hundred people?"

Moore, whose paper has not yet written about the Rosenberg suit, leaves this question unanswered. In an e-mail replying to an interview request, he writes, "I do not comment on discipline or legal matters." As for Holme Roberts & Owen's Mary Stuart, the attorney representing the Post in to the suit, she says, "We really can't comment on existing litigation."

Westword and yours truly are mentioned in the suit, filed on March 21 in Denver District Court, because the incident in question was first reported in "Internet Interruption," the November 7, 2002, edition of this column. During the question-and-answer portion of the October 28 Post editorial meeting, the suit says an employee (identified in Westword as transportation reporter Jeff Leib) called the dismissal of Rosenberg, who was present, "'the most callous thing' he had seen in eighteen years at the Denver Post." When the employee asked why Rosenberg had been fired, the suit continues, "Moore first stated that he was not at liberty to discuss personnel issues. Moore then proceeded to respond to the direct question about Mr. Rosenberg's termination by" using the barnyard colloquialism.

This comment prompted "an audible gasp from those present and numerous people looked directly at Mr. Rosenberg upon hearing Moore's statement," the suit allows. "Mr. Rosenberg felt like he wanted the earth to 'swallow him up.'" These feelings were amplified, the suit says, after the episode was recapped in the Message and subsequently linked on the nation's most popular Web site for journalists, a page at www.Poynter.org overseen by longtime press observer Jim Romenesko. The Moore quote was also referenced in a November 18 item in the trade journal Editor & Publisher, and the suit maintains that as a result of this unwanted attention, "Mr. Rosenberg has been placed in the position of rebuilding the reputation that he worked 31 years to develop and defending himself against pre-conceived ideas about his business reputation created directly by Defendant Moore's slanderous statement."

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