The Message

Role Reversal

The front pages: On many days, the covers of the Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Post are notably different, and that's as it should be. But there have been few times when the distinctions were more obvious than they were on July 29. The Rocky featured oversized photos of Wayne and Kathy Harris, parents of Columbine High School executioner Eric Harris, and Sue Klebold, mother of murderous accomplice Dylan Klebold, as they exited federal court the previous day; the killers' parents were there to give depositions in a lawsuit filed against them by the parents of several slain Columbine students. The Post countered with an enormous, suitable-for-framing, sixty-year-old portrait of funnyman Bob Hope, who died on July 28 at age one hundred.

Some observers might see the prominence given by the Rocky to the Harris-Klebold shots as either overkill or an invasion of privacy -- but in truth, the media can hardly be accused of going to extremes in this case. Whereas photos or video images of the parents of victims have been widely circulated since shortly after the April 1999 day when the attack took place, hardly any images of the Harris or Klebold parents have gotten out; an old Air Force mug of Wayne Harris is the most notable exception. News agencies did take photos of the Harris and Klebold homes, but the local dailies appear not to have assigned photographers to wait outside their doors, ambush style. (Neither Larry Price, the Post's assistant managing editor/photography, nor Janet Reeves, the Rocky's director of photography, seem eager to talk about the subject. He didn't return one call; she failed to reply to three.) Moreover, the Rocky photographed the parents in a public place in conjunction with a newsworthy event; the trip to court marked the first time some of those behind the complaint had seen the people they were suing.

So why didn't the Post cover this topic in its July 29 edition? The upcoming court appearances were mentioned in an Associated Press item that ran in the Rocky, the Washington Post and other newspapers on July 28, but Denver Post types either missed it or didn't understand its newsworthiness. Whatever the case, Greg Moore, the Post's editor, says, "We fumbled the ball." He allows that the Post might not have played the photos in quite the same way as the Rocky did, but he believes "there's legitimate news value in seeing these parents, just by virtue of the extent to which they've gone to shield themselves."

The final words he offers on the subject demonstrate why Moore's got a reputation for forthrightness and honesty of the brutal variety. "Sometimes we fuck up," he says.

A few days before Hope made page one of the Post, the paper produced a more amusing cover for a very select audience; it was a good-humored going-away gift for longtime city editor Evan Dreyer, who left the paper on July 25 for personal reasons. (His replacement is Post staffer and Denver native Lee Ann Colacioppo.) Included was the "Top Ten Things Evan Will Miss About the Post," which included "Reporters who start oratories with 'I don't recall if you were here during Columbine'" (he was), "The bring-your-own-turkey Christmas parties" and, best of all, "Columnists whose names rhyme with Fuck."

Somewhere, former Post column king Chuck Green isn't smiling.

Biting the hand that feeds him: Radio listeners have been accused in some quarters of not caring about the deterioration of the medium, which many folks ascribe in large part to corporate consolidation. However, the July 29 Red Rocks concert starring Neil Young and Crazy Horse suggested otherwise. At the show, the legendarily mercurial Young debuted Greendale, an off-kilter song cycle/theatrical excursion that was dramatically suspect and often silly, yet tremendously enjoyable anyway. Even so, the crowd's most positive reaction during the Greendale portion of the festivities came in response to an illustration of a satirical billboard reading "Support Our War." The placard was labeled "Clear Channel," referring to the nationwide radio behemoth that, here and elsewhere, put on military-themed "pro-America" bashes during the early stages of the conflict in Iraq ("Rally Time," April 3).

Who promoted Young's concert? Clear Channel -- which probably won't be sponsoring any pro-Neil celebrations anytime soon.

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