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The Message

Scout's Honor

After Moore conveyed these thoughts to Meyers, who edits the columnists, the latter sent out an e-mail relating them to his charges. Rodriguez declines to verify that she received this message or to comment on it if she did; corresponding by e-mail, she says only, "Greg has never told me what to write or what not to write.... I wasn't planning to write about Owens's separation." (Rodriguez must have copied this message to Moore, because a few seconds after it arrived on my computer, I received a misdirected reply the editor evidently meant for Rodriguez that read "I love you." My response? "Thanks for the kind words -- but I'm married.")

For their part, Spencer and Carman say that Meyers's missive was delivered to them, and Spencer didn't find it confusing. What came across to him was a philosophy he shares with Moore: "If you've got reportable, verifiable news that has an impact on the public's interest, that's where the column is. It's not about opining on what may or may not have happened."

To Carman, though, the e-mail seemed quite restrictive. In retrospect, she realizes that "the editors, as they are inclined to do when it comes to the big boss, overreacted" -- but at the time, she immediately began to worry about how this philosophy would apply to a column she was writing. Owens, Carman learned, had canceled a pair of speeches he was scheduled to make in October to members of individual religious organizations: Colorado Springs's Focus on the Family and the Pennsylvania Family Institute. Moreover, the governor had pulled the plug specifically because of what was happening in his marriage.

These details had the makings of a fine story that Carman was already putting together, but she was suddenly uncertain if she'd be allowed to pursue it further. So, she says, "I had an exchange of e-mails with Greg. I told him, 'I'm working on a column about the impact this could have on [Owens] politically. Does that mean you don't want me to do that?' And he wrote back, not knowing what I had, and said, 'I'd look for another topic.'"

Despite looming deadline pressure, Carman did so. After letting Moore know that she was passing along the information about the aborted Owens speeches to Post political editor Rebecca Cantwell, she cranked out "Visa Process Frustrates Kin, U.S. Outreach," a column about a Denver couple whose Salvadoran relatives won't be allowed to attend their September 20 wedding because of post-9/11 red tape and paranoia. The narrative turned up on September 3 in Carman's usual slot, the cover of the Post's Denver & the West section -- a nice setting, but not nearly as prominent as the page-one placement of "Governor Cancels Speeches After Split: Talks to 2 Family-Oriented Groups Dropped." In a tag, Carman was listed as a contributor to the article, but it was credited to political scribe Susan Greene and reporter Joey Bunch.

The Greene-Bunch collaboration unquestionably fit within the parameters Moore drew; it was a newsworthy scoop that only the least objective, most partisan readers could call exploitative. Nonetheless, Carman had a tough time enjoying her part in the accomplishment: "I've got to admit -- and I said this to Greg -- that when I saw the paper and saw my reporting on page one, I was furious. I share a lot of my reporting with people, and I don't have any problem with that. But to be pulled off the story and then somebody else have it on page one was upsetting to me."

Shortly thereafter, Carman asked for, and was granted, an audience with Moore, whom she's known since her time at the Cleveland Plain Dealer; back in the day, Moore says, Carman used to edit him. It didn't take long to sort things out. "It was a misunderstanding -- one of those major miscommunications that took place too late in the day," Carman says. "I'm now very clear on what he wants and am in complete agreement with him. He wants us to adhere to standards of good reporting and not take easy potshots or ridicule the governor for a tragic family situation, and I would never do that. I've been divorced, and I understand how these things feel."

Since then, musings about Bill and Frances have found their way to the Post's opinion pages, over which Moore has no content control. On September 5, Reggie Rivers checked in with an offering that explored "the anger that many Coloradans, particularly gays, feel toward elected officials who trot out 'family values' as the reason the government should discriminate against homosexuals, while those same politicians demand privacy for themselves in the conduct of their personal lives." Veteran political scribe Fred Brown, meanwhile, tendered a September 5 column that pretty much limited itself to an examination of political repercussions.

The Rocky has spilled more ink as well, even going so far as to put a jumbo photo of Frances on its September 4 cover after she made her first public appearance since reports of her relationship troubles surfaced, reading to children at the Parker Library the day before. She kept mostly mum about her marriage, as did her husband during a September 8 visit to the studio of KOA gabber Mike Rosen, an extremely sympathetic inquisitor who said he's known the Owenses for years. After Rosen informed listeners that calls about marital difficulties wouldn't be accepted, Owens referred briefly to having had a "tough week," stated that he and Frances are "trying to work through" their problems, and concluded with, "I've said all I'm going to say about it. It's something between Frances and me." Elapsed time: about thirty seconds.

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