The Message

Vision Quest

To Grandy, criticism that Kovaleski's story lacked substance is unfounded -- and he uses a Channel 9 sweeps series by Paula Woodward about loafing workers to bolster his argument. "So one Parks employee is screwing off during work? Is that a story? Are you indicting all the people at Parks and Rec because one person is screwing off -- in the summer? Our story is much larger than that."

Neil Westergaard, editor of the Denver Business Journal, begs to differ; he describes the Channel 7 disclosures as having "no there there." He feels otherwise about the November 4 Rocky exclusive with Dilbeck, and for a very good reason. His boss, the aforementioned Scott Bemis, is a central player. According to the article, Dilbeck and his wife "had just spent three days at Bemis' second home in Cuchara in southwest Colorado. 'And now I know that the decision had already been made to fire me,' Dilbeck said. 'We spent the whole weekend together, and I didn't get so much of a peep that something is wrong.'" To that, Bemis said telling Dilbeck the guillotine was about to fall "would have been a total violation of my responsibilities to the bureau's executive committee."

Bemis was just as closemouthed with his own publication. He knew for days, or possibly even a couple of weeks, that Dilbeck was on the road to Unemploymentville and didn't share anything with Westergaard. The scoop went elsewhere, but Westergaard says he understands: "When Scott serves on a board in the community, he tells those people that decisions made in the rooms are confidential. He gives them his word that he's not going to share with me, and I'm okay with that."

The visitors bureau board is hardly the only one on which Bemis sits. He's involved in the same manner with the United Way, Junior Achievement and the DIA Partnership. Moreover, other heavy media hitters have chaired the bureau board in the past, including former Rocky publisher Larry Strutton and ex-Channel 7 general manager John Proffitt -- and Channel 4 general manager Walt DeHaven is just one of the broadcasters on the board at present. Bemis thinks that assisting the bureau is his civic responsibility. "Our business is reporting on our business community," he says, "and I strongly believe we need to give back to that community."

Times when Bemis is privy to information he can't give to Westergaard's minions are rare, he insists, with the Dilbeck case being the most extreme situation he can recall. "But 95 percent of the things we talk about at meetings can be discussed with them," he maintains. "I often can chat with someone before a meeting and say, 'Can you talk about that yet? Can I have a reporter talk to you?' We've gotten a lot of great stories from my being out there and being involved with the community.

"I've never asked our editor to either do a story or to kill a story because I'm on a board," Bemis goes on. "And when I'm on a board, I set the ground rules right away. I tell them if things are talked about that are strictly confidential, I am not going to run back to the office to reveal what we just discussed. They have to realize that we pay reporters to get the news, and if by any chance something were to show up that had been covered in a meeting, then it does. But I give them my word that it didn't come from me."

In regard to Dilbeck, Bemis certainly kept mum. Westergaard is philosophical about the result. "When I saw the story in the Rocky," he says, "I probably had the same reaction [editor] Greg Moore had over at the Post. I thought the Rocky had a helluva story."

Rocky business editor Reuteman, who co-wrote the Dilbeck piece with reporter John Rebchook, didn't have to look hard for his subject. "Eugene called me and said he wanted to come over and talk," Reuteman allows. "And I thought: Oh my God. My name is going to be on a story tomorrow morning, and then I'm going to co-host this lunch." Whether the timing of the membership meeting had anything to do with Dilbeck's decision to speak with Reuteman is unclear, but he certainly knew about the emceeing gig. He personally asked Reuteman to handle microphone duties nearly three months ago.

Reuteman's efforts on behalf of the visitors bureau raise issues that aren't so obvious when it comes to Bemis. The Journal publisher doesn't have editorial control, but Reuteman often oversees coverage of the bureau -- and on the day of the meeting, he even wrote about the group. Still, he says he has "marching orders to do a lot of public speaking, a lot of moderating panels, going to a lot of charity events. Whenever people in the business community want a representative of the News, I often act as that."

Such invites seldom cause awkwardness, Reuteman says, but he concedes that when the bureau started making headlines, "I wondered, 'Are there any basic conflicts of interest'" in respect to emceeing the meeting. "I asked [Rocky editor/publisher/president] John Temple about it several times, and he said, 'I don't really see a conflict,' and I said, 'I don't see one, either,' but it felt weird. It had some of the trappings of a conflict, but I didn't feel that way, and I don't think the coverage reflects that."

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