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Indeed, the Reuteman-Rebchook article couldn't have made bureau big shots very happy. Yet the meeting gig still required some ethical navigation. Reuteman told planners that he couldn't appear unless Dilbeck's axing was addressed -- Isenberg did the dirty work -- and he had to tinker with the script to make it plain he was independent from the bureau. "They used the collective 'we,' so that it seemed like I was an employee," he says. "I rewrote that stuff so I wouldn't seem like anything other than a detached observer, I hope successfully."

Not always. During his introduction of Denver mayor John Hickenlooper, Reuteman touted Hick accomplishments such as luring two future conventions to the city and described him as "the man who's going to help Denver be a great city." While these words directly echoed a line from a bureau video that played before Hickenlooper came to the stage, making for a nice transition, it still sounded as if Reuteman was personally endorsing the new mayor. But for the most part, Reuteman says, "I tried to walk the line."

Which, in this town, ain't easy.

Loose lips: On November 5, KNRC talk-show host Enid Goldstein dived headfirst into l'affaire Dilbeck, slapping Channel 7 so vigorously that Tony Kovaleski phoned in to offer a defense. To her, the station's actions showed how the media blows insubstantial stories out of proportion even as things of genuine interest are ignored. To illustrate this theory, she read an e-mail whose unnamed author said that Governor Bill Owens, who's currently separated from his wife, Frances, is involved in extramarital shenanigans. The e-mail went on to cite buzz that Westword was working on a story that would catch the guv with his pants down.

Radio scenesters joke that KNRC is listener-free, but obviously someone's out there, because by the end of last week, Westword's purported blockbuster was the talk of the Capitol. However, there's a little problem: No such article exists at the present time.

Goldstein isn't interested in being quoted on this topic, saying, "The show speaks for itself." In that forum, she hinted that the local media may be exhibiting either gutlessness or favoritism by not reporting about alleged Owens trysts -- but the journalistic requirement for facts likely has a lot more to do with it. Whispers about why the Owens marriage is on the rocks (some entirely benign, others less so) have sounded for months, and probably a half-dozen alleged explanations continue to circulate. Sources reveal that staffers at both the Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Post have done some digging into this speculation without unearthing anything publishable.

As for Westword, the paper certainly wouldn't shy away from printing the equivalent of the famous photo showing Gary Hart and Donna Rice cuddling in front of a boat called the Monkey Business. But something that incontrovertible would be necessary. In June 1990, Westword published a story by reporter Bryan Abas headlined "The Rumor About Romer," which argued that an alleged love match between Governor Roy Romer and aide B.J. Thornberry was affecting how the administration operated. Shortly after the issue came out, Romer held a press conference in which he denied any infidelity and painted Westword as an irresponsible slime purveyor. The backlash was immediate; the Denver Film Festival dumped the paper as a sponsor. The black mark wasn't entirely erased until 1998, when Washington, D.C.-based Insight magazine published a report on the Romer-Thornberry pairing backed up by photos of a six-minute smooch in a car parked at Dulles Airport. Romer's subsequent confession, which confirmed the verity of Westword's original story, was satisfying -- but nearly eight years too late.

Truth is terrific, but proof is even better. And without that, no responsible media figure will move forward. Irresponsible media figures have the field to themselves.

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