The Message

Ticket Not to Ride

The system that's developed brings with it a number of inconveniences. If reporters or photographers don't have company accounts, they could be put in the position of carrying a ticket charge on their personal credit card until they're reimbursed. The obligation to process these extra expenses also creates more accounting work for media firms. And then there are the ticket sellers, whose burden is acknowledged by Price. "The downside of all this is that I'm sure it's a paperwork pain for the airline people," he says.

If so, no one reached by Westword is pitching a fit. Cannon insists that he hasn't received any complaints from airline representatives, and United Airlines spokesman Jason Schechter doesn't pass along any on behalf of his employer. According to Schechter, "It's not a problem that we're aware of." Chuck Howell, chief executive officer of Great Lakes Aviation, a commuter-oriented business that flies to numerous cities in Colorado and other Western states, says the same, even though a source names Great Lakes as a convenient provider of refundable tickets.

Frontier, in contrast, recognizes the dilemma and has instituted a procedure to tackle it. "If you're a TV reporter, or a reporter in general, and you want to get down into the concourse, all you have to do is call our media-relations people, and we'll give you a boarding pass with your name on it," says Frontier spokesman Andrew Hudson, who regularly worked with journalists during the years he spent as former Denver mayor Wellington Webb's press secretary. "We don't make them buy anything, because it's not a refundable ticket, and it's not to anywhere. It's just a boarding pass, but that will allow reporters to get down onto the concourse. To us, it's a matter of being cooperative to all parties involved, including the TSA [Transportation Security Administration] and the airport."

Mark Andresen

Unfortunately, this plan isn't a complete fix, because it, too, consumes time that journalists might not have when news is breaking. As Hudson notes, participants "do have to go through a couple of steps in terms of calling us and telling us what it's about and where they're going."

Perhaps that's why everyone seems so eager to maintain the delicate balance that's been in existence for the past couple of years. Immediately after the September 11 attacks, a handful of reporters griped about Cannon and his minions, with Channel 7 investigator John Ferrugia going so far as to suggest that the DIA media office had an "adversarial relationship" with the press ("Talking Points, September 27, 2001). Yet there's no criticism of the PR department this time around, despite the fact that some news organizations are having to whip out their Visas when there's action on the concourses. The Post's Price, for example, waxes rhapsodic about "Chuck and his great crew."

For his part, Cannon says he occasionally sees video from the concourses run on stations whose people didn't check in with him, "and I know exactly how they got there: They bought tickets."

Gut-wrenching: Radio yakker Greg Dobbs hasn't helmed his morning drive-time show on KNRC since December, and he won't return for several more weeks -- but he's got an extremely good excuse. "I had very major surgery that could have killed me," says Dobbs, his voice still weak from his ordeal. "The surgeon said he could write it up in a medical journal."

Those reading such an account will need a stronger stomach than Dobbs had until recently. His ailment, a congenital condition dubbed "malrotated bowel," hardly ever occurs in people like Dobbs, who's on the far side of fifty. Indeed, the National Library of Medicine lists this "twisting of the bowel with obstruction of material through the bowel, variable loss of blood supply and possible tissue death" under an affliction called "childhood volvulus," which "often occurs early in life, frequently in the first year." If a malrotated bowel is discovered in time, it can be surgically repaired, usually by removing the section that's necrotic, or dead, from lack of blood flow. If not, it can be fatal -- yet somehow, "I've carried this around with me my entire life," Dobbs says. "I just didn't know it."

He found out about the condition the hard way during the pre-dawn hours of January 2, as he prepared for his first broadcast on KNRC following an extended vacation in Australia. "I started feeling like somebody was playing a football game inside me," Dobbs reveals. "Somebody said to me, 'It sounds like when you're in labor.' I haven't been in labor, so I can't compare -- but I think this was worse."

KNRC news reader Dick Kelsey found Dobbs collapsed on the floor in the station's offices and immediately dialed 911. At St. Anthony's Hospital, Dobbs's problem was discovered and repaired during a four-and-a-half-hour procedure that required a twelve-inch vertical incision in his chest and abdominal region. When the doctors were done removing rancid chunks of flesh and rerouting Dobbs's digestive system, they stapled him up and marveled at how lucky he was. Had he been stricken the previous day, while flying back from Down Under, he probably would have wound up six feet under.

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