The Message

Learning Curve

Anger over the image bloomed soon after, with most, but not all, of the criticism focused on the saluters. Too bad this distinction was lost when the Denver Post tackled the topic on its October 19 front page. A quote from Grand Junction pathologist Aaron Long was made to seem like a swing at the Orange and Black, when Long was actually denouncing the gesture. The Post printed a correction about that, too, but the furor it stirred was painful for Newton and his students.

In the end, the uproar led to positive change. "Within days, we had a policy in our district about responsible ways to deal with the pledge," Newton says -- and the legislature's approval of a less restrictive Pledge of Allegiance bill a few weeks back may prevent a repetition of the worst abuses. Nonetheless, free speech continues to take a beating in some GJHS classrooms. A handful of teachers upset over the salute photo's publication persist in refusing to distribute the paper, despite an e-mail from Schott urging them to do so. Repercussions like this one are reminders that, as Newton says, "journalism isn't easy. It's extremely hard."

Even so, there are satisfactions for Newton -- like seeing Fromm, his former student, making difficult choices for all the right reasons. She says she'll keep fighting the good fight because "that's why I'm here, that's what I do. That's what Mr. Newton taught me."

Mesa State Criterion editor Megan Fromm 
doesn't like taking no for an answer.
Valerie Balogh
Mesa State Criterion editor Megan Fromm doesn't like taking no for an answer.

For better or worse: Because Colorado has become more Republican with each passing year, truly competitive statewide elections are a rarity. No wonder, then, that political junkies are salivating about the race to replace retiring senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell. Many elements had to fall into, and out of, place to produce the current chaos, and in most instances, the press has played the role of observer. An exception is the Post's Jim Spencer, whose bare-knuckled March 4 column, "Owens Needs Reality Check for Senate Run," may have done more to fuel the frenzy than anyone's admitted.

Had Governor Owens sought Campbell's seat, the smartest money would have been on him to win in a walk. Still, he has an Achilles heel -- his separation from wife Frances Owens. The majority of the Denver media has tiptoed around this situation, but not Spencer. His broadside warned Owens that if he announced his candidacy, discretion would be as gone with the wind as Scarlett O'Hara. "Focus on the family, Governor," Spencer wrote, declaring that if Owens became a candidate, he should "get ready to answer for everything. You're the guy who invited the inquisition."

This language earned censure from the Rocky Mountain News's Vince Carroll, who's on the other side of the ideological fence from Spencer, but his equal in partisanship. The barbs made a point, however. Spencer's column promised that Owens would be in for months of unwanted marital counseling and speculation by the media if he dared declare, which he didn't. On March 9, he just said no, precipitating the biggest campaign scramble in years.

Don't mess around with Jim.

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