The Message

Early Shift

Other features were lifted from cable news, but they failed to survive the transition. Reading from the front page of morning papers, as Farmer and Davis did, works for CNN's Aaron Brown because he does it at night, not when the Denver Post is already on thousands of driveways or kitchen tables. Later, the shtick of sharing viewer e-mails, perfected by Bill O'Reilly, was trotted out. But during The O'Reilly Factor, the words are on the screen, providing an effective visual, whereas Farmer and Davis read from computer printouts, looking as if their TelePrompTer had broken.

Still, the morning's low point came courtesy of Vigil, who delivered national and international headlines from a separate studio. She deserved worse than solitary confinement after talking about some cats in Arizona that had been drenched in glue. The details suggested animal cruelty to everyone but Vigil, who purred, "Aren't those kittens cute? One of the kittens had his front paw glued to his stomach!"

To their credit, Farmer and Davis looked appropriately dumbfounded by Vigil's comment, and nothing else this appalling was aired. Nothing as memorable, either. Good Morning Colorado may eventually make a mark on Denver television, but it won't turn it upside down. To paraphrase Gil Scott-Heron, the revolution won't be telecast.

Good Morning Colorado's cast co-stars 
Pamela Davis, Justin Farmer and Stacey Donaldson.
Courtesy of Channel 31
Good Morning Colorado's cast co-stars Pamela Davis, Justin Farmer and Stacey Donaldson.

Covered and uncovered: Last April, onetime Denver Deputy Manager of Aviation/Marketing and Public Affairs Amy Bourgeron was featured in "Webb of Influence," an investigative piece by Channel 9's Paula Woodward about allegedly questionable hiring practices employed by former Denver mayor Wellington Webb. To put it mildly, she didn't much enjoy her moment in the spotlight. She was subsequently demoted after the city's Career Service Board ruled that she shouldn't have been allowed to substitute work experience for a college degree in order to meet the requirements for the position -- the crux of Woodward's argument. That left Bourgeron, who asserted that she'd followed the rules in winning the job, feeling like a victim of "drive-by journalism. You don't have to stop and get distracted by any of the facts. You just point and shoot" ("Role Reversal," August 7, 2003).

Although Bourgeron is no happier with Woodward today than she was then, her tune has changed slightly. Now she's upset over what's not being broadcast about her -- news that might put her in a positive light.

In March, Daniel Ferguson oversaw a hearing about whether the Career Service Board had the power to demote Bourgeron, and he concluded that it did. Bourgeron says she expected this decision, but she was pleasantly surprised that Ferguson added a paragraph supporting one of her primary contentions. "I find the evidence presented is not sufficient to support the proposition argued by the Agency that the selection process for the position...was a sham," he wrote. "Appellant was given a waiver of the educational requirement allowing her to compete for the position. Thereafter she followed the required procedures in the application, testing and interview process."

In Bourgeron's view, these sentences vindicated her, and she hoped that the local media in general, and Channel 9 in particular, would tell news consumers that she wasn't guilty of cronyism or manipulation of the system. Thus far, her dream has not come true. The Denver dailies passed on the story, and Channel 9 hasn't showered it with attention, either. Woodward says a Bourgeron item was set to air on March 10, the same day a synopsis about the ruling was posted on www.9news.com, but it was dumped at the last minute because of a "producer's decision." Moreover, the online narrative dealt only with the bottom-line decision and made no mention of any pro-Bourgeron nuances. The piece also lacked any quotes from Bourgeron or her attorney, Mark Mishkin. Woodward says Channel 9 staffers didn't get a response to calls placed with Mishkin; Bourgeron counters that Mishkin's office has no record of having received such a call either then or in later weeks.

On March 15, Mishkin struck back, sending Channel 9 president Roger Ogden a letter demanding a retraction of the original story. Four days later, the station posted another item on the website about Bourgeron, this time quoting from a Mishkin press release stating that she'd been exonerated, but Woodward says the timing was coincidental; she didn't see Mishkin's letter until days after the update went online. Whatever the case, the letter hasn't prompted Channel 9 to reconsider airing a fresh Bourgeron report, and news director Patti Dennis reveals that no retraction, clarification or followup is imminent.

"There was nothing in our original script indicating that Amy did something deliberately," Dennis maintains. "She just got a job, as we saw it, without the proper qualifications. It was really about those in supervisory roles." In addition, Dennis notes that because Bourgeron has a lawsuit pending in federal court over her demotion, "the case hasn't really come to a reasonable conclusion that would make sense for the viewer. I'm not sure what, exactly, we would air other than that she continued not to get her job back." Dennis says she and Ogden sent Mishkin a letter in late March underlining these points, but according to Bourgeron, the correspondence hasn't made its way to him.

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