The Message

Lesson Learned

Kobe delicti: Blaming the media for the September 1 collapse of the criminal charges against Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant is tantamount to arguing that film critics will be at fault if Garfield: The Movie doesn't win next year's Academy Award for Best Picture. The case was tenuous from the get-go, and the unfathomably inept way Eagle County officials and prosecution representatives handled the press only magnified these weaknesses. It was incredibly apropos, then, that even the toss-in-the-towel announcement was botched. The Rocky Mountain News reported that at 4:40 p.m. on surrender day, Krista Flannigan, a spokeswoman for District Attorney Mark Hurlbert, sent out notices of a press conference set to start in twenty minutes. Denver stations reacted by cutting live to the courthouse in Eagle, but at the appointed time, cameras were left to focus on groups of reporters wandering around, looking confused. Almost half an hour later, a court official revealed that an impromptu hearing had been called, evidently so that District Judge Terry Ruckriegle could give Hurlbert and his compatriots one last spanking.

Thank you, sir! Could you give them another?

The long-overdue plug-pulling spurred analysis from a flock of legal eagles. On one side of the fence, former Denver DA Norm Early, appearing the day after on The Fan, came across as a sympathetic supporter of the woman who said Bryant raped her. At the other extreme, Craig Silverman, on his new KHOW show, portrayed her as a clinically insane hosebag, giving listeners a taste of the tack Bryant attorneys Hal Haddon and Pamela Mackey probably would have taken had a trial actually happened. Of those in the middle, the standout, predictably, was CBS's Andrew Cohen, who presents information in an understandable, easy-to-digest fashion and lets audience members make up their own mind. How novel.

The chances of much more exposure for local barristers on the Kobe beat appear to be waning. A settlement in the civil complaint targeting Bryant will most likely be announced after the passage of just enough time to give attorneys on either side plausible deniability against accusations of improper deal-making. After that, counselors hungry to get their mugs on national TV must wait until the next salacious Colorado scandal strikes -- probably about four days later.

Tidy is as tidy does: Talk about spreading the wealth. The epic cleanup operation at the Rocky Mountain News headquarters, mentioned here last week, concluded on September 1, but winners weren't announced until two days later, perhaps because there were so damn many of them. Hector Gutierrez, Brian Crecente, Sarah Huntley and John Ensslin took the top prize, a paid day off, with eleven staffers earning an "Eagle condo weekend," ten receiving Rockies passes, four bringing home Heaven Help Us! tickets, and more than twenty getting five free books apiece. (Some of the tomes may have been confiscated from the tops of file cabinets, as warned in an August 30 memo from managing editor/contest proctor Deb Goeken.) Finally, five special plaudits were dispensed, the most amusing of which was the "Only Person to Find Something Dead Under Her Desk Award," bestowed upon Sue Lindsay.

So that's where Jimmy Hoffa was hiding...

Less deserving of kudos was the Rocky's September 3 cover, a jaw-droppingly partisan layout that featured a glamour shot of George W. Bush beneath a banner reading "I believe...," and puffy excerpts from his speech at the Republican convention. Sure, ad dollars are difficult to come by these days, but are times so tough that the Rocky had to sell page one? And how much did the Bush campaign pay for it?

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