The Message

Gunny for Governor?

The nasty tenor of the recently concluded campaign didn't leave Bob Newman with an unpleasant aftertaste. Politically speaking, the former Marine gunnery sergeant turned Clear Channel radio host found the results of the 2004 vote to be downright inspirational.

"I realized about noon on the Wednesday after the election that hate had gone out of style," says the man known to his fans as Gunny Bob. "It was the end of people passing bogus information and making brash claims and being extremely divisive."

In this spirit, Newman wants to be a uniter, not a divider, too. Before the last ballots in Boulder were counted, he authorized the formation of a committee charged with exploring the feasibility of his running for Colorado's governorship in 2006.

Bob Newman tests the gubernatorial waters.
Anthony Camera
Bob Newman tests the gubernatorial waters.

Newman, who helms both an afternoon program on KHOW and an evening slot at KOA and writes a column for the Denver Daily News, knows that some folks will chuckle upon hearing this news. In fact, his boss, Kris Olinger, who serves as director of AM programming for Clear Channel-Denver, reacted in the same way when he told her about the idea. "We were in an elevator, and she laughed all the way down -- which I took as a good sign," Newman says.

"I was laughing with him," Olinger insists. "It seems that every time I get in the elevator with him, he's like, ŒHey, here's what I'm doing now.' But I didn't expect that one."

Then again, Olinger knows from experience that radio can be a launching pad to a legitimate candidacy. Before returning to Denver in June, she was an executive at KIRO, a talk station in Seattle whose afternoon personality, Dave Ross, temporarily left his gig to take a shot at a congressional seat. "When Dave announced that he was going to run, we were all shocked, and not all that happy to lose him," Olinger says. "So it can happen -- you just never know." In the end, Ross won the Democratic primary but lost to his Republican opponent, Dave Reichert, by a 51-46 percent margin. Today he's back on KIRO.

At this stage, there's no reason for Newman to step away from the microphone. His exploratory committee consists of a mere handful of allies, and he says he'll wait for at least six months before choosing whether or not to formally declare. Nevertheless, he feels he'd be well suited to succeed Bill Owens as the state's top dog because he could serve as a bridge between Democrats and Republicans. "I've never belonged to a political party," he says. "I judge people and issues by that person and that issue."

Selling himself on the basis of objectivity may be tricky. By Newman's own admission, many listeners think of him as an ultra-conservative, thanks to his hawkish positions regarding national security, the ongoing fighting in Iraq and the War on Terror. But, he notes, "I believe in stem-cell research and a woman's right to choose. When it comes to military and intelligence matters, I lean right, but when you balance everything out, I think I'm like most Americans. I end up somewhere in the middle."

When asked about his platform, Newman jokes, "My secret plan is to invade Utah using the National Guard. They've got a lot of nice trout over there." More seriously, he says he's particularly interested in growth issues. As a rabid outdoorsman, he'd like to find a happy medium between protecting the environment and economic expansion. "I used to live in San Diego in the '80s, and things there were out of control -- and still are," he maintains. "Places I used to hunt and fish outside the city are gone. There's nothing but houses now, and I see the same thing happening here."

Because Newman's bank account is modest ("I have no personal wealth," he admits), he'll need to rely upon a groundswell of support to fund a race for governor. Thus far, he reports that responses to on-air mentions of his notion have been "100 percent positive," and despite never having been either a movie star or a professional wrestler, he feels a certain kinship with two other unlikely gubernatorial candidates, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jesse Ventura. That doesn't mean he'd volunteer for a suicide mission, though.

"I have to be a realist," he stresses. "I can't live in a fantasy world. I've never done it, and I won't start now. This would be a spectacularly daunting task, and the chances are outstanding that the committee will come back and tell me, 'You're out of your mind.' For me to do this, some very intelligent and savvy political people would have to come to me and say, 'Look, Gunny, you could actually pull this off.'"

No-limit soldier: On November 18, the Rocky Mountain News's banner headline read "Former Official: NCAA Duped." A photo of the whistleblower in question -- David Grimm, the ex-director of university relations at the University of Colorado at Boulder -- ran nearby, as did a subhead that declared "CU used Foundation in '90s to hide bowl expenses, ex-administrator says."

The pieces inside the Rocky on these topics had the appearance of scoops, and in many ways they were, since Grimm confessed to the routine destruction of documents, among other sins. Yet, as the paper acknowledged the next day in another page-one head, as well as in a correction and a follow-up article, one of Grimm's primary accusations turned out to be something less than a blockbuster. Specifically, Grimm's claim that "the university spent 'tens of thousands of dollars' more than it was allowed by the NCAA at bowl games he attended during the 1990s" was inaccurate, since the NCAA doesn't limit what schools can spend in relation to such contests. As noted in the November 19 Colorado Daily, the Big 12 Conference, of which CU is a member, does have spending restrictions, but the only penalty is a requirement that spendthrift colleges pay back any overages.

How did this happen? Rocky editor/publisher/president John Temple, who wasn't on hand the night the first CU package was being assembled, says reporters appear to have relied on Grimm's expertise based on "the knowledge of the source and the length of time in his position." In this case, Temple adds, "we wish we had been able to get that checked out," since some readers may question the veracity of everything in the stories because of the gaffe at their center.

Talk about Grimm tidings...

That does not compute: Three years ago, Channel 7 installed the PVTV Production Automation System, a computerized device made by ParkerVision, a Florida company, that controls most aspects of a standard news program: digital video switchers, cameras and so on ("Robo News," November 29, 2001). PVTV saves outlets money, since it eliminates the need for many of the technicians who'd previously been necessary to broadcast a live show. Even so, it's not foolproof, as Channel 7 viewers and personnel discovered on November 16, when a meltdown put the station in an extended state of limbo.

According to Channel 7 news director Byron Grandy, "We had a major computer problem in the news control room about two and a half minutes into the 10 o'clock show that rendered the entire room useless." Worse, a so-called mirror system, designed to kick in if the main ParkerVision gadgetry fails, swooned immediately thereafter, leaving staffers with no recourse other than to reboot. While this was taking place, the station screened a super-sized block of commercials followed by a newscast that had already been seen at 6 p.m. There's no news like old news.

By Grandy's estimate, more than twenty minutes passed before Channel 7's control room was functional again. At that point, rather than simply produce an abbreviated program and keep things on schedule, the crew started from scratch. Grandy reveals that overnight ratings didn't show a huge drop-off after the glitch hit, with most viewers sticking around until the bitter end. (Either that, or they fell asleep with the TV on.) Even so, he promises a full-scale investigation in the hopes of preventing another unwanted repeat. "We live and die by these computers," he says. "In this case, they really kind of stung us, and we're going to find out why."

Call it a crash course.

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