Face Time

Restaurants try to ID the Post's new critic.

Even though Shaw's photo is making the rounds, Moore vows that the critic will find a way to reclaim his anonymity. "If he has to wear disguises, he'll wear disguises," he maintains. Shaw doesn't believe that will be necessary, since he says the photo isn't a typical likeness, and besides, he's already put on weight in the weeks since joining the Post staff. "Starting a job like this really fattens you up," he says.

Sounds like a sequel. I Ate a Lot More: A Year in the Life of My Waistline has a nice ring to it.

They really deliver: On November 8, the Post offered different analyses of the newspapering crisis on either side of the same page. On 8C, the paper published an article confirming that its Sunday circulation fell by 3.4 percent and that the combined weekday circulation of the Post and the Rocky Mountain News dipped by 4.1 percent, according to the most recent industry report. In contrast, 7C featured a giant house ad asserting that readership was actually up -- yet the claim that the dailies' combined print and online editions (including Post-NewsMarketplace.com) attract "5.3 Million Readers!" every month smacks of accounting magic. Because the total population of Colorado is around 4.3 million, either these numbers reflect significant duplication, or every man, woman and child in the state (including those not yet old enough to read) is checking out these products every four weeks or so, and another million of their friends from elsewhere are joining them.

Post dining critic Tucker Shaw as he might 
look after a few more years on the job.
Post dining critic Tucker Shaw as he might look after a few more years on the job.

Neither side of the page mentioned another technique used to fatten circulation numbers: third-party sales, in which advertisers pay to have newspapers delivered to non-subscribers in demographically attractive areas. The Denver Newspaper Agency insists that recipients value these freebies, but Lakewood's Dave Garton disagrees. Last month he sent a cancellation notice to the Rocky in which he wrote, "For the second time in less than a year, I returned home to find the yard littered with plastic wrapped newspapers. I travel and do not want a sign in the front of my house that says: ŒHI, I'M NOT HOME. PLEASE ROB ME!'" Garton copied his screed to the Lakewood Police Department ("to alert them of how this could certainly be putting residents at risk"), the Better Business Bureau ("for this is obviously not good business"), the Chamber of Commerce (in the hopes that "peer pressure of people you associate with would be more effective than just some letter from a curmudgeon in Lakewood") and Westword ("so they can have a laugh at your expense").

This last mission was accomplished, but Garton's primary goal came up short. He had to leave town again after sending this missive, and when he returned, another collection of unwanted newspapers was scattered across his lawn. Guess the next glass-half-full readership estimate should read "5.3 Million Readers! (Minus One)."

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