By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
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By Melanie Asmar
In a June press release sent out under his own byline, publisher Zac Folk touted his hiring of Dahlia Weinstein, the Rocky Mountain News's society columnist, as editor-in-chief of a new luxury lifestyle magazine dubbed Shine. "With Dahlia's talent, vision and influence, the magazine is sure to be among the nation's most cutting-edge and appealing city publications," he quoted himself as saying.
A few short months later, Shine rose, and in many respects, it's an impressive piece of work. The oversized offering (ten inches by twelve inches) is printed on heavy stock paper that shows off art director Eric Fowles's eye-pleasing design work and images captured by the likes of senior photographer Marc Piscotty, who was a key part of the Rocky photo team that won Pulitzer Prizes in 2000 and 2003.
Indeed, the premiere issue's principal debit is its cover shot of George Clooney, who hardly represents the face of Denver. "So... how does all this relate Clooney to Colorado?" scribes Corinne Brown and Jane Young ask approximately three-quarters of the way through their story about the handsome thespian. Their answers — he's directing and starring in Leatherheads, a forthcoming flick co-written by Boulder native Rick Reilly, and he might visit the state around the 2008 Democratic National Convention — smack of desperation.
As for Weinstein, she's not credited with contributing because she's no longer a Shine employee. In early August, she and Folk set off on separate paths. "Dahlia is very talented," Folk says. "But she had a vision for a magazine she wanted to create, and it was different from the kind of magazine we wanted to create."
If everything happens as planned, local readers will be able to judge these distinctions for themselves within a matter of months. Weinstein is presently editor-in-chief for Denver, a new magazine intent on resurrecting the name of a venerable publication that ceased operations in early 1992. She describes the glossy, which is scheduled to arrive in late January, as a general-interest city mag, albeit one with a focus on the high life. "We want to appeal to Denverites across the board," she allows. "But the truth is, even people who might not have the income to purchase some of the products they see in luxury magazines still like looking at them and fantasizing about them. So we're going to have some elements of realism and some elements of fantasy."
Not long ago, the idea that Denver could become a thriving magazine market seemed closer to the latter than the former. The old Denver magazine limped along for quite a spell before laying down permanently, and 5280, which editor/publisher Dan Brogan unveiled in 1993, took time to find its footing. In recent years, however, Brogan's baby has experienced a notable growth spurt, and magazines in other genres have stepped up, too, including Mile High Sports, whose owners are attempting to build on its popularity with a television program on Altitude and a like-branded radio station at 1510 AM.
Still, magazines remain expensive and risky propositions, as Folk knows firsthand. He initially waded into the local mag game with Bloom, which he calls "a high-end magazine about all things beauty and style." But getting it up and running took longer than anticipated, and Folk confirms contributor reports about "slow pays," although he maintains that everyone was eventually compensated. Still, Folk views Bloom as a success and says he considered putting it out simultaneously with Shine before deciding it would be "more economical and logical to focus on one project."
Shine was delayed, as well. The mag was supposed to bow in August, but its coming-out bash didn't take place until early October. Moreover, Folk says that because of an error in what he thought was the finished edition, he rush-printed 500 flawed copies for party attendees before authorizing a full run of 30,000. This move led observers to speculate about money shortages, but Folk insists such rumors are unfounded — and when he's told that two sources who spoke with Westword claim that they weren't paid in a timely manner for magazine-related work, he expresses surprise and urges anyone with complaints to contact him. Thanks in large part to primary investor Jeff Hill, who owns Gelazzi, a gelato eatery with locations in Larimer Square and Fort Collins, Folk stresses that "we're fully funded. So I want to make sure any concerns are addressed."
Meanwhile, Folk's overseeing a unique distribution system for the magazine, a quarterly that he expects to begin publishing more frequently around the 2008 Democratic National Convention. In addition to placing Shine with booksellers, he says, "we'll be available through controlled circulation at high-end hotels, spas, a private jet company and luxury condos throughout Denver. And we're also mailing or hand-delivering copies to high-profile zip codes." That's right: Shine retails for $5.95, but some well-heeled residents will get it on their porch for free alongside, say, the Columbine Courier.
For its part, Denver magazine is being assembled under the auspices of Michael Ledwitz and Jay Daignault, two Miami emigres who made their name in Florida via a real estate firm and a magazine dubbed Luxury Condo Living. After relocating to Colorado last December, they researched the media landscape, and when they discovered that the Denver magazine name and www.denvermagazine.com domain were both available, they snatched them up. The pair did likewise with Weinstein, who had crossed paths with Ledwitz years earlier. Back in 1990, they'd both served as counselors at a Pennsylvania summer camp.
Their current enterprise won't be a vacation — not with so many other budding publishers waiting in the wings. For example, Brandi Shigley, winner of a 2005 Westword MasterMind award, is combining forces with Locality Production's Matt Gillespie and Denise Serafini to unleash Fabricate, a fashion publication that's slated to arrive online at www.fabricatemagazine.com on December 1. Shigley hopes a print companion will supplement the site next year.
Nonetheless, Ledwitz isn't worried about an oversaturated market, since he feels Denver currently has fewer magazines than it should. "The lack of publications for a city this size is kind of crazy," he says. Neither is he afraid of competition from Shine. "I'm glad they made one huge mistake — getting rid of Dahlia," he says, before adding, "Denver is going to be for Denverites. We're not going to stick a famous face on the cover that has no bearing on the city."
Sorry, Mr. Clooney. Looks like you'll have to settle for the front of People from here on out.
Getting their share: The Rocky Mountain News and the Colorado Springs Gazette are competitors to a certain degree; the Rocky circulates a few thousand copies in the Springs, where the Gazette is the primary daily. But for well over a month, the papers have been working together — running articles complete with original bylines from the other publication.
The agreement means savings for the Rocky, whose venerable Colorado Springs bureau reporter, Dick Foster, accepted a buyout earlier this year, leaving the position vacant. Even so, Rocky editor/publisher/president John Temple believes the pact serves readers as well as accountants. "It's better because it's quicker," he says. "We're not waiting on a wire service. We get the content in real time."
Gazette editor Jeff Thomas feels likewise. His paper benefits less budget-wise, since both of its Denver-based reporters — one assigned to cover the Statehouse, the other on the Broncos beat — remain in place. But "we look at this as a way to augment news coverage," he says. "It allows us to put state news into our metro section to a degree that we couldn't just by relying on the Associated Press."
Thomas adds that "there's a fair amount of trust at work in this relationship. We basically say that as soon as we post something online, you can have it for your paper. They can edit it if they wish to fit their own needs. And we can do likewise." This arrangement shifts if website scoops predate physical publication. According to Thomas, "If the Rocky is reporting something online and we haven't gone to press, we'll publish a link with a blurb saying, 'You can read the whole story in the Rocky Mountain News,' so they can have the benefit of the traffic."
Temple emphasizes that the Rocky will send its reporters south if a story is Ted Haggard-sized. But for more routine matters, he thinks the new model makes sense fiscally and qualitatively. Far from being the wave of the future, he says, "it's the wave of the present."
After all, competition can be pricey.