When I picked up the Denver Post yesterday, with the big headline "Nothing incriminating in Hancock cell records" across the top of the front page, I was quickly transported back to the first edition of the Cornell Daily Sun I helped edit, when the night editor insisted the headline on a story about another kind of wreck entirely be "Nobody Killed in Plane Crash." That headline was soundly mocked the next morning, and remains a classic journalistic botch.
Nobody was killed, either, in this current wreck of a story about how a man using the excellent porn name of "Michael Handcock" may, or may not, have used the services of a prostitute several times a few years ago.
Nobody was killed, but some reputations bit the dust. And mayor-elect Michael Hancock had the shortest honeymoon in history.
The irony is that the source of the original story didn't have much of a reputation to lose; Scottie Ewing, the former owner of the Denver Players/Denver Sugar escort service, currently on house arrest in a plea deal on charges of tax evasion stemming from the sale of that business. Westword got to know Ewing back in 2006, when we published Jared Jacang Maher's story on competition between the city's swingers clubs, one of them run by Ewing. The next year, I sat in a Denver courtroom to watch Ewing face off against his former landlord -- who'd been surprised to find a swingers' club in her building.
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The judge that day was almost as surprised when Ewing whipped out a laptop covered with photos of naked women.
I don't know if this was the laptop that Ewing says was stolen from his home on June 6, along with the documents that showed "Michael Handcock" had used his company's services; Westword was one of the only media outlets in town that wasn't invited to see them.
Nobody was killed in this wreck that may not have been much of a news story -- but it promises to become a journalistic case study for years to come.