Prints charming: What was Wellington Webb press secretary Andrew Hudson doing in the September 3 Denver Post, staring bug-eyed from the editorial pages as though he'd just been goosed by his former employers at RTD? Getting ready to goose much of the local press, it turns out. Riding the anti-media wave in the wake of Princess Diana's death, Hudson sprayed everyone from Channel 7 to Wendy Bergen, of Channel 4 pit bull fame, to KHOW-AM talk-show host Peter Boyles. But the majority of the barbs were aimed at the Rocky Mountain News (labeled a "tabloid," a billing the News has been trying hard to avoid since the early days of the JonBenet Ramsey case, never mind Di's demise) for a recently lost lawsuit and a series of misleading headlines: "'City sells Winter Park' (we didn't)," insisted Hudson; "'Summit of Eight to cost $46 million' (actually $4 million to $6 million); 'DIA riders up for fourth straight year' (written when DIA had been open five months)."
About the only media outlet to escape Hudson's ire (besides Westword, oddly enough) was the paper that printed his "guest commentary." Just coincidence, Hudson insists, pointing out that the piece also criticized increased competition between the media, as exemplified by such slogans as the Post's "Essential Reading...ad nauseam."
He said it.
Column calumny: As Hudson so ably proved, it's not easy writing a column. Further evidence arrived on September 4, with the debut of new News columnist Michael Howard, former News editor (and still heir to Scripps Howard, owner of the News). After some peculiar ramblings down memory lane via lower downtown (before it was LoDo), Cranmer Park and the old Zeckendorf Plaza, Denver's newest columnist revealed that he was leaving the urban horrors of Helltop--er, Hilltop, one of Denver's nicest neighborhoods--for Douglas County.
Far more interesting than Howard's first column (which only appeared after some rocky negotiating with Rocky management) is his past, hinted at in a companion piece by Gene Amole, who was crowned a columnist by Howard twenty years ago. "If you have been around here for a while," Amole wrote, "you know that Michael traveled a bumpy road, personally and professionally."
Make that forty miles of really bad road. At the same time that Howard was building the News into a real newspaper, one that finally overtook the Post in circulation in the late Seventies, he was also building quite a cocaine habit--which finally went public on the front page of the Denver Post in 1982 in a series of bedside interviews between the hospitalized Howard and two Post writers, including current columnist Chuck Green. The revelations regarding Howard's five-year binge, which touched on everything from his arrest for brandishing a concealed weapon to his friendships with Elvis Presley and members of the State Attorney General's Organized Crime Strike Force, ultimately led to hearings before the Colorado Senate. And, of course, also led to higher paper sales for the Post, which became a target for yet another series--this one on Channel 9--by Ward Lucas. "Is the story important? Frankly, I don't think Princess Di's baby is that important, but people read it," one veteran newsman told Westword at the time. "The same is true of the Howard story."
Now that's the stuff of interesting columns. Howard knows where the bodies are buried; with any luck, he'll remember to do some digging and skip the sob-sister sop that permeates the News's "RockyTalk."
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Steal this story: For real page-6 scandal, try the New York Post. On Monday, that paper reported on "Un-Fair tactics in Ramsey Scoop," outlining how Ann Louise Bardach's Vanity Fair piece on the Ramseys wound up leaked days early--"apparently stolen right off the printing press, and the trail of suspicion leads right back to VF's sister publication." That's the New Yorker, whose Larry Schiller is penning his own Ramsey epic, reportedly working with a reporter for the Globe, which got a copy of the Vanity Fair story before the ink was dry, yada yada yada. "My story wasn't leaked--it was stolen!" Bardach told the Post. And she wasn't very happy about Newsweek coming out with a concurrent ramsom-note story, either.
Despite all the national hoopla over that note, so far everyone has overlooked its most alarming characteristic: The "she dies" sequence, which has been compared to lines in Ransom, actually bears a much closer resemblance to the script of an Andy Griffith Matlock episode called "The Kidnapping."
Put that in your profile and see what comes out.