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Off Limits

Beat the press: When the Colorado Press Association announces its contest winners at the close of the annual CPA confab Saturday, the Denver Post's name will be among the missing. That's because the paper resigned from the group in a snit fit two years ago, leaving the Rocky Mountain News (no Denver in the name back then) the only paper in the awards category for papers with more than 100,000 circulation (the Colorado Springs Gazette also quit the CPA a few years ago, and the CPA won't let Westword compete against the dailies). The Post has now reapplied for membership, but that move didn't come in time to prevent the News from sweeping the category in which only it competes. Watch for that updated front-page tag: "Judged Colorado's best newspaper for the fourth straight year!"

But then, judging from recent behavior at the Post, that publication may not deserve to be called a newspaper. At a meeting of downtown restaurant owners last week, Lieutenant John Lamb of the Denver Police Department branded the paper a primary culprit in the Super Bowl riots--literally fanning the flames with its post-game special editions, despite the city's pleas that the papers not be dropped in the hot spots. (Okay, okay, Lamb wasn't happy with the News, either, which did the same thing.)

That's nothing compared to how hot some folks in the Post newsroom are over new Post publisher Gerald Grilly. Two weeks ago real-estate brokerage Coldwell Banker Moore and Company got word that both the News and Post were working on stories about dozens of brokers leaving to form their own outfits. The News ran its story Thursday, February 11, in its business section, and the Denver Business Journal published a similar piece the same week. But there was nothing in the Post. According to newsroom rumors (and, of course, correspondence posted on the Dennis Britton Go Home page at www.members.aol.com/empirvoic/dennispage.html), Grilly killed the story at the behest of Coldwell exec Peter Niederman, who'd threatened to pull all ads--a substantial portion of the state's real-estate advertising--from the Post and put them in the News if the article ran. So does the Post now get 100 percent of Coldwell's advertising? Niederman did not return our calls, and Grilly says he knows nothing about any deal to kill a story and gain an advertising coup.

While local agents say Coldwell has circulated a memo urging its brokers not to advertise in the News because of negative coverage (the Journal got an angry call, too), the February 21 News real-estate section still had a front-page ad boasting, "Nearly 70 top-producing real estate brokers join Coldwell Banker Moore and Company...and we have room for more."

If you'd read the News earlier in the week, you knew why.

TV or not TV? First Amendment attorney Bruce Jones got quite a wake-up call from a Denver prosecutor three weeks ago. Did he know that one of Nathan Thill's public defenders was about to use Channel 7 reporter Julie Hayden's cell-phone records in the public defender's interrogation of a cop regarding Thill's upcoming murder trial? In a word, no. Jones, who had already convinced Denver District Court Judge Federico Alvarez to quash one subpoena but had heard nothing about phone records, hurried to court to argue that those records were privileged, private--and how the hell had the public defender gotten them, anyway? Alvarez scheduled the matter for a hearing three days later; in the meantime, they traced the records back to AT&T Wireless, whose Florida office had responded to a faxed subpoena from the public defender. At that, the PD floated an interesting legal argument: Since the subpoena had been faxed, it wasn't valid, which meant that the defense's possession of the phone records didn't have to be revealed in advance to the prosecutors--or to Hayden herself.

Alvarez disagreed, and at a February 5 hearing sealed the records. (KMGH news director Diane Mulligan--about to celebrate a full year in a job held by eight others in the last decade of the station's roller-coaster ratings ride--calls AT&T's easy surrender of the records "horrifying." And talks between Channel 7 and AT&T regarding its "overly cooperative" attitude are continuing, Jones says. Hey, Hayden's phone records one day, Monica Lewinsky's reading list the next.) But Jones isn't breathing easy yet. In a subsequent decision, Alvarez tossed out Thill's confession to Denver police and Denver District Attorney Bill Ritter--which means his confessions to reporters, first and foremost Hayden, become even more critical to the case. "I'm assuming that they'll take another run at us," the attorney says.

Still on the run is Jacor Broadcasting, which is fighting a defamation case filed by Denver police officer Brian Gordon against the company and KHOW radio talk-show host Peter Boyles for on-air discussion of a dust-up involving cops at Pierre's Supper Club in early 1997. Last August, Denver District Court Judge Herbert Stern held Boyles in contempt for failing to reveal his sources; now former Boyles producer Chris Gallegos, who's currently working at Channel 9, has until Friday to surrender their names. So far, the station's holding firm.

Don't touch that dial! Julie Hayden also had the first local scoop from Lawrence Schiller's book, Perfect Murder, Perfect Town, the twenty-months-in-the-making trashing of the JonBenet Ramsey murder investigation and Boulder's reputation. On 6 a.m. Monday, February 15, she offered an interview with Jeff Shapiro, the Globe reporter who says Boulder District Attorney Alex Hunter not only blabbed with him about the investigation but encouraged him to get the goods on then-Boulder police officer John Eller. Hayden credits that exclusive to ABC, "which got its hands on the book ahead of time, and in a way that they weren't contractually obligated by to keep secret"; the network set up the Shapiro interview through Good Morning America. Still, Hayden's early victory was embarrassing for the News, which that same morning ran its first installment from Schiller's book--co-written, although what that means, exactly, is in some dispute--with News reporter Charlie Brennan, who had taken a year off the job to work on the book. (He got a back-page credit, not a byline, as thanks.)

Schiller didn't drop many bombshells--although it's delicious to think of Hunter whispering in a Globe reporter's ear at the same time the good residents of Boulder were urging a boycott of the tabloid for printing pictures of JonBenet from the coroner's office. Still, the book exploded on the local media scene. The News's exclusive--and very circumscribed--access to Brennan and the book didn't count for much when the Post's Chuck Green got a copy early February 16, sent by the publisher for Green to use in a column. The next day, the Post spilled just about every Schiller revelation across the front section, while the News was still being contractually circumspect, waiting for the book to hit newsstands last Thursday.

Green, whose help with the Post scoop earned him a "cranky" phone call from Schiller that day but who has since gotten a "nice" one, says "there was a misunderstanding over the scope of our license." You can ask Schiller about it Friday, when he comes to town for a Tattered Cover reading and an early-morning Boyles appearance.

Sometimes there is no justice. Particularly when the Ramsey case is involved.

Fumbles: Yep, that was Colorado's own Bob "Mr. Spanky" Enyart in Los Angeles last week, burning O.J. Simpson memorabilia purchased at auction the day before in some kind of confused protest of the government and its justice system. Although Enyart had exiled himself to Indiana for a few years following his own trial on charges of child abuse (aggressive spanking of the seven-year-old son of a girlfriend), he's now back in the area, hosting a nightly radio show on KHNC, 1360AM. And speaking of symbolic gestures, sure, John Elway's speech at the February 18 Colorado Sports Hall of Fame Awards banquet was moving--but didn't Channel 9 go a bit too far when it added emotional background music to the clip it showed on the news the next morning? We repeat: the news.


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