Over 15K Fans Sad Woody Paige Left Denver Post, One Not So Much
Governor John Hickenlooper awarding Woody Paige a trophy commemorating his 500th win on the ESPN program Around the Horn last year. Additional photos below.
Update: In its announcement about the impending departure of longtime columnist Woody Paige, the Denver Post stated that he had "retired" from the paper; see our previous coverage below.
That particular verb rankled Paige, who is definitely not in the retiring mood. In fact, the seventy-year-old is busier than he's been in ages thanks to new gigs at the Colorado Springs Gazette and 7News in addition to his usual duties as a regular cast member on the ESPN program Around the Horn. But he says this particular word choice no longer bothers him, in part because of his gratitude to the broadsheet, where he spent more than three decades.
One reason: The paper is keeping his Post e-mail address active, at least for now, in order to let Paige respond to the more than 15,000 e-mails generated by his final column.
The notes "have been 99.9 percent positive," Paige says — but he acknowledges that some readers were happy at the idea he'd be going away. "One of them said my columns had been deteriorating and obviously I'd been drinking," he notes.
If so, it's not slowing him down. Whereas Paige had been penning just one column for the Post most weeks, he's assembling at least two during that span for publication by the Gazette on Wednesdays and Sundays — and he's also taking on extra pieces following Broncos games, among other things. Moreover, he feels that he's being given the kind of freedom he's long coveted.
"I wrote kind of a wild piece about Tim Tebow this past Sunday," he says. "I think the Post would probably have said, 'That's not quite what we want.' But the Gazette had no problem with it."
On top of that, Paige is writing original material for his website, woodypaige.com, where he has no editor at all ("I write whatever I want to, which is actually kind of fun," he says) and the 7News address thedenverchannel.com. And when there's breaking news, as took place last week following the surprise resignation of Colorado Avalanche coach Patrick Roy, he's making impromptu on-air appearances to put the developments in perspective.
As a result, Paige has been "re-energized" by his unexpected career changes, and that's a good thing — because he's got thousands of e-mails to answer.
Look below to see the note Paige is sending to e-mailers, followed by our previous item, in which Paige describes the real reasons he parted company from the Post.
Thanks for your e-mail and your kind words. I truly appreciate your readership. I'm a 70-year-old senior who acts 15. I wish I could smell roses, but I want to get out of this life alive, and I will continue to live. I have resigned from The Post. I'm occasionally tired, but I'm not retired, as was reported. I will continue to live and work in Denver, but now I'm writing for The Colorado Springs Gazette, and my columns will appear on Wednesday and Sundays in print and on the website gazette.com. I hope you will give The Gazette a look. The folks are doing good work. I also am writing for kmgh.com twice a week and appear on Denver7's SportsXtra on Sunday nights at 10:25 p.m and the station's various evening news shows. I also will be writing daily for my website woodypaige.com, where you can get Woody Unplugged and Unfiltered. I am approaching my 15th year on ESPN's daily afternoon and evening program Around The Horn. I will continue to try to earn your loyalty, trust and interest, and I hope you will continue to read and watch me and write me at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. I do my best to respond to every e-mail. Take care, my friend. Woodrow
Woody Paige on the Denver Post set for ESPN's Around the Horn. Paige expects that the backdrop will soon be changed. Additional images below.
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Original post, 6:53 a.m. August 2: On July 29, we reported that sports columnist Woody Paige was leaving the Denver Post , his newspaper home for the lion's share of 35 years. In the subsequent Sunday edition, the paper published Paige's goodbye column, in which he cited memorable pieces (including one in which he revealed that he'd once come within a day of committing suicide) and bid readers farewell, at least from that platform: He'll continue writing columns for the Colorado Springs Gazette, as well as providing sports coverage for 7News.
But the piece didn't mention the details of his departure from the Post. The reasons included a modest contract proposal that was lowered after too few staffers accepted a buyout offer and changes that included fewer opportunities to write, no guarantee of a Sunday column and the end of travel opportunities. And he admits that he wasn't thrilled by the Post's use of the word "retire" in its announcement that he'd be moving on.
"I'm not retired," he stresses, "despite what you might have heard."
As we've reported, Paige recently vacationed in Mexico to celebrate his seventieth birthday — and prior to his departure, he says the paper made him a contract offer that he describes as being roughly in line with the deal he'd made with former Post editor Greg Moore a few years back, around the time big-name columnists Mike Littwin and the late Penny Parker were laid off. Paige avoided this fate by becoming an independent contractor with the Post, which paid him to write in the range of sixty to seventy columns per annum and provided studio space for his appearances on ESPN's Around the Horn, a panel show that's turned him into a nationally known figure.
Paige teamed with Les Shapiro for The Sports Show, a Denver Post production that was halted in part due to a concern over costs.
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While he was gone, the Post fell short of the buyout goal to reduce its staff by 26 people. Shortly thereafter, the paper launched into layoffs, and Paige was particularly upset to learn that high-school sports editor Neil Devlin, whom he'd hired during the time he worked as sports editor, was among the victims. Paige is a big proponent of high-school sports coverage and generally devotes at least one and sometimes multiple columns each year to the subject.
The buyout shortfall appears to have impacted Paige, too. Upon his return, he learned that "the contract offer changed...in a negative direction."
Money was a factor; Paige says the amount pledged was "significantly lower — two times lower." Moreover, there were cuts in the frequency with which his column would appear, and "there was no assurance that I would write on Sunday — and that was really important to me." In addition, "the Post had cut its travel budget, and I was told I wouldn't be covering the Broncos on the road. I'd always covered their away games, but I wouldn't be able to anymore. So that was disturbing."
Fortunately for Paige, he had options, thanks to his longevity at the Post and the attention he receives from his ESPN work, which he credits for his strong page-view performances; he says his columns were often the most viewed items at the Post during the week they were published.
On top of that, he had personal relationships with a couple of powerful figures in the local media: Ryan McKibben, former publisher and president of the Post, who's now CEO of Clarity Media, the Phil Anschutz-owned operation whose properties include the Gazette, and Brad Remington, general manager of 7News.
Paige's chalkboard jokes are a regular feature of Around the Horn.
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Before long, Paige had negotiated a deal with the Gazette in which he'll write two times per week — nearly double his output at the Post — and appear regularly on 7News, the station to which former Post Broncos reporter Troy Renck had recently decamped.
These soft landing spots have made it easier for Paige to say goodbye to the Post, about which he speaks with what might be termed tempered affection. He's grateful that he was allowed to mention the Gazette and 7News in his goodbye column (which he initially balked at writing before changing his mind), but he chides the paper for letting the cat out of the bag before the piece appeared and misquoting him in an obituary for the late Post sportswriter Tom Kensler. (He says he called Kensler "one of the finest sports journalists I've ever worked with," but in print, the first two words were absent.) He also expresses chagrin for "what's happened to the Post because of the economy and the ownership" — a reference to Alden Global Capital, a hedge fund that sources say is making millions from the paper even as it's dictating further cuts.
He also feels that the paper never appreciated the free publicity it received from having its logo on view behind him during his Around the Horn appearances, which are broadcast from the Post newsroom. The paper will allow him to continue shooting there prior to a new set being built in an as-yet-undetermined location — and until that happens, those Post logos will continue to get airtime even though Paige is no longer in the fold.
Paige laughs at the memory of former Post owner Dean Singleton offering him a lifetime contract: "I remember asking him, 'Is that your lifetime or mine?'" But, he stresses, "I'm not leaving with any kind of regret. I've had a great run at the Post. I've done bad things, I've done good things, and I'm happy that with my lack of talent, I was there for 35 years."
Now, he's looking forward to new challenges even as he emphasizes that "I didn't retire. I resigned."