Susan Greene compares working at Denver Post to Stockholm syndrome in HuffPo debut
Update below: Susan Greene resigned from the Denver Post late last year after being told her column would be canceled -- and while she was clearly saddened by the circumstances of her departure, she had only positive things to say about colleagues and didn't criticize the paper as a whole. But that's all over now that she's landed at the Huffington Post's Denver branch. Indeed, her HuffPo bow makes working at the Post seem like a living hell.
The headline of her debut -- "Post-The Denver Post: A Recovering Newspaper Veteran Moves On" -- suggests a settling of affairs, and while she doesn't name anyone other than columnist Mike Littwin, who she mentions in a laudatory aside, she portrays the management at the Post as weak-willed when it comes to tipping sacred cows. An excerpt:
In my own experience, staying true to the Denver Post brand required a certain type of Stockholm syndrome. It meant internalizing what you figure your boss and your boss's boss might deem inconvenient to print, say, before they hop on the train to Frontier Days with a posse of politicians and advertisers.
Their directives were loud and clear. No mas with the undocumented immigrants, one editor told me. Enough already about police brutality and mental illness, winced another. Ixnay the grit, they warned. And for God's sake, they said, give it a rest about the baby Jesus on the steps of City Hall.
According to Greene, she knew her days were numbered when Miles Moffeit, with whom she co-wrote 2007's "Trashing the Truth," a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, was asked to leave the paper before completing his two-weeks notice. This action was taken following an interview with Westword in which he said concerns about the financial health of the Post's owner, MediaNews Group, factored in to his decision to join the Dallas Morning News' investigative unit.
In her HuffPo salvo, Greene reveals that her column about the influence of Moffeit's investigative projects was spiked, as was a piece about body searches of female inmates in Colorado; she maintains that editors found the subject matter too "distasteful" for a family newspaper. And when convicted murderer Tim Masters was set free based on DNA evidence that Moffeit and Greene helped bring to the fore, she writes that her immediate boss rolled her eyes and "remarked something like, 'Great, so he can just go kill somebody else?'"
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The strong implication? The Post prefers staying afloat to making waves -- and she fears this timidity isn't isolated to employees at a single Colorado broadsheet. Her words: "I worry for their futures when such a stifling culture has infected the newsroom, as it has many others."
Update, 2:10 p.m. January 27: Earlier today, I received a phone call from a very polite representative of the Denver Post, who asked that we remove from this item a photo of Susan Greene that previously accompanied her column for the paper. I noted that we have used similar photos of Post columnists and reporters to accompany media pieces for years under the assumption that they were the equivalent of publicity photos, and we've never previously received a complaint from the paper. But the representative informed me the photos are taken by a news photographer, not the promotional department, and therefore should be treated like any other proprietary news or sports photo copyrighted by the Post.
However, the representative went on, the Post would be open to allowing use of staff photos if Westword asked and received permission to do so, as long as the Post was properly credited. With that offer in mind, I requested permission to use the aforementioned photo of Greene. The representative said he would check to see if that was all right -- but because more than an hour has passed since this conversation, we decided to swap out the image for a screen capture of Greene from an appearance she made on a Channel 12 public-affairs program hosted by Jon Caldara.
The Post representative made it clear that the request to remove the image from this item wasn't made because of the negative things Greene had written about her former employer. Instead, he characterized it as part of an effort to better control use of the paper's copyrighted work -- and indeed, the Post's owner, MediaNews Group, has been active in this regard of late. In December, for example, a Las Vegas firm working on behalf of MediaNews sued a South Carolina blogger for unauthorized use of a Mike Rosen column. That was followed days later by a copyright infringement lawsuit targeting Internet powerhouse Matt Drudge.
At this writing, Greene is still using the Denver Post photo in question as the profile pic on her Facebook page. Don't be surprised if a suit aimed at Mark Zuckerberg is filed in the near future.
More from our Media archive: "Dean Singleton interview about stepping down as CEO of MediaNews Group."