The Joy of Sections
When Greg Moore was announced as the Denver Post's new editor ("Changing of the Guard," May 9), he shared with Westword his assessment of the paper as a whole. "I think there are some good writers here," he said. "I think our sports coverage is energetic and comprehensive and quite good, and there are places that our photography is strong. But overall, I want us to have a bolder presentation, be less predictable and formulaic. We want to elevate the writing and the quality of ideas. We want to be much more aggressive on local coverage and more dominant in the region."
Over two months later, Moore doesn't retract a single one of these remarks: "They're right on," he says. In elaborating on the observations, however, he gets more specific about changes he'd like to make at the Post. For one thing, he reveals that the paper is gearing up for a redesign of the sort completed last month by the Rocky Mountain News.
"How it looks, having uniform rules about how we present cutline information, how we deal with headline fonts -- all of that's going to be dealt with," Moore notes. "I can't promise that it will be super-radical, because we're still in a fight for readers and we don't want to put some alien product on their doorsteps. But we want to bring the Post into the 21st century, and we will. By the beginning of next year, we should be able to give Denver something new."
Some alterations are already cropping up, with others in the offing. Below, Moore picks through the Post piece by piece, identifying areas of concern and hinting at strategies to tackle them. "It's going to take some time to fix this paper," he acknowledges. "You can't fix it overnight. But we're going to fix it quickly. This isn't some five-year plan."
In recent weeks, the front page of the Post has looked cleaner and less cluttered. Is that something you've been focusing on?
Absolutely. We've turned the volume down on some of the teasers and tried to vary the look of the paper -- to put an emphasis on big-play art and to have some unpredictable kinds of stories. We've put a couple of things out there that pissed people off, like a story about low-cut jeans...
I've heard comments about that. Some people felt the only reason it was on the front page was to give the Post an opportunity to show a close-up of a woman's ass in a thong.
No, it's because people who are younger than 35 or 40 are buying these clothes, and we're making the paper for everybody. So we're looking for a more energetic, cleaner presentation. We don't want to use an overabundance of photos just because we have them, and we want to clean up the white space and the looseness of our headlines. We're trying to create a more newsy, more focused front, and it's going to get even better.
DENVER AND THE WEST
What are the section's strengths and weaknesses?
The strength is that it has a defined geographic identity, which is an advantage for us. When I first got here, I wasn't sure I liked the name, because most of the stories seemed to come from near Denver, and I wasn't seeing much of the West. But it gives us something to aspire to, and we need to live up to that label. We have a good-sized staff -- and since our competition is not as wide-ranging as we are, we have quite a bit of the field to ourselves.
You see this as an advantage over the News?
Yes, and we want to exploit it. And we want a better mix than we have. I tease our crew all the time that we've got a lot of drought, a lot of dirt, a lot of cows on our fronts, and I want a better mix than that. I really want Denver and the West to reflect diversity, the diversity of interests, the ways both Denver and the West have changed. And if we do, it's going to be exciting.
Will there also be more of an emphasis on City Hall reporting?
I love politics, and I think this is a better political town than people give it credit for. When I first started reading the paper, I had no idea this was the state capital, because there was such a dearth of political reporting. I wasn't even seeing the face of the governor or Wellington Webb in the papers I was looking at. And when I got here and found out that the Statehouse is right across the street [from the Post's headquarters] and City Hall is right down the street, I was like, "Wow." One of the things people told me is that politics is really genteel here, but politics is politics. The fact that people are a little bit more polite about it doesn't mean there's nothing happening. So I want us to be more astute. You'll see stories that we'll do that will be more hard-hitting, more analytical, and we're going to write about things that some people will feel a little bit uncomfortable about. But that's the nature of politics.
You've had nice things to say about the sports section. But are there changes that need to be made there, too?
Everything can be improved, but in general they're doing a really good job, and I'd like us to cover some other areas the way we cover sports. Which is, don't do the obvious, but dig deeper: Tell me what it means, why it's important. There are lessons to be learned there. I was talking to [columnist] Jim Armstrong the other day, and I said, "I really don't have any problems with you guys. There are a lot of other issues I need to deal with."
Is Business one of the sections you need to deal with?
Business needs a cleaner presentation. But first and foremost, we need to be able to protect ourselves from hits from the Wall Street Journal and other newspapers about companies from here. I expect us to be respected by the companies that are here, do good journalism and not get nickeled and dimed. And we're working hard to stop that from happening. Some of the companies we have around us get very thin-skinned, because all of their employees are reading our paper. They see it as us kicking the shit out of them from time to time, so they punish us by not talking to us -- and I understand that. But we've got to figure out how to work on other avenues, because I think our readers expect us to tell them important news about these companies and not continuously be quoting the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times. That will stop.
In your entertainment section, one of your new reporters, Ricardo Baca, has been covering stories that, until recently, the Post probably wouldn't have paid any attention to.
Ricardo's done some really good stuff, and we're going to do more. We're going to put an emphasis on storytelling and writing with a sense of discovery, which is my big phrase. Because after I go through the A section of the paper and metro, I'm looking for some rewards. The other stuff is the stuff we have to cover. Now I'm looking for personalities, people, issues and trends that will engage me, delight me, make me laugh, anger me.
In my opinion, "anger" is something the Scene has steered clear of for a long time. One of the things most people enjoy about arts writing is the give-and-take between the critic and the reader -- and sometimes the reader will get pissed off. That's something you like?
Absolutely. If the paper is like an old, comfortable shoe, eventually you're going to get a new one. So, yeah, I want people to be a little bit pissed off, a little astonished sometimes. Not that we're going to engage in poor taste. It'll be more of a feeling of "I can't believe that was there, but I'm glad it was." If people get angry, that just shows there's a level of engagement, and I'm fine with that.