Sportswriter Terry Frei's departure from the Denver Post following a tweet in which he announced that he was "very uncomfortable with a Japanese driver winning the Indianapolis 500 during Memorial Day weekend" made for a notably ugly exit. But it's hardly unprecedented. Indeed, Westword has chronicled a number of bizarre firings or resignations at the paper over the years, involving plagiarism charges, gambling allegations and a previous Twitter scandal spurred by an uncomfortable come-on to a female hockey fan.
Here are our picks for the five most memorable Post departures.
G. Brown, foreground, in a 2016 photo from the Colorado Music Hall of Fame Facebook page.
Here's how we summarized the way Brown (currently the executive director of the Colorado Music Hall of Fame) left his longtime position as the Post's music critic in a 2004 Best of Denver item dubbed "Best Media Scandal."
Until last fall, G. Brown was the city's most prominent music critic — a staple in the Denver Post since the days when Boz Scaggs was a hitmaker, not a trivia question, and Yusuf Islam was still known as Cat Stevens. Not even an early-’90s suspension from the Post for essentially lifting the lead for a Keith Richards review from an item in Rolling Stone could knock him off his perch. Then, last October, Brown wrote a preview of a Simon & Garfunkel appearance so littered with appropriations from other sources that a Post investigation didn't even find them all. Brown characterized these borrowings as boo-boos, not chronic plagiarism, but resigned anyway in favor of a DJ gig at KCUV. The station's website includes a section called "What Can G. Brown Do for You?" that's loaded with past Brown articles, none of which are attributed to the Post or any other publication. ’Cause they can't make him resign again.
Chuck Green and a friend.
In a May 30, 2002, column titled "Three the Hard Way," we outlined the circumstances that led to Green, a former editor of the paper turned columnist, being sent packing after 34 years without receiving so much as "cab fare," he said.
Green had already been under fire for alleged journalistic laziness when he published a column "purportedly" sent by relatives of Frank Rodriguez, a convicted killer who died earlier in 2002 before he could be executed.
The word "purportedly" was key. Green wrote that while "Rodriguez's attorney said [the letter] sounded like the real thing," the authors "couldn't be reached to verify the letter's authenticity." In other words, Green built an entire column around a missive that could have been entirely phony.
In the wake of that kerfuffle, Green's work began appearing less and less frequently in the Post. But a column about what was apparently the least controversial subject imaginable, Mother's Day, ran afoul of his overseers, who asked for some changes — and according to Greg Moore, who was about to come on board as the Post's editor, "that evolved into some other discussions about general feelings the editors had about his columns and feelings he had about how he was being edited."
At this point, Moore was apprised of the situation. "I was certainly involved in some of the content questions about his column. They were going to talk to him more broadly about how often his column would appear and on which days, and after that, he decided it was best that we part." Moore insisted that Green "was not fired. He said, 'Maybe it's time for me to go do something else,' and I can understand that. He's been writing a column for a long time, and with the level of scrutiny, he may have just felt he doesn't want to go through that anymore."
As for Green, he disputed the claim that he'd resigned, and hired attorney Dan Caplis to negotiate a settlement with the paper. Once that deal was done, Caplis told us, Green and his wife set out to start "a new life"
Without the Denver Post.
File photo courtesy of The Denver Post
Prominent sportswriter Jim Armstrong left the Post in November 2011 after his name popped up in a grand jury indictment targeting a sports-betting operation.
The announcement of Armstrong's fate in the Post's article about the scheme qualified as more than a bit odd. He was initially described as "former Denver Post sports reporter and columnist Jim Armstrong" without any contextualizing about why the "former" descriptor was attached.
Only after a note about Armstrong using the account password "cheese" and often combining his bets with Blake Street Tavern managing partner Chris Fuselier did the piece mention him leaving the paper the day before the article's publication — a move about which he declined to comment. That was followed by a quote from then-Post editor Moore: "Readers have to believe and trust that all of us at The Denver Post cover events impartially and without a stake in the outcome. We take this very seriously."
Armstrong's fate subsequently became a debate topic on the sportsjournalists.com website. One of his defenders wrote this:
I understand the aspect of "illegality" in this situation with regard to the placement of the wagers.
What I do not understand is the absolute standard some have asserted here that wagering on games is disqualifying for a sportswriter.
I have seen with my own eyes folks who cover horse racing at the parimutuel windows. I have even seen tracks where they set up a special window in the press box to accommodate the credentialed reporters covering the day's races. Should all those folks really be fired from their jobs becuse they bet on games?
Should this extend to fantasy sports — which almost always have a monetary aspect to them? Should a baseball reporter be fired for being in a baseball fantasy league? Should a baseball reporter be fired for being in a football fantasy league?
As I said, there are legal issues here, and the police and the courts should handle those issues regardless of the fact that one of the persons involved is a sports reporter. However, I think firing here is a bit over the top.
Continue for the story of two more bizarre departures from the Denver Post.
Miles Moffeit, who now lives and works in Dallas.
Miles Moffeit earned nothing but praise for his time spent as an investigative reporter for the Post. Among his highest accomplishments was "Trashing the Truth," a series co-written with Susan Greene (now of the Colorado Independent) that documented the failure of law enforcement agencies in regard to DNA evidence, and related stories about Timothy Masters, who was convicted of murder but subsequently freed thanks to DNA. The pieces represented highwater marks for the paper.
But when Moffeit decided to leave the Post to take a position with the investigative unit at the Dallas Morning News, the situation got awkward. Westword contacted Moffeit after learning about the move, which he detailed in a Friday, March 26, 2010, item that was linked later that same day on Jim Romenesko's poynter.org journalism-news page. The following Monday, Post editor Moore told Moffeit to clear his desk and leave the office within a few hours even though he was scheduled to work for two more weeks.
Moffeit declined to comment for a Westword followup. For his part, Moore, responding via e-mail, wrote, "That is true. We paid him through his resignation date and everything he was owed. I felt it was better we part company right away. I felt some of his comments to Westword and their implications were untrue and injurious to The Post and it was better he just begin the next chapter of his career. I am grateful to Miles for all the good work he did here and wish him well in Dallas."
Former Post hockey writer Adrian Dater.
In 2014, longtime Post hockey writer Adrian Dater was suspended for using profane language on Twitter; he called one player a "pussy" and told a correspondent to "fuck off."
Around two months later, in December of that year, Dater revealed that he'd been fired for similar offenses, including a strange come-on to a Detroit Red Wings fan — and added that he was suffering from substance-abuse problems.
Here's an image capturing a key part of the exchange with the fan:
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After Dater was pink-slipped by the paper, he shared this note on Facebook:
My long association with the Post came to an end today. That's a really bad thing to have to write, but it's reality.
I said a bunch of stupid things on social media once too often. It was unprofessional and I paid the price.
Social media and I were always going to be a dangerous mix. I'm opinionated and have the occasional real hot temper.
But my problems were deeper than that.
I've had some pretty bad substance abuse problems. Every single time I got myself in trouble with my mouth, substances helped play a role, probably a big one. I tried to deny it was a big problem but it obviously was and is.
A lifestyle of a lot of late nights away from home in lonely hotel rooms and a stressful lifestyle at times kind of caught up with me. I used too many wrong things as coping mechanisms. I also have dealt with manic depression for years and when the real dark moods come over me I tend to do things to hurt myself more. I don't want these to be used as excuses or to win sympathy. But I'm just adding explanations of what I've had problems with.
I do believe some things said about me recently in accusatory manners is totally false, with people misrepresenting things. Some things that have been written about one incident are completely wrong.
But the bottom line is I caused my own problems and have to own them.
I've been seeking more in-depth help for some of my problems and if I could ask for one thing, it's that you hope for the best that I can.
I know I'm a good person down deep, but greatly flawed.
It was my pleasure writing on the Avalanche for 20 years for a great paper. Nobody can take those memories away.
I love my family and the No. 1 thing I need to do is try and make them proud of me again.
I'm so sorry I let people down. I hope to some day write a happier comeback story for you to read.
As Dater learned, Twitter can be a cruel mistress.