Television interviewers must walk a fine line when chatting with newsmakers, maintaining a polite exterior without doing anything to reveal their true feelings about the subject's agenda. Throughout his career, Ron Zappolo, a veteran Denver TV personality who currently anchors Channel 31's highest profile news shows, has maintained this balance, generally limiting his opinions to designated commentary segments back in his sportscaster days. No wonder his signoff during the March 9 edition of 2031, a program built upon his conversations with public figures, seemed so surprising. While bidding farewell to Mason Tvert, a tireless advocate for marijuana legalization who serves as the executive director of SAFER (Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation), Zappolo said, "I appreciate you being here and continue the good fight."
To those who might interpret these words as an expression of pro-pot solidarity, Zappolo has a simple message: You're wrong. "I'm not a marijuana user," he allows. "I tried it forty years ago, when everybody else did, but I don't use." He adds, "In no way did I mean to say that I was endorsing his position or anything like that."
The rest of the 2031 conversation, accessible here, supports this contention. Throughout the chat, Zappolo avoids comments of support for Tvert, his organization or the positions he's taken publicly; as noted on its website, SAFER was the driving force behind a successful 2005 ballot initiative that called for "the City of Denver to make private adult marijuana possession legal under Denver city ordinances." So why did he phrase his farewell as he did? "It wasn't anything I scripted," Zappolo emphasizes. "I think I meant it just as, 'Carry on with what you're doing.'"
Since launching 2031 about a year ago, Zappolo notes that viewers have regularly tried to guess his ideological preferences based upon the questions he asks. "I get both sides," he says. "There are people who think I'm a left-wing whatever, and other people who say, 'You work at Fox for a reason -- because you're right wing.'" Although Zappolo doesn't confirm either of these conclusions, he does offer a hint about where he stands on the issue of marijuana legalization: "As I said, I'm not a marijuana user, but I'm also not for locking up anybody who does for fifty years. Somewhere, there's got to be a happy medium."
Guess that means Zappolo would rather leave it to viewers to decide whether Tvert is fighting the good fight. -- Michael Roberts