The February 5 blog "Does a New Channel 4/Denver Business Journal Collaboration say Anything About the Rocky Mountain News?" took note of "Beating the Recession," a just-launched TV-and-print series that highlights locals who are finding ways to thrive during the present economic downturn. The item focused on Channel 4's decision to team up with the DBJ during a time when folks at the station's longtime newspaper partner, the Rocky Mountain News, are waiting to see if the tabloid will be sold or closed by its owner, E.W. Scripps. But what most struck Mike Cote, editor of ColoradoBiz magazine, was the description of "Beating the Recession" in the attached press release. In his view, the series virtually duplicates "Road to Recovery," an ongoing batch of reports that his publication launched last month in conjunction with Channel 7.
Channel 4 news director Tim Wieland and DBJ editor Neil Westergaard both say they'd never heard of "Road to Recovery" until I mentioned it to them during interviews yesterday. Read more about their takes below and in two additional blogs, "Denver Business Journal Neil Westergaard on the Need for Positive Economic Stories" and "Internal Document Describes Channel 4's 'Beating the Recession' Series." First, though, here's a note Cote sent on the subject:
I heard from a friend that you included a post on your blog about the Channel 4 and Denver Business Journal partnership. While the fate of the Rocky must certainly be on the minds of Channel 4 folks, I wanted to bring to your attention the "Road to Recovery" partnership ColoradoBiz started with Channel 7 more than a month ago that pairs video with stories that have appeared in our print edition or are spinoffs from them.
The DBJ/Channel 4 plan looks very familiar to us. It's certainly fair game to copy an idea, but we found it curious that as part of their new partnership, the DBJ ran a story last week about the same auto repair business we featured in print and in a Channel 7 segment.
Cote also included a link to a "Beating the Recession" report starring Lake Arbor Automotive in Westminster that's dated February 6. He pointed out that the ColoradoBiz item about "Road to Recovery" was published on February 2, and it features a link to a Channel 7 story about an uptick in auto-repair business that prominently featured Lake Arbor. The video of that segment isn't dated, but it begins with a brief glance at a graphic promoting a January 11 event -- and the ColoradoBiz print companion, "As New-Car Sales Stall, Repair Shops Prosper," is stamped January 1.
When asked about Cote's assertions, DBJ editor Westergaard expresses surprise. "I have never seen anything about Channel 7's relationship with ColoradoBiz magazine," he says. "I never saw any of those segments, and I never heard anything about a partnership. The fact is, this is a good idea -- and some of the other papers in our company had already launched features in their papers called 'Beating the Recession.'"
True enough: Both the Sacramento Business Journal and the Philadelphia Business Journal have been issuing stories under the "Beating the Recession" heading for some time. And earlier this year, Channel 4 began to use the phrase for positive economic stories, too. "When we discovered that, it just made sense for us to get together," Westergaard says. "We've been trying to establish a relationship with a broadcast outlet for a long time. We used to have one with Fox, and we had some talks with them -- and we talked with Channel 9, but they already have a relationship with the Denver Post. So we let Channel 4 know we were interested, and they said, 'Come on down and talk.' And we liked the 'Beating the Recession' idea, because it was a narrow focus to business coverage, and it was something we could produce without taking away from the things we were already doing. It was kind of repurposing stories we were already reporting and writing, which made sense to us -- and they were happy with it, too."
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Regarding the Channel 7/ColoradoBiz series, Westergaard stresses, "If there's a similarity, it's purely coincidental."
Channel 4 news director Wieland echoes that opinion. He, too, says he's never seen any of the Channel 7 packages, and he notes that he hasn't heard of ColoradoBiz -- a claim he inadvertently backs up by twice referring to it as Denver Business Magazine during our conversation. "The opportunity on this one felt obvious," he adds, "because the Denver Business Journal was coincidentally launching a series called 'Beating the Recession,' and that was the name of our project, too. And the philosophy was the same -- to identify either businesses or individuals who are beating the recession by doing things that are positive and empowering in this economy.
"We pride ourselves on our brand 'Get the Whole Story,'" Wieland goes on. "And we felt that part of getting the whole story was telling people the positive things that are happening in this tough economy. If all you're doing is reporting the negative economic reports that are coming out each day, whether they're new home numbers or the daily stock market action, you're not telling people the whole story, because a big part of the story is what people are doing to press on and find solutions."
As for the disagreement over the origins of the "Beating the Recession" idea, that one seems pretty insoluble.