The Denver Post has been on a columnist search ever since word leaked that longtimer Diane Carman would be moving on -- the topic of this blog. Moreover, Post editor Greg Moore made it clear in the October 25 Message that he was hoping to find a strong internal candidate to fill the position, as opposed to importing a new (and presumably more expensive) voice. It's no surprise, then, that the broadsheet announced on December 6 that reporter Susan Greene (pictured) would be stepping into the columnist role. Indeed, Greene, who recently won plaudits for investigative work done in tandem with colleague Miles Moffeit (see this item for details), has been the odds-on favorite for several weeks. More unexpected, however, was the Post's revelation that David Harsanyi, who went from being the junior columnist at the paper to the senior survivor over the course of six months or so, has decided to transition into an op-ed slot -- and that he would be replaced as columnist by another Post reporter, William Porter.
Since his arrival at the Post in 2004, shortly before the publication of this profile, Harsanyi has been cast as an outsider -- a conservative/libertarian thinker whose writings contrasted strongly with the consistently (and sometimes interchangably) progressive opinions of then-current columnists Carman, Jim Spencer and Cindy Rodriguez. He played this part with aplomb, expressing his ideas in a regularly fresh and entertaining fashion. Nevertheless, he's frequently been treated as the equivalent of a quota hire -- and the article informing readers of the op-ed shift plays this card again with the line, "Harsanyi, who joined the Post's staff in May 2004, in part to provide some ideological balance... has done his job well." Another way to read this line? We never would have hired this guy under ordinary circumstances, since we don't believe in a thing he says, but he turned out not to be so bad after all.
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The same piece fails to mention the political perspective of Greene and Porter, which only makes the notation about Harsanyi's particular slant that much odder -- but Porter's comment that he plans to concentrate on "slice-of-life columns about Denver and the state. No screeds. No term papers. Stories" suggests that Moore wants to avoid playing the one-from-this-side-and-one-from-the-other game again. We'll know more about whether things will work out that way when Greene and Porter debut; no specific dates are cited. Whenever they take their bow, however, they'll start with a far cleaner slate than most observers expected. -- Michael Roberts