Let's Make a Deal

Page 2 of 3

Russ Littler, president of The Employment News, sees the JOA as something more -- a golden opportunity. Littler's Denver-based company, which has branches in ten cities, produces weeklies specializing in job-oriented classified advertising, a longtime cash cow for daily newspapers that's trending downward nationwide due to increased competition from the Internet and other venues. (For example, recruitment advertising in the mighty Washington Post dipped a stunning 30 percent during 2001's first quarter.) Over the years, Littler has occasionally run radio ads in Denver touting The Employment News, but in the wake of the April jump in DNA rates, he authorized his company's largest local campaign to date -- a blitz of radio and (for the first time ever) television spots declaring that an ad in The Employment News costing a few hundred dollars would go for several thousand bucks in the Sunday Post. This approach has been effective, Littler believes; he's seen significant declines in other markets because of the soft economy, but his cash flow in Denver is holding steady.

Representatives at Denver radio and television mainstays are doing better than that, if not enormously so. Roger Ogden, president and general manager at Channel 9, says, "There's been a little upside, but not a windfall"; Graham Satherlie, general sales manager for Channel 7, says, "A lot of very interesting people who shall remain nameless are talking to us about what they want to do in the future"; and Lee Larsen, vice president and general manager for Clear Channel, says, "We've had a noticeable increase." Along with Channel 4's Rockford, these three confirm that their reps are actively pitching potential clients about the power of broadcast advertising, and a reasonable percentage of local businesspeople who've done all or most of their selling through the newspapers seem receptive to the idea of trying new things.

Of course, DNA account executives are doing likewise, even going so far as to target advertisers in this very publication, which has seen its page count climb steadily since April. A letter attacking Westword via the line "LET'S COMPARE PURE VOLUME" promises that qualifying signees "will receive an extra 20 percent off per ad with the 12-week commitment or an extra 40 percent off per ad with the 26-week commitment."

Monty Hall would feel right at home.

The name game: Last week in this space, consumer advocate and self-declared "troubleshooter" Tom Martino announced plans to file a lawsuit against Scott McDonald, the former managing editor at Channel 31, where Martino also works, for allegedly defrauding him of $50,000 -- and he said he'd finger Channel 31 in the document as well. Thus far, however, he hasn't followed through. Jody Reuler, Martino's lawyer, says Martino had to leave town late last week to care for his ailing mother, thus delaying the suit's filing by approximately two weeks. But Reuler insists that Martino has no intention of dropping the matter and will likely bring it before the courts upon his return.

Meanwhile, the McDonald affair received major play by numerous Denver media outlets, Channel 31 included. The most devoted scribe was Penny Parker, gossip columnist for the Rocky Mountain News, who wrote about it on four separate occasions and induced a pair of local celebrities not previously linked to McDonald -- Barry Fey! Ed Greene! -- to reveal that he'd approached them with investment schemes as well. Pretty soon people will be pretending that they were scammed for fear of seeming too unimportant for McDonald to shake down.

That's not the way it was prior to the day the story broke. Indeed, three sources who spoke to yours truly only after receiving a promise not to use their names insist that Denver Post staffer Joanne Ostrow made a similar pledge but then printed their monikers anyhow. Ostrow refutes this charge: She says she received approval from each person with whom she spoke before printing their names in her May 9 article on McDonald. But she confirms that she never called Channel 31 personalities David Treadwell and Will Jones before writing that they were owed money. Ostrow says, "I got their names from McDonald" -- a man under investigation by the Denver District Attorney's Office -- and gave neither a chance to respond.

According to Ostrow, Post rules state that articles can't use anonymous sources, but that's an oversimplification. Post editor Glenn Guzzo maintains that there can be exceptions to the policy, but he acknowledges a "predisposition" toward the presence of names. This tendency cuts both ways: Some readers believe that unnamed sources damage a piece's credibility, while others understand that certain stories might not otherwise reach the public. But there's no doubt that sources who've been burned are less likely to take a journalist's word in the future, and that only adds to the perception that reporters are two-faced scumbags who can't be trusted.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts

Latest Stories