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Michael Hancock prostitution ring story: CBS4 exec on why station hasn't reported it yet

Both 7News and Fox31 are now reporting about the alleged link between mayor-elect Michael Hancock and the Denver Players prostitution ring. But many major news agencies are still holding off.

Why? CBS4 news director Tim Wieland explains his station's reticence to move forward with the material currently available.

The main source on the story is former Denver Players owner Scottie Ewing, who's currently serving a six-month home detention sentence for tax evasion. He's shown numerous journalists Denver Players files featuring Hancock's misspelled name, his personal cell number and a dollar amount, presumably for services rendered. But given Ewing's reputation, none of the larger media operations moved forward. Instead, the report was broken by CompleteColorado.com, with Westword and talk-radio stations like KHOW following suit.

Last night, 7News and Fox31 joined in because they obtained information showing that Hancock's legal team had contacted Denver Police asking for any video the department might have showing the candidate or his vehicle at Denver Players or any affiliated location. (The DPD says it has no such video.) 7News also got hold of an e-mail from a Hancock lawyer to the Manager of Safety's office; it stated that if no video was found, the office could inform the Denver Post, one of the inquirers, but if something turned up, sharing it with the Post would violate Hancock's privacy. Hancock continues to maintain that he's never used such services and castigates 7News for airing the allegations.

Fox31 implies in its report that legal inquiries by Hancock's legal eagles constitute an additional source. But Wieland doesn't concur.

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"Our investigative reporter, Brian Maass, is absolutely among the reporters digging for credible evidence," he confirms via e-mail. But, he adds, "this is a sensational claim. The bar to report it must be high: credible evidence linking (Hancock) to the ring, or the revelation of the existence of evidence. So far, that does not exist. When or if it does, I assure you we will report it."

According to Wieland, Maass received confirmation of the lawyer's letter on Tuesday afternoon -- but "in my view (and for better or worse, my view is decisive in this case), this letter is part of the reporting process and does not constitute the 'credible evidence' standard for putting the story on a CBS4 newscast."

Given the decision of other news agencies to go public, the pressure's on outlets resisting the urge to bandwagon-jump -- but Wieland's holding firm. He believes "there is no value to the viewer in reporting our 'process' of investigating whether there is credible evidence. It is incomplete reporting, and is beneath our standards. If evidence is uncovered, Brian will report it. In the meantime, we continue to aggressively investigate."

More from our Follow That Story archive: "Brenda Stewart, who fronted prostitution ring linked to Michael Hancock, cops a plea."

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