More Messages: How to Succeed in Business

The June 8 blog item "Musical Chairs" featured a memo announcing upper-level staff shifts at the Denver Post, as well as speculation from yours truly about what the changes mean in the greater scheme of things. At one point, for instance, I suggested that moving former metro-news boss Jeff Taylor into a position of responsibility over the business section made sense, given that "the Rocky Mountain News' business department hammers the Post's on most days."

This comment struck a nerve with Stephen Keating, the Post's business editor, who was profiled in a Message column when he took the gig back in 2003. He assembled a list of recent stories that appeared first (and, in some cases, exclusively) in the Post, including a piece about Grand Junction-based Enstrom's Almond Toffee purchasing the assets of bankrupt candy firm Stephany's Chocolates; an article revealing that gazillionaire Phil Anschutz had sold oodles of Qwest options; and a report focusing on plans to build a W Hotel in the city. In addition, Keating cited several previous Post enterprise efforts he considered to be worthy of note, and listed awards earned by the section itself and individual writers such as Aldo Svaldi and Christine Tatum.

Keating's points are well taken. Indeed, a David Olinger and Steve McMillan-penned narrative tracing the events that led to a February blackout and a May offering about EchoStar's legal tactics by scribe Greg Griffin were particularly impressive projects. Moreover, the Post has strong business writers on staff, as well as a fine business columnist, Al Lewis -- and the look of the section has improved a great deal under Keating's watch.

Nevertheless, the Rocky's business section generally remains the livelier read, in part because of a different approach to the subject area. While the Post tends to run fewer, longer stories, not all of which justify their word count, the Rocky typically publishes relatively short items that focus on punchiness, thereby producing a more varied mix. The paper offers larger, more in-depth stories that are noteworthy, too, and is blessed with the presence of David Milstead, arguably the finest reporter on the local business beat right now.

That doesn't mean the Post is doomed to permanent second-place status, of course. Keating's got the ingredients to give the Rocky even more of a challenge than the Post is currently putting up, and his feisty defense of his section suggests that he's ready for the fight. -- Michael Roberts

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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