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Rocky Mountain News union rep on contract talks, coverage of sale offer

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Today, the Rocky Mountain News reported that various unions had agreed to open contract talks for the Denver Post and the Denver Newspaper Agency early, as had been requested by Dean Singleton's MediaNews Group, which owns the Post and is linked to the Rocky by a joint-operating agreement. Included in the piece, by reporter Jeff Smith, are quotes from Melissa Pomponio, a presentation editor who is also the Denver Newspaper Guild unit chair for the Rocky newsroom. She believes that by agreeing to renegotiate before E.W. Scripps has made an official announcement about the future of the Rocky, the assorted labor organizations are essentially siding with Singleton and the Post in the current situation.

In a conversation this afternoon, Pomponio reiterates this view -- but she also shares positive thoughts about her paper and her colleagues during a most difficult period. Here are some excerpts:

"I don't want to speculate about the Post's financials or the MediaNews financial situation. The only guy who really knows their condition is Dean Singleton, and he hasn't called me and talked to me about it...

"My primary concern is taking care of my Rocky family, and supporting my brothers and sisters in the union as much as I can. I certainly understand that the Guild leadership at the DNA and at the Post and the Teamsters and everybody is doing what they think is best for their folks. But I'm doing the same for my folks...

"KOA is reporting that Scripps is coming out with an announcement in the next 24 to 48 hours. I haven't heard anything about that, and if it was going to happen, I would -- so I don't see that happening. I hope for some information by the end of the week...

"There isn't a day that goes by that I'm not proud of our staff. I work with some of the best journalists in the country. They are professional and they care about the community every single day whether it be a day that's personally difficult for them or not. We made a commitment when we joined the Rocky staff to serve the community, and I think we've done that to the best of our ability every single day...

"It's been very difficult in the newsroom. We're looking to each other for support, and I'm grateful to my Rocky family. We'll continue to do what we do best every day until we're told that we can't...

"John Temple [the paper's editor, publisher and president] is a source of inspiration every day. He's a fine leader and an outstanding journalist, and we all follow his example -- and he hasn't done anything differently in the eight years I've been at the Rocky. We do the best we can in every situation to get information out to the community in a professional manner...

"[The coverage of the potential Rocky sale] has been a great lesson to the staff in terms of taking care that the information we're reporting is accurate. The misinformation out there hurts. It's not just 'what's the latest gossip on the Rocky' to us. There are real people up in the newsroom, and they have families and kids and kids going to college and house payments. It's a difficult thing for us, what with all the uncertainty, and for people to go onto news shows and comment on the radio about things no one knows about is hurtful. Unless the information comes straight from Scripps, there is absolutely no truth to it as far as I'm concerned...

"We're a close-knit group. We care about one another and support one another. We're able to turn to our co-workers who are sitting next to us and say, 'Don't listen to what 9News or KOA are saying.' [Note: She was too polite to mention Westword during our chat, but she was critical of my coverage in an earlier e-mail.] It's comforting to be able to talk to each other, because all of the speculation out there is irresponsible."

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