The Black-and-White Newsroom

The decision of columnist Tina Griego to leave the Denver Post in favor of the Rocky Mountain News -- a move discussed in this space last week -- thrilled the folks at the News. But Post staffers in general were considerably less excited by the change, with a handful of those who share Griego's Hispanic roots seeing her departure as a step backward. "How sad is that?" asks Louis Aguilar, a business reporter for the Post.

This remark takes on extra resonance when viewed in the context of an e-mail addressed to Post editor Greg Moore and Carla Kimbrough-Robinson, the paper's associate editor/staff development, on November 7. Written by Aguilar and signed by Griego and six other Post employees, including Elizabeth Aguilera, Regina Avila, Angela Cortez and Andy Vuong (an Asian-American), the note takes on the topic of diversity.

"This is to inquire about how many Latino and Asian-American candidates are in the pipeline for Denver Post jobs," Aguilar's letter begins. "If we can help find more top contenders, we'd be happy to do so. As you know, Latinos make up a third of Denver's population and 17 percent of the state. Further, Latinos have a deep and rich history in Colorado. The Asian population grew 67 percent in Colorado between 1990 and 2000, which surpasses their 48 percent growth nationally. I think we all agree the newsroom staff needs to reflect that reality in order to best serve our readers.... But the Post has recently declined in the number of Asian-Americans and Latinos in the newsroom, and that is not good."

When viewed as a whole, the e-mail emerges as more constructive than confrontational, and Moore's reply, sent on November 8, echoes this tone. "I am aware of the importance of having people of different backgrounds, races, etc., in a newsroom and have a deep desire to accomplish that," Moore wrote. "I am always interested in hearing from staff members about talented professionals who might be candidates to join our staff -- especially people of color.... We are committed to recruiting a talented and diverse group of journalists to the Post. Rest assured that I hear what you are saying."

That anything was said to Moore at all is a modest surprise. By any measure, he's one of the most powerful African-American editors in the country and is known nationally for his dedication to luring a wide range of individuals into the print-journalism profession. As proof of this reputation, Moore was asked to chair the "diversity committee" assembled under the auspices of the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) even before he stepped up to the Post; at the time, he was managing editor of the Boston Globe.

On top of that, the Post's record of minority hiring prior to Moore's arrival was considerably better than that of its principal rival, if considerably short of record-setting. An April report on the ASNE Web site,, showed that 16.3 percent of the Post's staff consisted of minorities, as opposed to just 8.9 percent at the Rocky. (The percentage at Westword would be lower still.) In other words, the Post would seem like the last place in Colorado anyone would expect questions about the role of diversity in hiring practices to arise.

But a glance at figures provided by Moore shows why Aguilar and company are concerned. Moore has brought fourteen people aboard since joining the Post in June. Five of these hires are African-Americans, and six are women -- and since these groups have often been underrepresented in newsrooms, it's hard to argue that their presence there is anything other than laudable. But none of the new Posters are Latino or Asian-American.

This wouldn't have been the case had Moore gotten his way. "Before we could offer a job to another Latina, she was given the assignment at her paper that she had been seeking for months. She got that assignment the day after returning from her visit with us," he points out. "We also offered an assistant managing editor position to an Asian, and a week later, she was promoted to the same job at her paper."

In his e-mail, Aguilar acknowledged the attempt to sign up the Asian-American editor, as well as efforts to hire two Latino reporters for the Post's city desk. But he also stated that he and another staffer, Emily Narvaes, identified "four solid candidates" during a recent recruiting visit to a conference staged in San Diego by the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ), "one of whom remains keenly interested. But there seems to have been little follow up with some of these candidates since the conference."

Left unstated is the crux of the matter: The Post successfully romanced a quintet of African-Americans but crapped out entirely when it came to Asian-Americans and Latinos. This batting average made Aguilar wonder if Moore had some of the "East Coast mentality" about hiring that he associates with the Washington Post, where the reporter worked before returning to Denver. (In addition, Aguilar was part of Westword's staff in the early '90s and penned a profile of Westword editor Patricia Calhoun for the Post in October.)

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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