News

The Message

Page 3 of 4

Maybe so. But whereas the first piece said that "the federal government now is threatening to sue," the second one included this caveat from the DA: "Ritter said that raising the specter of a lawsuit is 'different than saying there is one or that there will be one.'"

As a result, Kimbrough was pleased by the second Hughes article. "It was more helpful and accurate than the technical correction," she says. Yet she's glad the Post authorized the correction, too, because it will be affixed to archival copies of the piece, thereby preventing the wrong information from sneaking out in the future. The correction is also supposed to turn up at www.denverpost.com, and while the blurb didn't surface online for several days, Clark calls that an oversight. "We take claims of errors in stories very seriously," he says. "We investigate them thoroughly, and we think we do the right thing."

For the most part, they do, Kimbrough says: "I think reporters strive to be very accurate, and I've found that most of them are easy to work with in making sure they get it right, either with a correction or another story that's got the correct information." Unfortunately, this process takes time, and the lag makes "Setting the Record Straight" necessary. "Otherwise," she says, "we'd run the risk of a story with bad information in it traveling around the world before people realize that it's wrong."

Frequency check: A cancer-rate study of people who live near an antenna farm on Lookout Mountain arrived on July 22, and, as with an earlier survey, its findings can be perceived in diametrically opposing ways. A press release from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which oversaw the research, emphasizes that "there is no conclusive evidence of any linkage of adverse health effects among Lookout Mountain residents to the high-powered broadcast antennas and transmitter towers located in the area west of Denver." In contrast, a release from the City of Golden, which was a party in a 2003 lawsuit filed against the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners to stop the erection of a new tower, proclaimed that the report "shows increased levels of brain and central nervous system cancers in residents living adjacent to broadcast towers on Lookout Mountain."

Neither take is totally off base. As in the 1999 study that this inquiry updates, the health department detected elevated cancer rates in two areas near the towers. Even so, the variety of ailments was such that technicians couldn't say with certainty that the illnesses were caused by radio frequency (RF) exposure. To paraphrase Bob Dylan, something's happening there, but they don't know what it is.

Opponents in the debate over whether a new tower should be built are due to face off again during an August 12 hearing before Jeffco commissioners. (The same officials who rejected construction in 1999 approved it four years later -- something that was misstated in this space last week.) That helps explain the divergent reactions to the recent study's results. Former Channel 4 head honcho Marv Rockford, who serves as spokesman for a consortium of broadcasters dubbed the Lake Cedar Group, released a statement focusing on the absence of a causal link and referring to the report as "a useful and reassuring contribution to the discussion of RF and health." Meanwhile, Deb Carney, an attorney for Canyon Area Residents for the Environment, a homeowners' collective that has spent years fighting the tower, sees the statistics as "another red flag of warning.

"If you go back and read old tobacco studies, you'd see one after another saying, 'There's an elevated rate of lung cancer, but we can't say smoking causes it,'" she says. "That's how science works. They wait until they have absolute proof until they say something. But that's not the way we should decide public-policy health questions."

Clearly, Rockford and Carney share little common ground. Even cancer can't bring them together.

Quiet zone: On July 27, in a move that surprised absolutely no one, Tim Brown, the CEO of NRC Broadcasting, put out a press release declaring that KNRC, a news-talk outlet at 1150 AM, would immediately pull the plug, and he wasn't joking. The signal vanished after 10 a.m., smack-dab in the middle of Bill O'Reilly's show. Talk about stopping the spin.

Brown's announcement ended a two-year odyssey that began with high hopes and ended in flames. Only weeks after KNRC launched, in July 2002, Brown acknowledged that news talk is an expensive format and predicted that it would take "three to five years to get to where we want to be." Since Brown is the son-in-law of lucre magnet Phil Anschutz, the station seemed likelier than most to receive such a grace period. Unfortunately, KNRC never generated decent numbers with its original approach. Left-leaning hosts Greg Dobbs, who left the station in part over health concerns, and Enid Goldstein subsequently ceded their shifts to conservative yakkers Doug Kellett and Jimmy Lakey. The moves pissed off most of the station's small audience and failed to attract a new one, since KNRC became all but indistinguishable from the rest of the conservative operations on the dial.

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