Oh, yeah: No one from Westword has made a donation to a federal candidate or cause during the latest election cycle. Furthermore, just one person affiliated with New Times, the paper's owner, is listed as a donor -- a copy editor with the now-shuttered Los Angeles New Times, who gave $500 to Emily's List. Otherwise, the closest connection is a $2,000 contribution to John Kerry by Dan Savage, whose syndicated boinking-advice column, Savage Love, appears regularly in these pages.
Granted, the main reason no Westworder has made a major political contribution lately is probably because none of us can afford to. Modest salaries=ethical responsibility? Maybe so.
At the Rocky, meanwhile, a memo from managing editor Deb Goeken reflects the paranoia stirred by increased scrutiny upon media-figure donations. Goeken's topic was a September 28 concert at the Fillmore Auditorium featuring Don Henley, Glenn Frey and Timothy B. Schmit of the Eagles that's intended to raise funds for senatorial hopeful Salazar. "If you buy a concert ticket, you will be listed as a Salazar donor," she wrote, adding, "since our long-standing policy precludes all newsroom employees from making political donations, none of us will be able to attend."
This edict means there won't be an Internet trail leading to the Rocky. As such, readers will have to search for media bias the old-fashioned way -- by reading between the lines.
Making copies: A recent University of Colorado-Boulder graduate, Brian Lucas didn't have a lot of background in journalism when he and a group of CU-bred associates conceived TechDenver, which he calls "a technology meeting place for decision-makers in Denver." Since launching the startup, accessible at www.techdenver.com, about six months ago, he's built a substantial audience; he estimates that the site attracts approximately 40,000 unique visitors per month, and that number is growing. Along the way, he's learned plenty of lessons, the most painful of which took place last week. Lucas had to changes horses in the middle of the information stream after numerous data-swiping incidents so severe that they can't really be described as plagiarism. "Duplication" is actually a better word for it.
Lucas became aware of the problem after receiving an e-mail from representatives of Internet News, a portal at www.internetnews.com that provides national tech reports, as well as stories tailored for markets such as Boston, New York City and Washington, D.C. (The site is owned by Connecticut-based Jupitermedia.) The message pointed out that several TechDenver stories that ran under the byline of staffer Ferhad Bazyar had their origins in Internet News reports. Check out the lead of an August 19 Internet News article credited to Erin Joyce and Paul Shear: "With traders' eyes locked on their computer screens, fingers twitching as they awaited the GOOG ticker to move, Google floated into the public markets Thursday at $85 and immediately jumped to $100 on the Nasdaq stock market." Now, here's the first sentence from the version attributed to Bazyar: "With traders' eyes locked on their computer screens, fingers twitching as they awaited the GOOG ticker to move, Google floated into the public markets Thursday at $85 and immediately jumped to $100 on the Nasdaq stock market."
To paraphrase Truman Capote's famous insult about Jack Kerouac: That's not writing -- it's typing.
When Westword contacted Lucas on September 8, he had taken the questionable Bazyar material off-line and said he was "investigating" the allegations. Because the crime wasn't exactly a mystery on par with, say, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Lucas made his determination within hours. An "official retraction notice" was posted on TechDenver's home page that read, "It has been brought to the attention of TechDenver that several stories submitted for inclusion by a particular author in TechDenver's ŒNational News' section had similarities to other news services, including internetnews.com and cnet.com. After this was called to our attention, we pulled these stories for further review. We offer our apologies to these organizations and are working to ensure this does not happen again."
Of Bazyar, who was not available for comment, Lucas says, "The author is no longer associated with our website." He maintains that TechDenver is changing the way it will present national information. As he puts it, "We're going to be aggregating news sources and have links directly to them. In the future, all the links will be directed to other sites, but we'll still be a resource site for people."