The Message

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Laugesen picked up the windows while Wenig was at work. When Wenig returned, he says, he "heard that our contractor had taken them away." He discovered their actual fate only after reading Laugesen's column. "I was pretty surprised by it," he says. "We'd spoken the week before, I think. I gave him some background on the story, and he asked me kind of general questions about where the windows were and what we were going to do with them, and we left it at that. And then . . ."

Clearly, Wenig can no longer be compelled to put the old windows back in his house, but because he violated Boulder code by taking them out, he could face some kind of penalty. "The substantive issue isn't whether these windows or those windows are best," Deputy City Attorney Gordon attests, "but whether there's an excuse not to play by the rules this community has established." As for Laugesen, he, too, could be charged, even though Wenig has no intention of filing a complaint against him for taking the windows. Says Gordon, "A criminal violation is an offense against the community, not against a private individual."

The odds of indictment appear slim, but Laugesen doesn't dismiss them. "Politically, it wouldn't look good for the city," he says, "but they don't seem overly concerned with that. They only seem concerned with exerting their own power and control over the people of Boulder." Even so, ending up in the clink could be a positive for him: "A couple of years ago, I asked to do a journalistic stay in Boulder County Jail, because there are a lot of issues there, like overcrowding, but the whole thing fell apart due to liability concerns. So, journalistically, it would serve me well."

Colleagues at the Weekly have been universally supportive, Laugesen says, but letters to the Daily Camera following a September 10 account of his glass attack were decidedly mixed. One scribe commented, "You went Granby, man." For his part, Gil Million, who's restoring his own Boulder home and tried unsuccessfully to purchase Wenig's windows before they were bulldozed into oblivion, is entirely disapproving. "Those were some very valuable windows," Million says. "What he did was a crime."

Even Laugesen admits that he may have crossed the line. "I expect there are people in our field who'll cry foul," he says. "That won't surprise me -- and they may have a point. But I think what I did was for a higher cause than whatever might transpire from a journalistic debate. If I found myself in a situation where there was an obvious and easy way that I could alter the outcome in such a way that it would reduce human suffering -- and particularly suffering pertaining to a child -- I'd do it again without a second thought."

Community values: The National Newspaper Association held its 118th annual convention and trade show September 15 through 18 at the Adam's Mark Hotel in Denver, but the event received scant attention in the mainstream press. No wonder: The venerable group represents community newspapers, the Rodney Dangerfields of print journalism. Nevertheless, MediaNews Group chieftain and Denver Post owner Dean Singleton poured on the respect during a speech to attendees at a September 16 breakfast. He cited a study showing that, from an economic standpoint, community weeklies have lately outperformed dailies "by a factor of 7 to 1." Dailies were more greatly impacted by the downturn in post 9/11 classified advertising, he told his audience, adding, "You didn't have it to lose, so you didn't lose it."

Later in his speech, which followed a lengthy parade of state flags that gave the gathering the air of a Rotary Club meeting, Singleton insisted that media consolidation, which he's boosted for years, isn't just for "the big boys." In fact, he said, the concept works best in smaller towns, since more affordable properties make it easier to corner the local information market. He's done just that in tiny Graham, Texas, his home town, where he owns three newspapers and two radio stations, along with two others in neighboring Breckenridge.

Singleton predicted that the current ban against cross-ownership -- one company holding the title to, say, a daily newspaper and a television station in the same place -- will be overturned "if the president gets re-elected." The reason conventioneers didn't cheer wildly after this remark, in all likelihood, is that most of them seemed focused on more down-to-earth issues, like high postal rates. Maybe media consolidation is only for the big boys after all.

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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