Update: Moments ago, employees of the Denver Post received a memo from managing editor Linda Shapley confirming that longtime Post sports columnist Woody Paige is leaving the paper, confirming rumors we first discussed in this space two weeks ago; see our original item below.
Paige, who's also a regular on the ESPN program Around the Horn, isn't giving up his pen. After the publication of a goodbye column scheduled to appear in the Sunday edition of the Post, Paige will move his byline to the Colorado Springs Gazette.
See Shapley's memo below, followed by our previous coverage.
It's the end of an era.
After 35 years and countless columns and stories, Woody Paige's column on Sunday will be his last for us. Earlier this month, Woody let LeeAnn and I know that he wished to retire from The Post.
As you'll read in his column, he has covered hundreds of sporting events, from Super Bowls to Triple Crown races to high school wrestling tournaments. But he also has covered major news events, including 9/11, political conventions, and the Columbine and Aurora shootings. His personal stories — his heartfelt words about his struggles with suicidal thoughts, for example — affected many in this community. His columns often riled folks up, too, like when he trolled Salt Lake City and thousands responded by sending Jell-O boxes by the truckload.
He co-founded the Basket of Joy program that delivers fruit baskets to the elderly, and he always had a kind word for wide-eyed kids who would meet him on my newsroom tours.
Once I started working at The Post, one of the first questions my dad asked me was: "Have you met Woody Paige yet?" It took about 3 years for that to happen, but I'm glad that it did. Future Post employees may have a chance for a little while, because he'll still be recording Around The Horn here until ESPN producers decide otherwise. And he's not done writing — he'll be writing for the Gazette. But if you see him, please congratulate him on his career here, and wish him well.
Original post, 5:34 a.m. July 15: Right now, there are rumors aplenty in the local journalism community that sports columnist Woody Paige, arguably the best known writer for the Denver Post, has left the newspaper over a pay dispute.
If true, the story would represent the latest public-relations hit for a publication that recently followed a buyout offer that didn't meet its goal with layoffs to make up the difference despite reports that the Post is still making millions and its profits are rising.
But according to Paige, reached while doing show prep for ESPN's Around the Horn, a program that's boosted his profile nationally as well as in Colorado, talk of his divorce from the Post are premature.
"We are in negotiations. We're talking," he says. And while he doesn't list money among the major issues under discussion, instead citing "frequency, time, days and issues that aren't in the public domain," he acknowledges that fiscal concerns at the Post were a factor in the February end of The Sports Show, a Paige-starring web-TV program presented by the paper — and repercussions from subsequent belt-tightening continue to be felt.
"I think everybody is trying to figure out exactly what the future is for the Post — the future of how the Post covers news and sports and politics and business," he notes, adding that what's going on "saddens everybody that's there, everybody that's left. The numbers that existed in the heyday of the newspaper war were so different. I just believe it's a difficult time."
Paige was a Post staffer for many years, but he's currently an independent contractor whose column appears on Sundays — and a source tells us it's regularly the most-clicked item in the paper's biggest edition. But the most recent Paige piece for the Post ran on June 25, and when asked if he expects one of his columns to appear in the issue this coming Sunday, he maintains that "I really haven't thought about it.
"I've been on vacation," he continues. "I turned seventy, and I went to Mexico. So I was off Around the Horn and a lot was going on. At one point while I was on vacation, I said to the Post, 'Let's wait until the smoke clears,' because I didn't feel like my situation was the most important. There are a lot of people whose lives have been affected dramatically" by the buyouts and layoffs. "So I thought, 'Let's just wait a while.'"
The ongoing negotiations are taking place a few months after the final episode of The Sports Show, which launched during the summer of 2015. The ownership of the program was evenly split between the Post and a group that included original co-hosts Paige and longtime Denver personality Les Shapiro, along with a couple of partners. But Shapiro split last December, and Paige acknowledges that "the resources were really difficult for the Post. It takes a lot to produce a TV show, which is basically what it was — a lot of people from us, a lot of people from the Post.
"So we reached an agreement with Greg Moore[the former Post editor, who resigned in March] that we'd continue it through the Super Bowl and then make a decision about going forward. And afterward, we met. But it took a lot of resources and financial investment, and the Post was in a period where they were cutting the budget...."
In retrospect, Paige sees The Sports Show as "a great experiment — one that a lot of other newspapers called about, wanting to see if they could copy parts of it." (We're told Comcast was even interested in airing it for a time.) "And I like to be challenged. That's why I went to ESPN, why I've done radio, why I've written books," including his latest, Super Broncos: From Elway to Tebow to Manning.
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Given his other projects, does Paige need the Post anymore? "I'm a writer," he says simply, "and I've always been a writer." Moreover, he stresses that there are still folks at the Post "that I like and respect and have had good, long relationships with. So I'm sure everything will be worked out to the benefit of the Post and the benefit of me."
He's not sure when that will happen — and the longer the conversations drag out, the more rumors will fly.