Way to Go After Joe

In general, the Denver dailies did an impressive job of covering the trial of former Qwest chief executive Joe Naccho (pictured). But while the Denver Post's Al Lewis, in particular, made a strong showing throughout the process, the Rocky Mountain News narrowly bested its crosstown rival, thanks to the energy and extensiveness of its offerings, as well as a competitive spirit exemplified by the internal memo reproduced below.

Rocky managing editor Deb Goeken, the missive's author, begins with attaboys and attagirls:

Everybody: The great work done by our Nacchio trial coverage team, as well as their smart use of technology, offered lessons on how to incorporate seamless coverage of a story on the Web and in the paper.

Sara Burnett typed her notes into a laptop computer in the courtroom and wrote wonderfully detailed and smart stories for the morning paper and the Web site. Jeff Smith blogged throughout the day for our Web site from a laptop equipped with a Verizon aircard from the courthouse media room, and he was often way ahead on the story (and showed a journalist's great eye for detail). David Milstead opined in the newspaper, on the Web and for our video cameras, working with Tim Skillern and assuming his multi-platform role very comfortably. We had a team of legal experts who blogged, as well as Qwest retirees. On verdict day, the rest of the business staff, plus several Metro reporters, jumped in to help. Jamie Paton, for example, employed old-fashioned, drive-to-their-house, knock-on-the-door journalism to help tie together the jury story for Saturday.

It all added up to a near non-stop stream of reporting that started on our Web site, keeping readers and viewers up-to-date, and then migrated to our newspaper. Planning was top-notch, led by Rob Reuteman and Darrell Proctor and Mike Noe's Web team.

More interesting, though, is a final section that gets into the nuts and bolts of the coverage, and demonstrates how much the Rocky still values beating the Post more than five years after the papers' business operations were linked via a joint operating agreement:

And when the verdict was announced, the technology and planning really kicked in. While the Post tried to use a cell phone to call in the verdicts -- and got shut down by court officials who told them it wasn't allowed -- Milstead had a row of e-mails created and lined up, ready to send on his aircard-equipped laptop to the newsroom. (Aircards allow you to send photos and stories from your laptop via wireless technology, eliminating the need to hook up to a cell phone.) He sent 9 e-mails in a four-minute time span with the verdicts, allowing us to beat our competition by a good five minutes on the Web. Overall, he sent 16 e-mails in 18 minutes.

It was a great effort by everyone involved -- and a powerful glimpse of our future.


If Rocky management sees a five-minute victory over the Post as worthy of celebration, the future of newspapers in Denver may not be as gloomy as some pessimists fear. -- Michael Roberts

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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