Friday, March 22, 2013

'Reality' check: The Gazette's embarrassing cartoon

Posted By on Fri, Mar 22, 2013 at 10:50 AM

The Gazette: Clowns, indeed.

If I were at the helm of a daily newspaper recently accused by prominent community members of making staffing decisions based on the whims of Mayor Steve Bach — a newspaper that also appears to be in the throes of an apology tour for being nearly worthless for the past decade — I might be a little more careful.

If I were the Gazette, I might try to gain back a little more of the professionalism and expertise lost during years putting bylines on press-releases; reprinting Denver Post stories on the front page; and covering the community so badly that the only readers left for the few remaining advertisers to target all had false teeth — just like the reporting.

I might not continue the tradition of letting editorial-page editor Wayne Laugesen embarrass the elsewhere-respected job title (or at least not any more than he already has) by promoting his masturbatory play-thing — a mortifying "reality cartoon show" now in its third episode, and rife with bad jokes, sexist depictions and crude stereotypes. (Not to mention, worst of all, completely useless to the reader for anything other than schadenfreude.)

"Does Wayne become the singing icon of his dreams or make a clown of himself again?" reads the post, asking a clearly rhetorical question. "Why is Mayor Bach making a special voice appearance at the airport? And why does Bill Vogrin’s body keep changing?"

And, right, why is Mayor Bach using time from his busy schedule to contribute professional sentiments like, "This is Mayor Steve Bach. Welcome to Colorado Springs, home of Wayne Laugesen, winner of the Nebraska International Clowns Pageant." Nothing cozy about that — no reason to blink twice at an institution whose job it is to keep a critical eye on city government, winking along with the mayor.

But if I were trying to make friends at City Hall, I probably would write some fawning piece like the Gazette did write on March 15: "Behold, a new recipe for a wonderful life in Mountain Shadows: One part Kosher salt, one part bread, and one part Mayor Steve Bach. Savor with a glass of wine and sweeten with a pinch of Suzi Bach."

There have been positive signs of life from the paper under new editor Joe Hight: more coverage of local issues, better reporters, better design. Sure, you can't go three days without a full-length feature about the latest development at billionaire owner Philip Anschutz's other local obsession of the moment — The Broadmoor — but usually they remember the important, obligatory disclosure of joint ownership. Plus, most of the time, the news is good to know.

But considering the abuses of trust, value and years-long shirking of the institution's only calling — to inform, check and enlighten — I might not play so fast and loose with the community's attention. I might be a little more careful.

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