The past two weeks have been an emotional roller-coaster ride for Colorado journalism, as Denver's two dailies lost one bland editor, one insipid columnist and the gentleman who has already made his mark on history as the distinguished Voice of Denver.
On May 2, Denver Post newsroom staffers learned that their editor, Glenn Guzzo, had abruptly resigned. Staffers were reportedly stunned, though not entirely surprised. Over the past three years at the helm, Guzzo hasn't done a lot to demarcate himself -- a major nonaccomplishment for a daily that just won a Pulitzer for its Columbine coverage and officially prevailed in a cutthroat newspaper war against its main competitor, the Rocky Mountain News.
But, in recent times, the Post has just seemed flat -- running a high proportion of news articles that seem to be little more than rewritten press releases. We can track this, of course, because we receive the same press releases. And we also know that a newspaper cannot be "one of America's great newspapers" -- a moniker the Post has lately claimed -- by generating a bulk of its news coverage from press releases that are issued by bureaucrats and PR flaks.
The Post's new editor, who starts next month, is Greg Moore, a plain-speaking hotshot coming at us from The Boston Globe.
Last Thursday, in a comprehensive analysis of the whole affair, Denver's alternative weekly Westword predicted with eerie clairvoyance the demise of, in Moore's words, "any columnist who submits a piece beginning with the phrase, 'I was thinking about ...'."
The day after the Westword article appeared, Post columnist Chuck Green -- the king of "I was thinking about ..." -- resigned, ending a 34-year career at the paper. A former reporter and editor, Green often misreported and gaffed his way through 800 columns before hanging it up. One of his most memorable offerings, published last summer, took his own employer to task as proof that you can never believe what you read in the newspaper.
In that column, Green's chastised the Post for inaccurately noting that that he, Green, was on vacation on a day when his column usually appeared. In truth, Green reported, he had simply forgotten to write his column and, alerted by his wife, called his editor late in the day to explain.
That's about as deep as Green ever got. Yet in a lengthy ode to him that appeared in last Sunday's Post, the soon-to-depart editor Guzzo was quoted as saying, "Our surveys always showed Chuck as the best-read columnist in Colorado. He'll leave behind a loyal following, and we'll miss him very much." The article made no mention of the contradictory nature of Guzzo's own statement, as the outgoing editor won't be around long enough to -- in any collective "we" way -- miss Green or anyone else in the newsroom.
On Monday, Rocky Mountain News readers woke up to spend their final morning with columnist Gene Amole.
Amole had died the previous day, surrounded by his family. Yet, the consummate professional, he still found time to say goodbye to his readers in a column published after his death. Last Oct. 27, Amole announced his impending death, of multi-system failure. Then, invigorated, he did the unthinkable: He increased his workload, producing a diary to record his experience of dying. During one 17-weeklong stretch, Amole's column appeared every day; sometimes wry, sometimes joyous, sometimes frustrated, reflecting the sometimes just-bearable physical pain he was experiencing.
Amole's last reminisces of old randy Denver were particularly soothing for this columnist, who, like Amole, grew up the descendent of Colorado pioneers in that great Queen City of the Plains.
"It has been difficult for me to leave my Denver," Amole wrote in his final column. "Yes, it is my Denver ... Sure, I have grumbled about changes not to my liking, but there is something unique about this place that will always be the Denver where I was born and lived most of my life. I can't describe it precisely. Maybe it has something to do with seeing the mountains every day.
"Or maybe it is the prairie that sprawls clear to the horizon, far to the East. Those wind-punctured plains have their beauty, too. To be able to look up at night from them and see the Milky Way splashed across the sky makes the heart pump with pleasure."
Those of us who gaze upward, into Colorado's night sky, can find solace. That bright star that we see is Gene Amole, winking back at us.