Public Eye 

The February issue of Brill's Content hits close to home for many Colorado journalists. On the cover is the eerily mature face of the little girl we've all come to recognize so well -- from her showgirl videos, to the tabloid headlines, to a made-for-TV movie to her murder.

After three years of police investigation into the murder of JonBent Ramsey, Brill's offers a disturbing outline of the way in which the media has circled like vultures since the 6-year-old was found murdered in her Boulder home. And, most importantly, how reporters and journalists have launched or cemented their careers by hitching themselves to the little girl's star, as the magazine puts it.

Indeed, JonBent has become a cottage industry all her own, resulting in books, movies, TV and star-status career-building.

Take Jeff Shapiro, for instance. He was the 23-year-old freelancer for the tabloid Globe who co-wrote such shock-thriller stories as "JonBent was sex-abuse victim long before she was murdered." Now he has catapulted to the big time. He's not only a correspondent for that paragon of journalism, Time magazine, but he also considers himself the "main" character in the Lawrence Schiller book Perfect Murder, Perfect Town (soon to be a made-for-TV movie!)

Then there's Chuck Green, the 32-year veteran of The Denver Post, who was obsessed with JonBent from the beginning. So far, Green has written "at least" 80 columns about the murder, and he clearly believes that John and Patsy Ramsey are responsible.

Some journalists used to take it upon themselves to solve murders. But in Brill's, Green freely admits to having served as a "conduit" for leaks from law-enforcement types. He defends this by explaining, "That's how journalism works. You report the spin that your best sources feed you, and that's how you keep them as sources." Yep. Now that's journalism.

And then there's Charlie Brennan, the Denver Rocky Mountain News reporter whose "No footprints in the snow" story he calls one of the best of his career. The story, like a shot heard 'round the world, detailed the fact that there were no footprints outside the Ramsey's house when police arrived, which suggested an inside job. The story was widely circulated.

But, lo and behold, it turns out that it had barely snowed in the days before the murder. But in Brill's, Brennan defended his story.

"That's not Charlie Brennan saying, 'Hey, there was an absence of footprints.' I'm saying, 'Hey, the police put it in their reports.' And they did! They did! That was never wrong."

Meanwhile, as scads of reporters, actors, producers, publishers and even the little girl's parents make money off of JonBent Inc., one tiny fact remains: The murder is unsolved.

The Associated Press reported this week on a legislative bill being introduced that would change the way Colorado's lieutenant governor is chosen. Currently, gubernatorial and lieutenant governor candidates run separately in the primary, and the winners automatically run together in the general election. But the bill, sponsored by El Paso County Republican Bill Sinclair, would let candidates for governor pick their own running mates.

The old way has been an entertaining sideshow for state politics. Historically, governors and lieutenant governors have had problems getting along. But in the wire report, Sinclair denied that his bill has anything to do with the fact that the current Republican duo in office spent much of the last year brawling. Let's take a little stroll down Memory Lane, shall we?

First, Lt. Gov. Joe Rogers got peeved, because Gov. Owens wouldn't appoint his brother Tracy Rogers to a $70,000-a-year job on the state parole board. Then, he threatened to sue after the governor threatened to replace his expensive SUV with a regular car (Owens, meanwhile, has a new $37,500 GMC Suburban). After Secretary of State Vikki Buckley died of a heart attack, Rogers, who was supposed to head up a child-welfare task force, was miffed when the governor wouldn't let him reschedule the meeting so he could help plan Buckley's memorial service.

Then, Rogers' office manager refused a criminal background check, and she, with the help of the lieutenant governor, sued Owens for her paycheck. The governor responded by releasing to the press a list of Rogers' office expenses, including $600 for cuff links.

Of course, none of these details appeared in the AP story this week.

Instead, "They've healed their little spat," Sinclair was quoted saying. Kerri Carmin, spokeswoman for Joe Rogers chimed in, claiming that her boss and Gov. Bill Owens have a "very positive relationship."

Apparently, it will be even more positive if, in the future, Owens can pick his own right-hand man.[p]


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