Mike Hagan: End of an era for | AspenTimes.com

Mike Hagan: End of an era for

“If you don’t want it printed, don’t let it happen” – unless you’re Kobe Bryant.

That, apparently, is the new motto over at the Aspen Daily News. Now, this newspaper normally doesn’t take potshots at the “bad guys,” though we never hesitate to run letters by readers upset with their stories, and we happily correct their mistakes when they completely screw up a story.

Same goes with them, as in the recent case involving our improper handling of a story in Snowmass, which the Daily News continues to cover even though there have been no new developments in the story.

It’s called competition, and it’s a fine line. You take the other guys to task when it feels necessary (and enjoy every minute of it), but for the most part each paper just tries its best to be better than the other. Some days we win; some days they win.

But I just can’t help commenting on the Daily News’ decision to no longer run any stories about the Kobe Bryant case until a verdict is delivered. It’s so ripe with hypocrisy I can barely stand the stench.

The ragtag tabloid Daily News has made its name on that motto – “If you don’t want it printed, don’t let it happen.” Well, Kobe allegedly let it happen, but they’re not going to print it … because there’s much more important news out there being overlooked, according to editor Rick Carroll.

This is the first time in the paper’s history that its editors have snubbed a good, juicy, tabloid-style story. So much for the reputation established by owner and founder Dave Danforth and past editors like Carolyn Sackariason and others, who put their best efforts into finding stories that could create the most outrageous headlines (and, therefore, attract more readers) rather than stories of social significance and value.

As Danforth stated in a front-page article the Daily News reported about itself (could they possibly be creating their own news over there?), “The Aspen Daily News has never stood for suppressing stories for any circumstances.”

In fact, that is always what has separated the two papers. We have been known as the more “conservative” (and I don’t mean Republican) paper, while the Daily News has always been the scrappy rag, willing to report on just about anything, no matter how outlandish.

It appears times have changed. In Carroll’s self-proclaimed bid to be “an independently owned newspaper” that doesn’t “have to do the dance of the corporate, homogenized media,” he has actually moved his news organization in that direction.

The stereotypical, small-town corporate newspaper these days is severely lacking in outlandish and “juicy” news. All sense of creativity and fun has disappeared. Is this the future of the Daily News?

I hope not. One of the things I love most about working at The Aspen Times is (no, I’m not kidding) the Daily News. There are very few towns left in America with two papers owned by different companies. It makes the job fun; it makes for better newspapers; it benefits the community by offering not only a lot of local news, but different takes on the news.

It is my sincere hope that this is yet another Daily News ploy to grab headlines and stir up some fun. There is such a thing as news judgment; in fact, both papers wrestle with it every day.

Carroll and company could simply have stopped running Kobe stories except when they felt it was warranted, and their readers would never have noticed. But by making a big deal out of it in two front-page articles (space Carroll said should be used for “quality local coverage”), they have just added to the media frenzy, the pack mentality they are supposedly striking a blow against.

If that’s the case, my hat is off to them. That’s the kind of fun that newspapers are lacking these days. But if Carroll truly believes this decision is based on “taking a few sticks of kindling out of a roaring fire,” that this is not an attempt to “preach or set a precedent,” then I mourn the death of the Daily News of old.

[Mike Hagan is editor in chief of The Aspen Times. His column appears every other Tuesday]

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