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 AJR  The Beat

From AJR,   October 1999  issue

Britton Goes Home   

The Denver Post gets a new editor, installing Akron Beacon Journal Managing Editor Glenn Guzzo to lead the newsroom in its battle with the Denver Rocky Mountain News.


By Carol Guensburg
Carol Guensburg (carol.guensburg@verizon.net) is senior editor for the Journalism Center on Children & Families, a University of Maryland professional program - and a nonprofit. It receives primary support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Guensburg spent 14 years as an editor and reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel after working for three other papers.     


The Denver Post gets a new editor, installing former Akron Beacon Journal Managing Editor Glenn Guzzo October 1 to lead the newsroom in its fierce battle with the Denver Rocky Mountain News.
The competitive situation is something in which I believe I will thrive," says Guzzo, 48.
Fighting instincts and "a strong background in sports and local news" won Guzzo the job, William Dean Singleton, chairman of the Post's owner, MediaNews Group, told a newsroom gathering. Guzzo had been ME in Ohio since 1993, after four years as a Knight Ridder executive. At the Philadelphia Inquirer from 1981 to '89, he'd risen to executive sports editor.
Guzzo replaces Dennis Britton, 58, abruptly dismissed August 30 after three years as editor. "It's not uncommon for a publisher to want to bring in people who fit with them," says Jerry Grilly, who began that job November 30.
During Britton's tenure, the Post's daily circulation rose from 316,027 in early 1996 to 370,423 in early 1999, overtaking its rival. The News' first-quarter figures were 333,471 in 1996 and 359,068 as of March 31, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.
Grilly says Britton helped establish that lead, and staffers credit the editor with building newsroom diversity. But under him, business reporter Jeffrey Leib says, there was "a climate of caution and sometimes fear."
Britton wrongly ran out some talented people, current and former Posters contend. They describe him as aloof and hierarchical. Britton's behavior gave rise last year to the biting Dennis Britton GoHome! Page, members.aol.com/empirvoic/dennispage.htm.
But the biggest objections were over his news judgment. Britton--who served as editor of the Chicago Sun-Times and spent 23 years in editing posts at the Los Angeles Times--pushed for positive news. He told the New York Times in December 1996 that "I am crime-ing it down and Pollyanna-ing it up."
"He thought [coverage] was hard-edged, and he wanted to soften it up a bit," reflects Neil Westergaard, who was executive editor when Britton was brought in as his boss. Westergaard quit six months later and now heads corporate communications in Colorado for insurer Blue Cross & Blue Shield.
"He just sold Denver short," especially pulling back on coverage of City Hall and the Denver Broncos' stadium, says Patricia Calhoun, editor of the alternative weekly Westword.
Britton did not respond to phone calls from AJR.
Guzzo wants to improve coverage and morale at his new paper. "I inherit an accomplished staff," he says, that will help the Post "move forward."