Friday, August 11, 2006

Newsie Neighbors

Two rival papers sharing the same building.

Who signed off on this one?

At 101 West Colfax in Denver, the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News have exactly this problem, and I imagine they are quite "friendly." In fact, they are quite literally on top of each other: one resides on the fifth floor, the other, the sixth. So when an August 3rd open house rolled around, well, I'll just let Post editor Greg Moore tell you:

I believe prior to the open house last week, Jeanette Chavez sent out a message that included a request that none of us try to visit the Rocky newsroom on the 5th floor of the new building. I thought that it would be clear that even though we are in the same building, that we would treat things as they are now: our newsrooms are off limits to each other. Yet, I have been told of several instances where someone from the Post has tried to enter the Rocky newsroom. This is strictly a no-no. I don’t want the competition wandering our floor (even if it is empty at the moment) any more than John Temple wants us wandering his. This is really a wall that should not be breached. If you know of anyone tempted to do this, please counsel them otherwise and if you find that someone from the Rocky is on our floor, please let me know.

Greg Moore

Though they are professionals, it's just too evident that staff would simply ride an extra floor on their way up or down - especially if one paper is trying to scoop the other. But this plan is failed from the start: how can employees expect to converse about a story at lunch without worrying that another paper is eavesdropping from the salad bar? Could the Washington Post's Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein been able to stay a step ahead of the New York Times in the race to Watergate if they had (theoretically yet impossibly) been housed a floor away from each other? Surely the commotion through the week would have tipped someone off.

In an era where we're all digital neighbors, it's hard enough to keep information reined in. It's too naive to rely on an ideal that each staff wouldn't snoop each other's stories - competition is too beneficial. To prevent this, Post and Rocky executives should have installed passcard systems to prevent cross-pollination of information. In Manhattan, it wouldn't be out of question to have this situation (if only temporarily), but you can be certain that no one could get past the front desk of either paper.

Let this be a lesson to all newspapers: if you compete in the newsprint, don't compete at the salad bar.

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