Editor/publisher Michael Ledwitz about changes at Denver Magazine

Categories: Media

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Michael Ledwitz, the editor and publisher of Denver Magazine, is excited about the recent hiring of Jeff Kass, the former Rocky Mountain News reporter who's currently promoting a book entitled Columbine: A True Crime Story. (Kass recently spoke to Westword about the distinctions between his tome and Columbine, a more heavily promoted work by local journalist Dave Cullen -- and he was also at the center of a blog about a book tour that will take him to other sites of mass school shootings.) But Kass' addition isn't the only development at the publication. Ledwitz confirms that former 5280 intern Brian Melton was let go prior to Kass' arrival -- and he also fills in the gaps regarding his decision to buy out his original partner, the identities of two new investors, Denver's affiliations with assorted local TV stations and his unusual approach to distributing his mag.

Ledwitz says he's known Kass for a while -- and he decided to put him on the team because "I wanted to find somebody who could really help bring our editorial content into a format that the user would look forward to each month -- something vivid that readers can really sink their teeth into."

This approach echoes the one taken by 5280, Denver Magazine's principal rival, a few years back -- but Ledwitz doesn't want to panic readers into thinking that he's planning to abandon fashion and society spreads in favor of hard news. "I want to mix the lighter fare with more serious features, where people can really take a look at what Denver and the Rocky Mountain region has to offer," he says. "There'll be meatier features cross-sectioned with our other stuff."

With Kass' arrival comes Melton's departure -- and Ledwitz confirms that the moves were related. "Brian's such a good guy, so it's hard for me to really talk about it," he says. "But sometimes in life you have to make decisions with your gut, and I really felt I needed to do what I did. Brian's a talented writer and I wish him the best of luck -- but I just felt Jeff was the appropriate person for the position." He adds, "Anybody who's able to bring Brian on board in any capacity is very lucky."

In the meantime, Ledwitz has commissioned a new column by Channel 4's Gloria Neal, who'll join another station staffer, Greg Moody, among Denver Magazine's contributors. But Ledwitz's partnership with Channel 4 isn't exclusive. He's also involved with the two-headed monster known as channels 2 and 31. The mag will be providing some of the content for Everyday, a new weekday afternoon program on Channel 31 featuring Libby Weaver and Natalie Tysdal, and he's currently in discussions with executives at the Deuce (heh, heh) to present material on that dial position, too. It's an unusual arrangement, but Ledwitz thinks all parties will benefit. As he puts it, "We want to be a good media partner to everybody -- and things that are right for CBS 4 might not be right for the other two. So we're in close communication with all our media partners about what's the right thing for each of them to cover."

At present, Ledwitz is solidly in charge of Denver Magazine. Not long ago, he bought out his original partner in the venture, Jay Daignault, and connected with two other investors: Bob Jornayvaz, the father of Auna Jornayvaz, who serves as the publication's director of business development, and out-of-stater Mark Shapiro. However, he characterizes both of them as "silent partners" who allow him to handle day-to-day operations.

As such, Ledwitz oversees a multifacted method of distributing the magazine. He estimates the circulation at 40,000 copies, but while he says the paper lines up new subscribers every day, he doesn't know how much of the total these readers represent. He is certain, however, that more than 10,000 copies per edition are placed in hotel rooms in Denver and assorted mountain communities through deals with the owners of those facilities. And he's got pacts with other major businesses as well. For instance, "we've got our books in first class and business class on Lufthansa airlines. If you take a nine- or ten-hour flight, you can't help but pick up a Denver Magazine."

In his view, this approach is more effective than if he followed a traditional distribution strategy. "With the old model, we might print up 70,000 copies, and the ones that don't sell would go to the recycle bin," Ledwitz asserts. "But this way, I'm guaranteeing that my magazines are going right into the hands of people who are interested in them, and the products advertised in them. We want to make sure all the magazines are actually being read -- and they are."

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