Michael Hancock prostitution story: Denver Post editor Greg Moore on paper's coverage

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for michael hancock in pensive pose small.JPG
Michael Hancock.
Unlike former Rocky Mountain News editor John Temple, who penned a weekly column for years, Denver Post editor Greg Moore seldom writes pieces for the paper. But he made an exception Sunday with an item that attempted to explain the Post's approach to the claims allegedly linking mayor-elect Michael Hancock to the Denver Players prostitution operation. The results are likely to placate some critics even as they fire up others.

"Being Fair While Pursuing the Truth in the Michael Hancock Story" confirms that the Post began working on the story immediately after Complete Colorado published an item that included documents said to be from Denver Players; they featured the name "Mike Handcock" and Hancock's personal cell-phone number. But while former Denver Players owner Scottie Ewing, who'd been shopping the info in advance of the mayoral election, showed the sheets in question to Post reps, he initially refused to let his name be used in any story. As a result, Moore writes, "all we had were records containing a misspelled version of Hancock's name and his cell-phone number (which was widely available to just about anyone) provided by a convicted felon who demanded anonymity."

greg moore photo from february 2009.jpg
Greg Moore at the closure of the Rocky Mountain News press conference in February 2009.
So the Post held off reporting about the story even as other news outlets, including this one, referenced the Complete Colorado piece. Instead, the paper made requests for Hancock's cell-phone and bank records to see if they featured any smoking digits. According to Moore, Hancock's team agreed sans any quid pro quo. "We made no promises to the Hancock campaign to refrain from publishing anything in exchange for access to those records," he stresses. "We would never bargain away our right to publish."

Afterward, however, Hancock's legal crew declined to share the bank records and blamed escalating delays in providing the phone info on T-Mobile. "Admittedly, our patience was wearing thin," Moore concedes, and it snapped after former Post city editor Evan Dreyer, now part of Team Hancock, said none of the records would be provided -- a statement that prompted the Post to publish what it had learned to date.

Why did the paper do so, given that the evidence available had previously been judged sadly insufficient? Partly due to the sense that Hancock was "stonewalling," Moore writes. But by then, Ewing had agreed to allow his name to be used, and Moore maintains that "a person's willingness to put his name behind his allegations is a big step toward giving readers the opportunity to judge the credibility of the charge."

Granted, Ewing's decision to step forward -- which he'd done days earlier with several other media outlets -- only changed Moore's explanation for not publishing from "all we had were records containing a misspelled version of Hancock's name and his cell-phone number (which was widely available to just about anyone) provided by a convicted felon who demanded anonymity" to "all we had were records containing a misspelled version of Hancock's name and his cell-phone number (which was widely available to just about anyone) provided by a convicted felon." Moore concedes that "a week of hard reporting had only marginally advanced the story," resulting in a publication move that "was not an easy call to make."

Of course, the front-page story finally convinced Hancock's handlers to provide the phone records, which showed no link to Denver Players. But even Moore sees this as falling short of definitively proving Hancock's innocence. "Each interview or document review left behind lingering questions," he writes.

The essay concludes with Moore acknowledging, "I can't say for certain that we will ever get to the bottom of what happened here." That's a truth as frustrating for people at the Post as it has been for the media consumers of Denver.

More from our Media archive: "Q&A with Denver Post editor Greg Moore."

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16 comments
Swen
Swen

"all we had were records containing a misspelled version of Hancock's name and his cell-phone number (which was widely available to just about anyone) provided by a convicted felon."

Oh they had more than that. They headlined their first article accusing Hancock of cavorting with call girls: "Mayor-elect Hancock backs off vow to release full records that could refute link to protitution". In addition to the pimp's records they also had the implication that an innocent man wouldn't refuse to let the Denver Post troll through his phone and bank records. They didn't quite come out and say that, but judging by their comments section many readers drew that implication immediately. Apparently refusing to cooperate with their inquisition was all the corroborating evidence they needed to run with the story.

Bottom line, google up a few photos of Scottie Ewing and ask yourself if you would stake your reputation and credibility on something he'd told you. Makes you wonder what on earth the Denver Post editors were thinking, doesn't it?

BobbyT
BobbyT

The most crybabies I've ever seen in one comment string.

Stealth2
Stealth2

As a result, Moore writes, "all we had were records containing a misspelled version of Hancock's name and his cell-phone number (which was widely available to just about anyone) provided by a convicted felon who demanded anonymity."

And yet you decided to run with the story anyway, notwithstanding the flimsy excuse of he didn;'t give us what we asked for.

If there were such a thing as a journalistic license, you're would need to be revoked.

Ray Denonville
Ray Denonville

Who are you Stealth2? The mayor elect?

Stealth2
Stealth2

Nah, just a former print journalist who's seen non-stories become part of a person's legacy thanks to sloppy media work.

Forgetyou
Forgetyou

I read Greg Moore's piece and came away with more questions than answers:

1.) Why did you write it?  I'm left to assume it was because public sentiment was not on the Post's side and he needed to stand up for the 'journalists' who were getting the shit kicked out of them.  I always wondered if there was one person at the Post when the decision to run last week's Saturday Post that stood up and said, "GUYS!  This is insane!  We don't have the story!  We are trashing someone's reputation simply because we're pissed?  This is not how journalism works!"  I'd expect that both Greg and Dean pulled the trigger on this...more sensible minds should have been consulted.

2.) Does the standard for going to print now rest with simple accusation or is proof (one source? two sources?) required?  Does this standard apply to everyone or just to Michael Hancock?

3.) Did Woody Page sleep with hooker and if so, will you report it?

4.) Will you be appearing on America's Got Talent impersonating Howie Mandel?

Jeffrey
Jeffrey

It's clear they ran the story last Saturday because they didn't get what they want. I mean -- gasp! -- someone told the Post no. So the Post threw a temper tantrum in print -- and the story came off that way. Moore tried to justify it and failed miserably. There's a reason he doesn't write a weekly column. He should continue that policy.

Mantonat
Mantonat

"I can't say for certain that we will ever get to the bottom of what happened here." I appreciate good investigative journalism; sometimes the truth is buried and the press needs to dig it up. But if you dig and dig and the only thing to show for it is a big hole, don't try to insinuate that you know the truth is still buried under there somewhere. And the hole itself is not news.

Jeffrey
Jeffrey

I'm wondering if this "hard" reporting and throwing all these resources to take down Hancock, is there a similar investigation going on within the walls of the Post into Woody Plaige and all of the accusations -- with a lot more hard, concrete evidence -- of plagiarism against a "star" columnist? Greg Moore, Scott Monserud and Dean Singleton haven't said one word about it. Woody denies it -- tepidly. And yet SportsByBrooks provided mounds and mounds of evidence of Plaige fabricating and plagiarizing. Greg? Are you out there?

Light Rail Tattler
Light Rail Tattler

The issue is not so much if Hancock paid prostitutes as where did the money come from and was it bribe money. The Bond issue for the Justice Center and Jail, what a crooked deal that was.Did Hancock chair any Excise License Division public hearings?Did Hancock chair any Planning Committee hearings?Did Hancock accept any bribes from Siemens? Bechtel, Parsons and Brinkerhoff?Seven Billion U.S. Dollars delivered to Iraq in $100 bills that Bechtel, Parsons and Brinkerhoff was the winning contractor to rebuild Iraq is unaccounted for, enough money to bribe any politician for Light Rail construction.Bechtel, Parsons, Brinkerhoff is the prime contractor for Fast Tracks.Siemens the manufacturer of RTD Light Rail Trains, about 18 months ago reached a plea-agreement In United States District Court to pay the largest fine for bribery in United States history.$1.6 billion dollars was paid to the Department of Justice, the plea-agreement allowed Siemens to continue business in the United States, part of that agreement was to co-operate with the Department of Justice and the F.B.I. in naming U.S. politicians and public servants that accepted bribes.If Hancock paid prostitutes where did that money come from?Did Hancock make large cash deposits to his bank account?

Stealth2
Stealth2

Why not find out if he actually paid any hookers money first before the Spanish Inquisition begins? Your jump to conclusions make it seem as if you work for the Post.

Ray Denonville
Ray Denonville

I am Light Rail Tattler. I don't work for the Denver Post. I tried to apply for a job at the Denver Post twenty years ago. I worked for the Denver Post when I was 12 years old as a paper boy. The Denver Post at the time was very much a political spy machine like the TV  News stations that phone hack now. The Denver Post only hires from within as explanation why their Rag is so bad and Doomed! to failure.

Sullivan
Sullivan

So, Moore confirms that the front-page story was intended to punish Hancock, truth be damned, because his lawyers refused to give complete access to private records.  Coupled with the Post's endorsement of Romer, that sure sounds like "actual malice" to me.

Corey Donahue
Corey Donahue

The Post is little more then a propaganda machine for the monied interests in Colorado and as print newspapers are a dead medium they are a bad propaganda machine at that.  So the sooner this "fourth branch" true defender of public interests folds the sooner the people of Colorado will be forced to wake up from the bullshit the Post has been feeding us.  Who cares if Hancock has to pay for sex, I mean his name is an synonym for masturbation, cut the guy a break.  Every time no matter where in government some one is caught with their pants down it's big news but the US is in five wars that should be on the news everyday and every hour showing us what we are doing around the world but no, "The media, population and politicians worried about cocks and pussies while America burned."

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