Wednesday Warrior by Jack Phinney 0000-00-00 00:00:00

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by Jack Phinney
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Wednesday Warrior by Jack Phinney
Jack Phinney
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Wednesday Warrior is a century-plus tour, much of it conducted by the nettlesome editor and publisher of one of America’s earliest business weeklies. Gene Cervi’s Rocky Mountain Journal didn’t have a large audience, but it did hold the attention of Denver’s political and business luminaries, some of whom read it with trepidation. Cervi didn’t go calling, however. He didn’t need to. He was well acquainted with his primary targets and, for the most part, remained at his typewriter chastising them intuitively in pieces he dubbed “interpretive reports.” So to some, Eugene Sisto Cervi (SIR-vee) was the most dangerous man in Denver. He had his own little newspaper, built around his “Mile High Observations” column where he walloped the high and the mighty. He was an unsparing critic of Denver’s two dailies, dismissing the Rocky Mountain News as “one bad, very bad, morning newspaper” and the Denver Post as “one clumsy afternoon paper wishing to be good if it only knew how.” He reflected on the financial difficulties that beset the News during World War II and concluded Denver would have benefited if the newspaper had shut down, ceding the market to the Post. “Almost any competent operator could then set in motion, in those postwar years of budding prosperity, a rival newspaper worthy of the spirit of legitimate and constructive competition that makes democracy work,” he wrote. And in a speech to journalism students he said: “I ought to be horsewhipped and run out of town by the Denver Establishment, that being the readership I serve…I moralize a lot in my newspaper. I wouldn’t give you a nickel for a newspaper whose editor didn’t moralize.” He described his own paper as “what a newspaper is supposed to be: controversial, disagreeable, disruptive, unpleasant, unfriendly to concentrated power and wary of privately owned utilities.” Cervi had his heroes, too, Democratic leader Adlai Stevenson among them. Late in life, Cervi seized the opportunity to provide exclusive and intensive coverage of a lawsuit understandably downplayed by both Post and News. The litigation was a matter of grave concern to the management of both dailies because of its potential to put the Post – and perhaps the News as well – in the grasp of acquisitive press lord Samuel Newhouse. Although Cervi considered a Newhouse takeover likely, by no means did he espouse it. He had an acute distaste for chain newspaper barons in general, and was among a coterie of independent publishers who fought against congressional legislation portrayed as a safeguard of editorial diversity but primarily intended to benefit the publishers of many major newspapers nationwide. What was originally labeled the Failing Newspaper Bill became, when signed into law by President Richard Nixon, the Newspaper Preservation Act of 1970. Cervi had called it the Millionaire Crybaby Publishers Bill in testimony before a congressional committee and was aggrieved by its enactment. He didn’t live to witness the rise and fall of the kind of preservation it provided – or the outcome that made its way to Denver in 2009.

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