Hoaxer Harasses Top Execs At Denver Post p.

By: DAVID NOACK Slick, counterfeit news releases announce editor in chief's retirement.
At least two newspapers have reported and then retracted bogus info.

APERSON BELIEVED to be a disgruntled former employee is conducting a campaign of harassing hoaxes against the editor in chief and other Denver Post employees.
The campaign has included the creation and national distribution of fake but realistic looking corporate news releases announcing bogus events, such as the editor's retirement.
In the latest incident in early July, news organizations around the country received a release reporting Post editor in chief Dennis Britton was retiring and moving to Utah to devote more time to his hobby, beekeeping ? all of it lies.
An earlier "news" release said Britton won the Edgar O' Malley award from the University of Missouri Journalism School, which recognizes distinguished editors. There is no such award.
In addition, Britton says that over the last year, his garbage has been stolen, unordered pizzas have been delivered to the newsroom, and he and others have been signed up unwittingly to a video pornographer's mailing service.
Britton said he's "99%" sure who is responsible, and, the newspaper is investigating.
While the hoaxes appear to be humorous, he said, they are potentially harmful, and the latest round suggests a personal motive.
"When somebody steals your garbage it's scary. It's not funny anymore," said Britton, adding that he and his family are now "very careful at home. . . . It's just disquieting." He said he may seek criminal prosecution because "this now involves my family. My wife's name is in that last release, and I think that crossed a line that I'm not willing to cross."
Following the retirement hoax, Britton received telephone calls from friends and colleagues across the country. Even the Denver mayor's office called with an offer to proclaim "Dennis Britton Day" in the Mile High City.
The announcements appear on official-looking, two-color, "Office of the Publisher" stationery, but it's forged, according to Britton. The crisply written beekeeper release was accompanied by a photo of Britton marked with a Denver Post copyright. And the hoaxes are highly detailed. The Britton retirement scam summarized his career at the Chicago Sun-Times and Los Angeles Times and accurately cites accomplishments and associations, such as membership in the Japan America Society.
The Gazette, a daily newspaper in Colorado Springs, printed the July announcement ? and later a retraction.
In an earlier incident, someone pretending to be Post publisher Ryan McKibben posted a letter in the Denver Broncos forum of the Post's Web site praising the archrival Green Bay Packers football team. The item was picked up by the Post's crosstown rival, the Rocky Mountain News, which ran a Jan. 19 sports column by Norm Clarke mentioning the letter, in which "McKibben" claimed to wear a Packer fan's "cheesehead" hat.
The next day, Clarke's column retracted the story and admitted to being fooled by the posting and failing to confirm details. "I was wrong," he confessed. "That wasn't Denver Post publisher Ryan McKibben who wrote a message under his name in an electronic message board on the Post's Web site saying he had posed wearing a cheesehead, a fan symbol of the Green Bay Packers. The paper says the message attributed to McKibben came from an impostor, as did another message I quoted that was attributed to Post columnist Mark Kiszla," Clarke said.
Westword, the Denver-based alternative weekly, received the latest bogus release, but reporter Ward Harkavy checked it out, discovered the hoax and reported the facts to readers. He noted that the former Post staffer believed to be responsible "is showing more creativity than he ever showed as an employee of the newspaper."
Harkavy, who was aware of some of the previous deceptions, became suspicious when the latest release referred to the earlier fiction of the Edgar O'Malley award.
Harkavy pointed out that even the mailing date of the release was probably a calculated move by someone who knew how most newsrooms actually work. It arrived July 3, the day before
a long holiday when checking is less likely.
?(Realistic, but fake, press releases and photo announcing editor's resignation) [Photo & Caption]
?( Editor & Publisher Web Site: http://www.mediainfo. com) [Caption]
?(copyrigh: Editor & Publisher July 18, 1998) [Caption]


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