Murder, They Advertised

Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon speaks out against Benetton's "We, on Death Row" ad supplement featuring Missouri inmates; plus, other St. Louis follies and foibles

A memo to this effect, protesting the oversight, circulated in the newsroom. So who was drafted? The affable Greg Freeman, of course, who apparently serves as a sort of a utility infielder for the daily paper of record. Columnist, radio host, TV host, traveling sports-spectacle columnist.

"I was asked late," says Freeman, admitting "it could have been" because of the discovery that Hairlson was the only black P-D employee at the game. "I was asked on Tuesday, and I was on a plane Wednesday," Freeman says. "You can draw whatever conclusions you want from that."

Arnie Robbins, managing editor of the P-D, admits as much.

"There was some concern expressed that we did not have a very large contingent of African-American staff members," he says, referring to the "contingent" of one before Freeman was sent. Robbins points to the inclusion of a photographer of Asian ancestry and notes that two other management people coordinating coverage in Atlanta were women, but he says he regrets that the omission wasn't caught earlier. "We wished we had given a little more thought to that," Robbins says. "So we did think about that."

Thank God for Freeman. "I was very, very glad that Greg Freeman wrote very good columns that were very different than what the sportswriters were doing, that were more about the city of Atlanta and the city of St. Louis, how they handled such a big event and what it might mean if we ever got a Super Bowl here and so on and so forth," Robbins says.

It's all a byproduct of a lack of diversity, something that most publications suffer from -- including The Riverfront Times (which has a nonwhite editor but no African-American staff writers or editors). "It's a reflection of that fact that we and many newspapers of our size don't have enough diversity on our staffs," says Robbins. "You always want more diversity. You get better coverage when you have more diversity, whether it's age, sex, race, experience -- all those things add to richness of coverage. So yeah, from now on my antennae are up, definitely."

Meanwhile, there's Freeman. What a burden for Greg to bear.

MY DINNER WITH GEORGIA, BY BERNIE MIKLASZ: With 3,000 or more journalists covering the Super Bowl, there had to be some misfires. In the Los Angeles Times, columnist T.J. Simers claimed that the "No. 1" sports columnist in St. Louis dined every Thursday night with Rams owner Georgia Frontiere. The implication was that the columnist was in the owner's back pocket.

Of course, the anonymous columnist Simers referred to was the Post-Dispatch's Bernie Miklasz. Miklasz denies chowing down with Frontiere on a weekly basis, though he says they ate together about five times this season, at Gian-Peppe's on the Hill. "I didn't go every Thursday night, but even if I did I wouldn't apologize for it, because you learn a lot of good things during those sessions, because it's not just her," says Miklasz, adding that others at the table included Rams president John Shaw and front-office types Jay Zygmunt and Charley Armey.

Miklasz says he told Simers that he should have called to check out the story, because he had nothing to hide.

"I'm always flattered I get mentioned so many times in the Times," Miklasz says. "I always thought the big sophisticated paper wasn't supposed to care about some fat sportswriter at a medium-sized paper. It's pretty good."

Hanging out with the owner and her hirelings in a social setting didn't suck him in too close to the group, Miklasz insists -- he still ripped the Rams when he thought it was needed. It's just that this year, nearly everything went well. As for the town Frontiere left behind, there are some bitter feelings.

"The LA guys are playing for the crowd, which is fine -- just like I ripped (Bill) Bidwill after he moved. You have to throw red meat to the masses a little bit. It all depends on what your criteria is for ownership," says Miklasz. "She's a hands-off owner, which I kind of think are the best kind."

Give us your feedback by e-mailing "Short Cuts" at shortcuts@rftstl.com, faxing 615-6716 or calling 615-6711.

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