In Aspen, Colorado — a city with two free daily newspapers — a police officer has been fired after she decided not to charge the editor of one of the papers with DUI following a conversation in which he offered her favorable coverage.
A 26-minute conversation between Aspen Daily News Editor Troy Hooper and Officer Valerie McFarlane was caught on a recording device in her police car, according to the rival Aspen Times.
On the tape of the Feb. 19 episode, Hooper discussed his coverage of the police department, including his reporting on McFarlane.
"You have also been fairly or unfairly put in a position. Not only am I willing to give you the opportunity to walk away from that, I'll give you a few of those opportunities, I really will."
He thanks McFarlane “for not f----ing with me as bad as you could have.”
He continues: “I want to give you a second chance just like you are giving me a second chance. Easily you could put me in jail and say ‘You know what, this guy's been drinking, blah, blah, blah' ... You could find a case. It wouldn't go very far. I have good attorneys, but ...”
The police department fired McFarlane on Feb. 26, but what about Hooper? So far the Aspen Daily News, owned by Dave Danforth, hasn't written a word about the story, though Hooper's name continues to appear on bylines and in the staff box of his own paper.
Meanwhile, The Aspen Times is not only running stories about the incident but also letters to the editor from readers.
In one letter, reader Denise Malcolm suggested the Daily News change its slogan of "If you don't want it printed, don't let it happen” to “If you don't want it printed, then strike a deal with one of our ethically challenged reporters or editors.”