Friday, April 02, 2010

Editor out after offering cop favorable coverage

The editor of the Aspen (Colorado) Daily News, who was caught on tape offering favorable coverage to a police officer in exchange for not charging him with drunken driving, has left his job by "mutual agreement," the rival Aspen Times reports.

Troy Hooper will be replaced by Carolyn Sackariason, who had previously worked at the Aspen Daily News and later co-founded the Santa Monica (California) Daily Press in 2001 with Daily News owner Dave Danforth. Since May 2007, Sackariason has been a reporter at the Aspen Times.

“I’m coming back to my roots,” Sackariason told the Aspen Daily News. “It’s where I started in this valley and where I plan to remain forever. I’m also getting back with my business partner who has also been my mentor.”

Sackariason succeeds Troy Hooper, who had been the editor of the Aspen Daily News since 2007. On Feb. 19, according to local newspaper reports, Hooper got a ride home from Aspen Police Officer Valerie McFarlane, who is a key prosecution witness in the Charlie Sheen domestic violence case. However, after the tape made by McFarlane's police car came to light, police fired her effective Feb. 26.

The Times quoted Aspen Police Chief Richard Pryor as saying there was an apparent conflict of interest at the time McFarlane encountered Hooper because the editor had written stories about her personnel problems at the police department.

On March 17, Aspen Daily News owner Danforth suspended Hooper, saying he was concerned for the reputation of his paper. Both the Aspen Times and Daily News are free dailies.

The Daily News polled readers on its website, asking if Hooper should have been suspended. With 503 votes cast, 47% said "Yes, and a harsher punishment should be imposed." Another 25% said, "Yes, it's an issue of integrity for the head of the paper."

Danforth's paper announced Hooper's departure on Thursday, saying the decision was by "mutual agreement," according to the Times. But Danforth left open the door that Hooper might return. "He's a very talented writer and a very talented editor,” Danforth said. “I very much look forward to when we might see Hooper's writing again in the Daily News.”

Hooper declined to comment on his departure to the Aspen Times, and would not say whether he was dismissed or resigned.