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Former Globe reporter exposes tabloid tactics
Former Globe reporter exposes tabloid tactics

Shapiro has taped conversations, Globe won't comment

By Christopher Anderson
Camera Staff Writer

Jeff Shapiro spent the last two years of his life in Boulder climbing in neighbors' trees, peeking into people's windows, digging through trash bins, and has even lied to a priest — all in the name of justice, he says, for 6-year-old murder victim JonBenét Ramsey.
The 25-year-old is best known as the Globe tabloid reporter whom Boulder police detectives secretly tape recorded talking about a conversation he had with Boulder County District Attorney Alex Hunter, who suggested the tabloid could dig up dirt on a police commander critical of the prosecutor's office.

But now Shapiro, who hasn't worked for the Globe since February, says he is taking a different direction.
Instead of digging up dirt for the tabloids, he now says he wants to expose them.
He claims to have 100 hours of tape recorded conversations between him and his editors of the Globe — conversations that he says are evidence of the unethical and "serious criminal activity" tabloids use to try and leverage information from police and prosecutors as well as witnesses.

"We are talking about the corruption of our justice system," Shapiro says.

He has handed over excerpts of the tapes to the TV news magazine 48 Hours, which plans to run an hour long show on the Ramsey case in April that will feature Shapiro. Tabloid critic and University of Colorado journalism professor Michael Tracey is serving as a consultant to the story.

Shapiro also plans to file a lengthy report on tabloid tactics with the U.S. Justice Department.

Most likely the best insight Shapiro has to offer is a taped conversation with one Globe supervisor interested in trying to get inside information from former Boulder Police Detective Steve Thomas, a former key Ramsey detective who threw down his badge out of frustration with the progress of the case.

The Globe supervisor — who obtained old family letters and photos, including one taken of Thomas when he was child with long blond hair — hints that he could threaten to run a story about Thomas' deceased mother if Thomas refuses to give them information related to the case. Shapiro says he warned Thomas what the Globe was going to do and also went to the FBI officials to tell them, but the investigation didn't go any further.

Shapiro says it's because Thomas refused to press charges. Globe executives say it's because they didn't do anything illegal.
In one excerpt from the tapes there is a conversation between Shapiro and his supervisor, who had recently learned that Shapiro tipped off Thomas. The supervisor blasts Shapiro for talking to so many people, and accuses him of twisting facts. "You're runnin' over there warning Steve, 'Oh, look who's coming; here comes the mean old tabloids,' " the supervisor says on the tape. "We would have told you not to do it."

The tapes also include a furious Globe editor Tony Frost claiming that his publication has more of an interest in proving the Ramseys guilty than the Boulder Police Department or the Boulder County District Attorney's Office. Frost is heard complaining how the Ramseys personally attacked him on national TV.

Frost is also heard chiding his reporters for getting scooped by the National Enquirer on a story about enhanced 911 tapes that some say is evidence that JonBenét's brother Burke was awake an hour earlier than the Ramseys said.
He demands his reporters get more information out of police and prosecutors.

Globe editors say they have not heard the tapes and therefore cannot comment on them.
"We don't and have not violated any laws in terms of the Ramsey story or any other story that we do," said Candace Trunzo, the Globe's managing editor, who claims what Shapiro is most interested in is fame.

Trunzo said Shapiro has a credibility problem and has claimed responsibility for stories he only partially contributed to.
"He is putting himself out there as super cop; he is not. He is a bit player," she said. "I think he wanted to become the center of the attention. ... There is something that is very suspect in all of this."

Shapiro says he was fired by the Globe because his editors learned he had taped them. Trunzo said Shapiro's contract had expired and the editors decided not to renew it because he was not finding any new stories.

Credibility could be Shapiro's toughest challenge as he crusades against the tabloids.

Shapiro came under attack recently, when the authors of "Perfect Murder, Perfect Town," the latest Ramsey book that heavily features Shapiro, were criticized by a Boulder audience.

Audience members were aghast that the authors gave so much credibility to a tabloid reporter who lied about his name and infiltrated a church to learn more about the Ramseys.

Boulder Police Chief Mark Beckner said the only time he has heard of a tabloid trying to exploit a detective was the Thomas case. But he confirmed many of the other questionable tactics Shapiro is railing about.

Besides the fact tabloids offer large sums of money to witnesses — tainting their credibility — the tabloids do report false tips to police, and turn around and write an exclusive story saying the cops are investigating the tip, Beckner said.
"It certainly takes up time," Beckner said. "You are obligated to check in on it. You never know which one is going to be a legitimate tip."

March 8, 1999

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