Over the course of a year, 5280 ranks any number of things. Restaurants, doctors, schools, neighborhoods—you name it, we’ve probably got a list for it. Which means that we’ve gotten used to people lobbying us about why they deserve to be included in this or that package.
But the campaigning goes into overdrive when it comes time to compile our semi-annual ranking of the most powerful people in Denver. “The 5280 Fifty,” which begins on page 88 and was reported this year by Natasha Gardner, Luc Hatlestad, and Maximillian Potter, has quickly become a big deal in local corridors of power. In a way, that’s understandable. Power, after all, rarely exists in a vacuum, so it follows that the powerful desperately need those around them to know they’re powerful, and they see our ranking as a prime vehicle for getting that message out.
What is surprising, however, is the lengths that some will go to plead their case. Jockeying for the next list typically starts the moment the current one is published. Initially, that means hearing from people who didn’t make that year’s list or think they were ranked too low. It’s not unheard of for an assistant to call to express “her” concern that her boss wasn’t positioned higher and to recite a seemingly well-coached litany of the boss’ accomplishments. But in plenty of instances, it’s the players themselves who make the calls.
As our reporting proceeds, the tenor of the lobbying shifts from complaints to promotion. People we haven’t seen in months will suddenly call to set up lunch, “just to catch up.” Others will volunteer to help assess other candidates. Naturally, we’re grateful when such informed folks offer candid appraisals, even if sometimes our sources end up subtly (or not so subtly) arguing their own respective cases.
All of which means that our team spends a significant part of this ongoing reporting process filtering interests and agendas. At times it’s exasperating, but ultimately “The 5280 Fifty” serves two important ends. First, many of these not-for-attribution conversations open doors to sources and stories that we cover the rest of the year. Second, the list shines an important light on who’s making the decisions and deals that, whether you know it or not, are affecting your everyday life. Sure, the individual rankings are important, but taken as a whole, this is a package that offers valuable insight into the unique ways that things get done in Denver.
—Daniel Brogan, Editor & Publisher