Bad Timing for the Rocky Mountain News' Energy Series

The Rocky Mountain News has invested an enormous amount of time and resources in "Beyond the Boom." The four-day series, which debuted on December 10, is an ambitious attempt to grapple with the impact of the current uptick in energy-related projects on the state, complete with special, ad-free sections designed with journalism contests in mind. But given what 9News is referring to as the "Religious Shootings," not to mention the hefty weather system that overwhelmed the metro area on December 11, few folks have noticed.

Rocky types would have had a tough sell under the best circumstances. Energy is an undeniably important issue, but also a sprawling and diffuse one that lacks a central focus. During the first two days of the series, designers have attempted to lure in readers with lotsa photos played huge, and the web treatment also emphasizes some fine imagery. Reporters such as Todd Hartman, Gargi Chakrabarty, Burt Hubbard and Laura Frank are also working hard to spice up the subject matter -- but the strain shows. Some of the segments, including Hubbard's piece revealing how a property tax credit given to energy companies depletes the state's oil and gas industry profits, represent solid reporting filled with telling details. Nonetheless, much of the material remains mighty dry, especially in comparison with a significant snowstorm or the story of a crazed assassin who quoted a Columbine killer's manifesto before meeting his match in a security guard who says her weapon was held in God's hand.

In life, timing is everything -- and unfortunately for the Rocky, "Boom" is going off during the wrong week. -- Michael Roberts

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