An image by photographer Andy Cross from the drunk-driving feature in Sunday's Denver Post.
An image by photographer Andy Cross from the drunk-driving feature in Sunday's Denver Post.

Denver Post drunk-driving report another reason why newspapers matter

"DUI Arrest Stats Staggering," from Sunday's Denver Post, more than lives up to the assertion in its headline. The package smacks readers in the face from its first sentence: "Each year, roughly 10,000 drunken drivers are busted in Colorado for driving drunk again -- and during a recent three-year span, more than 5,000 drunken drivers had at least three prior DUI arrests." From there, staffers Kevin Vaughan and David Olinger add the sort of reportorial detail that makes the collected pieces' central theme even more disturbingly resonant.

In an April 3 Q&A, Post editor Greg Moore, speaking about an earlier Olinger effort, described the template for reports like the one published yesterday. "We've been doing more stories that are data-driven -- not just done by him, but done by a number of others," he said. "That's what I'm looking for." He added that the closure of the Rocky Mountain News, not to mention staff shrinkage at other news operations in the state, make publishing such work even more important: "I feel that with the resources we have, we shouldn't squander this opportunity. Losing a paper like the Rocky, I think, puts more pressure on us to use our resources wisely, use them well. Do good journalism for as long as we can do it. That's what the commitment is -- to use our best brainpower and all of our reporting and editing talent to have a crackling, crisp newspaper that tells people things they don't know."

The information Vaughan and Olinger reveal wasn't inaccessible. It was sitting there, waiting to be interpreted -- but because of the well-documented challenges afflicting traditional media these days, there are fewer journalists able to look for it. This series provides an argument for supporting, and championing, those still doing so.

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