For the better part of a year, Colorado Public Radio's news and information branch has touted its renewed commitment to reporting about state happenings rather than simply providing a convenient platform for listeners to hear National Public Radio fare. But as noted in this January More Messages blog about forthcoming signal shifts involving KCFR and KVOD, two key properties in the CPR network (they're expected to move to new dial positions in July), the results initially failed to impress. The operation's signature program, Colorado Matters, saw its length halved, not increased, and the more ambitious productions outside the show, often focusing on broad topics like traffic, were few and far between.
At last, however, the news operation is improving in ways the average listener can hear. Colorado Matters is still half an hour in length, in spite of the schedule featured on CPR's website, but quality reports are finally starting to surface -- among them a fine investigation into the impact of oil and gas exploration on Western Slope communities that aired on June 9.
The piece, assembled by correspondent Megan Verlee, eschewed the typical CPR approach -- long conversations with a single source -- in favor of interview segments featuring sound bites from a range of locals whose lives have been altered for better or worse by the drilling boom currently affecting communities such as Rifle and Silt. The extended report provided an intriguing overview of the situation, with the online component linked above supplementing the audio with photos like the one above and a link to regulations proposed by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission that "are intended to balance public health and environmental concerns with the industry's growth," according to the CPR page.
All is not perfect. At this writing, neither the "listen" button nor the connection to the document above were working properly -- at least not for your truly. But Verlee's effort, which I heard during the 5:30 p.m. block on the 9th, is exactly the sort of offering CPR needs to produce on a regular basis if its news initiative is to become something other than a talking point during fund drives. Consider it to be a significant step in the right direction. -- Michael Roberts