Checking in on the Rocky Mountain Independent

Today marks seven weeks since the launch of the Rocky Mountain Independent, a news website peopled mainly by Rocky Mountain News veterans who'd previously been involved with INDenver Times, an ambitious attempt to create an online news service that fell far short of initial subscriber targets. Whether by choice or happenstance, RMI has kept a low profile since then, but it continues to produce new material on a regular basis. But because the site, like INDenver Times, also boasts a subscriber component, only some of it is accessible to the average web surfer.

Example: Anyone can take a look at a Kevin Flynn article about the five worst bridges in Denver -- a strong, newsworthy story accompanied by a slideshow whose main drawback is a lack of captions. In contrast, a Cindy House piece about "upside-down lightning caught on video" can't be viewed unless a visitor is logged in -- and while membership is $4 per month and just $24 per year, that's still more than most people are likely to pay, especially given that footage of a man surviving a brush with a vicious lightning bolt is just a trip to YouTube away.

Credit the RMI crew for continuing to fight the good fight. After all, INDenver Times, while still online, is limping along by borrowing headlines from many other sources; at this writing, for instance, the main offering concerns a beam that had become a 911 memorial returning to the World Trade Center site -- a report that doesn't exactly scream "local content." At this point, though, the Independent's battle for survival remains uphill. But perhaps lightning will strike.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts