The extent to which layoffs, buyouts and attrition have slimmed staffs at major metro dailies is illustrated by the August 6 Rocky Mountain News. As usual on a Monday, religion writer Jean Torkelson (pictured) is represented by her regular column: The latest edition concerns an open house at Colorado's largest mosque, located on South Parker Road. However, the same issue contains two other big Torkelson-penned spreads, neither of which focuses upon religion. The theme of "Going Beyond Food Stamps," a less-than-hard-hitting feature, is sketched out in its subhead: "Resourceful Coloradans find ways to make ends meet with careful shopping, inventive menus and a variety of programs." As for "Triathlete Says She Can and Then Does," it profiles a blind competitor in August 5's Tri for the Cure event.
Isn't there anyone else at the Rocky who can help Torkelson give readers something to peruse during their morning feed? Precious few, it seems...
Granted, staffing is typically stretched thin during the summer months, when a large percentage of scribes take vacations. But in years past, there have generally been sufficient fill-in personnel to prevent veteran specialists such as Torkelson from having to pen loads o' general-assignment pieces and the like. No more, however. Indeed, Torkelson's latest two ventures beyond the religion zone don't qualify as her biggest stretch to date. The winner in that category is an August 2 article in which she wrote about the gathering menace of bark beetles.
Obviously, these hungry insects far outnumber reporters capable of covering them. Better hope Torkelson doesn't get sick, or the next Rocky could be peppered with a lot of blank pages. -- Michael Roberts