More Messages: Back in Black

Supervisors at newspapers aren't fond of mistakes in general -- but they especially despise front-cover gaffes. For that reason, the powers-that-are at the Rocky Mountain News couldn't have been happy with a screw-up related to the February 17, page-one launch of a black-history-month series that traces the roots of several prominent local African Americans. A box hyped a future piece on KOA's Gloria Neal -- yet Neal is currently the morning host of Sassy FM, and hasn't been on KOA's staff for ages.

Odder still was the the headline affixed to the series' introduction: "DNA Unlocks Centuries of Lost History for Denver Blacks." This last phrase -- "Denver Blacks" -- sounds like a sports-team parody along the lines of the "Fightin' Whites," a University of Northern Colorado intramural basketball team circa 2002 whose nickname was intended to turn the tables on those who defend using Native Americans as mascots.

Granted, the Rocky has long used "black," not "African American," to describe people of this particular ethnic background, and there's nothing wrong with the choice. But according to the results of a quick Nexis search, the paper has previously employed a less curious usage when referring to area residents who fit this description: "Denver's blacks." Moreover, a second search failed to turn up a single example of the term "Denver Whites."

No mistaking that. -- Michael Roberts

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
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