Daily papers all too frequently overplay freakish or frivolous bits of faux-news at the expense of more important stories -- and when such publications resist the urge to do so, they typically deserve praise. But that wasn't the case with this past Sunday'sDenver Post
. The paper's decision to bury a piece following up on a seemingly goofy item was actually an error in judgment.
The matter in question involved a bear that was captured near Lyons after reportedly getting drunk on fermented apples. Channel 4 got footage of the stumbling, bumbling beast, and its October 3 video very quickly went national via rebroadcasts on loads of other stations across the country, not to mention YouTube, whose link can be accessed by clicking here. Jay Leno even delivered a bear-inspired gag on an episode of the Tonight show.
Turns out, though, that there was more to the tale than was originally reported. In "Punch Line Not Funny After Bear Jokes," which the Post included in its October 8 edition, writer Rick Tosches revealed that the bear was terminally ill, not drunk. One day after she provoked a country's laughter, she was put out of her misery with a lethal injection delivered by a wildlife biologist. An autoposy revealed that the bear had no alcohol in her system.
This information was undoubtedly of great interest to untold thousands of people here and elsewhere who'd chuckled at what they thought were an animal's amusing and benign antics. Moreover, the narrative was well written by Tosches, the Post's "Rocky Mountain Ranger," whose consistently entertaining work deserves more attention. Yet the Post placed the story on page 4C of its Denver and the West section, and didn't even bother to run it alongside a photograph that would have drawn more eyes to the offering.
Granted, the Post had other fish to fry on Sunday; its front page was dominated by "Bank on God," the first portion of an intriguing look at Pastor Dennis Leonard's Heritage Christian Center empire by gifted journo Eric Gorski. But that's no excuse for essentially tossing off an article that would have made people think twice about taking the increasing number of silly videos with which we're regularly bombarded at face value. What may have seemed like a throwaway at first blush actually wasn't frivolous at all. -- Michael Roberts
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.