More Messages: "Crossing" Guard

In a blog posted yesterday, I shared my take on the first half-dozen chapters of "The Crossing," the immense series about a 1961 train-schoolbus accident that's currently being serialized in the Rocky Mountain News. In my view, the decision to slice the tale into 33 separate pieces lessened the impact of the first sections. I added:

"The paper essentially acknowledged that in its Saturday, January 27, edition, when the fifth chapter appeared alongside four predecessors that had been printed in previous days. Hard to miss the irony of that move. To highlight the redesign, which was instituted to save paper, the Rocky used two full pages of valuable newsprint on articles it had already published."

Among the folks who saw this item was Rocky editor/publisher/president John Temple (seen here in a 2002 photo), who felt that my characterizations missed the boat by an ocean or so. Here's his explanation, sent via e-mail:

You see it as ironic that we published the four initial chapters of "The Crossing" on Saturday along with the fifth episode, which chronicled the crash itself. I see it as practical, a chance for people to catch up to the series and get engaged. Our circulation on Saturday is twice our daily circulation, and we know those extra people by definition are newspaper readers. By reprinting the first four days, we reached out to them to show why they might want to read the Rocky every day. You have no idea whether the narrative is more effective read in one sitting or in excerpts. I've read it both ways. It's more than 40,000 words long, which is an unrealistic burden to put on a reader of a daily newspaper. The chapters are meant to stand on their own. I don't see your column quibbling with house ads promoting the newspaper. Think of those two pages as the best promotion we could ever do. And no, we won't be doing the same thing going forward. The good news for curious readers is that they can go to our Web site,, and catch up on the series any time they want.

Temple is correct that I have "no idea whether the narrative is more effective read in one sitting or in excerpts." Still, I felt that the first five parts worked better as a unit than they did individually. As for whether I'll feel the same once "The Crossing" concludes, I have to wait to find out. One week down, more than three to go. -- 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