More Messages: Good Rocky, Bad Rocky

As of this moment, the Rocky Mountain News is the most entertaining daily newspaper in Denver, if only because it's equally capable of excellent journalism and questionable judgement from one day to the next.

At this writing, the Rocky is in the midst of a five-day series, "Immigration: The Border Within," which shows what the paper can do when it's operating at its peak. The assorted articles, penned by staffers such as Burt Hubbard, John Accola, Fernando Quintero and Laura Frank, look at the flaws in current immigration enforcement; individuals who've broken no law other than being in this country are often marked for deportation, the Rocky's statistics show, while far more dangerous men and women are overlooked. Simply taking on this topic shows some nerve, since folks fighting against a greater crackdown on illegal immigrants will object to the focus on felons, while those on the opposite side of the issue are apt to see other aspects of the reports, like a June 12 overview piece that was published in Spanish, to be disagreeable, too. The impressive results, however, have more than justified the Rocky's efforts.

Contrast this achievement with the front page of the June 9, Rocky, which was dominated by a single, giant photo of dead terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and the headline "How They Got Him." Many of the complaints about this image came from parents, who didn't want their kids looking up bloody nostrils blown up almost to life size. Indeed, Rocky editor/publisher/president was put in the position of defending this decision on taste grounds during that day's Dan Caplis-Craig Silverman afternoon-drive show on KHOW. But the news value of such play was even more dubious. While al-Zarqawi was inarguably a major negative force in Iraq, he was responsible for only a relatively modest percentage of the mayhem in that country. As such, treating his death on par with, say, the longed-for capture of Osama bin Laden is either an enormous overstatement, or a cynical excuse to get attention, New York Post style.

The Rocky can better than that. For proof, look no further than today's edition. -- Michael Roberts

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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