More Messages: Tuned In

Radio has been pronounced in near-death condition more times than Augusto Pinochet -- and radio news seems to be in the worst shape of all. Among all the stations in Denver, only KOA still maintains a sizable news staff, and when big stories hit, even that outlet is stretched thin. Hence the reports during last week's storm by program director Jerry Bell, who's more than earned his place behind a desk.

Nevertheless, radio remains a great medium for news -- one that, at its best, can convey an intimacy that grants in-depth reports even greater resonance. That was certainly the case with a December 4 National Public Radio piece about soldiers at Fort Carson that went well beyond the sort of photo-op journalism epitomized by the image seen here.

In the segment, NPR national-desk correspondent Daniel Zwerdling talked to Pvt. Tyler Jennings and a slew of other Iraq war veterans who experienced post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and other serious maladies upon their return to the States. Unfortunately, the vets said, their symptoms were seldom treated in a timely manner due to severe flaws in the health-care system at Fort Carson, and several claimed to have been disciplined or punished simply for seeking help in regard to wounds every bit as real as the physical kind.

NPR wasn't the first to look into this matter. Indeed, Jennings was at the center of a July cover article in the Colorado Springs Independent, an alternative weekly. But Zwerdling's patient and compassionate treatment of the material brought the charges to a much larger stage. In doing so, NPR proved that radio isn't ready for an autopsy just yet. -- Michael Roberts

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