Media Lowered to Half Mast

The May 10 column by Rocky Mountain News editor/publisher/president John Temple focused largely on a speech he gave to graduates of the University of Colorado Boulder's School of Journalism and Mass Communications. But in the midst of anecdotes and observances about the address, he casually mentioned that, a project launched with much ballyhoo in January by E.W. Scripps, the Rocky's parent company, had already gone south.

It's hardly shocking that the concept failed to fly. In a More Messages blog from January that dealt with false rumors of the Rocky's impending demise, I described the notion as "a boondoggle in the making," and I wasn't alone in this view.

Still, there's no denying that was well-intentioned. In his January 19 announcement about the site, Temple described it as a meeting place for readers of every political persuasion as overseen by two impressively credentialed moderators representing divergent ideologies: red stater Ben Boychuk and blue-man Joel Mathis. (In the accompanying Rocky photo, Boychuk stands to the right of Mathis, appropriately enough.) A week later, conservative media observer Dave Kopel declared the site to be "off to a promising start."

Too bad that beginning was followed so closely by a distressing conclusion.

Like it or not, political junkies tend to be drawn to material that caters to their particular views; with unfortunately rare exceptions, they're not terribly interested in what pundits of different stripes have to say. This truth doomed KNRC radio, a Denver talk-radio station that lost plenty of gazillionaire Phil Anschutz's dough trying to appeal to Democrats and Republicans alike (see the last item in this 2004 Message entry for details), and it brought down even more quickly, with Scripps pulling the plug less than four months into its experiment in balance.

As of this writing, new material continues to pop up on the site, with a blog entitled "The Obama Dream Team" followed immediately by a salvo dubbed "MICHELLE OBAMA... ALL THAT AND A BAG OF BROKEN CHIPS ON HER SHOULDER..." But such schizophrenia will likely wind down quickly. After all, the page connected to the "About Us" button has already disappeared -- an indication that Scripps is moving on with as much speed as possible.

Even the increased interest in politics spurred by the upcoming election couldn't prevent RedBlueAmerica from raising the white flag. -- 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