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Rocky Discovers That Homeless People Go to Parks

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I tried to stay positive. Really, I did. I'm usually Mr. Glass Half Full anyhow, so when the Rocky Mountain News launched its first-rate "Deadly Denial" package on July 21, I decided to focus on Laura Frank's fine reportage rather than on the initial chapter of a highly dubious five-parter about Denver Civic Center by reporter James Meadow that was introduced concurrently.

But the July 23 issue shook my resolve. It wasn't so much the forced nature of "Civic Center Blues: Beaten By the Demons in the Park," an offering that found Meadow straining to wring poetry from the tale of Michael Chipps, a 52-year-old man who talked about being assaulted on the grounds. No, the shock was that the Rocky relegated the conclusion of "Deadly Denial" to the cover's upper left-hand corner and devoted the main space to Meadow's article even though its primary revelations are that (gasp!) some not especially hygienic homeless and mentally ill people hang out in city parks and bad things occasionally happen there.

Don't get me wrong: Homelessness is a significant problem in Denver, as it is in most major cities, and I applaud any news agency that takes a serious look at it. But the Rocky's approach doesn't truly address the topic. Rather, the paper is using the subject as yet another tedious tie-in to the upcoming Democratic National Convention. Apparently, Chipps' sad story only matters because national television cameras might catch a glimpse of Civic Center "squalor" (a word used in the first day's headline) and decide that Denver isn't so perfect after all.

Unlike "Deadly Denial," "Civic Center Blues" is more about appearances than issues. And with two parts left to go, my half-full glass is looking emptier and emptier all the time. -- Michael Roberts

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