The Denver Dailies Gear Up For the Olympics

The May 8 Message column noted that rising costs and declining revenues convinced many local media outlets to bow out of covering the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, or at least significantly scale back. Yet two days prior to the games' August 8 opening ceremonies, both the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News have personnel on the ground in China -- and while they've taken different coverage approaches in print, both papers are trying to justify the tremendous expense by pushing additional prose online.

At this early stage, the Post is letting readers know about its Olympics focus right up front. A case in point: "For USA, It's All About Gold -- Stars, That is, For Good Behavior," an on-site report by staffer John Meyer, dominates the front page of its August 6 edition. In contrast, the same day's Rocky makes no mention of the Olympics on page one, and buries a big spread by reporter Clay Latimer about basketball in China deep in the sports section. Moreover, Latimer's effort receives only a top-line reference on a sports-section cover otherwise dominated by ballyhoo about the three-game suspension handed down to talented knucklehead receiver Brandon Marshall.

At this writing, in contrast, the Rocky is doing more to take advantage of blogging opportunities. Its Summer Olympics blog page suffered from a variety of loading issues when I visited, but when the hourglass went away, I was able to peruse posts by several writers, including Latimer and Chris Tomasson. The best stuff, though, came from Daniel Oshinsky, whose items feature a charmingly wide-eyed approach and a welcome bit of mirth. Take his "first attempt" at a Beijing dictionary, which concludes with this entry: "Zhège (这个): 'this one'; rhymes with nèige; sounds very much like the first word in the title of this explicit Jay-Z song."

Yeah, that term is "nigga" -- and since Rocky guardians wouldn't spell out the word "ass" in its recent pieces about Colorado Republican Party chieftain Dick Wadhams, Oshinsky obviously knew better than to try and slip the n-word by them.

As for the Post's Olympics blog, it's much more one-dimensional thus far. Although Meyer is clearly in the neighborhood, the only person to weigh in thus far is his colleague, John Henderson, who's penned three blogs to date, with the most recent, about a day trip to a mountaintop, going live on August 2.

Presumably the posts will come more frequently once the competition gets under way. But with the Post and Rocky teams stretched thin, print journalists will have a mighty tough time keeping up with their opposite numbers in the field of television. As author David Maraniss pointed out in a recent Q&A about his new book, Rome 1960, the media balance of power has shifted in the past half-century. And it's not going to shift back. -- 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