The Denver Post Finds Strands of Truth

Two good Sunday Denver Posts in a row? Such a streak shouldn't be unusual. In all likelihood, the broadsheet has more editorial resources than any other news operation in the state of Colorado. Yet Sunday after Sunday, page one of its main edition feels adequate at best, featuring decent stories that seldom take the leap to compelling.

Not the July 22 version, though. "Telltale Traces," the first of a four-part series about discarded or poorly handled DNA evidence, and the repercussions the lost evidence that results has on those accussed of crimes, was passionately written, intelligently structured and undeniably persuasive. This effort and its initial companion piece, published on July 23, show what the Post can do when operating at its peak, and demonstrates how the paper can distinguish itself in the continuing competition with the Rocky Mountain News.

There are some significant links between "Telltale Traces" and "Sketchy Evidence Raises Doubts," the outstanding package that appeared in the July 15 Post. Like the more recent offering, "Sketchy Evidence" turns on DNA evidence; supporters of Fort Collins' Timothy Masters believe that what's described as "a smudge of skin cells" goes a long way toward proving he didn't commit the murder for which he's currently serving time. (See this More Messages blog for more details.) Moreover, reporter Miles Moffeit, among the paper's most talented investigative scribes, penned "Evidence" and co-wrote the "Traces" series along with Susan Greene.

Even more important, both pieces are stylistically similar: They're advocacy journalism, in which the paper highlights societal wrongs and sets out to convince the reader that the problems uncovered must be addressed as soon as possible. This approach is clearly liberal, in that it argues against acceptance or preservation of the status quo -- and in the recent past, the Post has been nervous about being slapped with that tag. However, this brand of liberalism goes beyond mere politics, by convincing individuals of every ideological stripe that a change has gotta come.

The Rocky's signature is narrative journalism, and its level of commitment to the form makes the Post seem like a mere mimic when it ventures into this arena. But the advocacy field is wide open, and as work in the past two Sunday issues shows, the Post has got a flair for it. If the paper continues on this path, readers will have a reason beyond habit not to miss the Sunday Post. -- 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