Thin Staffing Requires Rocky Mountain News Staffers to Stretch

The age of specialization in newspapers may not be over, but given the strained financial situation in which the industry currently finds itself, staffers are frequently being asked to move outside their comfort zones.

The May 6 edition of the Rocky Mountain News is a case in point, with several scribes, including theater pro Lisa Bornstein (pictured), ranging off the paths they typically beat. Meanwhile, the Business section is absolutely dominated by copy that didn't originate in the Rocky's newsroom.

The work of Bornstein and arts writer/critic Mary Voelz Chandler generally turns up in Spotlight, the arts-and-entertainment arena. On the 6th, though, both their bylines appeared on straight news stories, albeit ones with links to their preferred areas: Chandler covered an announcement about a digital media festival being staged in conjunction with the Democratic National Convention, and Bornstein profiled the DNC's producers. In contrast, religion columnist Jean Torkelson put her faith in other subjects, as she's done quite often of late. One of her stories focused on an absent Afghan exchange student; another dealt with sealed Rocky Flats jury testimony.

Surprisingly, these journalists weren't asked to write about business, too, since the editors there clearly could use a few more bodies. On May 6, the Rocky devoted twelve pages to the topic, but only two of the thirteen stand-alone articles printed there are credited to tab staffers. Of the rest, two were contributed by freelancers, while the rest came courtesy of syndicators such as the Associated Press and Bloomberg News. The situation is similar in a section of local briefs. Just one out of seven was penned by a Rocky regular.

How long before Bornstein, Chandler and Torkelson are asked to add business reporting to their repertoires? Set your stopwatch. -- 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