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March 03, 2009 06:44 PM UTC

Actually, We Wanted The Rocky To Live

  • by: Colorado Pols

UPDATE: a refreshingly candid mea culpa, as the Denver Post updates:

Rep. Jared Polis released the following statement this afternoon, apologizing for remarks he made over the weekend that new media “killed” the Rocky Mountain News.

“I apologize to the entire Rocky Mountain News family and anyone who was offended by my recent remarks.” the Boulder Democrat said in a release. “I did not mean to offend nor to show anything less than a strong sense of remorse for the loss of the Rocky. Like many Colorado residents, I grew up reading the Rocky Mountain News and its demise and the loss of over 200 jobs is a major blow to our community, especially in these troubled times.”

This was the best thing Polis could have done, for himself as much as the reporters he’ll still need to deal with as an elected offical–some of whom are fresh over from the Rocky and likely appreciated these comments the least. Original post follows.

As the Denver Post reports:

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, who made his fortune selling greeting cards and flowers online, gave a shout-out to the blogosphere Saturday, giving it – and himself – credit for the “demise” of traditional journalism.

“I have to say, that when we say, ‘Who killed the Rocky Mountain News,’ we’re all part of it, for better or worse, and I argue it’s mostly for the better,” Polis said at the Netroots Nation in Your Neighborhood event in Westminster, according to a recording posted online. The group supports progressive politics.

“The media is dead, and long live the new media, which is all of us,” said Polis, a Boulder Democrat.

The Rocky shuttered its operation Friday.

Polis also told those at the event that “since we killed the newspapers” and “own the media,” bloggers and citizen journalists have a responsibility…”to reach out to some of those…on the other side and present the progressive point of view,” he said.

We’ll start by saying that we don’t consider the demise of the Rocky Mountain News, or for that matter any of the major media outlets finding themselves in dire financial straits today, in any way a good thing. Furthermore, we don’t consider what we do–blogging–to be an effective replacement for traditional journalism. In fact the misconception that what we do is a workable replacement for actual journalism is, in our opinion, very dangerous. Colorado Pols is a blog. That’s all.

As much as we feel convinced of the rightness of our spin imparted to the news of the day, and indeed as often as this blog has broken major news stories, we can’t replace the Rocky precisely because our role is to provide context. And large-donor funded new media outlets like the Colorado Independent, for all their ambition, can’t fill this void either. They are bound to the interests that fund them at an inseparable level.

Financially self-sufficient commercial media is the only way to ensure impartial coverage of the day’s events. They provide (in the majority of cases, anyway) the basic information that we bloggers riff off of and amplify, and to forget the dependencies between one and the other is an act of pure hubris.

Our understanding is that Rep. Polis has backed off these ill-stated comments in a subsequent email to the Denver Post. That’s good. Let’s move on then, and remember to always cite your published sources. While you still have them.


46 thoughts on “Actually, We Wanted The Rocky To Live

  1. Pols raged on the RMN at the drop of a hat, quit trying to deny it.

    Besides its not like you are the Judas here … why attempt to cover tracks that you did not make.

    1. We’re saying EXACTLY THAT. Our role is to provide context to the news, and we did indeed criticize the Rocky, just as we have criticized other news outlets. But that doesn’t mean we think they should go out of business.

      1. That’s just life, the Post benefits.

        As to your position on this diary, why would you say “Actually”, why not simply … we wanted the rocky to live?

  2. of this issue I’ve seen. It’s pretty true that blogs are mostly an online form of cable news channel punditry–they report information, but they have their own particular bias and slant.

    The only problem: what happens when the other daily newspaper shuts down? And then the others in different cities? Is the television news going to be the only daily source of local news at that point? I don’t think so. Maybe it won’t be Colorado Pols filling the gap, but some sort of online publication will.

    I do have to somewhat take umbrage with your notion that commercial media is impartial though. I see a very specific bias at the Denver Post in particular–that bias mostly sticks to the editorial pages, but it often slips onto the front page. Impartiality–the tried and true altruistic variety–basically doesn’t exist in the media anymore. Even the Associated Press has smatterings of opinion thrown into their news coverage.

    I think that what Jared Polis was trying to say was that the Rocky is gone, the Post is about to follow, and soon most of the other newspapers around the country.

    Blogs, on the other hand, aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

    1. has to do with institutional memory.  One of my worries is that on the state level the only ones giving background will be lobbyists.  If I have to have spin, I’d like it to be small and a little angry, instead of smooth, believable and nicely paid for.

      An online publication will probably always be around.  I stand by my theory that killing paper circulation and raising ad costs online can be a workable model.  At the end of the day bloggers didn’t kill the Rocky, IMO, people using their site and not paying a dime did.

  3. I think not.  It takes money and a mission to do that kind of thing.

    Go to the third photo in the link below.  It is seared in my brain and makes me tear up every time I see it even several years after its first publication.  It is photojournalism of the highest caliber.  The moment he catches, you can’t help but know that every passenger in that plane is thinking something intense.


    1. Newspapers don’t just print words.

      And I almost forgot about that series of photos. They’re so haunting. Just as moving today as when the war was raging full-on.

    2. Publications such as 5280 already are doing such projects and have been for years. Newspapers don’t have any monopoly on those types of projects and don’t have any special attributes that lend themselves to such projects.

      Too bad the newspaper didn’t expend the same resources on something that really counted: Strong and in-depth local news coverage. The fact is that the local newspapers have nearly totally abdicated any meaningful coverage of Denver neighborhoods and local government in favor of devoting huge amounts of landscape to projects like the ones you mentioned. What passed for “local” or “neighborhood” coverage in the Rocky was dominated by crime stories or the “citizen journalist” (aka “free” or submitted by PR people and partisan hacks) contributions of

      In other words, they willingly gave up their unique strength in favor of doing something a lot of other people already were doing: lengthy documentary-type pieces of magazine journalism.

      Don’t hear John Temple talking about that do you? Maybe if he suckers someone in this market into giving him a job we will, but I doubt it.

      1. Sure, it might snow here in FL in June.

        Not likely.

        Not likely any organization is going to spend the time and money with quality journalists to bring us similar.  If anything, they will see that the Rocky “wasted” a lot of money.

    1. I don’t speak for anyone but myself, but I find this sort of “read my blog” boosterism obnoxious. Instead, you ought to repost your thoughts in a new diary, and write “crossposted at” at the bottom.

      I’m sure you’ll want to answer with anger (almost everyone does), but please note that I gave you constructive (if blunt) criticism.

      Again, welcome to the blog.

      1. you’re correct! so here goes:

        Let’s see.

        Rush Limbaugh says liberal bias caused the Rocky Mountain News to fail. Gee, Vince Carroll, what would you have to say about that?

        Then Democratic U.S. Rep. Jared Polis says it’s the progressive (aka liberal) blogosphere responsible for the newspaper’s demise.

        Each of these – and plenty more out there in the blogosphere –  would love nothing better than to preach only to the choir, presenting only their version of the world.

        Believe me, i know. i once served as a consultant to a political news Web site, http://www.coloradoconfidentia… funded in part by Polis. The idea was to pay bloggers to report and write more like journalists. But when it came right down to it, there was some news that wasn’t news. Like when a Polis staffer/blogger… slammed his two 2nd Congressional District opponents and was forced to resign. The managing editor for the site refused to allow a post on this subject for most of a day because, as she told me, A) Polis helped fund the site and B) the staffer in question was a friend of hers and C) Polis had paid to send the ME, the Polis staffer and others to Yearly Kos(aka Netroots Nation) the weekend before. After much debate among the staff, the ME wrote her own brief post.

        And i resigned from the site. Because i didn’t want to work for a political campaign. i wanted to work for a news site. And suppressing or ignoring the news isn’t what journalism is about.

        But preaching only to the choir certainly helps the cause of folks like Limbaugh and Polis. If traditional journalists aren’t around (in print or on the Web) to offer complete stories, featuring all sides, all the better for the idealogues.

        1. Of said Web site ignoring some news while over-reporting other news. I’m not saying that is a bad thing. Information is information. As long as it’s accurate, what is the big deal? FTS does the same thing. The whole notion that information providers have to be non-bias is as outdated as the printed newspaper. Accept it, embrace it and move on.

          However, one distinction must be made. FTS doesn’t try and hide its intention, which is what said Web site we’re talking about does. Pretending to be one thing while operating as another is against journalistic ethics. But, again, what they do isn’t journalism. It’s advocacy work.

          1. The whole notion that information providers have to be non-bias is as outdated as the printed newspaper.

            During the founding of our country virtually every paper was clearly biased and funded by various political figures.

  4. First off, I agree that newspapers fill a crucial role in our political system. But that does not mean they will continue to exist.

    Papers are on a downward spiral. Lower ad revenue means fewer articles means fewer readers means lower ad revenue… And yes it’s due to the web but while newspapers are trying to address the web, and doing so ineptly, their prime competition is moving from the web to the cell phone. Getting the web “right” in 5 – 10 years will be worthless.

    Meanwhile the papers are stuck in yesterday trying to fit their print product onto a website. Wrong approach guys. You’re like the original use of the telephone where each company had one in their mailroom and used it as a faster way to deliver messages between companies.

    1. Information is what is crucial to a vibrant democracy – not necessarily the medium in which it is delivered.  The medium will be dictated by technology and the needs of the recipients.  I am squeamish about how much really bad information is out there on the Internet, and some of the worst of it seems to be there in perpetuity.

      It is always a test of the voters to see if they can find useful information that helps them make informed choices and to distinguish that from bad and manipulative information.  As long as we have freedom of speech, that dilemma will exist.

      But newspapers have not always been the clear beacon of objectivity and good information, either.  Newspapers are businesses and they reflect the values of their owners – a quick read of not only the Post (which I think is a particularly biased newspaper), the Chieftain, the Gazette and other papers makes it pretty clear that they are designed and intended to deliver commentary on the values of their owners – which may or may not coincide with a greater long term public good.

  5. Give Polis a pass on this and hounddog the statehouse R’s relentlessly for their dumb comments?  

    Anyway, you’re exactly right in this post.  More context fodder for this:

    Reporters have been called home, reassigned, bought out, laid off. Only one TV station in Virginia still has a reporter at the capital. Many newspapers have decided to cover the capital by phone, if at all.

    Quite obviously, unpaid bloggers cannot fill those gaping holes.  We need a functioning professional journalism industry if we’re going to have a functioning democracy.

    1. Where do we go from here? It’s not like the heart of what Polis said isn’t true–papers are dying in droves. This is being escalated by the struggling economy, but it was going to happen no matter the status of the economic climate.

      You can harangue on Polis all you want, but ultimately it’s like droll said above:

      At the end of the day bloggers didn’t kill the Rocky, IMO, people using their site and not paying a dime did.

      I haven’t had a newspaper subscription since I moved out after high school, but I’ve read the paper every day. Is it my fault that while they were slowly being decimated by the internet they didn’t change their business model? If they’re so damned important, then bail them out. That seems to be the trend these days.

      Obviously a free press is critical to a functioning society, but we still need innovation from the business side of things. If they don’t react to changing circumstances, then it’s their own damn fault. Nobody killed/is killing the newspaper business–they committed suicide.

        1. I’d be trying to talk to anyone who might have some good ideas on what it will take to survive. So I called Dean Singleton to see if he would like to meet sometime.

          But according to his admin Mr. Singleton has no interest in meeting with the CEO of a software company who has created products on the internet from it’s infancy and is a pretty active blogger.

          I have to agree with you – most of them aren’t even trying.

            1. I try to buy someone different lunch once a week to then pick their brain. And I don’t limit myself to people in the high-tech industry. The trick is to find people who think and achieve at something and learn from them.

              And if they’ve given up or are unable to put in the effort to find new approaches, they need to resign so someone who will do that can step up and try.

  6. was on its death bed back when the Joint Operating Agreement was created.  That only prolonged the death.  The fact that they couldn’t be bothered to figure out how to best use the internet to do their reporting is only part of it.

    This is another example of a newspaper going for the quick sensationalist headline and getting it wrong.  That article had three updates to correct facts.  If the original version was correct, that headline would have made a lot more sense.  I had to show them where the actual audio was, the correct title of the event, the actual quote, etc. etc.  They got the link to the audio wrong, then just removed the link all together.   most of the comments to that article reference the original version.  Talk about not understanding the internet.  It’s like the online version is a beta test and the early online readers are the dumb smucks that have to help the paper do the testing.  Except, rather than tell everyone there was an update, they screwed up, and here’s the correction, they just let it go, and the readers are in the dark.

    If ever there was an example of old media trying to deal with new media and falling on their face it was this.  

    In the end, they stuck with the headline, despite about 70% of the article being rewritten.  That headline is the editor’s interpretation of Polis’ comments.  Could he have said them better, yes.  But if you look at just his words and the clarification, it’s clear he means WE ARE ALL to blame for the demise of the rocky.  

  7. have been less flashy competitors like Craig’s list and the interstate unemployment office consortium sponsored job listing site, which has devistated classified ad revenue.

    Internet dominance in this area makes sense.  Classified ads are the least efficient kind of advertising to provide via mass distributions of dead trees.  Classified ads market only to people who are looking for something specific (unlike content page ads which try to capture wandering eyes), and almost by definition something like 99% of classified ads on any given day are useless to any given person looking at them, and a large percentage of newspaper purchasers are looking for anything advertised in the classified ads on a given day.  Then, there are legal advertisements, which the publishers hope that no one will read and put in obscure (to the general public) forums like the Colorado Statesman instead of something that people are actually likely to have in their homes.

    For that matter, even advertisements fliers for apartments or used cars in grocery stores are far, far more efficient, because they are picked up only to people interested in transactions of that general type, ending printing costs to get the information to everyone else who doesn’t care as classified ads do.

    Public affairs blogs, by driving traffic to newspaper websites, have more of the relationship of newspaper movie reviews to films.

  8. What an ass.

    I’m certainly not happy to see the Rocky disappear and no one should be dancing on their grave, much less a Congressman.

    1. 200 people just lost their jobs.  Surely this wasn’t the only way to suggest a new style of journalism, try a little class.

      Also idiotic because, as I posted on Monday, there were blogs saying that he’s interested in schools for the young boys.  That’s obviously hate and nothing else.  Long live the “new media.”

  9. John Temple’s attack on Jared Polis’ speech at the Netroots event is understandible.  The dirt covering the Rocky’s grave hasn’t even had a chance to settle yet.  So to Mr. Temple, it may appear that Jared’s remarks are jubilant dancing on his newspaper’s grave.

    On the contrary, I think all Jared was trying to do was to use the metaphor of the Rocky’s death to describe the general trend of the entire industry.  Not literally to take responsibility for the Rocky’s demise.

    Public Speaking 101:  Know your audience, find a hook to draw them in, and then make your point.  Jared’s goal was to issue a call to action to a self-selected group of activist-bloggers to take responsibility for stepping up their game, filling the expanding void of hard-hitting journalism, and not just be the “chattering-class” with no stake in the results of their work.  Perhaps to rise to the level of journalists.  John Temple’s defense of his company’s failed attempts to engage citizen-journalists was valiant, but misdirected.  A few years ago, even I disparaged their weekly insert as “YouWho” or “”.  The effort, while noble, was too diffuse, and not particularly engaging.

    No one has the financial model worked out yet, but I still think it will be a hybrid of bloggers and journalists.  But it will have to wait for the moneymen to figure out how to make a buck.


  10. the death of a newspaper and the death of journalism.  We just experienced the former, and we’re not yet sure about the latter.  What worries me is that a lot of folks don’t seem to understand what journalism’s demise will mean to our society.  “You don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone. . .”

  11. Jared said something that offended some folks. He apologized. I’m sure all of us have said things that didn’t quite come out right and we regret saying. Instead of triing to justify what he said, Jared came right out and apologized and went on to say how the demise of 200 jobs is a blow to the community. Let’s move on.

    1. Not only was what he said demonstrably less offensive than recent offensive tirades from our own elected officials in Colorado, but he apologized immediately.

      See how easy it is Renfroe and Schulthies?

  12. Have those clueless buffoons that Jared had running his campaign returned? Remember how

    Jared’s campaign made  mistake after  mistake until he fired his old campaign manager and hired Robert Becker?

    This comment is reminiscent of the worst moments of Jared’s Congressional campaign. Don’t get so carried away Congressman.  

    1. They are clearly always thinking about things and they tell you what they’re thinking without first running it by their staff for vetting on every word. And in return we get a more honest and direct voice from them.

      By definition the price of that is that they will say something that is upsetting to some a lot more often. But I’ll take that to get a more honest response. Mark Udall will never say something stupid but on the flip side he will also never say anything that hasn’t been poll tested within an inch of it’s life.

      And as pointed out above, Jared apologized.

      1. He immediately realized it was the wrong thing to say and apoligized for it, knowing it was hurtful to many.  This is in stark contrast a pol recently in the news like, say, Dave Schulteis, who just digs in further and stands by his completely asinine comments.

        Jared didn’t mince words about someone taking what he said out of context, or that it was blown out of proportion, he just apologized.

  13. Polis’s apology reeks of political posturing. My guess is he was advised to shell it out by his lackeys after they realized what could happen if they just turned him loose. He spoke his heart initially when he bad-mouthed the Rocky, it seems to me, and the so-called “apology” strikes me as completely empty. He’s interested in the death of truth and the perpetuation of opinionated blowhards on both sides of the aisle.

    Go to hell, Polis. I hope you get primaried out of office.

    And kudos to you, Pols, for standing by traditional news outlets and supporting the Rocky.

    1. The apology is genuine. People (not just from the paper) unloaded on him, and instead of getting defensive he flatly and unequivocally apologized.

      Sometimes people are asshats and need that pointed out to them. Good people apologize. He did.

      As an aside, if you think that newspapers and other traditional media outlets aren’t full of “opinionated blowhards” and speak only the “truth” then you are completely deluded.

      1. Forgive me, wabbit, if I stepped on your sensitive little toes. I was under the assumption that the purpose of this section was to allow people to vent their opinions.

        To your argument: newspapers are at least usually based in fact, whereas blogs have and usually feel no such obligation. They’re not exactly bastions of “truth,” if you want to quantify the word with quotation marks.

        Of course newspapers and other outlets are full of opinionated morons (Bill O’Reilly and Ann Coulter, for example). But that doesn’t mean they don’t also have reporters who strive for accuracy and fairness. That’s what I’m concerned about, and it’s what Polis seems completely unconcerned with.

        And my aggravation with him stems from his monumental ego, which allowed him to overlook the hypocrisy of authoring a financial ethics amendment (Amendment 41), help finance its campaign, and then pour millions of his own cash into his campaign for Congress, essentially purchasing his way into office. I have no use for such people, and again, I hope he gets primaried out. Shafroth, for example, would have made a far better congressman.

        And as for the apology being genuine? Don’t make me laugh. If you think the he actually meant it, then it’s you who are completely deluded. Polis never thinks he’s ever wrong. There’s a difference between sincerity and a calculated political statement. Get a clue.

  14. To the Rocky, and to the slower, more deliberate, and perhaps more thoughtful age that it belonged to. I write for a print publication-and have for 12 years.  I think that the golden age of journalism is right now-with our frothy mix of blogs, aggregators, and print pubs. I can’t imagine life without the NYT-or Bloomberg, or without the Post-or Colorado Pols. The big daily print model has weakened-but once the overleveraged chains have gone through the fires of bankruptcy, and have been broken up into their component parts, a stronger, more local, and feistier community of metro dailies will arise from the ashes.  Imagine a reversion to the model of the past, with locally owned papers, able to concentrate upon their business without the enterprise-killing debt structure that all the media moguls of the last couple of decades saddled the chains with. Goodbye Dean, goodbye Freedom Communications, hello a state full of Pueblo Chieftains-irascible, local, and deeply rooted in their communities, prospering from both the web and from their print editions.

    1. I sincerely hope that is the case down the road. We’ve been talking about this like bloggers vs. print is some sort of adversarial relationship when the opposite is actually true. The journalists feed us credible news, and we return the favor by driving readers to them.

      I think everyone would benefit from the situation you just described.

    2. Frankly, when I lived in southern Colorado a few years back I tended to make fun of the Chieftain.  But there are some very good writers there now (one of them was an editor of a weekly newspaper in the early ’80’s and I wrote freelance for him for a couple of years).  I find now – even though I’m in the north-central mountains – that I read the Chieftain online virtually every day.  Many times there are stories of state and national interest that either are first reported by the Chieftain, or are simply covered better by them.  But it is the excellent reporting skills there that I value.  It is not a blog or a gossip forum.  There is excellent writing backed up by excellent research and analysis.  That’s what we need regardless of whether we read it on paper or online.

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