Our View: Expand the Marketplace of Ideas

February 14, 2012

Since the Rocky Mountain News was shuttered in 2009, Colorado has been left with just one statewide daily, the unabashedly left-leaning Denver Post.  And while the Post is richer for having absorbed some of the Rocky’s finest writers when it went belly up after 150 years, the loss of the RMN has only served to make the Post – and frankly much of the so-called ‘mainstream media’ – political coverage even more monotone, predictable and stale.

These complaints are, of course, nothing new.  Everyone with the possible exception of those on the far left have long lamented the obvious philosophical bent of the mainstream media.  Too often, conservative candidates for public office are peppered relentlessly with probing questions from reporters – or simply ignored – while their liberal counterparts are either spared or celebrated.  Left wing causes and activists are rarely subjected to the same kind of rigorous examination, and in many cases vitriol, that is reserved for business, religious or right-of-center advocacy groups – whose motives are constantly questioned and impugned.  The arguments of tax hike proponents and defenders of government largess are accepted at face value, while those who question the wisdom and efficacy of the steady and seemingly endless growth of the public sector are ridiculed, dismissed, or shouted down.

The resulting lack of diversity in coverage, analysis and commentary has left Coloradans without the kind of watchful eye that is central to the operation of a truly free and democratic society.  Indeed when the number of divergent and competing views in the marketplace of ideas is reduced, we are all poorer for it.  But as H.L. Mencken wryly noted, “Freedom of the press is limited to those who own one.”

Which brings us to…well…us, The Colorado Observer.

Rather than continuing to grumble about the utter lack of critical analysis and diversity in Colorado news coverage, we’ve decided to try our hand at providing some.  We’ll ask both sides to defend and justify their positions – energy industry and green pressure group; union boss and businessman; legislative leader and backbencher; urban and rural; liberal and conservative.

That’s not to say we aren’t mindful of how challenging this prospect will be.  Colorado’s unforgiving journalistic landscape is littered with the bleached bones of similar ventures that failed to live up to the expectations of their readers.  But we’ve snagged some top notch reporters from well-respected news outlets here in Colorado and in Washington, DC, and are optimistic that quality coverage – along with your tips, suggestions and feedback – will help The Observer buck that trend.

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