Friday, January 26, 2007

Is the Rocky hiding unfavorable opinions--about itself?

The Rocky Mountain News unveiled its redesigned print edition Tuesday. There are all kinds of changes, but the main one seems to be that the paper's page size has been reduced by 20 percent--though, according to editor/publisher John Temple, with no reduction in the size of the "newshole."

But screw the newshole for the moment; there's something funny going on.

Temple wrote four pieces in succession about the new Rocky, including two on January 23, one of which is not very originally titled: "A newspaper for the 21st century." Fine, fine.

But he also posted a blog entry on the makeover. (Temple seems to have adjusted well, by the way, to the five or six blog posts a month he's added to the already manifold duties of his job.)

The entry got about 90 comments, and of the slightly more than 50 that expressed a discernible opinion, something like 37 were unfavorable to 15 or 16 favorable--more than two to one against. Many commenters bitched about the reduction in print size (by only three percent, Temple says), with at least one citing the average age of newspaper readers (55) as something the Rocky might have considered before doing so.

Strangely though, or maybe not, the comments on Temple's "paper for the 21st century" piece (which, as opposed to the blog post, probably appeared in the dead-tree edition) were favorable by a one-and-a-half to one margin.

Interesting. So I clicked back to Temple's blog post to check my figgers and copy down a few of the weirder comments and--it's gone.

Nine or ten hours later it's still gone. Comments and all. The last post showing is from January 15, well over a week ago.

So let's sum up. Temple newspaper piece on Rocky redesign with mostly favorable comments: still pickin' 'n' grinnin'. Temple blog piece on Rocky redesign with overwhelmingly negatory comments: MIA.

This is disturbingly BBC-like.

There was also a poll on the redesign--or at least, the word "poll" is sitting on this page with a box below it that says "vote." But hitting the button does nothing, and this afternoon they briefly posted a message saying they'd had a technical problem. They also had a brief technical problem with the Rocky website as a whole. The latter appears to have been fixed--but the blog post and the poll are still missing.

Anyone can make a mistake, of course, but this reminds me rather too strongly of an earlier incident involving a plagiarizing Rocky editorial writer and Temple's apparent reluctance to provide a link to the offending editorial. Once again it looks like the Rocky is stealthily deep-sixing information that reflects badly on it.

Update: I was able to write down one favorable blog comment before it disappeared:
I especially love the new size as I often take it to work and read it in my vehicle. Saturday and Sunday [when the paper has the Post's broadsheet format] are hard to read over my steering wheel.
Makes driving awkward, too.

Update II: If I get up tomorrow and Temple's post is back up with no explanation--well, I'm gonna be durn mad, that's all.

Update III (1:08 a.m.): Still gone.

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