I chatted late last week with Michael Roberts
of the Denver Westword
about the decision of The Denver Post
to partner with copyright-troll firm RightHaven
and it's chilling effect on free speech. For those of you not familiar with Righthaven, the EFF has a good primer on the matter here
. In short, RightHaven is making it unfeasible to operate any sort of website that solicits reader content or comment without fear of a $150,000 lawsuit.
Here is a brief excerpt from the Westword article
, which I feel comfortable reproducing here since the Westword seems to understand the concept of "fair use":
From Surace's perspective, "automated spam blogs that pull stuff from newspaper articles and blog posts" are a far bigger problem than political websites like his, "but they're not going after them. The Post's targets are a small-potatoes Tea Party group in South Carolina and The Drudge Report -- and I can only imagine how much traffic he's sending them."
Filing lawsuits rather than sending letters "is causing a lot of bad blood in the blogging community," he continues, "and I think it's going to be really bad for them. To survive, they need to drive people to their websites in order to keep their online advertising going. And in looking at some of the statements by [MediaNews chairman] Dean Singleton and some of the other newspapers involved, it tells me they've somehow deluded themselves into thinking these lawsuits are going to stop copyright infringement and make newspapers more viable than they are, instead of figuring out an online advertising model to sustain them."
The fact that The Denver Post partnered with RightHaven was a disappointing but predictable move. The Denver Post, despite eliminating the Rocky Mountain News
to become the sole major newspaper in the Denver region, has been wracked with problems over the last few years. The end of 2010 saw the Post's subscription and sales numbers down by over 9%
from just a year earlier, one of the most severe drops of any major newspaper in the country.
The reason for The Denver Post's woes stem from several key factors. The Post has found itself at the center of (well-founded) widespread accusations of slanted coverage from various quarters which has resulted in many people punting their subscriptions. Meanwhile, their news coverage has become stale and generic. Susan Greene
, an award winning columnist who was recently booted from the Post, details their resistance to rocking the boat too much and shot down one of her stories as "distasteful." She also recounts how one of her colleagues at the Post was booted for daring to report on the financial woes
of their parent company, Media News Group
(The Post, incidentally, has made no mention of their alliance with RightHaven or the countless lawsuits they have filed).
Instead of confronting basic problems with their news coverage and advertising models, The Denver Post has essentially decided to blame "those damn kids" and their blogs. It is sheer foolishness on their part to pretend that their problems stem from political forums or blogs that post excerpts from their articles. Until they begin to rebuild their reputation and offer compelling reporting again, they will continue to be on the perpetual brink of collapse.
Below, I have compiled a brief list of alternative Denver-based news outlets that provide original reporting that is often more timely, in-depth, and more willing to tackle controversial issues than The Denver Post.
Denver Post Alternatives
Denver Daily News
Denver Business Journal
Colorado News Agency
The Colorado Statesman
Face The State
People's Press Collective
The Colorado Independent
Complete Colorado Blog
MLB Rockies News
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