Jared Polis, a Democratic member of the House Of Representatives from Colorado's Second District, has apologized after remarks he made gloating over the demise of the venerable Rocky Mountain News drew furious approbation.
Speaking at a Netroots Nation event in Boulder, Colorado this past Saturday, Polis remarked: "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...The media is dead, and long live the new media, which is all of us."
Lots of people finally noticed this unknown member of Congress, because of this nonsense-dance on the grave of a paper that was much-beloved by its readers. I sort of like the way Jeffrey Goldberg -- himself part of the "new media" over at the Atlantic -- eloquently expanded upon my initial reaction, which was: "UGH, SERIOUSLY? YOU IDIOT."
Uchh. I don't know too many Democrats who think that the death of a newspaper is a positive development for society. And by the way, "All of us" are the new media? I'd like to read the investigations of government corruption produced by "all of us." I imagine there are many journalists -- and advocates of government accountability -- wishing for the death of Polis's congressional career right about now.
By Monday, Polis was offering up contradictions:
"It's not just 200 jobs that have been lost; it's also the silencing of a voice," he said. "The rise of new media and citizen journalism has hastened the demise of many newspapers, and we, unfortunately, all share in the blame."
And since then, Polis has offered up a backtracking grovel:
"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."
I think I've made this pretty clear: I enjoy being a part of the "new media." But God help me if I ever get as tone-deaf as Polis, who needs to better consider the constituents served by newspapers. In the aftermath of Michael Hirschorn's broad speculation on the health of the New York Times, I wrote:
Also absent from these discussions are the working poor. If you want to know why the internet is not yet the future prototype of journalism, it's because not everyone has the disposable income to purchase laptops and Kindles, and a significant number of people also lack the free time to chill out at the local Starbucks, reflecting on the day's news. We broadband addicts tend to kid ourselves, but in this day and age, it is still far easier to carve out the time and space for a newspaper than it is for the web. Maybe microscopic print gazettes can fill the needs of this audience. Maybe network and cable news can provide critical information (it seems to me that the same barriers of economy and time exist there as well). But I rather think that the short-term "end of print" apocalypse will not be felt by people lamenting their lost community rituals, but by a forgotten class of people losing their hold on their communities.
If Polis cannot understand the basic needs of his constituents, then his constituents need better representation.
Oh, and to remind you, Polis is one of the subjects of a CNN "reality show" about freshman Congresspersons called "Freshman Year," so, yeah, he's just out there, cold maximizin' all his new media potential.