Friday last day for Rocky
By Steve Raabe
Thursday, February 26, 2008
150-year publishing run will end Friday as the Rocky Mountain
News prints its final edition.
The News becomes the latest casualty in an industry stricken by
a spiraling decline in newspaper economics.
News owner E.W. Scripps announced today that the paper will shut
down after efforts to find a buyer failed.
More than 200 newsroom staffers will face their last deadlines
and file their final stories after enduring months of nervous
uncertainty over the News' future.
"Today the Rocky Mountain News, long the leading voice in
Denver, becomes a victim of changing times in our industry and
huge economic challenges," Rich Boehne, chief executive officer
of Scripps, said in a statement. "The Rocky is one of
best examples of what
local news organizations need to be in the future.
Unfortunately, the partnership's business model is locked in the
past." Known familiarly as the Rocky, the newspaper founded in
1859 was Colorado's
first. It's believed to be the longest-running business in Denver.
Despite a 2001 joint operating agreement between the News and
The Denver Post intended to cut costs and keep both papers in
business, Scripps no longer could absorb financial losses at the
The News lost $16 million in 2008.
Although the newspaper will no longer publish after Friday,
Scripps said employees will remain on the payroll through April
The Denver Post will begin publishing a Saturday edition this
Scripps had said Dec. 4 that it would put the News up for sale,
and then would consider closing it if a qualified buyer didn't
"The operating conditions have become increasingly difficult in Denver," Boehne had said
in December. "Cash flow...is no longer enough to support the
Rocky, leaving us with no choice but to seek an exit."
Cincinnati-based Scripps said today that only one potential
buyer had worked with Scripps' broker, and that unidentified
party "was unable to present a viable plan."
Scripps said it has been working with Denver Post owner
MediaNews Group to negotiate a plan for dissolving the joint
operating agreement in Denver.
Loss of subscribers, declining advertising revenue, the rise of
the Internet and general economic weakness all have contributed
to the plunging fortunes of newspapers, particularly those that
compete in the same cities for shares of shrinking income.
"While it is disappointing that the Rocky will no longer be
servicing the community, it should come as no surprise that
newspapers are under increasing pressure from multiple channels
of information that have scattered the mass audience newspapers
once held," said Derigan Silver, an instructor of mass
communications and journalism at the University of Denver.
"Unfortunately, not all of these new outlets have the ...
ability to build social capital the way traditional newspapers
do," Silver said.
Scores of News supporters had written letters and posted
Internet appeals to keep the paper alive. But none of the
efforts had the financial support to attract Scripps' attention.
Since 2005, Scripps has closed newspapers in the two-paper
markets of Cincinnati, Albuquerque and
Readers said they were saddened by the news.
"I'm really, really surprised," said Daniel Renner, 26, of Denver. "I didn't think it
would happen. It's sad to see it go."
Chuck Steyaert, 55, of Centennial said, "I've been reading it
for 20 or 30 years — mostly the sports section. That it is going
to be gone is kinda sad, really it is."
Nationally, only about 10 cities still have major, competing
Boston, Chicago, Detroit, New York, Seattle and
Owners of major papers including the Chicago Tribune, Los
Angeles Times, Minneapolis Star Tribune and Philadelphia
Inquirer recently have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy
protection after advertising revenue failed to keep pace with
expenses and debt obligations.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer publisher Hearst Corp. has put the
newspaper up for sale, and will either close it or switch to an
Internet-only publication if a deal does not materialize.
Hearst also announced that it may sell or close the San
Francisco Chronicle unless it can achieve "significant" cuts in
newsroom jobs and expenses. The Detroit News and the Detroit
Free Press recently announced that they will offer home delivery
just three days a week, leaving readers with smaller newsstand
editions or Internet coverage on other days. The Detroit News is
owned by MediaNews Group, publisher of The Denver Post.
Dozens of newspapers have cut budgets and trimmed staffing in an
effort to survive the transition to new publishing models.
The Denver Newspaper Agency, which runs the combined business
operations of The Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News, recently
negotiated an 11.7 percent cut in wages and benefits from its
union workers in a quest for $18 million in concessions.
Similarly, MediaNews Group received about $2 million in
givebacks from Denver Post union employees.
Spending on newspaper ads fell 9.4 percent in 2007 to $42
billion, and dropped an additional 17 percent in the first three
quarters of 2008, the worst plunge in at least 37 years,
according to the Newspaper Association of America.
newspapers haven't recorded a gain in advertising since early
Classified advertising revenues have been especially hard hit,
down 16.5 percent from 2006 to '07, as advertisers and their
customers have shifted to Web-based vehicles such as
"Newspaper economics these days are unprecedented," Edward
Atorino, a New York-based publishing analyst with The Benchmark
Co., said recently. "There hasn't been an
environment like this since the Great Depression, or before."
Raabe: 303-954-1948 or