Stop the presses: Rocky Mountain News folds
The Rocky Mountain News, less than two months away from its 150th anniversary, will be closed after a search for a buyer proved unsuccessful, the E.W. Scripps Co. announced today.
“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 prepared statement. “The Rocky is one of America’s very best examples of what local news organizations need to be in the future. Unfortunately, the partnership’s business model is locked in the past.”
The Rocky has been in a joint operating agreement with The Denver Post since 2001. The arrangement approved by the U.S. Justice Department allowed the papers to share all business services, from advertising to printing, in order to preserve two editorial voices in the community.
However on December 4 Scripps announced it was putting up for sale the Rocky and its 50 percent interest in the Denver Newspaper Agency, the company that handles business matters for the papers, because it couldn’t continue to sustain its financial losses in Denver. Scripps said the Rocky lost $16 million in 2008.
One possible buyer emerged by the mid-January deadline to express interest in acquiring the paper, Scripps said. But the buyer was “unable to present a viable plan” for the paper, the company’s press release said.
Since then, Scripps said, it has been working with MediaNews Group, owner of The Post, to come up with a plan to allow it to exit Colorado. It also shares 50-50 ownership with MediaNews of Boulder’s Daily Camera and a handful of other smaller papers in the state.
The closure of the Rocky will mean Denver will have just one major newspaper, like the vast majority of American cities today.
Scripps said it will now offer for sale the masthead, archives and Web site of the Rocky, separate from its interest in the newspaper agency.
Today’s announcement comes as metropolitan newspapers and major newspaper companies find themselves reeling, with plummeting advertising revenues and dramatically diminished share prices. Just this week, Hearst, owner of the San Francisco Chronicle, announced that unless it was able to make immediate and steep expense cuts it would put the paper up for sale and possibly close it. Two other papers in JOAs, one in Seattle and the other in Tucson, are facing closure in coming weeks.
The Rocky was founded in 1859 by William Byers, one of the most influential figures in Colorado history. Scripps bought the paper in 1926 and right away entered into a newspaper war with The Post. That fight ebbed and flowed over the course of the rest of the 20th century, culminating in penny a day subscriptions in the late ’90s. Perhaps the most critical step for the Rocky occurred in 1942. The paper was struggling and facing death when then-Editor Jack Foster switched its format from the more common broadsheet to the tabloid style it has been known for ever since. Readers loved the change and circulation took off.
In the past decade, the Rocky has won four Pulitzer Prizes, more than all but a handful of American papers. Its sports section was named one of the 10 best in the nation this week. Its business section was cited by the Society of American Business Editors and Writers as one of the best in the country last year. And its photo staff is regularly listed among the best in the nation when the top 10 photo newspapers are judged.
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