Rocky Mountain News to shut down

You know, I can hardly post something about the troubles in the news biz for y'all before something comes along and tops it. I tried to give y'all a roundup back in this post earlier today, and now this:

The Rocky Mountain News publishes its last paper tomorrow.

Rich Boehne, chief executive officer of Rocky-owner Scripps, broke
the news to the staff at noon today, ending nearly three months of
speculation over the paper's future.

"People are in grief," Editor John Temple said at a news conference later.

Boehne told staffers that the Rocky was the victim of a terrible economy and an upheaval in the newspaper industry.

"Denver can't support two newspapers any longer," Boehne told
staffers, some of whom cried at the news. "It's certainly not good news
for you, and it's certainly not good news for Denver."

This takes things to a whole new level, of course. Severe expense cutbacks are one thing, bankruptcies are another. But shutting down altogether — well, this is something new. Not only are they shutting down; they're shutting down tomorrow.

Some of us might be tempted to whistle past this graveyard. After all, what was Denver doing with TWO newspapers in the year 2009? Most two-newspaper towns went the way of the dinosaurs before any of us had HEARD of the World Wide Web. (The Columbia Record, for instance, closed in 1988, and that was toward the back end of the trend.) But that doesn't change the fact that, as Mr. Boehne said, "The industry is in serious, serious trouble."

Things are critical, and immediate, and things are starting to happen really, really fast — sort of the way they did with Lehman Bros. et al. last fall.

18 thoughts on “Rocky Mountain News to shut down

  1. Greg Flowers

    How many multiple major daily towns are left? New York, Chicago, Washington . . . does Philadelphia still have two? Anywhere else? Of course while Columbia had two until 88 they had been owned by the same company since (I think) the early 20’s so I doubt there could be too much editorial divergence.
    Once of the best lines about newspaper editors concerns the assassinated N.G. Gonzales (who with his brother founded The State to fight the way the Tilghman regime was running roughshod over the rights of the people) and is popularly attributed to the great H.L. Mencken (though the late lamented Bob Pierce was not able to verify this): “He was the last newspaper editor to have been shot and there has not been one worth shooting since.”

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  2. Brad Warthen

    That’s close, although I think Mencken was speaking specifically of The State rather than SC, and said it more like “you haven’t had one worth shooting since.” The point being, I suppose, that by Mencken’s day the paper’s management had gotten a lot more sedate than in the days when Tillman shot Gonzales — as N.G. fell onto the sidewalk there on Main Street, he cried, “Shoot again, you coward!” Now that’s my kind of editor.
    The Mencken remark may be apocryphal, but what N.G. said is fact. We love to tell the story. We take a lot of pride in N.G.

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  3. Greg Flowers

    I had always thought that he was speaking of editors as a breed, he being one who had slaved under them as a journalist and columnist.
    Many people do not realize that the shooting took place close to the entrance of The Whig at the intersection of Main and Gervais in broad daylight less than a block from the police station.
    The trial was moved to Lexington County and despite the presence of many witnesses
    he was acquitted on grounds of self defense from the unarmed N.G.

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  4. Reader

    South Carolina, by way of Lexington County, is still cursed by the injustice done to N.G. by acquitting his murderer.
    I hear Tillman couldn’t walk with ease anywhere in these parts without keeping the one eye he had left over his shoulder for the vengeance coming his way.

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  5. bud

    Except for the havoc it causes the families of the folks losing their jobs I’m not sure the loss of the Rocky Mountain news is, well, News. It is, of course, another example of the deteriorating state of the national economy. Times are changing and I suspect more closings in the news industry are on the way. It’s just the way technology changes things.

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  6. Weldon VII

    Not news, bud? A newspaper that has been published for the last 150 years — since before the start of the Civil War — closes its doors, and that’s not news?
    Furthermore, Bill C, were The State to close its doors, you wouldn’t have this little stage on the Internet from which to pelt us with your one-liners.
    We need all the newspapers we can get, people. They’re the fourth leg of democracy, the one that keeps our voluminous government from collapsing under its own weight.

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  7. Brad Warthen

    Thanks, Weldon. And I think I know what bud’s saying — something I also said here yesterday: That what’s swamping these newspapers all of a sudden is the overall economic downward spiral.
    You see, newspapers reflect their communities in ways other than news and commentary. They also reflect the community’s economic health. When the economy hums along, local businesses and individuals do well, and there’s plenty of advertising. When local folks aren’t doing well, we feel it strongly. (And yes, we were having profound problems with the reshaping of that advertising market BEFORE the economic downturn, but what that did was make us that much more vulnerable when the general economic blow hit.)
    By the way, to avoid confusion, the Tillman who shot N.G. wasn’t one-eyed Ben. It was his nephew, James H. — the lieutenant governor.
    And the Lexington County jury let him off — in spite of the murder having occurred as you say outside the Whig, in broad daylight, in front of witnesses including a cop — after the defense entered into evidence the editorials that N.G. had written about the killer. They were very much in the vehement style of the day. (And let’s just say that if you think I’m rough on Mark Sanford, you’ve never read any 19th century American journalism.) The jury decided he had it coming.
    It’s quite a story, on many, many levels.

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  8. Doug Ross

    Boston still has two papers…
    Another idea I had to take advantage of the assets The State has. Every web-based news story should be highly “wikipedia-ized” in terms of linking words in each article to all other articles on the same topic. Clicking on “Mark Sanford” should jump you to a list of articles that contain his name, sorted chronologically.
    The State web page desing needs some serious overhaul. I bet very few people scroll to the bottom.

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  9. EMELKS

    Weldon VII
    “We need all the newspapers we can get, people. They’re the fourth leg of democracy, the one that keeps our voluminous government from collapsing under its own weight.”
    That may have been true at one time but no longer. The newspapers are not the “watchdogs” some people say they are, and I’m not sure they ever were.
    If we had a newspaper that seriously reported all the news, not just the news that fit the editors’ slant, my opinion may be different.
    As a former daily reader of the RMN I hate to see it go, but the Denver Post isn’t far behind and that rag has been worth little more than cage liner for a very long time.

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  10. Lee Muller

    Yes, we need real newspapers, but most newspapers since Pulitzer and Hearst have just been propaganda rags.
    Brad, have you ever read “Breaking the News”, by James Fallows? He is the very liberal editor of Harpers, who despises the shallowness of modern editors and TV personalities posing as newscasters.

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