Thursday, February 26, 2009

Rocky Mountain News, RIP

I doubt that anyone in Denver--including the journalists and professionals employed by the Rocky--is surprised by the announcement, but the death of the Rocky Mountain News will still be sad to quite a few of us who have read and supported the paper throughout our lives. But today’s announcement of the closure of the Rocky Mountain News was a mere formality: the paper has been struggling for years and on life support for a few months now.

“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, CEO of Cincinnati-based Scripps (NYSE: SSP), said in a 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.”

Scripps said that a possible buyer came forward before the Jan. 16 deadline set by Scripps for an offer, but that the buyer was “unable to present a viable plan” for operating the News.

Outside of any dispapointment, though, is the realization that no business plan lasts forever, and a 150 year run is nothing to sneer about. Newspapers have provided a valuable service to us and have been an important part of maintaining our freedoms. I’m a Republican, so seeing the gleefully critical press of the Bush years become the cheerleaders of the Obama years is blunting the sentimental side of me that wants to mourn the Rocky, but it is worth acknowledging the value of having a free press watching over our political class. They have been imperfect guardians and given to their own sometimes-hilarious follies, but that’s just describing people, isn’t it?

If this reads like a Dirge for the Passing of Journalism, there is a reason: freedom of the press has less and less to do with a press or with journalists with every passing month. Much of the old trade of journalism is dying and even the best known syndicated columnists are seeing their opportunities diminish with every newspaper closing, with every report of revenue and circulation drops, and with every regular joe who decides to get his news from somewhere other than nightly news and the morning paper.

And that’s fine. While old journalism dies, opportunities will open for the people smart and clear-eyed enough to see what’s coming next.

Goodbye, Rocky. I’ll miss you (but, then, I’ve been missing you for years).

Read the story.


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