Rocky To Publish Final Edition Friday

Scripps Co. Says Search For Buyer Was Unsuccessful

The owners of the Rocky Mountain News announced Thursday that the newspaper will publish its last edition Friday.

A search for a buyer proved unsuccessful, the E.W. Scripps Co. said.

  • Rocky's last day is Friday, Feb. 27
  • Scripps says no buyer could be found
  • Colorado's oldest newspaper just two months shy of 150 year anniversary
  • "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.

    Colorado's oldest newspaper was less than two months away from its 150th anniversary.

    "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," Boehne said.

    The newspaper's staff was notified of the closure at 12:06 p.m. Rocky's 220 employees will remain on payroll through April 28, Scripps said.

    Reporters began exchanging personal e-mail addresses with each other in anticipation of losing their Rocky Mountain News e-mail addresses.

    The newspaper's closure was first announced on its Web site, which continued to update the story about its own demise.

    "It's strange to cover your own funeral," a Rocky reporter Twittered, about an hour after the announcement.

    Rocky photographer Ken Papaleo said the closure "hurts." He said the newsroom had mixed feelings; they were glad that the waiting was over, but sad to hear that this is the end.

    "Friday's paper will be very special. It will be something for the community to remember. We are covering our end," said Papaleo. He said he will now have to find freelance work.

    "I don't think there was a person in that room who was surprised," said Ed Sealover, a business reporter.

    "Saturday is going to be weird. I will wake up and there won't be a Rocky there," he said. He said the paper last made hires several months ago, and knew the end was imminent. He plans to report for the Denver Business Journal.

    "People are in grief and are very, very upset, trying to process all the emotions that go with (the news) and recognize we're putting out our final edition tomorrow," said Editor and Publisher John Temple.

    He said there would be a 52-page "wrap section" around Friday's final edition to commemorate the final edition.

    "It's very rare for you to be able to play the music at your own funeral and I'd like to do it well," he said, referring to Friday's final paper.

    Tough Economy For Newspapers

    Scripps said one possible buyer emerged by the mid-January deadline to express interest in acquiring the paper, but the buyer was "unable to present a viable plan" according to the Scripps' press release.

    "We had hoped to find a better solution … but we didn't," said Boehne at a 2 p.m. news conference. "This is nothing like any of us have lived through before."

    He said Scripps suspended dividends and froze its pension plan.

    In its year-end earnings report last week, Scripps disclosed that its losses in Denver totaled $16 million in 2008.

    "Our intention is to leave the market completely," said Boehne. That means the Rocky will not publish an online-only edition.

    "Once we unwind the partnership we will be completely out of Denver," he said.

    "Thanks to Denver for letting us into your homes every year for 150 years, thank you very much," Boehne said in conclusion. The newspaper will be 55 days short of their 150th anniversary.

    Financial problems are widespread in the newspaper industry. Four owners of 33 U.S. daily newspapers have sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the past 2 1/2 months.

    Analysts doubt those companies will be able to emerge from Chapter 11 without agreeing to lenders' demands for radical changes, such as switching some of their newspapers exclusively to online delivery.

    Newspaper publishers have already have been considering dramatic makeovers, including scrapping their print editions, and it's still not clear whether their creditors can come up with any better ideas.

    Ed Atorino, a newspaper industry analyst at The Benchmark Co., said that indicates the News could become an online-only paper at some point.

    "On-line newspapers seem to be doing pretty well," he said. "It's a very low-cost business."

    Rocky's Fate Tied With Denver Newspaper Agency

    Scripps bought the Rocky Mountain News in 1926. After a decades-long circulation war, the newspaper in 2001 entered into a joint operating agreement (JOA) with The Denver Post, which is owned by MediaNews Group.

    Citing mounting financial losses in Denver, Scripps announced on Dec. 4, 2008, that it intended to seek a buyer for The Rocky Mountain News, as well as the company's 50-percent interest in the Denver Newspaper Agency (DNA), which publishes the Rocky and The Denver Post under the JOA. The DNA, a 50/50 partnership with Denver-based MediaNews Group, has not made cash distribution payments to either partner since last summer, leaving Scripps to cover the full cost of the Rocky Mountain News editorial product.

    Following the mid-January deadline for parties to express interest in negotiating a purchase, only one potential buyer worked with the company’s broker, and that party was unable to present a viable plan. Since that date, Scripps has worked with MediaNews Group, to formulate a plan to unwind the partnership.

    Although the newspaper will cease publication after Friday’s edition, Scripps will continue to own and offer for sale the assets of the Rocky Mountain News, including its name, masthead, archives and Web site.

    Scripps also announced Thursday that its 50 percent interest in Prairie Mountain Publishing, a three-year-old partnership involving Colorado newspapers originally owned by Scripps and MediaNews Group, will be transferred to its partner later this year.

    Denver Post Proclaims It Has 'Momentum' On Its Side

    About 45 minutes after the Rocky's announcement, the Denver Post sent out its own release, saying that is has entered a new era in which "Coloradans will look to it more than ever as the region's information leader" because it will be the metro area's only major daily newspaper.

    "Although we competed intensely, the talented staff of the Rocky earned our respect with each morning's edition. We wish these fine journalists the best of luck; we're confident that they’ll continue to make a meaningful impact in their future endeavors," said Post Chairman and Publisher William Dean Singleton.

    Beginning Saturday morning, the new Saturday Post will be delivered to all Rocky Mountain News subscribers who will continue to receive The Post for the length of their subscriptions.

    "We're not here because one newspaper beat the other newspaper … Nobody won here and nobody lost here," said William Dean Singleton, the vice chairman and chief executive officer of MediaNews Group, the owner of The Denver Post.

    The Denver Post also announced that many popular writers and features from the Rocky will be joining The Post. Rocky Mountain News columnists Tina Griego, Penny Parker, Bill Johnson and Mike Littwin will join The Post, as well as Dave Krieger in sports. Rocky Mountain News Editorial Page Editor Vincent Carroll will join The Post editorial board and will write an editorial page column.

    Also joining The Post will be Rocky Mountain News staff writers Lynn Bartels (politics), Burt Hubbard (database reporting specialist), Kevin Vaughan (general assignment) and Gargi Chakrabarty (energy industry). The Post also will incorporate all Rocky Mountain News comics and many of its puzzles.

    "The Post now assumes the great responsibility of serving as the metro area’s only major newspaper and Colorado’s information leader ... Post readers will experience an enhanced Denver Post that combines the strengths of both newspapers," Singleton said. "These are the times when an organization proves its mettle. This is a difficult period for all industries and, certainly, the media business is no exception. But those who survive this period will emerge stronger and will carry that momentum into the future.”

    Community Responds

    “This is a sad moment in the history of Denver and Colorado. We have lost an important voice in our community. We appreciate that these are difficult economic times for many; today our hearts go out to the talented, hardworking reporters, staff and management of the Rocky Mountain News," said Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper.

    "While we will mourn the loss of the Rocky, we are troubled by what this loss means for the future of journalism in Colorado and beyond. The Rocky Mountain News is not the first newspaper to announce plans to close in recent months, and unfortunately, it won’t be the last. The Rocky’s closure is more than the loss of a single newspaper, it’s just one example of a failing model for the news industry. Although print media has become less popular, the desire -- and need -- for diverse and independent journalism has not," said Colorado Common Cause. "An informed citizenry requires a diverse and independent media. Newspapers have long been the medium to connect neighbors, inform communities, and give us the information necessary to hold government leaders accountable. As more Coloradans choose to get their news online, we must ensure that the news they get continues to meet the standards set by the Rocky Mountain News and other print media."

    An informed citizenry requires a diverse and independent media. Newspapers have long been the medium to connect neighbors, inform communities, and give us the information necessary to hold government leaders accountable. As more Coloradans choose to get their news online, we must ensure that the news they get continues to meet the standards set by the Rocky Mountain News and other print media.

    "This is a sad day for Colorado journalism. The Rocky Mountain News has been an institution in our region and has informed the people of our state for 150 years," said Sen. Mark Udall. "Colorado grew up with the Rocky; our history has been written on the pages of this great paper. I have enjoyed my relationship with many of the Rocky’s editorial writers and reporters, and my hope is that all of these good, hard-working Coloradans find ways to build new careers in journalism, public information and the printing trade."

    "I am saddened that the people of Colorado are losing a great newspaper with a proud history. I have read the Rocky Mountain News for decades and will sorely miss it. My heart is with the Rocky and its employees," said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

    What do you think about Rocky's closure? About Denver becoming a one-newspaper town? Please leave your comments below.

    Please refresh this page for more information.

    Print this article Back to Top