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Another newspaper closes tomorrow.  The story of why is the same, it's losing too much money.  And with it a 150 year old story may die.  A story that speaks to our times.

More over the jump

Friday is the last day of publishing for the Rocky Mountain News, one of the two dailies that still, until now, served Denver. It will close just weeks before turning 150 years old.

I learned about it on twitter from David Sirota.  I’m finding twitter is great for keeping up with all sorts of things.

I grew up in Denver, my parents, and sister are still there.  My daughter moved back there and is studying nursing.  Denver is Denver, my home town.  It's no longer considered an "Overgrown Cow Town" and not all the changes have been positive in my view.  But it is still in my heart.

Growing up in Denver there were always two major papers.  The Denver Post, which was considered the liberal paper, the one my parents read, and the one I was a newspaper girl for (my parents still have my bike with the canvass bags attached to the handle bars).

The other was of course the Rocky Mountain News.  It was presented in tablopid style, considered more common, and more conservative.  It would also became the one my mother has read in her later years, not because she had become conservative, but because the paper was easier to handle.

Though I'm not even sure today if the same liberal and conservative labels apply to the papers.

Even without looking at the News website I knew that it was Denver’s oldest paper.  Most people my age, growing up in Denver probably know.  In our Denver history classes it held an integral place in the city lore.

It’s first building was at the confluence of the Platte River and Cherry Creek.  The Native Americans warned the founder of the paper, William Byers not to build there because it would flood. But Byers knew better and ignored them saying it hadn’t flooded since he’d moved to Denver and he built.

It flooded and he lost the printing press and everything.  But he rebuilt smarter the next time.

It’s a simple story with many lessons.  One was that Native Americans were not the bad guys or the ignorant savages as they were often portrayed in movies and tv.  They had a wisdom that white man ignored.  They knew things we did not, and  we(whites) were often too arrogant to listen.

Maybe it was where I grew up, maybe it was this one story, maybe it was the time, but my education in Denver Public Schools was always one that defied the popular image of Native Americans.  They knew things, we did not.

Now this paper is ending and I’m afraid that this story will die.

This simple story children need to hear, especially those steeping in an environment of the idea of American exceptionalism.  They need to hear about what was Denver’s oldest newspaper. .  How it lost it’s printing press to a flood because the owner refused to listen, to those whites looked down on.

Those who knew what we did not.

Just as we have done for 8 years.

*****************
Newspapers chronicle and keep our history.  Here's some of what the Rocky Mountain News kept.

The Rocky At 150 Years
April 18, 1861 - Printing a battle, as war erupts (The Civil War)
Dec. 14, 1864 - Sand Creek Massacre
August 6, 1886 - Colorado's cannibal
April 16, 1912 - Molly Brown survives the sinking of the Titanic
April 19, 1906 - San Francisco cataclysm
July 9, 1908 - Chronicling first DNC
November 25, 1922 -  A deal to divide the waters
December 19, 1922 - The great mint robbery
November 6, 1924 - Klan rises, only to fall
June 16, 1941 -  Red Rocks formation
June 25, 1954 - Landing an academy
February 10, 1960 - The Coors kidnapping
November 8, 1972 - Colorado spurns Olympics
August 2, 1976 - Big Thompson flood (this one is personal to me.  We were supposed to be there, if our camper had not broken down.)

Originally posted to Clytemnestra on Thu Feb 26, 2009 at 09:25 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  tj (20+ / 0-)

    "A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned how to walk forward." - Franklin Delano Roosevelt

    by Clytemnestra on Thu Feb 26, 2009 at 09:26:22 PM PST

  •  A sad day indeed. (7+ / 0-)

    It's hard to imagine a country without these veteran presses...

    The GOP is a poor man's version of Khmer Rouge--RFK Lives

    by Rob Cole on Thu Feb 26, 2009 at 09:30:53 PM PST

  •  damn (4+ / 0-)

    this upsets me to no end. i'm finding it really difficult to believe papers are losing money.

    thanks for putting together the diary though.

    working consciousness to raise consciousness.

    by john de herrera on Thu Feb 26, 2009 at 09:37:09 PM PST

  •   Are the SanFran papers (6+ / 0-)
    going out of business?I know a ton of people who hate cable TV and get their news from papers.To me this gets more and more scary.
  •  Newspapers (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    noweasels, Clytemnestra

    IT's a shame when newspapers fold. It leaves us with fewer and fewer sources. Most cities used to have multiple newspapers. Minneapolis and Saint Paul have two combined, the more conservative Saint Paul Pioneer Press and the more liberal Minneapolis Star Tribune. The wingnuts foam at the mouth at the mere mention of the Star Tribune, deriding it as the "Red Star", the "Star and Sickle" and "Left of Mao". But it's the one that is read most widely across the state. As for being a "leftist" newspaper, the Star Tribune endorsed Norm Coleman, and regularly runs conservative columnists. Apparently, all that is required to be "Left of Mao" is to have any editorial comment from liberals at all.

    I admit I don't get the paper. Maybe it's hypocritical to bemoan the loss of newspapers when I don't get it myself. My problem with the newspaper is that I am messy enough, and for me, having the newspaper means the house gets cluttered with newspaper. Plus I have a two-year old at home who is by herself a major source of entropy.

    •  we tried to solve that by getting the Sunday (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      noweasels

      paper.  But that said there is nothing like sitting and reading what's going on in your community and world.  24 hour news outlets and 1/2 hour network news can't go into depth.

      Web is good, but I can't take it to bed with me, or on the train or into the bathroom ;-)

      "A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned how to walk forward." - Franklin Delano Roosevelt

      by Clytemnestra on Thu Feb 26, 2009 at 09:41:18 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  We continue to subscribe (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Clytemnestra

      I was a newspaper reporter, and my Dad was a media analyst and a great lover of newspapers for years.  I still love getting into bed with the Book Review and the crossword puzzle -- and the feel of the pages.  This is just another sad, sad day.

      "Let reverence for the laws . . . become the political religion of the nation." ~ Abraham Lincoln

      by noweasels on Thu Feb 26, 2009 at 09:49:09 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Slideshow (9+ / 0-)

    of the employees receiving the news today.

    The oldest continually running business in Colorado.  Until tomorrow.

    Photobucket

    I'm glad Scripps is keeping everyone on the payroll until the end of April, but what then?

    Thank you for the diary.  Thanks to the Rocky.

    "Let reverence for the laws . . . become the political religion of the nation." ~ Abraham Lincoln

    by noweasels on Thu Feb 26, 2009 at 09:44:03 PM PST

    •  thanks for the link to the slideshow (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      noweasels

      noweasels

      I just emailed my parents and asked them to pick me up an extra copy of tomorrows News.

      "A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned how to walk forward." - Franklin Delano Roosevelt

      by Clytemnestra on Thu Feb 26, 2009 at 09:48:06 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  The Rocky (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        marina, Clytemnestra, wewhodream

        is a former client, and it was always a pleasure to represent them.  I adored all of my newspaper clients when I was in private practice.  They never peeped about a bill (not that, as an associate, any of this was my business) -- they wanted to do what was right.  I am so upset about this.

        "Let reverence for the laws . . . become the political religion of the nation." ~ Abraham Lincoln

        by noweasels on Thu Feb 26, 2009 at 09:51:28 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I'm sorry noweasels I had no idea (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          marina, noweasels

          you were this attached (as in a physical way) to the News.

          The News and the Post paper carriers were always "battling" it out.  We Post carriers considered ourselves luckier than the News carriers because we only had to get up early on Sat and Sun since the Post was an evening paper ....

          until they made the decision to change to mornings too!

          "A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned how to walk forward." - Franklin Delano Roosevelt

          by Clytemnestra on Thu Feb 26, 2009 at 09:55:05 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I adored all of my newspaper clients (4+ / 0-)

            I was so, so, so lucky to get to practice First Amendment law in the 1980s and 1990s when the law was still in flux and our newspaper clients said, "to hell with the bill, full steam ahead."  Those newspapers did so much to guard the First Amendment -- people forget this.  If it weren't for them (and the risks they took and the dollars they paid), we may not have had the freedom here at Daily Kos to post our opinions without Kos having to worry about ruinous damages.  They pulled the freight, paid the bills and moved the law forward.  Let us never forget that.

            "Let reverence for the laws . . . become the political religion of the nation." ~ Abraham Lincoln

            by noweasels on Thu Feb 26, 2009 at 10:02:14 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  see I have no idea what you did/do (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              noweasels

              but yes I agree .. and we are the poorer and at more risk without them.

              "A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned how to walk forward." - Franklin Delano Roosevelt

              by Clytemnestra on Thu Feb 26, 2009 at 10:10:35 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  I was a very small cog in this engine (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                marina, Clytemnestra, wewhodream

                But what our newspapers did for all of us in the period from 1960-2000 was remarkable.  They risked prison (Pentagon Papers), ruinous damages (New York Times v. Sullivan), public scorn (Richmond Newspapers) -- and in at least one case I was lucky enough to do, hundreds of thousands of dollars just to protect a reporter's right to keep his source secret -- all of this.  They paid the bills (and believe me, as someone who worked on some of the cases, they were ENORMOUS) without any complaint, and they did so because they wanted to protect a principle.  Of course, they were profitable then, but nobody made them risk prison or bankruptcy for a principle, they just did it.  And for that, I am grateful ~ and all of us should be.

                "Let reverence for the laws . . . become the political religion of the nation." ~ Abraham Lincoln

                by noweasels on Thu Feb 26, 2009 at 10:27:00 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

    •  Thanks for the link, noweez... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Clytemnestra

      ...pix of professional Colorado newsfolks were sad; don't know what I will read with my coffee tomorrow AM.

  •  Downward (Download?) trend (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Clytemnestra

    It's a shame that this kind of thing has been happening more and more. It's even more depressing to think that the internet and the ease of accessing news quickly and for free is in part responsible for a lot of our hometown newspapers closing their doors.

    A double-edged sword if there ever was one.

  •  I saw this story earlier and was sad. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Clytemnestra, TNThorpe

    My undergrad degree is in journalism, and I've worked in publishing most of my life.

    I have watched as all branches of the profession I studied and loved fell by the wayside, one by one, as words became less and less important and the media dinosaurs refused to adapt to the changing world.

    It is really sad to me. I once aspired to work at the Rocky Mountain News. But I also once aspired to work at the Washington Post, and I've gotten over that too.

    Journalism as I knew it is dead, or dying, and all these failing papers are the carcasses left behind.

    "The difference between the right word and the almost-right word is like the difference between lightning and the lightning bug." -- Mark Twain

    by Brooke In Seattle on Thu Feb 26, 2009 at 10:07:38 PM PST

  •  As the newspapers close (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Clytemnestra, Rob Cole

    and slowly consolidate into regional or national publications, the locales that smaller papers served will have a much harder time recording their histories.

    I use archival newspapers in my research and there's nothing like them for the fine-grained detail they offer.

    Then, as papers fade, the iconic image of the hard-boiled reporter so often seen in noir or films of the 1930s will become yet another image requiring translation to students with completely different ideas about newsgathering.

    Already, my undergrads have no real idea of the newsreel's history or value as a genre. It's not so hard to imagine newspapers following suit.

    Here's a clip from the 1974 version of the 1928 play by Ben Hecht and Charlie MacArthur:

    Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please: Marx

    by TNThorpe on Thu Feb 26, 2009 at 10:32:21 PM PST

  •  The last great paper war ends with a whimper (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dems2004, Clytemnestra

    According to Patricia Calhoun at Westword :

    [T]he [Denver] Post has announced that it's adding a handful of [Rocky Mountain] News employees, and three of them were on Roberts's list: columnist Mike Littwin, workhorse reporter Lynn Bartels, and sports writer Dave Krieger.

    Among others, the Post is also picking up columnists Tina Griego and Bill Johnson; editorial-page writer Vince Carroll; Penny Parker, who'll be penning a business column; and reporter Kevin Vaughan.

    Also at Westword tonight, some inside dope:

    Highlights from the goodbye-to-the-Rocky Mountain News press conference, by Michael Roberts

    On occasion, Boehne displayed a competitive edge. At one point, he declared that "the best paper in Denver -- through tomorrow -- is the Rocky Mountain News." But the decision to smother it was made with the health of the entire Scripps media empire in mind. "Today, Scripps is a healthy company, and we intend to keep it that way," he stressed.

    Then the questions came, and some interesting responses followed. Boehne confirmed that Scripps hadn't received any credible offers for the Rocky; the closest they'd come was interest from an unnamed party with little previous media business experience that had backed away a few weeks earlier. However, he contradicted this statement when asked why Scripps hadn't simply closed the money-losing property in mid-January, as it had originally hinted, instead of allowing it to linger on for nearly six more weeks. "Newspapers are attractive," he says. "They're a public trust. They're special. And all kinds of people come out of the woodwork" when one of the Rocky's pedigree comes on the market. Scripps had to "sort through those" to determine if any were worth pursuing, he said.

    Did he mean sort through the one? Perhaps -- but he also noted that Scripps had been having regular meetings with the Department of Justice about dissolving the joint operating agreement with the Post, which the feds had blessed earlier this decade. Scripps wanted to make sure Justice reps wouldn't object to ending the pact, and he and his legal minions are convinced that they won't. After all, there aren't a lot of people looking to buy newspapers these days, and some of the properties available can be picked up in what Boehne called "a cleaner way" than could the Rocky -- meaning without having to involve the government. Moreover, Boehne suggested that the paper's tabloid format, which is beloved by readers but gives the ad department fewer column inches to sell, had contributed to the Rocky's financial challenges -- the implication being that other companies would also see its size as a detriment.

  •  it's accelerating (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Clytemnestra

    where i live, the mighty anchorage times folded in 1992 after 77 years [it was as old as the city it served].  it was the conservative paper.  the other one, the anchorage daily news, started in 1946 has been owned by mc clatchy since 1979.  lately it has been downsized so much there's hardly anything left of it.  definitely not a must-read anymore.  not much investigative reporting going on there, i'm afraid.  they won two pulitzers in the '70s and '80s -- one for a series of stories on alcoholism among alaska natives and the other on the teamsters union.

  •  Also sad... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Clytemnestra, wewhodream

    ...the history is ending. Down here in Colorado Springs Wingnut land, I refuse to read the local trash (Gazette). Although the Rocky had a distinct Repug lean, it had some integrity and some good columns (Mike Littwin). I read the Denver Post and Colorado Springs Independent for local news, but will miss Rocky.

  •  Your story about the Native (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Clytemnestra

    Americans warning...it reminds me that a man told me once when the settlers first came here, in what is now the Denver area, they said not to build villages down here, because the air is bad.  The smoke from the fires just goes up and lays flat.  

      And, naturally, as you point out, their warnings were ignored...

    "Do you see?" --Warren B. Newton.

    by wewhodream on Fri Feb 27, 2009 at 06:43:38 AM PST

  •  You read mine; so I wanted (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Clytemnestra

    to see what you wrote and came across this about one of my obsessions: the death of newspapers.

    I admit to being an internet newspaper reader these days, though I subscribe to one dead tree newspaper, and I do not have an answer as to how they can become profitable again.  Still, we need them badly:  maybe more than in the past.

    On the other hand, they need to do what we need them to do.  When they don't, one wonders why we should care about their demise.

    I downloaded the last issue of the Rocky, which, I think, turned far more liberal in recent years.  My high horse aside, I am sure it will be missed and I hate seeing this happen.

    More of these ravings at the website listed in my profile.

    by Barth on Sat Feb 28, 2009 at 10:51:15 AM PST

  •  Damn, it's too late to tip you. :/ (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Clytemnestra

    I hate it when that happens. The RMN closing has really bummed me out, even though I would have been happier to see the RMN go out of business than, say, the Post. Conservative vs. liberal and all.

    Just the fact that it was almost 150 years old, though ... ya gotta respect that. Word.

    Thanks for the links to the excellent articles.

    •  I'm just glad I caught you tonight (0+ / 0-)

      and pointed it out ... because I was kind of bummed you didn't show up here!

      Thanks!

      "A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned how to walk forward." - Franklin Delano Roosevelt

      by Clytemnestra on Sat Feb 28, 2009 at 09:23:19 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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