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At the Rocky Mountain News' headquarters as word of its impending closure breaks

Categories: Media

rocky8.jpg
Photo by Michael Roberts.
The Denver Newspaper Agency building, with the Denver Post's logo prominently displayed.

Around noon today, the lobby of the Denver Newspaper Agency building was populated mainly by reporters and photographers from other news organizations, hoping to get some info on the big news of the day: E.W. Scripps' announcement that the Rocky Mountain News' last edition would hit driveways and newsboxes tomorrow. Not that there was a lot of scoop to get. The primary representatives of the DNA on hand were security staffers who established a perimeter beyond which journalists from organizations other than the Rocky and the Denver Post couldn't pass -- two pylons on the way to the information desk. In addition, they forbade anyone to take photos in the lobby, despite the presence of a large mural along one wall dedicated to the First Amendment. I asked a guard if he thought nixing snapshots at the headquarters of a newspaper was kinda funny. His expression told me that he did not.

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Photo by Michael Roberts.
The First Amendment display in the DNA building lobby -- and the security guards who turned thumbs-down on photos.

Fortunately, though, the personnel allowed conversation to take place. Post columnist David Harsanyi and colleague Chuck Plunkett were headed out for lunch, but hung around to discuss the announcement. "No one's happy about this at the Post," Harsanyi emphasized. "This is a bad day for newspapers." Meanwhile, Channel 4's Rick Salinger, who represents a station that has maintained a longtime partnership with the Rocky, expressed frustration that the press was being kept at bay, and KOA's Jerry Bell phoned his office to let the Clear Channel Denver braintrust know that nothing was going on -- and no one was providing any clue as to when something might be.

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Photo by Michael Roberts.
A second unapproved lobby shot, this time showing reporters hoping in vain to be allowed upstairs.

Channel 31's Charlie Brennan was luckier than his peers in some respects. He'd made an appointment for lunch with Rocky scribe John Rebchook, who was having lunch on the DNA building's tenth floor; Rebchook descended to the lobby, then escorted Brennan and his camera operator back up to the dining room to conduct an interview. In other ways, though, Brennan was the least comfortable man in the room. He spent over twenty years at the Rocky before jumping to Fox 31, and he's got a lot of friends who today were told that they'd be losing their jobs.

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Photo by Michael Roberts.
A TV cameraman lines up a shot of the DNA building nameplate, which sports the names of E.W. Scripps and the Rocky Mountain News.

Also joining Rebchook was another Rocky alum, Mike Romano, who wound up in the newsroom when John Temple, the paper's editor, publisher and president, was talking to his crew. Romano recalls one person asking if the Rocky team would put out one last issue of its signature Saturday edition. Temple replied that the Post would be handling Saturdays from now on. This response left the Rocky types to wonder how that was possible, considering that the Post hasn't put out a Saturday paper in about eight years. Romano didn't hear the rest of the conversation; he left, feeling that it was a time for the people much directly impacted to have a little bit of privacy.

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Photo by Michael Roberts.
Another DNA building sign that will have to be changed.

In the middle of this conversation, Salinger got word that Scripps CEO Rich Boehne would be holding a press conference at 2 p.m. today, giving me just enough time to trot back to the office, about five blocks south of the DNA building, find out if any of the photos I took -- including illicit ones from the lobby -- had turned out (as you can see, they qualify as high art), and publish this blog before heading back. Before I could do any of that, however, I was confronted with a grim metaphor. A hundred yards or so from Westword's entrance, I saw several pages from today's sports section blowing along the street in the brisk breeze of an unseasonably pleasant February afternoon.


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