Rocky Mountain News: Marking anniversary of its death four years ago today
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.
The Rocky's last edition.
As for the archives of the Rocky, Boehne said that they're for sale -- a move he implied was being done in part to satisfy the folks at Justice. He added that Scripps wouldn't be receiving a percentage of revenue from the Denver Newspaper Agency to stop publishing, as has happened at some JOAs in the past. (Of course, there isn't any revenue right now, which makes this decision considerably less of a sacrifice.) Likewise, it's handing MediaNews its 50 percent share of Prairie Mountain Publishing, the firm that puts out the Boulder Daily Camera, the Colorado Daily and other newspaper properties in the area. "No money is changing hands" in that transaction, Boehne confirmed -- another indication that Scripps was more interested in ridding itself of these accords as soon as posible rather than driving the toughest possible bargain.
The result? Well over 200 of the Rocky's 228 newsroom employees face an uncertain future, and the 160-180 staffers at Prairie Mountain Publishing will no longer be associated with Scripps.
Next, Rocky editor Temple approached the microphone, sharing his thoughts about his crew's reaction to the announcement. "I think the newsroom was stunned," he said. "People are in grief...they're very, very upset -- trying to process all the emotions that go with it.... I hate that this day has arrived."
Temple was less comfortable answering a question about when he knew the Rocky's die was cast. He's been in constant communiation with Scripps as publisher of the Rocky, and he's known that they've been struggling with the market realities here for years, he said -- "and certainly I knew this was the most likely alternative." However, "you have to live with the hand you're dealt."
Hence, he's devoted to making the Rocky's final salvo the best it possibly can be -- a 52-page special section that will wrap around the main newspaper, with features focusing on the people who work at the paper and their deep connection to readers and the community. He then provided a rationale for readers who love the Rocky not to reject the Post out of hand. "I don't think that's a good idea," he said. "The reason you read a newspaper is to fully participate in a community.... Do you really want to give up your participation in the community? I'd encourage them to stay engaged and give the newspaper a chance.
"I'm optimistic about the future," he went on -- but he also acknowledged that the next phase of newspapering's history "is going to be really rough. We're in a very destructive period."
As for his own future, he said, "I don't have any" beyond helping Scripps put the Rocky to bed over the next few months. However, Boehne made it clear that Temple has a job at Scripps if he wants one, and identified Temple as "the best newspaper editor in the country." Temple, though, didn't seem quite ready to look forward. "Tomorrow will be 55 days from our 150th birthday," he said.
Continue for more of our original goodbye-to-the-Rocky news conference, including a video.