Latest MediaNews Group moneymaking scheme: printing newsletters in people's homes

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Even as journalists debate about whether or not E.W. Scripps executives pinned their hopes for the Rocky Mountain News' survival on Denver Post owner Dean Singleton's death, MediaNews Group, Singleton's company, is moving ahead with an unusual effort to monetize its content. As detailed in "MediaNews to Begin Customized Printing in Denver Homes Next Week," a Bill Mitchell column available at the Poynter Online site, the firm "will print personalized newsletters in consumers' homes for the first time next week, with the company's hopes pinned more on advertising than news." The so-called "Individuated News" concept asks consumers to "pay the printer's manufacturer a highly discounted price for the Internet-equipped device and they pay a modest subscription price to the local newspaper. The newspaper reimburses the consumer for ink and paper, and advertisers pay the newspaper to get their messages delivered to customers located nearby" via highly targeted newsletters. Test editions published last month focused on just twelve long-term residents of the Downtown Denver Marriott, with the project expanding to 25 households in the Highlands neighborhood next week.

The aforementioned piece does everything it can to make this notion seem innovative, and Peter Vandevanter, the MediaNews exec working on individuated news, makes no grand claims about how it might save the print-journalism industry. Still, given the scope of the challenges facing newspapers today, the experiment seems like little more than a curiosity -- a bit of fiddling while the old business model burns.

John Temple: We didn't wish death upon Dean Singleton

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John Temple.

It didn't take former Rocky Mountain News editor, publisher and president John Temple long to react to a startling assertion in 5280's intriguing account of the Rocky's death -- that execs at E.W. Scripps, the tabloid's owner, thought the paper might survive if MediaNews Group CEO and Denver Post publisher Dean Singleton, who has multiple sclerosis, happened to die in a timely manner. In "Another Example of the Dangers of Using a Single Anonymous Source," an awkwardly headlined item on his website, he writes about being "stunned" by the claim. He notes that "I was at the helm of the Rocky Mountain News for 11 years and never heard any such sentiment expressed. And I spoke with top Scripps executives and board members repeatedly over the years about the situation in Denver." He adds that "to let someone anonymously ascribe such a desire to a team of executives is journalistically irresponsible. It gives a totally false impression of the dynamic."

Whatever the case, Singleton remains at the helm of MediaNews and the Post, and as indicated by a recent Q&A, he's looking toward the future, not the past. He's not in the grave; the Rocky is.

Education News Colorado teachers feature represents site's ambitions

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Nancy Mitchell.

The Education News Colorado website aspires to provide a depth of coverage long associated with newspapers -- which is why the folks there hired education reporter Nancy Mitchell in March following the closure of the Rocky Mountain News. This week, Mitchell returns the favor via "Numbers Show Teacher Evaluation System Broken," an extensive feature of the sort that most online-only operations can't muster. Mitchell's data-driven piece establishes that only a tiny percentage of instructors in the school's largest school districts receive unsatisfactory evaluations -- and implies that the small number may be dictated by the laborious and complicated procedure of dumping tenured employees, no matter how incompetent. Equally startling: Cherry Creek School District declined to provide information on the topic under the Colorado Open Records Act -- hardly a transparent way for a public institution to operate -- while Aurora School District officials say they need two more weeks to gather the data. Think of it as summer school.

A shortage of resources at most online news operations -- particularly those that are locally based, as opposed to being national in scope -- means that articles like Mitchell's are still relatively rare. Education News Colorado deserves credit for not using this fact as an excuse to settle for less.

The 5280 take on the Rocky Mountain News's demise

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Photo by J. Knight
John Temple at the February press conference announcing that the Rocky Mountain News would be closing the next day.

During the months between the December announcement that E.W. Scripps had put the Rocky Mountain News up for sale and the February date when the plug was pulled once and for all, as everyone knew it would be, Maximillian Potter, executive editor of 5280 magazine, watched and wrote. Potter was given sweeping access to John Temple, the Rocky's editor, publisher and president, as well as other supervisors and staffers, throughout this period -- and his just-published take on the tabloid's collapse, entitled "All the News That's Fit to Be Killed," is sure to provoke arguments.

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There could be some tension at the next Clear Channel Denver staff meeting. Dave Logan, longtime voice of the Broncos and co-host of the KOA afternoon-drive program The Ride Home (as well as a former high school athlete recently honored as being one of the fifty best ever by Parade magazine), is launching a new website called, which will specialize in home-improvement referrals. The new enterprise is scheduled to launch on June 1 -- the very same day that fellow Clear Channel Denver personality Tom Martino is slated to debut Martino TV, which will charge businesses to receive his de facto endorsement.

Actually, though, Logan's project more closely resembles another Martino operation, Like that site, promises to put its stamp of approval on only the best firms in the field, and to help resolve problems when they crop up. But company spokeswoman Lori Grey says Logan's site will emphasize a team concept -- having contractors with certain skill sets recommend other specialists who are also affiliated with

Grey adds that Logan won't be talking about the business on his radio show, unlike Martino. And he won't be trading on his reputation as a consumer advocate and television reporter, as does the self-proclaimed "Troubleshooter," who denies being a "journalist" despite regularly playing one on TV. For that reason, the ethical issues that Martino's actions have long raised don't really apply in Logan's case. It'll be interesting to see if his new enterprise cuts into Martino's action -- and how Big Tom reacts.

Read the press release after the jump:

Media coalition takes on CSU over alleged open-meetings-law violations

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Joe Blake, as seen in an image from the Fort Collins Coloradoan.

Today at 2 p.m., Colorado State University's board of governors will hold a meeting at which it will discuss "the resignation of Mr. Joe Blake from the CSU System Board of Governors," the "appointment of a replacement to fill the vacancy of Mr. Blake's seat," and "designation of finalist for chancellor" who just happens to be the aforementioned Blake. The public is invited to listen in on the conversation -- but the citizenry didn't have a chance to do likewise on May 5, when the idea of Blake resigning from the board in order to take over as chancellor was discussed in executive session.

The circumstances of this get-together violated Colorado's open-meetings laws according to a lawsuit filed by three news purveyors representing old and new media: the Fort Collins Coloradoan, the Pueblo Chieftain and the Colorado Independent website. Last week, Larimer County Judge Judge Stephen Schapanski approved a so-called "in-camera review" of the suit, based on what he called the "reasonable belief" that CSU had skirted regulations in the way it anointed Blake. But this challenge might never have been brought, admits Coloradoan editor Bob Moore, if the parties involved hadn't come up with a creative way to split the expenses involved in the legal battle.

"There's a challenge with the costs of these lawsuits in this day and age," notes Moore, who's out of the office this week because he's on an unpaid furlough put in place as a money-saving measure by Gannett, the Coloradoan's owner. "You're seeing a decline in First Amendment actions that have historically been brought by newspapers because they're very expensive. So to try and control some of that, we thought it might be good to reach to a couple of other media organizations that have a vested interest in this."

Closure of Fort Collins Now marks end of era in great Northern Colorado weekly newspaper war

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An image from the last edition of "Fort Collins Now."

Today marks the final edition of Fort Collins Now, a weekly newspaper that built up a considerable following dating to 2003, when it was born as the Fort Collins Weekly.

Indeed, Northern Colorado as a whole was practically bursting at the seams with weeklies a few short years ago, as was noted in "Paper Chase," a December 2006 Message column. Back then, a genuine newspaper war was underway, with the Weekly competing against four other significant weeklies, including the independent Rocky Mountain Chronicle. But the Chronicle ceased publication last May, a year after Weekly owners Joel Dyer and Greg Campbell sold their paper to Swift Communications, publisher of the Greeley Tribune, in a bid to survive and thrive. Unfortunately, though, this better-heeled firm couldn't protect the redubbed Now from the vagaries of today's economic climate.

This is hardly an isolated case. Here's a roster of recent print troubles documented in Now's account of its own demise:

The death of CU's Silver & Gold Record

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No shock that the Silver & Gold Record, CU's faculty newspaper, was allowed to die this week. But the closeness of the regents' vote (5-4) is fairly surprising given the university's financial condition -- a situation so dire that the same officials just approved a hefty 3.9 percent tuition increase for Boulder undergrads.

CU's student newspaper, now known as, went online due largely to rising costs several years ago. But given that the Record was primarily a vehicle to promote CU, staffers who like seeing their names connected to positive stories had an incentive to keep it alive, whether doing so made fiscal sense or not. It's unfortunate that the publication will be going away, and that so many folks who put it together will be losing their jobs. But in this economic climate, giving it a stay of execution wouldn't have made those moms and dads about to write even bigger checks to CU very happy...

Is the Denver Post's circulation really holding steady?

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In a Monday Q&A, Dean Singleton, the CEO of MediaNews Group and de facto owner of the Denver Post, insisted that the Post is retaining 95 percent of former Rocky Mountain News subscribers -- and he added that the paper isn't suffering the 5-15 percent declines striking most other major metro dailies these days. But these assertions don't jibe with what I've been seeing in my neighborhood: Ken-Caryl Ranch, in unincorporated Jefferson County.

Dave Logan named to Parade's top-fifty All America football players list

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Dave Logan, back in the day.

Dave Logan has been a broadcasting staple for so long, as play-by-play man for the Denver Broncos and host of the KOA afternoon-drive program The Ride Home, that it's easy to overlook what a truly remarkable athlete he was. But the folks at Parade magazine haven't forgotten. Logan made its list of the top-fifty top All America high school football players since 1963, when the mag selected its first team. His listing sits alongside honorifics for such luminaries as John Elway, Joe Montana and many other gridiron legends. Only bummer: His high school and hometown are listed as "Wheatridge," as opposed to "Wheat Ridge." But betcha the folks there care more about the recognition paid to a favorite son than Parade's inability to get the name right.