I’m feelng a weird kind of grief today, because the Rocky Mountain News just closed. It was both sudden and not sudden. The writing had been on the wall for a long time. There are conflicting stories about the reason, or rather reasons. There’s the economy, of course. There’s Craigslist, which has drained millions away from classified ads by offering a better product, for free. Newspapers all over the country are struggling for those reasons. Denver had some peculiar circumstances alongside these. It was one of the last non- consolidated newspaper towns. I remember when I was taking media classes at NYU in 1988, even then the prof was saying that the vast majority of major cities had only one newspaper, or multiple newspapers owned by the same conglomerate. Denver was the exception back then, and remained so until 2001, when the RMN and the Denver Post consolidated. Now, things have contracted further, and the News has died. Scripps, its corporate owner, tried to find a buyer for it, but the smart money is not buying newspapers these days. A good summary of the reasons for the paper’s demise is here. (I’d recommend against reading the comments. Actually, that holds true for almost everything on the Internet.)
The sudden part was that the closing was announced on Thursday night, and the final edition of the paper was on Friday. Just like that. That final edition had lots of good stuff about the Rocky’s history (it was just short of its 150th birthday) and reflections on what the paper has meant. Most of those stories were prepared ahead of time, I’m sure. Still, it feels so strange to have the announcement and the end so close together.
I grew up with the Rocky Mountain News. It’s the newspaper I’ve been reading since I was able to read. It has a feature called “The Mini Page”, a newspaper for kids with puzzles that I used to work through. I’ve been reading Doonesbury in that paper for more than 25 years, as well as Peanuts, Calvin & Hobbes, Mutts, etc. I wrote a letter to the paper when I was in high school, annoyed at the fingerpointing frenzy over Dungeons & Dragons that was happening at the time. I still remember getting the phone call verifying my identity, and seeing the letter printed alongside a fantasy-oriented drawing. When I went to live in New York, I tried to find a paper that was like the Rocky. I couldn’t stand the Post, and found the Village Voice unbearably hipper-than-thou. The Times was good, but had no comics, which was a dealbreaker for me. I finally settled on the Daily News. Still, when I came home, I was very glad to see the Rocky again, and subscribed to it immediately at my dorm. That was while the Newspaper War between the Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Post was still going, and subscriptions were super cheap. When Laura and I started living together, we had the News delivered, and we’ve read the Spotlight section together every night before going to bed, for the last 10 years or so.
Now it’s gone. The Denver Post arrived at our doorstep this morning. I’m sure we’ll continue our subscription — we value the newspaper too much to not get one. Still, it feels like a step down. I loved the News’s pop music writer, and the one from the Post feels like he was trained at the Village Voice school of indie snobbery. Also, the Post is in this very annoying broadsheet format. I loved the Rocky’s tabloid arrangement, but the Post forces a whole lot of unfolding and re-folding. Endlessly bothersome. Some of the writers from the Rocky came over, and all of the comics did, but it’s not the same.
I miss my Rocky already.