- The Washington Times - Friday, February 27, 2009

DENVER | The Rocky Mountain News, the oldest newspaper in Colorado, will publish its last edition Friday after owners failed to secure a buyer for the financially strapped daily, making it the latest casualty in an increasingly shaky newspaper industry.

Rich Boehne, chief executive officer of owner E.W. Scripps Co., blamed the decision on a plummeting newspaper market hit hard by the advent of the Internet and declining readership.

“Denver can’t support two newspapers any longer,” said Mr. Boehne in a newsroom announcement Thursday. “It’s certainly not good news for you, and it’s certainly not good news for Denver.”

The tabloid known as the “Rocky” was just two months shy of its 150th anniversary, during which time it won four Pulitzer Prizes. The Rocky lost $16 million in 2008 despite a 2001 joint-operating agreement aimed at propping up Denver’s two daily newspapers, the Rocky and the Denver Post.

Scripps announced Dec. 4 that it would put the Rocky up for sale. Although one buyer emerged in mid-January, the company concluded that the buyer was “unable to present a viable plan” for the paper, according to a statement Thursday.

Denver joins the ranks of most U.S. cities with just one daily newspaper as newspapers struggle to find a business model that will allow them to remain profitable without the classified and other advertising that has increasingly moved online.

Nationally, at least a dozen other metropolitan newspapers are threatened with collapse as advertising revenue shrinks and debts mount. The Hearst Corp. announced Tuesday that it would sell or close the San Francisco Chronicle, the city’s only daily newspaper, and has also put the Seattle Post-Intelligencer up for sale.

In December, the Tribune Co., owner of the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Last week, Philadelphia Newspapers, owner of the Philadelphia Inquirer, also filed for bankruptcy. The two Detroit newspapers, the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press, cut their home delivery in December to three days a week and cut deep into staff in an effort to stay afloat.

News of the Rocky’s demise was met with sadness and regret throughout the state. Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter Jr. set the tone Thursday by calling it “a sad day for Colorado.”

“To lose a journalistic icon - while not a surprise given Scripps’ announcement in December - is extremely unfortunate,” Mr. Ritter said. “My heart goes out to the many talented journalists who today are working on what will be the last edition of the Rocky.”

Conservatives, meanwhile, were lamenting the loss of the Rocky’s opinion and editorial pages. Under the oversight of Editorial Page Editor Vincent Carroll, the Rocky could be counted on to offer a free-market alternative to the Denver Post’s left-leaning editorials.

“What you’re losing is Vince Carroll’s steady hand and common sense,” said Jon Caldara, president of the Independence Institute in Golden, Colo., a free-market think tank. “This means the Denver Post is going to go unchecked both in editorial content and reporting.”

The Post plans to pick up a dozen Rocky reporters, columnists and photographers - less than 5 percent of the newsroom staff - in an effort to woo longtime Rocky readers.

“[W]e need to do this because they can help us become a stronger paper, and it will help us attract and hold onto Rocky readers, who will be trying the Post again for the first time in a while,” said Post Editor Greg Moore in an internal staff memo.

• Jennifer Harper in Washington contributed to this report.

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