Rocky Mountain News succumbs to closure

Associated Press • February 27, 2009 -

DENVER -- The Rocky Mountain News became the latest major city newspaper to announce closure or plans to relieve debt, when company executives announced the last edition would be published today.

Citizens, politicians and competitors raised a tribute Thursday to Colorado's oldest newspaper, the Rocky Mountain News, which is publishing its last edition Friday.

"This is a sad moment in the history of Denver and Colorado. We have lost an important voice in our community," Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper said.

The San Francisco Chronicle joined the lengthening list of imperiled newspapers Tuesday as its owner set out to purge the payroll and slash other expenses in a last-ditch effort to reverse years of heavy losses.

If the 144-year-old newspaper can't reduce expenses dramatically within the next few weeks, the Hearst Corp. said it will close or sell the Chronicle, Northern California's largest newspaper with a paid weekday circulation of 339,430.

Hearst didn't specify a savings target or a deadline for wringing out the expenses.

Several other newspapers around the country are facing a fate similar to the San Francisco Chronicle's.

Just last month, Hearst laid out plans to close the Seattle Post-Intelligencer if a buyer isn't found before April. A similar fate awaits The E.W. Scripps Co.'s Rocky Mountain News in Denver and Gannett Co.'s Tucson Citizen in Arizona unless buyers are found for those papers.

In Denver, Rocky employees determinedly set to work putting out their last edition.

Reporter Jerd Smith said she had been working four months on a story about a government-funded agency that is misusing public money. She said she was a week away from finishing the story but isn't sure what will happen to it now.

"The taxpayers of Denver will lose. It's a shame," Smith said. "It's really the readers who have been overlooked in this. I feel bad about that. There's so, so many stories that are not going to be told."

The Denver Post, which competed fiercely with the News for decades, saluted its adversary and promptly hired several of its staff.

"For 150 years, the Rocky has been so intertwined with the story of Denver that it's difficult to discuss one without the other," said Post chairman and publisher William Dean Singleton. "The Rocky will forever be remembered for its vital role in the city's history and the city's success."