150 Years of News Excellence
For the past 26 years, Denver, Colorado, has been home to two of the best newspapers in America. That will all change after tomorrow. The Rocky Mountain News announced today that, after nearly 150 years in print, its final edition will be published tomorrow. This announcement leaves the Denver Post as the only newspaper in Denver.
The Rocky Mountain News has long been a standard of excellence in journalism, particularly in the area of sports journalism. The paper's first issue was printed on April 23, 1859. Founded by William N. Byers, The Rocky has won numerous awards, been home to many famed journalists, and engineered ideas that have revolutionized all facets of journalism. Newspaper mogul E.W. Scripps purchased the paper in 1926, and it has operated under the Scripps umbrella since that time. The paper nearly folded in the early 1940's, but managed to stay alive despite losses due to the Great Depression. The main saving grace of the paper was then-editor Jack Foster, who convinced Scripps to change the paper's format from a broadsheet-format to a tabloid-design. Foster's wife, Frances, introduced the first-ever "advice column" in a newspaper later in that decade, made so famous by Abigail Van Buren of "Dear Abby" fame.
In the past decade, The Rocky Mountain News has won four Pulitzer Prize awards, been named the best newspaper in the west, and won numerous other national awards. When the Denver Post was founded in 1983, the two papers formed a competition that would last for the following 18 years until the two papers merged under a joint operating agreement in 2001. Both papers continued to print, but they have been housed in the same building ever since that time. Earlier this week, The Rocky Mountain News sports section was ranked as one of the ten best in America. Its "Rocky Preps" section that covered Colorado high school sports was among the best in the nation, which is the toughest thing to take, as the Colorado High School Basketball Tournaments begin tonight. This goes far beyond sports, though, as The Rocky was an excellent paper, no matter what it covered.
Some of the paper's writers will make the transition to the other end of the building and write for the Denver Post beginning tomorrow. Others, however, will be left unemployed. The most notable of Rocky writers that will be left unemployed is baseball writer Tracy Ringolsby, who was awarded with the J.G. Taylor Spink Award and inducted in the the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2005.
This is certainly a sad day in Colorado. Unfortunately, with the era of the internet, newspapers have been on the decline for several years, and The Rocky Mountain News likely won't be the last one to shut down. The paper is rumored to have as much as $130 million in debt. Rocky sports columnist Dave Krieger described it as being analagous to "losing a great friend", a feeling that many of us in Colorado share. Writers from the Denver Post echoed that sentiment today as well, and they have vowed to not let their reporting slip. It will certainly be different now that Denver is no longer a two-paper town, and reporting will likely take a hit in the long run, as tends to happen when a town loses a newspaper and leaves only one. The beauty of having two newspapers in the same town is that they push each other to be excellent, and that is a dynamic that is very rare and hard to find. We no longer have that dynamic in Denver. I will be getting up early tomorrow to purchase a copy of the final edition of The Rocky Mountain News. It will be missed.