Since Scripps announced in December that it would close the Rocky Mountain News if a buyer couldn’t be found, I had spent a lot of time thinking about what the last day would be like. But I wasn’t prepared for what would happen at the end of the day.
I am—I was—an investigative reporter at the Rocky. I had finished everything I needed to do for the day. The story I’d spent the week working on was scheduled to publish Saturday. But there would be no Saturday Rocky. There was no reason for me to stay. But I didn’t want to leave. I didn’t want the day to end. I didn’t want the Rocky to end.
Just that day, I had received a voice mail message from a reader who planned to contact a government official after reading a story I wrote. I opened a letter from another reader who wanted me to investigate something that concerned her. I read an email from someone in another state who read my stories online, and thanked me for covering something that was important to him.
There were so many stories still to write, and no Rocky left to publish them.
As hard as it was to finally walk out the door that night, I realized the more awful moment was still to come: Saturday morning, when no Rocky arrived on the driveways and porch steps of its readers.
Here’s what we had ready to go for that day’s paper: Stories about what had happened to Colorado’s energy boom and what it meant to the state, how a government agency had allegedly misused public money, and how children in state custody were being abused.
That’s just what Coloradans will be missing on the first day the Rocky is gone. Who can say what they’ll miss the next week or the next year?
A great watchdog is dead. And more are dying across the nation. More stories will go untold. In a democracy that depends on an informed citizenry, a dead watchdog is a dangerous thing.
Paul Glaviano, copy editor
I really don’t know what many of these talented people here at the Rocky will find out there in, to reference Phil Gramm, McCain’s former economic adviser, WhinyLand. That’s a cruel side of the general collapse of the newspaper industry, of which I’ve been a part since 1966. But something most people have been reluctant to talk about is the danger this all presents for our democracy. If we think that politicians and big business special interests are robbing us blind now, just wait until the final demise of the watchdog press.
There’s been a trend for decades toward “infotainment” in the press, but a goodly semblance of watchdog fervor has remained. The public has taken all this for granted, but it costs money—revenue—to be able to hire talented and dedicated reporters and editors who can match wits with the evildoers of our society. Much of that revenue, particularly from classified ad sections, has flown to the Internet, and I wonder what will happen to vital news organizations in general. Who will watch the chicken coop?
Steve Haigh, business Web editor
It’s a little past 8 p.m. in Denver and the TV reporters and camera people have not quite all returned to their stations. Some of the reporters and editors have gone home, but most will be here late to participate in the last edition of the Rocky Mountain News. Presentation editors are putting loving touches on the commemorative edition. Most folks have been too busy to grieve and shed tears. I love this newspaper and I hate it, too, but I can’t imagine doing anything else that could give me more pleasure and fulfillment. Thanks for the opportunity to tell you how much I will miss the Rocky Mountain News and almost everyone who worked here.
Dave Kopel, media columnist