It’s been a very high-tech day, with the Rocky posting near-instant video coverage of its own death. Yet today evokes for me a picture of Italy around 450 A.D., with declining literacy, and the crumbling of what used to be the great institutions of civic engagement. As a media columnist, I’ve written often about media bias, which is a very serious problem, but which is not the primary cause of the current collapse of the newspaper business. We have a society that reads less and less, and which passively watches more and more video. Over the long term, I expect that quality coverage of national business and national politics will survive, because there will be enough highly-literate readers who will pay the premium prices necessary to support sophisticated reporting. But I am not at all confident that there are enough readers who will pay what is necessary for the existence of good coverage of local news. At a time when governments are growing more and more powerful, we are losing a crucial part of our checks and balances. “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” as they used to say. A healthy society needs someone to guard us from the government “guardians.” Newspapers have been far from perfect in performing this vital, protective civic role, but more protection is better than less. With the Rocky’s demise, Colorado is going to have much less.
Dave Krieger, sports columnist
Honestly? The corporate suits come in and cry their crocodile tears, then whiz on home to continue collecting their seven-figure salaries, pleased to have rid their shareholders of the albatross that was a helluva newspaper. Scripps is in the best financial shape of any newspaper company in America, save the Washington Post Co. Dean Singleton, who survives in Denver, is in far worse financial shape, in much deeper debt, but he fought for the market and Scripps didn’t. Scripps turns tail and runs because it is as committed to the public service of journalism as teenagers to this spring’s fashions. It has learned it can make more money in niche cable television channels. It has every right to make that call. It’s a free country. But the question is whether everybody left in the journalism business is simply in it to make a buck. Certainly, for a while there, it was a really good buck.
Gannett taught everyone how to make margins that were out of sight. But now that it’s a struggle, is there anybody left with the heart of a journalist? Or are they all just profiteers, happy to move on to more profitable schemes when the going gets tough? Journalism has a constitutionally protected role in our Republic. We need people in charge of it who are more than profiteers. Yes, I know. Times are tough. The old model doesn’t work. I get all that. Nevertheless. We need publishers with vision and conviction and courage and it’s beginning to look like all we have are profiteers born on third base.
Steve Oelrich, copy editor/editorial writer
I’m worried what the loss of papers like the Rocky Mountain News, a nearly 150-year institution, means for American literacy and civic life. It can’t be a good thing. Personally, this is and will be a rough time for me and many of my colleagues. But every time I start to feel sorry for myself, I keep thinking about all those parents who drove frantically through my neighborhood on April 20, 1999, desperately trying to find a shortcut to Columbine High School where their kids were being slaughtered. Losing a job pales next to that.
John Rebchook, reporter
I started to work here on September 12, 1983. I’m 53, so I have spent almost half my life working here. I was hired as a real-estate reporter because they needed a warm body. I knew nothing about real estate or business, having only covered crime, politics and poor people in the first four years of my career. When my predecessor told me that brokers would be some of my best sources, I thought, what do stock brokers have to do with real estate? I didn’t even know there was such a thing as real-estate brokers. I now have the dubious distinction of covering real estate and business longer than any reporter in Denver’s history. Along the way I also have covered cable TV, mutual funds, banking, and the airlines, all in addition to real estate. I’ve been at dinner parties when people have sniffed to me that they don’t read the business section because it is boring. “You’re right,” I tell them. “Business is about money. And no one cares about money.”
Jason Salzman, media critic