Thursday, December 04, 2008

For sale: newspaper, some wear

Not exactly a surprise. The Rocky:
The Rocky Mountain News, Colorado’s oldest newspaper, has been put up for sale by its parent company.

Citing worsening financial conditions and an expected loss at the paper of roughly $15 million this year, the E.W. Scripps Co. said it would seek a possible buyer in the next 30 days.

Scripps CEO Rich Boehne, who took the helm of the company in July, made the announcement to the newsroom this morning. He told the editoral staff the decision “would have been unthinkable just a few months ago.” . . .

“But the operating conditions have become increasingly difficult in Denver, as is the case in all major metropolitan newspaper markets, Boehne said in a statement. Our 50 percent of the cash flow generated by the Denver Newspaper Agency is no longer enough to support the Rocky, leaving us with no choice but to seek an exit.”

Cincinnati-based Scripps has owned the Rocky since 1926. The paper, founded in 1859, is Colorado’s oldest, as well as the state’s oldest continuously operated business. Since 2000, the Rocky has won four Pulitzer Prizes for journalistic excellence. . . .

The sale of the Rocky would mark the end of more than 100 years in Denver for Scripps. The company’s founder, E.W. Scripps, started The Denver Express in 1906. The Express was folded in the late 1920s when Scripps focused all its efforts on building the success of one title in the morning, the Rocky Mountain News.

“This is a day I never wanted to see come,” Rocky Editor John Temple told the staff. “Clearly, you’re not responsible for what happened.”
Except Mike Littwin.

The Rocky has faced many challenges in its history. The story goes that Editor Jack Foster was sent to Denver to close the paper at a time of newsprint rationing during World War II. He converted it into a tabloid, or magazine style, newspaper in 1942 and the paper doubled its circulation over the next five years. During the final years of the newspaper war, it annually boasted that it sold more than 5 million classified ads and had a daily circulation of more than 400,000.

Today, its daily circulation is about 210,000, the same as the Post’s, and its Saturday circulation is 457,000. The paper is delivered to subscribers of both the Rocky and the Post on Saturday. On Sunday, under the JOA, subscribers to both papers received the Post.

Scripps said it will consider offers for the Rocky and its interest in the agency through mid-January of next year. If no acceptable offers arise, the company said it will examine its other options.
“Some will be tempted to immediately write the obituary of the Rocky, but we’re hoping this step will open the way for a creative solution to the financial challenges faced by Denver’s great newspapers,” Boehne said in the news release. “The loyal readers and advertisers of Denver deserve the best, and we’ll work hard to find a solution that benefits this great city.”

Update: Newsroom reax; Rocky at 150 (lots of cool old stories and page facsimiles--but they don't actually turn 150 until April. Why are they running it now?).

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