27 February 2009

Rocky Mountain News closes; chalk one up for the cynics

I wrote this for Radio Sweethearts, but wasn't quite comfortable posting it there.

I knew this particular bit of bad news was coming; Scripps has been trying and failing to sell the ailing Rocky Mountain News since December. Scripps has been suffering huge losses at the paper.

I say that I saw this coming, but the actual announcement of the closing comes as something of a suckerpunch.

The news comes as so much of a suckerpunch that I need to emphasize my editorial independence on this one. No one else knows that I'm writing this - until it's up.

It's fair to neither the employees of the Rocky Mountain News nor to their families that no one was told that tomorrow (Friday) will be their last day until today. And rather than simple "life isn't fair" unfair, this treatment of employees borders on injust.

Kerry works at the Commercial Appeal, another Scripps paper. She works for the online department - she and her immediate co-workers are/will be the saviors of the newspaper industry. If, that is, they aren't beaten to within an inch of their morale's life by incidents like this happening within their employer's parent company.

I strongly believe that the Commercial Appeal is going to weather the storm, a statement I can make only after having met the stalwart crew of the online department, because they're doing what they believe in, because they care too much, and most of all, because the paper has never missed an issue.

The people I know there are too damned stubborn to be the people around for the Commercial Appeal's first missed issue.

But I can't say that I don't worry. The morale of employees at any business directly affects the morale of their families. I try to stay positive, knowing that Kerry is in a position which will remain vital to the newspaper industry throughout this awkward pubescent transition to the industry's new world, but the simple fact that she's aware of the possibility of another suckerpunch causes me to worry, too.

I don't have the heart to look up any public radio reportage on the Rocky Mountain News' closure, because I'm afraid that it's all going to be tinged with the sense of superiority that comes from working in any other form of media.

I'm looking at you when I say that, Bob Garfield. You know, there was a battle between radio and television, too. Just like the one between newspapers and the internet. Guess what? TV won. And you still have a job - two, actually, in radio and print. Your living depends on dead media.

But if radio can evolve and find a market in a TV world, then surely newspapers can do the same in an internet world - this not taking into account the fact that much of the internet experience is already based on the newspaper model, an advantage that few commentators have noticed, and few small-town daily newspapers seem to have realized either.

My thoughts and prayers - such as they are - are with the employees and families of the Rocky Mountain News. If you people are anything like the people I know at the CA, you'll pull through and end up in a better place.