Rocky Mountain News staffers take to Web in effort to save newspaper

A Web site aimed at keeping the Rocky Mountain News alive launched Sunday night as part of a campaign by the newspaper’s staff to rally public support a week after E.W. Scripps Co. put the Denver daily up for sale and said it could cease publication if no buyer emerges. The site urges readers to share memories and propose methods to keep the 149-year-old newspaper — Colorado’s oldest business — from closing. “We meet in this strange place in a noble effort to save the Rocky Mountain News,” Rocky columnist Mike Littwin writes. “And if we can’t save the Rocky, we can, at minimum, make some noise before we go.”

Reporter John Ensslin, a spokesman for a group of Rocky reporters, editors, photographers and other staff, sent out the following statement Sunday night:

Sunday night at 7 p.m. the Web site launched to make the case as to why the Rocky Mountain News is worth saving. The site will give Rocky staffers and readers a chance to express why the newspaper is important to them, putting a face on what many see merely as a business transaction and serving as a reminder of the important role the Rocky Mountain News has played in Denver and the state of Colorado for the last 150 years.

The site includes contact information for Scripps and urges readers to convey the following message:

Dear E.W. Scripps board members:

I want my Rocky Mountain News. You have the power to keep it open. Please don’t let my community lose its oldest newspaper.

Scripps CEO Rich Boehne said on Dec. 4 the Rocky is on track to lose $15 million this year amid an economic downturn that has sapped ad revenue. The Rocky publishes as part of a federally sanctioned joint operating agreement with the Denver Post, owned by newspaper conglomerate MediaNews Group. The two papers run independent newsrooms but share business operations, including advertising sales, printing and circulation.

Because any sale or shutdown of the Rocky would require input from the Justice Department, the IWantMyRocky site also suggests readers contact Colorado’s elected federal officials and urge they hold the newspapers’ owners to the fire. “Write your own e-mail or copy and paste the letter below and add your name at the bottom,” the site says.

The E.W. Scripps Co. has announced its plans to sell the Rocky Mountain News. Unless a buyer emerges, Colorado’s longest running business may see its doors close after 150 years, leaving more than 200 tax-paying, voting Coloradans out of work. I want to save the Rocky, and I need your help.

I ask that you work to ensure that the Department of Justice performs its due diligence as Scripps moves forward with a sale or a possible closure of the Rocky Mountain News and does not rush the sale through the process without proper oversight. An attempted sale during the holiday season in this recession is not a good faith effort to keep the newspaper open.

Please work to ensure that the dissolution of the joint operating agreement that governs the partnership of The Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News follows both the spirit and the letter of the law under which it was written, a law that made it the policy of the United States to preserve newspapers. Work to ensure that the interests of Rocky employees are being considered. And finally work to ensure that Colorado’s rich cultural heritage, as preserved in the historical archives of the Rocky Mountain News, lives on.

As the elected advocate of Rocky Mountain News employees and readers in Washington, you have the power to keep our state’s rich, strong journalistic voice intact and to keep Coloradans employed.

UPDATE: Rocky staffers talked Monday morning with 630 KHOW host Peter Boyles about the state of the newspaper industry, the IWantMyRocky Web site, and the Rocky’s place in Denver history. Listen to the first hour, featuring reporter Kevin Flynn, business reporter David Milstead and sports columnist Sam Adams, here. The second hour, including Flynn and political reporter Lynn Bartels, assistant sports editor Steve Foster and TV and radio critic Dusty Saunders is here.

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Ernest Luning

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