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Death of a Newspaper: The Rocky Mountain News Folds. Ringolsby Reflects PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Friday, 27 February 2009 01:13

The Rocky Mountain News will cease publishing today after
150 years in business, a victim of the economy and changes
in the print industry.

In what may be one of the most profound statements on the print industry in the throes of the recession, it was announced Thursday that the 150-year old Rocky Mountain News will publish its final edition Friday. Parent company, E.W. Scripps Co. (NYSE: SSP) failed to find a qualified buyer after putting the paper on the market in January.

“Today the Rocky Mountain News, long the leading voice in Denver, becomes a victim of changing times in our industry and huge economic challenges,” said Rich Boehne, chief executive officer of Scripps in a statement. “The Rocky is one of America’s very best examples of what local news organizations need to be in the future. Unfortunately, the partnership’s business model is locked in the past.”

Although the Rocky Mountain News will publish its last edition tomorrow, in compliance with the union contract, and also federal law, Rocky employees will remain on the Scripps payroll through April 28, 2009 as part of their 60-days notice.

Tracy Ringolsby has been covering the Colorado Rockies for the Rocky Mountain News since the club was established in 1993 (read The Biz of Baseball interview with Ringolsby). The Spink Award winner and 2006 Hall of Fame inductee received word of the paper folding via email while in the pressbox at Hi Corbett Field in Tucson, filling out the lineup card for the Rockies second exhibition game of the season. Ringolsby, along with the rest of the Rocky staff there at the game, was told to gather for an announcement. Word arrived through the company’s website.

“Since mid-January we have been waiting for this announcement so it was pretty much expected.” Ringolsby said when reached by email late Thursday evening. “For myself it was a sense of relief because there is closure. But overall a real concern and fear for a lot of my co-workers. We've got people in the office with families, kids at home. Those people have the real challenge in a business that is shrinking, knowing they have a family to raise.”

Unlike many of his co-workers, Ringolsby said he has, for the most part, already landed on his feet. He will be involved with the pre-game and post-game shows on the Rockies telecasts on FSN Rocky Mountain, as well as increase the number of columns he does from foxsports.com from one to two a week. He also will continue his work with Baseball America, which he co-founded. In-between, he plans to take a breather.

“The way my schedule breaks down I will have between 12 and 15 days a month at home during the season. In the last 33 years the only time I have ever had extended time at home in the summer was in 1981, during the strike.”

Asked how he views the print industry in light of the Rocky Mountain News folding, Ringolsby grasps the cold reality of the industry these days.

“The Rocky Mountain News folding underscores the seriousness of the print industry. I've been a two-time Scripps employee. I spent 7 1/.2 years with UPI. Scripps could have waited out the Denver Post given its financial trouble, but Scripps did not feel that it was financially sensible to remain in Denver, even if it was as the only newspaper.

“At some point, though, the main stream media will wake up and find a way to make the web successful and the demand for writers will be rejuvenated. The country needs a vigilant press, whether it bring newspapers or websites.”

In Friday’s edition of the Rocky Mountain News, Ringolsby will say goodbye to his readers, as well as those that he has worked with for 15-years. His column will read, in part:

There is a sadness that something that has meant so much for so long is disappearing, and that so many good people are affected.

As I told another writer, the proudest moment I can think of is the last three months, where the people I work with at the News were so professional that they continued to put out the best paper possible while dealing with the emotions of knowing the end was in sight.

Now the end has come and it’s time for a fresh start. Time to push forward and remember the line of National Western Stock Show announcer Boyd Polhamus, ``God’s gift to us is that we are here today. Our gift to God is what we do while we are here.’’

Maury BrownMaury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He is contributor to Baseball Prospectus, and is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.

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