Tale of a Daily Newspaper Odd Couple

Two newspapers that were once mortal enemies make plans to cohabit.

The recent announcement that the Colorado Daily will abandon its headquarters at 2610 Pearl Street in Boulder in order to share space with the Boulder Daily Camera hardly caused an uproar among locals. Just three readers posted comments on a Camera article about the change — and only one saw it as a harbinger of future consolidation of the papers themselves, says Albert Manzi, the president of Prairie Mountain Publishing, which runs both papers under an agreement with the E.W. Scripps chain.

Yet veteran Boulder journalists understood full well the symbolism of the move, including Clint Talbott, who left the Camera a few weeks earlier for a new position at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Prior to his decade at the Camera, Talbott put in fourteen years at the Daily, most of them as editor, and he vividly recalls the animosity between the two publications. "The Camera was the dark star," he says. "Our reason for getting up in the morning was to beat them and do a better job than they did with a fraction of the staff. It was rare that we did, but we kept trying."

These thoughts are echoed by onetime Daily entertainment editor Leland Rucker, who noted in an online requiem that "the Daily's dissolution and Talbott's departure are significant, like tacking a big -30- at the end of the story of a distinct period of newspapering in Boulder."

Albert Manzi says the Camera and the Daily will be close, but not too close.
anthony camera
Albert Manzi says the Camera and the Daily will be close, but not too close.

Of course, the decision to share space makes perfect sense given the particulars of the current era — one in which the transition of readers from physical papers to their far less profitable Internet components has resulted in advertising-revenue declines that seem to accelerate with each news cycle.

Manzi does his best not to make this situation seem any gloomier than necessary. In its most recent survey, the Audit Bureau of Circulations, an industry-sponsored monitoring group, reported that the Camera's weekday and Sunday numbers tumbled by 6.7 percent and 7.5 percent, respectively, in the past year. However, Manzi says that "individually paid circulation" — the total excluding papers provided to hotels and education initiatives or those once peddled through so-called third-party sales programs — were only down about 3 percent, and he boasts that "in the first quarter, the daily readership of both print and online together was up double digits daily and high single digits on Sunday. The way to look at it is, more people are coming to us for information than ever before."

Probably so, but that hasn't done much for the publication's bottom line. On May 6, the Camera revealed that it laid off nine employees from its 155-person staff. Manzi declines to get specific about their positions, confirming only that the editorial and business departments lost one person apiece — "and we actually added business staff prior to that." But the paper's been steadily shedding workers since at least 2001, when it employed 250 full- or part-timers, and attrition over the past few years, not to mention a 2007 circulation-sharing agreement with the Denver Newspaper Agency, has opened even more room in the Camera's base of operations. "The space has been used inefficiently for years," Manzi argues.

Much the same situation has existed at the Daily, for analogous reasons. The paper moved into its current building six years ago, at a time when owner Randy Miller was pumping resources into the publication. As a result, "I think the place was a little bloated," says Oakland L. Childers, the Daily's managing editor. "We could always use more people in the newsroom — although I've never been in a newsroom where people didn't want more bodies. But we had too many people in some other areas." That didn't last long, though. Miller sold the Daily to Scripps in 2005, and since then, the goal of doing more with less has received even greater emphasis; at present, the paper's making do with twenty employees. "We definitely are a lot leaner than we've been in the past," Childers allows. "We've been through a lot in the past ten years."

Before then, too: The Daily's history is among the most colorful tales in Colorado journalism. Founded in 1892 as The Silver and Gold, the paper began its life as CU's official publication, and read like it for decades. But in the years following a 1953 moniker switch to the Colorado Daily (because students reportedly thought the old handle made it sound like a mining journal), staffers slowly began throwing off their figurative shackles, and trouble followed. In 1962, Barry Goldwater, an Arizona senator and future Republican presidential candidate, demanded an apology for a piece calling him "a fool, a mountebank, a murderer, no better than a common criminal" — and got one. Soon thereafter, articles and editorials blasting the Vietnam War began popping up, and by 1970, conservative CU regents led by beer magnate Joe Coors were so fed up that they voted to cut funding for all campus publications. But instead of dying, the Daily became a free, independent, employee-owned newspaper given to bold notions and controversial provocations like a notorious 1984 edition devoted entirely to excoriating President Ronald Reagan, who was pictured on the cover with a skull and crossbones in place of his left pupil.

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