A December 2006 Message column documented the incredible proliferation of free weekly papers going after readers in the northern Colorado triangle formed by Fort Collins, Greeley and Loveland – five at the time of the article’s appearance, including two independents, the Rocky Mountain Chronicle and the Fort Collins Weekly, and three others affiliated with daily newspapers, Ticket on the Street, the RH Weekly and NextNC. No one expected this market-defying situation to last, and it didn’t. As this July 2007 effort notes, the Fort Collins Weekly subsequently embarked on a partnership with a daily, the Greeley Tribune, while NextNC was demoted to the Trib’s weekend guide. But the latest development is as telling as any. The Chronicle, the most defiant and outspoken of the original quintet, ceased physical publication as of the May 15 edition represented by the cover seen here, and while the staff wants to keep it alive in some form, no one at this point has come up with a workable model.
Vanessa Martinez won’t have much input on any future iteration. The onetime Chronicle editor has already moved on; she’s been hired as the new online editor for 5280 magazine. But Chronicle news editor Joshua Zaffos isn’t ready to surrender quite yet. “There’s certainly a sense of limbo right now,” he says, conceding that aside from the occasional post on the paper’s unofficial blog, rmholla.blogspot.com, new content will be scarce over the next month or two. “But there’s still a lot of energy working toward keeping this thing going.” One prospect being explored involves doing away with the print product, at least on a regular basis, in favor of a greater focus on the web. “We’re talking about maybe doing it as a non-profit, too,” he adds.
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That’s a tough row to hoe, particularly given the current state of the economy, which Zaffos thinks was more responsible for the Chronicle’s difficulties than the glut of weeklies in the area. Still, the responses he’s heard from locals who already miss the paper make him feel that something should be done. “People are telling us it would be a large loss for the city of Fort Collins and for Larimer County if what the Chronicle represents goes away. That’s why we’re motivated to keep it going, and to bring our readership with us, too.”
In the meantime, what was once a vigorous newspaper war is looking more and more like a battle of the pyrrhic variety. – Michael Roberts