John Temple at the February press conference announcing that the Rocky Mountain News would be closing the next day.
John Temple at the February press conference announcing that the Rocky Mountain News would be closing the next day.
Photo by J. Knight

The 5280 take on the Rocky Mountain News's demise

During the months between the December announcement that E.W. Scripps had put the Rocky Mountain News up for sale and the February date when the plug was pulled once and for all, as everyone knew it would be, Maximillian Potter, executive editor of 5280 magazine, watched and wrote. Potter was given sweeping access to John Temple, the Rocky's editor, publisher and president, as well as other supervisors and staffers, throughout this period -- and his just-published take on the tabloid's collapse, entitled "All the News That's Fit to Be Killed," is sure to provoke arguments.

Significant portions of "Fit" read like a Temple hagiography -- but as the mammoth piece moves forward, Potter implies that the newsroom's boss began to change, and not necessarily for the better, when he was also given responsibility over the paper's business side, too. He also toys with the notion that business reporter David Milstead might have been overly kind to Scripps in his reporting only to reveal excerpts from a scathing column aimed at the company that Temple declined to publish -- although the editor insists, in a rather strained manner, that he only asked for more reporting rather than killing it outright. And he tears into Scripps for putting newspapers on the backburner when it became clear that other portions of its empire were more profitable and had a greater upside.

The suggestion that Scripps should have been willing to lose money -- lots of it -- in order to preserve a journalistic institution is sure to be branded by bottom-line-oriented readers as naive and sentimental, and perhaps it is. But Potter delivers this theme with passion, and tosses in plenty of intriguing factoids -- the most surprising of which is the survival scenario that pivoted on whether or not MediaNews Group CEO and Denver Post owner Dean Singleton, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, might conveniently die, thus allowing the Rocky to figuratively rise from his ashes.

For anyone interested in newspapering in the 21st century, "All the News That's Fit to Be Killed" is a must-read. Do so by clicking here.

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