The silence has been deafening in regard to the possible sale of the Rocky Mountain News -- at least officially. The last article in the Rocky itself about potential buyers appeared way back on December 24; that piece noted that a "deal book" of financial and demographic information had been sent to an undisclosed number of firms expressing at least some level of interest in the property. And while IWantMyRocky.com, a site started by staffers as a way of generating support for the tabloid, has continued to publish new material on a daily basis, the comments to the site have slowed. The most recent one at this writing was posted on January 9. Likewise, the affiliated IWantMyRocky Facebook page is relatively quiet. Only twelve comments appear on the page's wall, with one reading, "Wait... I thought this group was for the Denver Nuggets' mascot."
As for coverage by other mainstream media outlets, the latest is a Channel 7 offering dated January 13 that says the deadline established by Rocky owner E.W. Scripps to find a buyer is January 15 -- tomorrow. That's debatable, of course: During a conversation with Westword, Scripps CEO Rich Boehne used the phrase "mid-January," which provides him with some wiggle room. Whatever the case, the 7News package captured the anxiety being felt by newsroomers. Reporter Gargi Chakrabarty admitted, "It's hard to motivate yourself when you get up in the morning. It's hard to get out of bed and say, 'I am going to have the best day. I am going to put out the best work I can.'"
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And what are Rocky types talking about off-the-record? Many expect the hammer to come down sometime this week -- but others think there may be a delay.
Some folks at the paper think Scripps will wait a few days to see if MediaNews Group boss and de facto Denver Post owner Dean Singleton will be able to secure the $20 million in labor savings at the Post and the Denver Newspaper Agency he says he needs by January 16 -- Friday. If he doesn't convince assorted unions to reopen contract negotiations early, a representative wrote, "the financial health of DNA will be even more significantly impacted than it has been to date, and the employer will have to consider all options available to it."
The word "options" is also the one used by Scripps, and Singleton has several. He could, for instance, declare bankruptcy -- a move that would likely allow him to start from scratch with unions. Trouble is, MediaNews Group is a private company, so no one knows for certain what kind of shape it's in. And even if its condition is as dire as many at the Rocky suspect that it is, Singleton would likely resist a bankruptcy filing for as long as possible out of a combination of pride and independence. Betcha a lone ranger like him would hate having to run every decision past a bankruptcy judge...
In some ways, these dueling deadlines suggest that Singleton is playing chicken with Scripps -- a game he won at the time of the joint-operating agreement, when the Rocky was declared a "failing newspaper." That phrase weighs even more heavily today, as Rocky staffers wait and worry about what's coming next.