Denver Post puts local news first in echo of Rocky Mountain News

The front page of today's Denver Post -- the physical version, not its website -- features a note from editor Greg Moore announcing that the paper has been "reordered."

Specifically, local news, which previously ran after national and international stories, will now appear in the lead section -- a move that mimics the layout of the late, lamented Rocky Mountain News.

Former Rocky editor/publisher/president John Temple, who's just been named a managing editor for the Washington Post, espoused the local-first approach, seeing it as a way of spotlighting the tabloid's original reporting. As he noted, readers could get national and international news from a multitude of sources, but in his view, the Rocky's local and regional reporting was a unique product, as well as the main reason folks here bothered to pick up the paper. So why not put it at the head of the class?

This theory makes even more sense now than it did before the Rocky folded back in February 2009. Today, there's a mighty good chance anyone interested in national and international news isn't learning about developments for the first time from the copy of the Post picked up from the driveway each morning. As such, the best thing the Post has to sell -- particularly after the recent departures of such personalities as Bill Husted, Mike Littwin and Penny Parker -- is Colorado coverage that's broader and more varied than that offered by anyone else owing to its still considerable resources.

Moore says as much in his note to readers. "This change is an effort to reflect our continued emphasis on local news," he writes, "including our business report."

Granted, the presence of Business in the A section is a bit odd, especially considering that the Post's Opinion spread is now in the B section, after national and international news. It'll be interesting to see if the paper can generate enough advertising to keep Business at today's fairly robust length, especially given continuing rumblings about editorial page cuts. One source suggests the Post may be losing as many as eighteen pages per week.

For now, though, the reordering strikes me as a smart move -- although predicting how much it will help the Post in the long run is damn near impossible.

Example: While researching this item, I perused "Inside the Temple," a 2002 Q&A with the Rocky's Temple -- and here's what he had to say when asked if he thought the paper would still be around in fifty years:

I don't know if the, quote, Rocky Mountain News will. I don't know what market forces will occur. Will Denver have a newspaper? I think there will still be some form of newspaper. What it will be called, I don't know. But it's an old name, it's a great name, so I would hope it would be called the Rocky Mountain News. Because if you sit in this office as the editor of this newspaper, you have a responsibility to the institution, and my responsibility is to help maintain it. [Former News editors] Ralph Looney, Jay Ambrose and Bob Burdick all sat here, and somebody else will sit here. That's why it's important I give it to them in a shape they can do something with. There are people in this newsroom -- young people in their twenties --who could be the editor of this newspaper, and they'll do something different with it than I do. But what I'm trying to do is to make a newspaper that really connects with people. A newspaper is like a city: It has many neighborhoods and all kinds of aspects to it. And when a newspaper's at its best, it can be really important parts of readers' lives, and people will find real value in it. I think newspapers can survive a long time if they do that. If they don't, I don't blame people for turning away.

Here's a larger look at the front page of today's Denver Post.

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