Closure of Fort Collins Now marks end of era in great Northern Colorado weekly newspaper war

Today marks the final edition of Fort Collins Now, a weekly newspaper that built up a considerable following dating to 2003, when it was born as the Fort Collins Weekly.

Indeed, Northern Colorado as a whole was practically bursting at the seams with weeklies a few short years ago, as was noted in "Paper Chase," a December 2006 Message column. Back then, a genuine newspaper war was underway, with the Weekly competing against four other significant weeklies, including the independent Rocky Mountain Chronicle. But the Chronicle ceased publication last May, a year after Weekly owners Joel Dyer and Greg Campbell sold their paper to Swift Communications, publisher of the Greeley Tribune, in a bid to survive and thrive. Unfortunately, though, this better-heeled firm couldn't protect the redubbed Now from the vagaries of today's economic climate.

This is hardly an isolated case. Here's a roster of recent print troubles documented in Now's account of its own demise:

In Northern Colorado:

» In December, FCN parent company Swift announced layoffs at several mountain properties, including the Grand Junction Free Press and papers in Glenwood Springs and Aspen. Earlier, a free weekly, the Vail Trail, was shuddered altogether.

» In January, the Coloradoan's parent company, Gannett, announced company-wide unpaid furloughs for the quarter. All employees had to take a week off without pay. The move was in lieu of layoffs, Gannett officials said. Those furloughs extended into the second quarter, and will likely be repeated in the third quarter. When the first furloughs were announced, a Coloradoan staffer told FCN that it was "a nice way of giving us a pay cut." The staffer went on to say, "If it saves jobs, I think people are for it.... Maybe it will get better when we get on the other side of the fence."

» Earlier this month, the Coloradoan moved all of its printing operations to Denver, cutting 42 jobs.

» May 21 is the last edition of Fort Collins Now, which means the loss of three jobs.


» In March, the Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News cut delivery of print versions to three days a week. They'll use their Web sites for coverage the rest of the week.

» In December, Tribune Co., which owns the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and The Sun (in Baltimore), filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Newspapers in Minneapolis and Philadelphia have since done the same.

» The Seattle Post-Intelligencer in March went to an online-only paper, leaving the Seattle Times as the only surviving daily in that city.

» Analysts say it's possible that at least one major metro area could be without a daily newspaper soon. Candidates include San Francisco, Miami, Minneapolis or Cleveland.

In the piece, which also notes the demise of the Rocky Mountain News, Campbell, who stopped editing Now late last year in order to devote himself to writing books, said the paper's success had exceeded his expectations -- but he didn't admit to one regret: that "there won't be an equal voice that will continue on where we left off."

Of course, there were five such voices less than three years ago. Clearly, the worm has turned -- and he's a vicious little bastard.

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