David Milstead on INDenver Times, the Rocky Mountain Independent and his return to newspapering

David Milstead, a Rocky Mountain News business writer who got involved in the online INDenver Times and Rocky Mountain Independent projects after the tabloid folded in February, is heading north, taking a business reporting position with The Globe and Mail in Toronto. When he does so, he'll become, by his count, the fourth former Rocky business staffer (out of nine) to leave the country this year. According to him, Chris Walsh is working for an English-language paper in South Korea, James Paton is a Bloomberg reporter based in Sydney, Australia, and Jeff Smith is in Ghana, where his wife is working in international development.

As for Milstead, he was impressed by the size of The Globe and Mail's business section, which filled twenty broadsheet pages on the day he interviewed for the gig. He thinks the only U.S. newspapers devoting a similar amount of ink to the subject are the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and the Washington Post -- and while he declines an invitation to decry the Denver Post's performance in this area, as he did in an early March Q&A, he's thrilled to be going to "a newspaper where the commitment to business journalism remains strong."

Milstead's also happy to have participated in the INDenver Times and Rocky Mountain Independent experiments, even though neither of them have managed to take flight.

"I still believe the things I said about INDenver Times immediately after it fell apart," Milstead says. "I felt like having two to three dozen Rocky Mountain News people, many of them with well-known names, was a compelling proposition. The math I gave was that in 2008, the two big newspapers in town had brought in somewhere around $300 million in revenue -- and it took just one percent of that $300 million to fund two to three dozen journalists. For someone willing to lose money in the short term to establish an Internet-only media outlet in Denver given that one of those newspapers had folded, it didn't seem like an unreasonable proposition. But the climate was poor for all sorts of businesses, and the view that everything needs to start small prevailed."

Nearly all of the Rocky vets who'd been part of INDenver Times bailed when financiers like Kevin Preblud declined to put up big money in the wake of subscription shortfalls, either seeking so-called "real jobs" or signing up with the Rocky Mountain Independent. Milstead was among the latter posse, but he says his participation was limited. He helped connect RMI chief Steve Foster with legal representatives who "set up the proper paperwork" in ways that weren't done with INDenver Times, in his view. But rather than contributing to RMI's output on a daily basis, he spent much of the summer back East visiting relatives with his wife, a teacher, and his first born. And by the time he returned, he notes, "I had begun discussions with The Globe and Mail."

Because his mother is a Canadian, Milstead has dual citizenship, although he hasn't spent much time in Toronto. He's looking forward to the opportunity, yet he'll miss Colorado -- not just the place but the friends he made during his stay here. Still, he knows it's time to get back to work.

"I haven't been practicing journalism since INDenver Times folded, and that's been almost five months," he points out. "I've always loved the camaraderie of the newsroom. That's the thing about the Rocky I miss so much -- sitting in a cluster of desks with some of my closest friends.

Even so, "the last couple of the years at the Rocky were difficult for me," he concedes. "I knew they were losing money quarter after quarter, and losing subscribers, too. The page counts were shrinking."

At least right now, The Globe and Mail doesn't seem to have that problem. Wouldn't it be nice if that continued?

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts