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Denver Daily News shuts down: "Just doesn't look like we can sustain," publisher says

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Update: Denver Daily News publisher Kristie Hannon has been swamped with messages since word broke that the paper will cease publication just over ten years after its debut. However, she took the time to take part in a detailed Q&A about the decision.

Here's the exchange, conducted via e-mail, followed by our original item:

Westword (Michael Roberts): Did the decision to close have to do with a loss of funding from key backers? Or was it more about day-in, day-out issues like falling ad revenue?

Kristie Hannon: The day-to-day grind has taken a toll. Falling ad revenue & increased costs have added additional burdens. Looking at the scope of things, it didn't seem like it would be sustainable moving forward.

WW: Has the paper been profitable until recently?

KH: Since its inception, the Denver Daily had shown steady growth, with 2008 being its best year. Since then and more recently, we've seen ups and downs.

WW: What was the circulation of the paper at the time of the closure? And had that figure gone up or down of late?

KH: We had about 25,000 people reading us each day, and although costs had increased, we hadn't decreased the circulation. Although cutting back may have been an option, a careful analysis led to this ultimate decision.

WW: How many employees, both full-time and part-time, will lose their jobs as a result of the closure?

KH: About twenty on our payroll and, of course, others who are directly affected.

WW: Was there any discussion about putting out a final memorial issue summing up the accomplishments of the paper? Or was that impossible from a financial standpoint?

KH: It wasn't impossible, and in hindsight this morning, with a flood of phone calls, a final edition may have been appropriate. We are grateful for the support of the community and advertisers, although such an overwhelming decision to cease publishing overtook any deadline that we could have met to produce a final paper today.

WW: Was the paper able to survive for so long because of its unique niche approach that focused on readers and commuters in the downtown area?

KH: Yes, and I also think it survived so long because people enjoyed it. It worked for the purpose it was serving for a long time for both the community and advertisers. The niche evolved over time for us, and with the shift of print media, we also shifted to a more local focus in order to compete by offering something unique.

WW: How would you describe the Denver Daily News' legacy? What are some of your proudest achivements?

KH: I mentioned the phone has been ringing off the hook and it's already bittersweet. A woman just called and said, "I read your paper every morning and bring copies up to everyone in the gallery, I'm so sorry, this is so sad." People have a personal connection to the Denver Daily News and I'm proud that we were able to touch so many lives each day on this local level. It has been quite an awesome opportunity to be able to sustain this type of livelihood by reporting "life" as we know it.

Sometimes its hard to see the effect it often had looking from the inside out and dealing with the daily grind. Jim Pavelich, a humble and smart businessman, started this paper ten years ago in order to offer small businesses one of the most effective and affordable outlets to promote themselves and to offer the community a voice. It was a simple and proven method and I still believe in it strongly. With the current economic conditions, I think it's needed more than ever right now. But unfortunately, there are so many outlets for people to advertise, and somewhere this "print" thing has been pushed aside for a lot of test methods, I believe. I don't discount the power of the Internet or the "social media" frenzy that exists, but I do question the effectiveness that it has for specific business models.

WW: Are there lessons in the Denver Daily News story for other print journalism operations? If so, what would they be?

KH: Oh I don't know, I think every situation is different. I know that if you're in this business, you do it for the love of it. I wish the rewards were sometimes better for everyone involved. This is not an easy business for anyone who drives a passion for print journalism.

WW: Is there still a market for a print publication like the Denver Daily News? Or are such projects cost-prohibitive in today's market?

KH: I know the price of print just increased again last week, and I don't know if there is an end in sight for that. Competing against the Internet in that regard (print costs) is tough, but I believe ROI in this print format is far higher than most other mediums when you really do the math. As far as profitability, it's tough to make a buck.

WW: After the Rocky Mountain News closed, the Denver Daily News talked about Denver being a two-daily-newspaper town. How do you feel about the journalism scene here suffering the loss of yet another voice?

KH: Of course, I think it's extremely unfortunate. It's taken the Denver Daily News years to prove itself as a viable resource in this community, and we need that kind of accountability. It's hard to find good, solid news reporting anymore, and if anything, I think it's something that the Denver Daily News did very well. We've had dedicated journalism here and I'm proud of the staff who worked day in and day out delivering it. My journalists always set out to dig up a good news story and although at times we may not have received the credit for it, we stirred things up and reported it accurately. I'm proud of everyone for their dedication. We were a small staff who delivered something big to Denver each day.

In various ways, I saw the impact of it. From the editorial & sales to the photographers, who made the paper so engaging, to the delivery folks who brought you the DDN each day, they all deserve recognition. For them, it wasn't just a job. I know they loved what they did and they were dedicated to it. I'd like to say thanks for the support of the advertisers and the staff who worked extremely hard and found passion in what they did each day.

My phone just rang again. It was a business that was ready to advertise.

Original item, 8:39 a.m. June 7: The Denver Daily News reported the 2009 closure of the Rocky Mountain News with the headline "We're a 2-Daily Town" -- a line indicative of the paper's scrappiness. Now, however, Denver is a one-daily town.. because the Daily News has ceased publication.

When asked this morning if the challenges impacting print journalism in general led to the shutdown decision, Daily News publisher Kristie Hannon says, "That was a huge factor. Unfortunately, we took a look at everything, took a look at the state of things as far as the paper goes, and it just doesn't look like we can sustain."

The Daily News has beaten the odds for a decade by focusing relentlessly on downtown workers and commuters. The free paper, which was published Monday through Friday, circulated 25,000 copies at retail distribution sites and did a lot of local reporting with a very small staff: four jack-of-all-trades editorial types, bolstered by a staff photographer. (The News also employed three salespersons.)

The Denver Post was among the paper's favorite targets. In January 2010, for instance, the Daily News shared details of MediaNews Group's bankruptcy filing, including the firm's request that a judge order Qwest, its phone and Internet provider, not to pull the plug on it -- and to give it permission not to print "Debtor-in-Possession" on its checks.

Such feistiness will be missed.

More from our Media archive: "Dan Haley's satirical goodbye front page from his colleagues at the Denver Post."

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