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Does the Denver Newspaper Agency want double the previously announced cuts?

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The Rocky Mountain News typically steers clear of anonymous sources. In a February 2008 column about accusations of lewd conduct by state rep Michael Garcia (read about them in the Message column "A Denver Daily Wouldn't Touch Michael Garcia"), editor/publisher/president John Temple quoted his paper's policy on this issue, which begins: "The Rocky Mountain News discourages the use of anonymous sources. Their use threatens the credibility of the newspaper because the reader has no way to judge whether the source is reliable and/or whether the source is using the newspaper for his or her own end." Nevertheless, anonymity is at the core of today's article "Denver Newspaper Agency Seeks $35 Million in Cuts" which attributes the number in the headline to "people familiar with the situation." Neither DNA spokesman Jim Nolan nor a representative of MediaNews Group, owner of the Denver Post, which is currently negotiating with assorted unions, would confirm the accuracy of a figure nearly twice as high as the previously announced target amount of $18 million.

In this case, however, it's reasonable to assume that the info providers are in the newspaper business -- peers or perhaps even colleagues of Rocky staffers. No doubt that increased editors' comfort level, as did the nature of the material provided. The Rocky's anonymous-source policy goes on to say, "When considering whether to grant an exception to our rejection of anonymity, journalists should ask whether the information from the source is crucial to the story, whether it is informational or accusatory and whether it is fact or opinion."

Sources I've heard from in recent days -- they're anonymous, too -- suggest that the $35 million amount is fact, or at least close to it. From what I've been told, MediaNews Group negotiators are asking for reductions that may be hard for labor reps to swallow despite the dire state of the current newspaper industry -- and that could explain why E.W. Scripps has remained so quiet about the future of the Rocky, which it put up for sale in December. Presumably, the collapse of talks would give Scripps greater leverage when it comes to settling up accounts with MediaNews Group -- and while it's doubtful that such a development would create a Rocky survival scenario, each day that passes without a closure announcement increases speculation along those lines. One thing's certain, though: This story has turned out to be far more complicated than anyone expected.

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