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Mark Contreras, newspaper division head when Rocky Mountain News closed, out at Scripps

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At the February 2009 press conference announcing the closure of the Rocky Mountain News, Mark Contreras, the senior vice president/newspapers for E.W. Scripps, the Rocky's owner, mainly stayed out of the spotlight -- but many soon-to-be-unemployed staffers felt he played a big part in the shutdown order. Now, however, Contreras is out of a job, too -- and the changes at Scripps speak to the tough times facing print journalism.

The press release linked above doesn't give a reason for the departure of the man who'd fronted the Scripps newspaper division since January 2005. Rather, it focuses on Rich Boehne, the firm's president and CEO, who was front-and-center when the Rocky was silenced. He'll run the newspaper group until a permanent replacement for Contreras is found.

"Mark Contreras led our newspapers through one of the most challenging periods in news industry history, and we deeply appreciate his service," Boehne said in a statement. "Much remains to be done as these important local businesses and community assets transition to serving customers in many different formats. But, with a strong financial position and an unwavering commitment to public service to back them up, I have complete confidence that the talented and dedicated professionals at our newspapers are taking all the right steps to ensure a long and successful future."

This quote sounds a lot like one Contreras offered in 2007. By way of dismissing the demise-of-the-newspaper-industry stories then regularly popping up, he told employees, "I don't believe that bunk for a split second... There is one favor I'd like to ask. I'd like each of you to approach your work with the attitude that our best days are ahead of us, not behind us."

Wishful thinking? Well, the latest press release notes that Scripps' newspaper division sports daily newspapers in thirteen markets -- and its website lists a total of fourteen publications in the newspaper group. However, a Forbes interview with Contreras following his appointment as the Newspaper Association of America chairman notes that he oversaw 28 daily and community newspapers as of February 2010. But no more.

More from our Media archive, from December 2008: "E.W. Scripps CEO Rich Boehne on his company's commitment to newspapers."

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