More Messages: Shrinkage

Today's Rocky Mountain News features an article about the latest financial information released by E.W. Scripps, which owns the paper -- and betcha the figures it contains didn't put a smile on the face of Harry Whipple, the Denver Newspaper Agency exec seen grinning here. According to business writer David Milstead, who covers his own company just as thoroughly as he reports about other firms, Scripps lost $4.2 million on its Denver operations in the third quarter of 2006. About $3 million of the sum is depreciation from discontinued printing presses, but that still leaves the News over $1 million in the red for the period in question.

By the way, the Rocky generated a $7.5 million loss during the same quarter in 2005. However, that total included $9 million in depreciation costs -- meaning that without the deduction, the tabloid would have turned a $1.5 million profit.

While such a downturn is typical in the newspaper game these days, it can't simply be shrugged off -- and it won't be. As Milstead notes, Mark Contreras, Scripps' senior vice president for newspapers, says Whipple and the DNA "are very focused on lowering expenses." One way to do so is to shrink the physical size of the Rocky, which will save money on newsprint -- and this change is expected to take place within weeks. Because Westword is printed by the News, this publication will soon be smaller as well. Hope those people who say size doesn't matter are right...

Whatever the case, it's unlikely that the Rocky will be able to eliminate all of its woes simply by trimming its pages at the margins. Don't be surprised if the paper eventually attempts to decrease its editorial contingent with the sort of buyout offer that Denver Post staffers received earlier this year. After all, Mr. Whipple is well known for putting on the squeeze. -- Michael Roberts

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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