The August 28 announcement that the E.W. Scripps Company wants to sell the Albuquerque Tribune set stomachs rumbling at the Scripps-owned Rocky Mountain News for entirely understandable reasons. Like the Rocky, the Tribune has been part of a joint-operating agreement intended to preserve the existence of editorially competing newspapers. Moreover, it's located in a major western city and has provided the Rocky with a number of key staffers over the years -- most prominently John Temple, its editor/publisher/president.
Will the Rocky join the Tribune on the sales block anytime soon? Doubtful, for a range of reasons.
The Tribune is an afternoon paper -- and that delivery schedule has been on the wane for decades. As a result, its circulation has fallen steadily over the past twenty years -- from around 42,000 daily in 1988 to a pitiful 11,000 at present. The disparity between this total and the 106,000 daily circulation enjoyed by its JOA partner, the Albuquerque Journal, guaranteed that such a decision would come sooner rather than later. In all likelihood, it also means that no company will purchase the Tribune, forcing the vulnerable publication to close up shop in the not-too-distant future.
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Such a fate won't befall the Rocky unless its circulation takes a similar tumble -- and right now, the tabloid is running neck and neck with the Denver Post, relatively speaking, in terms of the number of papers printed. Nevertheless, the move involving the Tribune serves as a reminder to the Rocky team not to let up for a single second. Because Scripps won't keep pumping money into the operation out of sheer sentimentality. -- Michael Roberts