Veteran Rocky Mountain News staffer John Ensslin (pictured) isn't one of those reporters who files his stories and then forgets about journalism until he's back on the clock the next day. As president of the Colorado chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and the program director for the Denver Press Club, he spends much of his free time connecting with fellow scribes. It's no surprise, then, that he was part of a December 13 meeting of Rocky employees at the Press Club that birthed IWantMyRocky.com, a website detailed in the blog "Looking at and Listening to Staff Attempts to Save the Rocky Mountain News ."
According to Ensslin, 28 people representating "a good cross-section of the newsroom" were part of the get-together. "I'd describe the first half of the meeting as people trying to get their hands around this thing: trying to figure out what to do, and figuring out what was not possible," he notes, adding, "You can't change the seismic shift newspapers are undergoing, even when it comes to this particular newspaper." After that, "the meeting turned, and we said, 'Let's at least give it a try here -- try to rally the community around the newspaper.'"
Obviously, everyone at the Rocky has a vested interest in making this happen -- but Ensslin says they're not the only ones. "It's our perception based on our experience of the last week that there are a lot of people out there who care deeply about the Rocky Mountain News -- not just readers who contacted us, but people we interview. I've been doing routine stories, and people have stopped me -- one even said they were praying for the best outcome. So we thought, let's at least give people a way to express that kind of thing."
Fortunately, some new media reps were among the Press Club crowd, and they volunteered to lend their expertise to the creation of a website. Ensslin says the IWantMyRocky.com domain name was purchased shortly after the meeting concluded, and the whole thing was online the next day. The results aren't meant to be a prototype for a web-only news source that might launch if the main paper closes. Instead, Ensslin allows, "it's more of a rally-the-troops kind of thing, where people can post their comments or even videos."
Ensslin sees IWantMyRocky.com as "a thirty-day project" that will operate at least up until mid-January, when the Rocky's parent company, E.W. Scripps, says it will consider "other options" in lieu of purchase of the tabloid by a qualified buyer. Moreover, it won't be static. "We arranged things to everybody's hours off," he says. "I'm off on Friday, so I'm in charge of updating the site from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. We'll make sure the site is updated until midnight each night" with "news updates and new developments, stories that have been written in other media about the situation, and more posts like Michael [Littwin] wrote today, where reporters just talk about themselves and about what the paper means.
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"Here's the deal," he continues. "There's always a certain amount of grousing at every American newspaper. But I think the people who work at the Rocky are extremely affectionate about the paper. I call it fierce affection. And we want to see it survive in some fashion." -- Michael Roberts