Wake-Up Call: A pressing engagement


Last month, the two dailies stopped arriving at my house. The last time I'd reupped my subscription, I hadn't been able to commit beyond six months -- I simply didn't think that both papers would be around that long. And in November, the end of one seemed so inevitable that I postponed re-upping altogether.

Back in town after a Thanksgiving holiday, on Sunday I stopped at Safeway to buy the Saturday Rocky Mountain News, Sunday Denver Post and Sunday New York Times. It came to a whopping $7.50 (the Sunday Times is a fast five bucks). "Newspapers are so expensive," the checker sighed.

Expensive? They're a bargain, considering that the buck that buys the Saturday News buys you the work of 220 local newsroom employees. For now. The papers dailies have never made their money from selling papers, anyway. They make money by selling advertising -- and even with the JOA, the Denver Newspaper Agency simply hasn't managed to come up with a model to make papers -- both in print and online -- pay for themselves.

At 5 a.m. Wednesday, the day before Scripps-Howard would drop the bombshell that the News was for sale, I ran to the box at a service station up the street to grab the papers. There was precisely one copy in each box -- which says a lot about the cost of running a paper. The DNA pays for a box, and services the box, that will only sell one copy in a day? That just won't work. While I puzzled over this, the Denver Daily News delivery van pulled up to drop off free papers. "Strange days in the newspaper business," he said.

Back at the office, I contacted Jim Nolan, to DNA's official spokesman, to ask why the agency would pay to stock a box with one paper. "A sale is a sale," he replied.

And now the News is for sale.-- Patricia Calhoun

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