Wake-Up Call: All aboard the Phil Anschutz express

Seconds after Scripps-Howard suddenly announced that the Rocky Mountain News was for sale last Thursday, hopeful eyes were turning to Phil Anschutz, the local billionaire who's already saved another local institution -- the Ski Train that has taken generations of skiers from Union Station to Winter Park, the city-owned resort. And unlike other Coloradans with big wallets, he actually has some experience in the newspaper business.

But hopes (and my suggestion on Colorado Inside Out last Friday) that Anschutz might buy the News were derailed by a statement from his spokesman, who said that Anschutz was not interested.

Feigning disinterest is always a good way to throw competitors off track. But as oilman Anschutz has learned with his forays into publishing -- the San Francisco Examiner, which he turned into a free daily, as well as Examiners that he founded in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., both free dailies -- the newspaper industry is in a major dry hole right now. In fact, last week Anschutz closed his Baltimore printing plant. And while he's trademarked the Examiner name in dozens of cities, his publishing efforts lately have focused on creating local Examiner websites that add up to a national presence.

Anschutz has invested in what looked like obsolete technology before, of course, and his purchase of the Denver & Rio Grande and Union Pacific paid off when their lines paved the way for Qwest. But still, a failing daily in a two-newspaper town? I'm guessing that the Rocky Mountain News will reach the end of the line without turning into the Rocky Mountain Examiner.

At least we skill have the Ski Train, which was prominently featured on Good Morning America last Friday, when Mayor John Hickenlooper unveiled a window devoted to the delights of Denver on that show. -- Patricia Calhoun

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