Wake-Up Call: Sorry, wrong number

"You're a hard lady to get a hold of," the caller said. "I've been trying to find out why you let your Rocky Mountain News subscription expire."

I stared at the receiver. Um, it seems that the future of the News might be a little uncertain, I said.

"Oh, it's just being sold. The subscription would continue."

This seemed an overly optimistic assessment of the situation since E. W. Scripps, owner of the News, made the surprise announcement on December 4 that the paper was for sale -- and if a buyer wasn't found by January, the company would pursue other options, including shutting down the 150-year-old newspaper.

But as my caller continued his pitch, it quickly became clear that he had not kept up on the News news. For example, he asked if I didn't miss getting the Sunday News. Fact is, I do -- and I have ever since 2000, when the joint-operating agreement between the owners of the News and the Denver Post called for the News to cease publication of a Sunday paper.

Turns out, the telemarketer didn't even work for the Denver Newspaper Agency, the entity created by the JOA to run the business operations for the papers, including circulation. He was with Sullivan, an independent marketer. And a very busy one, because when I mentioned this call, the third I'd gotten in a week, a half-dozen people in my office said they'd all gotten the same call. Again and again. (At the moment, they're all reading office copies -- or the one I buy at the box in the morning and bring in.) Maybe Scripps is hoping to get subscription numbers up -- fast -- to make the News look more attractive to a suitor.

Because somehow, when Scripps said it was looking for a buyer for the paper, I don't think it was referring to single-copy sales. -- Patricia Calhoun



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