Goodbye Old Friend

I am surprised at the emotional reaction I have had to the announcement that the Rocky Mountain News has shut down. I haven’t lived in Denver for over six years, but I read the Rocky online everyday. Along with the other major daily in town, the Denver Post, the Rocky was the way that I stayed connected to my hometown. While the Rocky was known as the more “conservative” paper, I appreciated that I would get fair reporting and thoughtful editorials. I may be a little biased since I was a paperboy for the Rocky in my youth. I think my feelings go deeper than that.

When it comes to print journalism, I was lucky enough to grow up in a place where the integrity, ethics and truthfulness were never called into question. Aside from the editorial page, with which we are welcomed to agree or disagree, most people in Denver take newspaper stories at face value. I can think of few print equivalents to Bill O’Reilly.

Print journalism has a long tradition of being ethical. Its entire existence relies on the public’s trust. While tabloid rags sell well, few people really expect to find any semblance of truth written amongst their pages. No, for things of import and substance, people turn to the written word.

The problem for traditional print journalism is that their business model hasn’t evolved quickly enough. I suspect that more and more people are like me. I enjoy my cup of coffee in the morning while perusing the online versions of the newspapers, rather than thumbing through pages of their paper versions. I read the online versions just as methodically and deliberately. I have a very set pattern of the order of news that I read. That hasn’t changed. What has changed is the medium.

I don’t have any brilliant suggestions for how to solve the issues facing the newspaper industry. I only know, now, what it feels like to have one of them collapse. It’s not unlike a family member dying. The Rocky connected us to what was happening in our community. It helped to foster debate and dialogue about those events. It facilitated a common experience between citizens simply by reading the same story.

The writing is on the wall for many traditional newspapers across the country. Even here in Utah, the owners of the Deseret News are quietly transforming their paper into a publication that is solely focused on the predominant religion of this state. This move effectively leaves the citizens trusting and hoping that the Salt Lake Tribune will honor the public trust as the last daily voice of professional print journalism in town.

I’m not sure how long I will leave the link to the Rocky Mountain News as a bookmark on my browser. I checked it again this morning like I usually do, only to find, to my dismay, no updated content. So I guess this is goodbye to my Rocky. Thanks for being such a trusted friend . . .

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