It’s not often that you have the privilege of working for a company that was around before its host city and host state came into existence.
But that’s been my privilege for the past three years, as an editorial writer for the Rocky Mountain News, which was the oldest newspaper in Colorado. From its first edition, datelined “Cherry Creek, K.T. (Kansas Territory), Saturday April 23, 1859,” until its final, that hit the streets today, the Rocky has been the essential chronicle of the history of the intermountain West.
Unfortunately, the feisty tabloid — where I’ve had the privilege to toil as an editorial writer for the past three years — was unable to survive the collapse of its business model. In recent decades, classified ads provided 40 percent to 50 percent of dailies’ revenues. That money’s gone, and so are many readers who are no longer addicted to picking up a bundle of newsprint from their driveways every morning.
The Rocky’s editorial page fit comfortably on the center-right of the political spectrum. But we described ourselves as “Western independents,” principled advocates of fiscal and personal responsibility, free markets, and a pioneering spirit. A voice for conservatism, broadly speaking, has fallen silent.
But the Rocky’s absence will create a much greater void. The Denver Post is the Mile High City’s only daily. Colorado and the West have lost a dogged champion of accountability from public officials and institutions. With only one daily newsroom in town, there won’t be as many boots on the street tracking city council and county commission meetings, legislative and regulatory agency hearings, the police and the courts.
And Denver’s not the only city where the local press faces a financial meltdown. As newspapers close, public watchdogs disappear, with no guarantee that anything will fill the void. Until entrepreneurs figure out a way to profitably provide the public with essential, independent information about the workings of public institutions, American self-government will be sorely tested.
– Rick Henderson, former editorial writer for the Rocky Mountain News in Denver, publishes the Deregulator blog.