Friday, February 27, 2009

The End of the Rocky Mountain News

One Sunday morning, when I was probably 12 or 13 years old, my parents sent me out to buy the Sunday paper. From where we lived in suburban Aurora, Colorado, there were not a lot of options—not a lot of close options—for buying a paper. There were a couple of newspaper machines around, but other than that, your only option was 7-11.

I headed out with my 50 cents on my bike to one of two area 7-11s. The one I was headed to was probably a mile and half away from home. The benefit of this one was that it didn’t involve any major hills. The other was downhill all the way there, but coming home would have been difficult.
I spent a lot of time on my bike as a kid and I was pretty reckless. So, when I came to a stoplight, it didn’t matter much that it was red. As long as it was clear then I was going to go. At one red light I thought it was clear.

I was barely into the intersection when I was struck by a car. I wasn’t hit terribly hard, but there was in the street, myself and my bike half underneath the car, with two old ladies from inside the car standing over me. Why these two old ladies were speeding to church, I don’t know, but I knew that I was in the wrong and my first interest—before even checking for injuries—was fleeing the scene.

The wheels of the bike still turned and no bones protruded from my body, so I was out of there. At the 7-11, I checked myself out. My shoulder hurt, my knee was scraped, and I was pretty sure that I’d hit my head on something. I bought the paper anyway, and headed home maybe a little more carefully—the whole while imagining that I was suffering from broken bones I wasn’t aware of or bleeding in my head that would eventually kill me.

The paper I went out to get that morning: the Rocky Mountain News.

Today, the Rocky Mountain News has issued its last paper. Lord knows it is a hard time for newspapers, but the Rocky was competing in a two-paper town while sharing a Joint Operating Agreement with its competitor. This situation was untenable. The Rocky got the wrong end of the deal and it was probably doomed from the day it signed the agreement.

It was the paper I grew up with. The comics I knew were in the Rocky, not the Denver Post. When I looked for my first job, it was in the help wanted section of the Rocky. It had a comfortable tabloid format, instead of the cumbersome broadsheet format. I didn’t even know that the broadsheet was the standard format for newspapers until I got older.

So, now Denver becomes a one-newspaper town. A single editorial page, a single sports section. It’s a sad day for the loss of a 150-year-old institution, for the loss of choice and a variety of voices. It feels almost like getting hit by a car.

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