Another one bites the dust … Denver’s Rocky Mountain News stopped publishing today, just 55 days short of its 150th anniversary. This latest daily newspaper death echoes across the country at a time when even the New York Times and Washington Post are having financial troubles. Hearst’s San Francisco Chronicle may well be the next to shut down operations, and its Seattle Intelligencer is up for sale. As I wrote on this blog earlier last week, daily newspapers are in deep trouble. The Philadelphia Inquirer has declared bankruptcy, as have the Chicago Tribune and LA Times.
Why are all of these newspapers in trouble? Advertising revenue, their economic mainstay, is in serious decline as major corporations cutback budgets during the recession. Perhaps equally important, newspaper readers are migrating to digital media — the 24/7 news cycle provides so many options for news junkies that reading a paper seems, well, quaint.
Does this mean the death of journalism? Hardly. If anything, the Internet has spawned an entirely new kind of reporting, one that requires constant vigilance. Gone are the days when time would elapse between seeing the story, taking notes, composing copy, editing and then overnight printing. Now the story goes from cell phone camera and text to online in an instant. (The quality of writing has clearly deteriorated, but that’s a story for another day!)
I will remember the Rocky Mountain News with a bit of fondness. For a week in 1993 I was in Denver to provide commentary for Pope John Paul II’s visit for World Youth Day. I read the Rocky Mountain News avidly during that week, and the paper provided some nice comments about our “color commentary” team of various Catholic “experts” on KUSA. I have those clippings somewhere…. now they are history in more ways than one!
Perhaps all of us who hoard old newspapers with famous historical headlines have a point — someday, posterity may find it the height of antiquity to see that we actually read words on paper. Of course, most of the newsprint will have long melted to dust, but I suspect a few will remain intact in their plastic wrappers under the back seat of my car….