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Sadness, resignation mark Rocky closure

Darin McGregor/Rocky Mountain NewsA man Thursday stops to read the ticker on the outside of the Denver Newspaper Agency building announcing that the Rocky Mountain News is closing and that it will publish its last edition on Friday.
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DENVER, Colorado ” Citizens, politicians and competitors raised a tribute Thursday to Colorado’s oldest newspaper, the Rocky Mountain News, which is publishing its last edition Friday.

“This is a sad moment in the history of Denver and Colorado. We have lost an important voice in our community,” said Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper.

“I have read the Rocky Mountain News for decades and will sorely miss it,” said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, a former Colorado senator. “My heart is with the Rocky and its employees.”

Gov. Bill Ritter was attending a Colorado Press Association convention luncheon when the shutdown was announced.

“For me, it’s a very, very sad day. As much in public life you may disagree with editors, you may get taken to task by editors, I really do believe that the First Amendment and the free exercise of the press is at the heart of what makes us strong. We lose a Colorado icon, we lose a newspaper that has contributed so much, I think, to the history of this state,” Ritter said.

Ritter said he hopes newspapers survive and people aren’t forced to rely on anonymous bloggers on the Internet to get their news.

“You can argue all you want with an editorial writer, but at the end of the day, you can call him. You can find him and call him and you can talk to him, and you can’t do that on a blog,” the governor said.

Rocky employees determinedly set to work putting out their last edition.

Political reporter Lynn Bartels held a box of tissues over her head. “This is for everybody,” she said.

Bartels said she had planned to take a vacation day Thursday but instead was calling movers and shakers in Denver for their reactions to the closure.

“The Rocky is the most amazing family. I’m not going to be sitting next to these people anymore,” she said.

Reporter Jerd Smith said she had been working four months on a story about a government-funded agency that is misusing public money. She said she was a week away from finishing the story but isn’t sure what will happen to it now.

“The taxpayers of Denver will lose. It’s a shame,” Smith said. “It’s really the readers who have been overlooked in this. I feel bad about that. There’s so, so many stories that are not going to be told.”

The Denver Post, which competed fiercely with the News for decades, saluted its adversary and promptly hired several of its staff, including Bartels.

“For 150 years, the Rocky has been so intertwined with the story of Denver that it’s difficult to discuss one without the other,” said Post chairman and publisher William Dean Singleton. “The Rocky will forever be remembered for its vital role in the city’s history and the city’s success.”

The Post hired News columnists Tina Griego, Penny Parker, Bill Johnson, Mike Littwin and Dave Krieger. News editorial page editor Vincent Carroll joins the The Post editorial board, along with staff writers Burt Hubbard, Kevin Vaughan and Gargi Chakrabarty.

Downtown, citizens reacted to the news with a mix of sadness and inevitability.

“I think they should try and find a way to keep it,” said Nigel Perrymond, a software salesman. “People wake and people depend on that newspaper.”

“While I can sympathize with both the readers and the employees, it’s an archaic business model,” said Kris Paulsen, a 34-year-old securities lawyer.

“Honestly it’s sad, but it’s the paper. People go online now,” observed Mike Hankinson, a Rapid Transit District security officer.

In Washington, Democratic Sen. Mark Udall called it “a sad day for Colorado journalism.”

“Colorado grew up with the Rocky; our history has been written on the pages of this great paper,” Udall said. “My hope is that all of these good, hardworking Coloradans find ways to build new careers in journalism, public information and the printing trade.”


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