As word spread last week that the Rocky Mountain News would publish its final edition, the entire metro area seemed gripped by a discussion of the …
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As word spread last week that the Rocky Mountain News would
publish its final edition, the entire metro area seemed gripped by
a discussion of the state of journalism in today’s world.
A lot of blame was being tossed around. I heard some say that
the liberal bias of newspapers (their words, not mine) finally
caught up with the paper. I heard one woman celebrate the demise of
the Rocky because errors showed up in her father’s obituary printed
On the flip side, and possibly the most troubling of the
perspectives I heard, came from people hammering away at the
anti-newspaper crowd, calling them small-minded, uninformed, or
characterizing the subscription declines of big dailies nationwide
as a sign of the dumbing down of our society. There was an elitist
tone to those arguments that I think existed in this industry for
some time and started many media companies down the dark road
they’re on today.
I think the fate of the Rocky Mountain News mistakenly became a
referendum on the state of journalism from the intellectual
perspective. To me, that line of thinking misses the point
Newspapers like ours and the Rocky Mountain News are businesses,
pure and simple. There is something about the kind of business
we’re in that causes people to forget that and it’s flattering in
some regards. We’re referred to as the Fourth Estate, putting us in
line with executive, legislative and judicial branches of
government, with all the expectations, criticisms and trust (or
mistrust, depending on where you stand) that comes with it.
But the fact is, we’re private businesses subject to all of the
pitfalls other businesses face in a capital market place. We have
to know our customers, serve them, invest in our business where it
makes the most sense for future growth that will drive the revenue
that keeps us alive.
The role of journalism in a media organization is an interesting
one. Many people see it as the whole organization, but it is simply
one of the most visible. It must be strong for the business to be
strong, but it can’t compensate for all aspects of the
I don’t think the failure of the Rocky Mountain News means
journalism is dead. My grandfather was the most avid reader of
newspapers I’ve ever known. Friends of mine, including those who
hate The Media and don’t subscribe and are labeled as part of the
dumbing-down trend by others, read more on a daily basis than my
grandfather ever did. His news was delivered from a local newspaper
office by a neighbor kid on a bike. My friends get theirs delivered
from outlets all over the world by RSS feeds.
There are more options out there and we, as media organizations,
simply have to be smarter about positioning ourselves for
Saturday night, I sat with a group of coworkers at the Brown
Palace Hotel to hear the results of the Colorado Press
Association’s annual newspaper contest for excellence in
journalism. We collected some 13 awards, including some for the
kind of comprehensive, analytical work that I think will make us
successful in years to come.
Hours before, traffic on our Web sites hit a new all-time high
with more than half a million page views for the month of February.
At the same time, I came away from the convention inspired by the
ideas of others that highlighted areas where we must grow as a news
organization if we’re going to survive. We are in a constant state
of getting better. We have to be.
By the way, the Rocky Mountain News earned best of show honors
for editorial content.
Jeremy Bangs is the managing editor of Colorado Community
Newspapers. His e-mail address is email@example.com.
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