Remembering the Rocky: Holding the line online

By Gus Bode

Last week, after more than 100 years of dutifully serving the public, the Rocky Mountain News shut down.

For those unfamiliar with the Colorado mainstay, the Rocky Mountain News served the Denver area since 1859. It was considered one of the best daily publications in the nation. But the steady withdrawal of advertising caused E.W. Scripps, the company that owned the paper, to shut the paper’s office for good.

The news comes amidst some of the darkest, and most likely final, days of printed newspapers. A few months ago the Tribune Company, owner of the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune, declared bankruptcy. The San Francisco Chronicle announced it is searching for a buyer or face the same fate as Rocky Mountain.

Advertisement

Depending on the viewpoint, this turn of events is either an evolution or extinction. The dire need to adapt and harness the Internet is more pressing than ever for newspapers and could be beneficial. The Internet allows breaking or continuous coverage monopolized by cable news channels for so long.

However, ad revenue from the Internet doesn’t compare to the printed page. Although papers could theoretically cover more and post it online as well as print it, the lack of money causes staff cuts that actually hinder how much a paper can cover.

Despite what some may think, the death of newspapers does not actually mean the death of journalism. Bill Freivogel, the director of the School of Journalism, has said he thinks it is an exciting time for journalism, if not somewhat uncertain.

Freivogel sees the time as exciting because he is part of the new movement of online journalism. He writes for a nonprofit news site, the St. Louis Beacon, which is run by his wife. Instead of relying on advertising, the Beacon procures donations and grants.

Recently, the Beacon was awarded $90,000 from the Knight Foundation to hire more reporters.

As more and more papers print their final pages, more and more nonprofit organizations such as the Beacon will most likely emerge. Being an online, nonprofit news agency allows a certain freedom printed papers do not. The money saved on printing could be put toward paying staff. Also, receiving donations from foundations and donors allows for writing stories without worrying about losing advertisers.

What the public needs to do now is show its support for these emerging media agencies. As unfortunate as it is to see papers close their doors, it is a ship that is sinking unstoppably. The new boats need passengers before they can leave port to take on the storms at sea.

Advertisement

It is more than likely that, in the next decade, only a handful of papers will remain – the last great mammoths like the New York Times and Washington Post will be the most likely to survive. It is unfortunate that the industry that has provided work for so many people, not just reporters and editors but also press runners and paper boys, will pass into history.

However, new means of journalism such as the St. Louis Beacon, the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting and other still young organizations offer hope.

Wenger is a senior studying journalism and Spanish.

Advertisement