E. W. Scripps has announced that Friday will be the last day of publication for the Rocky Mountain News. This is a sad day for Denver and Colorado, and given the state's pivotal position in national politics, it's not too good for the country, either.
The Rocky always had longer articles, better coverage, and sharper commentary than its surviving rival, the Denver Post. But a tabloid format and a series of poor marketing and business decisions left it unable to compete in the shrinking market for dead-tree-based news.
The Rocky was also one of the main reasons that the more liberal Post didn't become the utterly irresponsible caricature of a newspaper that the Star-Tribune and the Los Angeles Times have turned into. With the Rocky now gone, there will be less pressure on the Post to be a responsible outlet, rather than a mouthpiece for the Democratic party and its affiliates.
In past times, the Post would have picked up the important features and much of the news staff of the Rocky. However, the Post is facing financial problems of its own, laying off some editorial and management staff, and it's unclear how long it will continue to function, even without direct competition.
It's tempting to say that bloggers and other alternative media can step into the breach, and it may well be that a number of the reporters from the Rocky will try to develop their own sites for a living. And indeed, I'm sure we'll be able to pick up some of the slack.
But there's nothing like being on payroll to have the time to write and develop sources and stories. The Denver Press Club still has a bias against those who don't have major media organizations behind them, which limits credentialing and access to information and newsmakers. There's no question this is a serious loss for the area.
UPDATE: The Post will be taking on some Rocky staff, after all.