Rocky Mountain News

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Rocky Mountain News
Last Rocky Mountain News front page.jpg
The last front page of the Rocky Mountain News, printed February 27, 2009.
Type Daily newspaper
Format Tabloid (Radio KOA former)
Owner(s) E. W. Scripps Company, Operated by Denver Newspaper Agency
Publisher John Temple
Editor John Temple
Founded 1859
Ceased publication February 27, 2009
Headquarters 101 West Colfax Ave.
Suite 500
Denver, CO 80202
United States
Circulation 255,427 Daily (March 2006)[1]
704,806 Sunday (March 2006)[footnotes 1]

The Rocky Mountain News (nicknamed the Rocky[2]) was a daily newspaper published in Denver, Colorado, United States from April 23, 1859, until February 27, 2009. It was owned by the E. W. Scripps Company from 1926 until its closing. As of March 2006, the Monday-Friday circulation was 255,427.[1] From the 1940s until 2009, the newspaper was printed in a tabloid format.

Under the leadership of president, publisher and editor John Temple, the Rocky Mountain News had won four Pulitzer Prizes since the year 2000. Most recently in 2006, the newspaper won two Pulitzers, in Feature Writing and Feature Photography. The News' final issue appeared on Friday, February 27, 2009, less than two months shy of the paper's 150th anniversary.[2] The paper's demise left Denver a one-newspaper town with The Denver Post as the sole remaining large-circulation daily.


First issue[edit]

The Rocky Mountain News was founded by William N. Byers and John L. Dailey along with Dr. George Monell and Thomas Gibson on April 23, 1859, when present-day Denver was part of the Kansas Territory and before the city of Denver had been incorporated.[3] It became Colorado's oldest newspaper[3] and possibly its longest continuously operated business.[4] Its first issue was printed on a printing press from Omaha, Nebraska hauled by oxcart during the start of the Colorado Gold Rush.[3] That first issue was printed only 20 minutes ahead of its rival, the Cherry Creek Pioneer.[3]

"The Rocky" went from a weekly to a daily newspaper in August 1860, and from an evening to a morning newspaper in July 1870.[5]

Crime Fighter[edit]

In 1883 the newspaper took a stand against corruption and crime in Denver. One of their primary targets was city crime boss Jefferson Randolph Smith, alias "Soapy" Smith. In one crime fighting campaign the managing editor, John Arkins allowed some disrespectful comments about Smith's wife and children to be published and Smith assaulted Arkins with a cane, severely injuring the editor. The News continued its crusade to rid Denver of its most celebrated bad man which took nearly a decade to complete.

Jack Foster[edit]

The E.W. Scripps Company bought the Rocky Mountain News in 1926. The Rocky Mountain News and its competitors, including The Denver Post, resorted to gasoline giveaways and other promotions in an attempt to boost circulation. By the early 1940s, the Rocky Mountain News had nearly died.

It was saved by then editor Jack Foster when he convinced Scripps to approve changing the newspaper from a broadsheet format to a tabloid design. Foster reasoned that the new format would make it easier for readers to hold and navigate and would make advertising more affordable.

Foster's wife, Frances, introduced America's first "advice" column, called Molly Mayfield. It became an instant favorite among readers and was soon adopted in many other newspapers, paving the way for advice columnists such as Ann Landers and Abigail Van Buren.

The joint operating agreement[edit]

After a continued rivalry that almost put both papers out of business, the Rocky Mountain News and The Denver Post merged operations in 2001 under a joint operating agreement.[6] Through the JOA, the Denver Newspaper Agency was formed. The new company ran all non-editorial operations of both papers, namely advertising and circulation, and is equally owned by the E. W. Scripps Company and MediaNews Group, which owns The Denver Post.

The two newspapers continued to publish separately (except during the weekends, when the Rocky Mountain News was published only on Saturday and The Denver Post only on Sunday; each newspaper had one page of editorials in the other paper's weekend edition) and maintained their rivalry.

Following the shutdown of the Rocky on February 27, 2009, the Post resumed seven-day-a-week publication.


In 1999, Al Lewis of the Rocky Mountain News was awarded the Morton Margolin Prize for Distinguished Business Reporting, presented by the University of Denver School of Communication and Daniels College of Business, for his reporting on the dubious financing schemes of a Chattanooga, Tennessee, developer who bought out a failed special district in Colorado and used it to issue tax-free bonds to pay for a new headquarters for the Federal Communications Commission in Washington, D.C..

In 2000, the Rocky Mountain News photo staff was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography "for its powerful collection of emotional images taken after the student shootings at Columbine High School."[7]

In 2002, the paper won more first-place awards than any other Western newspaper.[citation needed]

In 2003, the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography was awarded to the Rocky Mountain News photography staff "for its powerful, imaginative coverage of Colorado's raging forest fires."[8] The paper also won the Colorado Press Association's General Excellence Award, the award for the best large daily newspaper in Colorado (for the eighth year in a row).

The photo and design staffs won 25 Society for News Design awards, placed eighth in the world, and won nine National Press Photographers Association Awards and six Pictures of the Year International Awards.

In 2006, Jim Sheeler of the Rocky Mountain News won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing for his "Final Salute" special report, the story of a Marine major assigned to casualty notification and how he helps families with fallen relatives in Iraq cope with their loss. Todd Heisler won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography the same year for his photos in the same special report.

The May 2, 2006 front page of the Rocky Mountain News, before the 2007 redesign.


On January 23, 2007, the Rocky Mountain News was redesigned to a smaller, magazine-style format. The redesign's features included more color pages and photographs, full-page photo section covers, a new masthead logo, and different page numbering from the previous design.

The redesign was the result of new presses that allowed the newspaper to print about 25 percent faster than its old presses, at an average speed of 60,000 issues per hour.[9]

The end[edit]

On December 4, 2008, E.W. Scripps & Co. put the News up for sale, with industry analysts saying the move was possibly a prelude to shutting down the paper.[4] Although Scripps was contacted by one private equity investor from Texas who expressed interest, that potential deal floundered for reasons that included complications of the joint operating agreement.[10] On February 26, 2009, Scripps announced the newspaper would print its final edition the next day. Scripps said it will now offer for sale the masthead, archives and Web site of the Rocky, separate from its interest in the newspaper agency.[2]

INDenver Times and the Rocky Mountain Independent[edit]

On March 16, 2009, several former Rocky Mountain News staffers announced the development of a new on-line, real-time local newspaper. The plan for a new online newspaper, with a staff of about 30 journalists, needed 50,000 subscriber pledges before April 23, 2009, in order to start; if that subscription goal was met, the full INDenver Times website was scheduled to launch on May 4, 2009. On April 23, 2009, INDenver Times, the name for the proposed restart, reported that the premium content subscription model had gotten only 3,000 subscribers.[11] The three co-founders said that they did not intend to continue the planned business model, and, instead, would create a less-staffed news site. Steve Foster and several former Rocky Mountain News journalists said that they believed that the original business model of a robustly staffed online alternative newspaper could succeed and were looking for new backers.[12]

INDenver Times, now online, does not use the subscription model, instead depending on advertising for its revenue. Kevin Prebuld (co-founder), Brad Gray (co-founder), Ben Ray (co-founder), Steve Haigh (editor), and contributors Drew Litton and Ed Stein are the only remaining staff from the original venture.[13] The site relies on 15 contributors and 6 "INSighters." On September 7, 2009, unveiled a new website design, allowing readers to read the news in a more organized format.

On July 4, 2009, Steve Foster and several former Rocky Mountain News employees launched a new venture known as the Rocky Mountain Independent. The new website used a three-pronged revenue strategy: advertising, subscription revenues and outside contributors. Subscriptions cost $4.00 per month and yearly subscriptions were 50% for the first 3 months, at $24. The twelve owners of the website committed to working for free until the end of September 2009[14][15] The website stopped publishing new content on October 5, 2009.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Circulation figures include combined figures from the Rocky Mountain News Saturday editions and The Denver Post Sunday editions. At the time of its demise, the News did not publish a Sunday edition.


  1. ^ a b "2006 Top 100 Daily Newspapers in the U.S. by Circulation" (PDF). BurrellesLuce. March 31, 2006. Retrieved 2007-03-06. 
  2. ^ a b c "Rocky Mountain News to close, publish final edition Friday : Rocky for sale". The Rocky Mountain News. February 26, 2009. Retrieved 2013-10-09. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Scrappy Rocky Mountain News closing its doors". San Diego Union-Tribune. Associated Press. February 26, 2009. Retrieved June 6, 2013. 
  4. ^ a b Raabe, Steve (December 5, 2008). "Rocky Mountain News for sale". The Denver Post. Retrieved 2009-02-28. 
  5. ^ "Rocky Mountain News history timeline, The Denver Post, February 27, 2009. Retrieved January 19, 2015.
  6. ^ "12 cities still have JOAs". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. April 28, 2003. 
  7. ^ [1][dead link]
  8. ^ [2][dead link]
  9. ^ Video journal (Windows Media Video). Rocky Mountain News. Retrieved 2009-02-28. Four years of planning culminated Monday night when the Denver Newspaper Agency printed the redesigned Rocky Mountain News on new $65 million presses. DNA production director Larry Charest and his team oversaw the quality of 60,000 copies per hour in the 260,000-copy run. 
  10. ^ "'Rocky' Finance Editor Lands One Last Scoop on the Way Out". Editor & Publisher. February 27, 2009. Retrieved 2009-02-28. Milstead identified the lone bidder who expressed some interest to owner E.W. Scripps Co. in buying the Rocky as Texas private-equity investor Brian Ferguson, who said the deal foundered on his inability to "adequately mitigate the risks involved in an acquisition" complicated by the joint operating agreement (JOA) with MediaNews Group's The Denver Post and other issues. 
  11. ^ Roberts, Michael (April 23, 2009). "INDenver Times: The official response". Retrieved 2013-10-09. 
  12. ^ "INDenver Times investors, staffers to part ways". North Colorado Business Report. April 24, 2009. 
  13. ^ "Meet our Staff and Contributors". Retrieved 2013-10-09. 
  14. ^ Roberts, Michael (July 6, 2009). "Behind the launch of the Rocky Mountain Independent". Retrieved 2013-10-09. 
  15. ^
  16. ^ Marijuana (October 2, 2009). "Rocky Mountain Independent, online magazine experiment, folds". The Colorado Independent. Retrieved 2013-10-09. 

External links[edit]