Rocky Mountain News Blues

I’m not the best headline writer. Mine always seem a bit trite and cute but I know a good one when I see one and today’s headline on the final edition of the Rocky Mountain News tugged at my heart. It said simply “Goodbye, Colorado.” Nothing fancy. Just poignant as hell. Today was the swan song for the 149 year old newspaper and I must confess I’ve been tearing up as I’ve read the articles and columnists and their reflections of a life well lived. John Temple, the publisher, said this last edition would give them the opportunity to write their own obituary and they wanted to get it right. In my opinion, they nailed it. One really sensed that these journalists were part of something much bigger than themselves. For a storyteller like myself I was particularly touched with a sentence on the front page. It read “we part in sorrow because we know so much lies ahead that will be worth telling and we will not be there to do so.” It is hard for a journalist not to be part of the conversation: for a powerful voice to be suddenly silenced.

Final Edition from Matthew Roberts on Vimeo.

So how do we make sure that the voices raised by newspapers continue to be heard? To date no one seems to have come up with a profitable solution and the consequences are getting dire. Many of our nation’s respected newspapers are going bankrupt. In the dozen or so cities that still have two dailies, their days seem numbered. I for one am feeling guilty because I cancelled my subscription to the Rocky Mountain News a while back. Could I have been part of the reason for its demise? Did I put a nail in the coffin with my online readership and blogging? Did I take the newspaper for granted and help bring about the death of a respected voice in the community? With that hanging over my head, I realize I want to be part of the conversation on how to save print journalism. We need the press to continue helping the nation rise up.

I have been led to believe that no idea is a stupid one so I am throwing one out to the wind. Since so many people receive their news on line and so much advertising revenue has gone away there needs to be a revenue base so we don’t lose our papers. What if we bundled up newspapers around the country and people subscribed to a service like they do to cable television or wireless? They could choose their package. National and International. The largest dailies in the 50 states. A combination of local, regional and national publications. Maybe even throw in some news magazines. People would pay a monthly rate and then be charged a user fee depending on what they hit upon. The subscription fees would be doled out accordingly to help the newspapers pay their bills, support staff and news coverage, and be sustainable. It might not save the print version of newspapers but it might still allow reporters and editors and newsrooms to continue doing their work. That way we won’t see our newspapers die forever.

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