Many pay respects as Denver paper shuts

From left, Rocky Mountain News reporters Jerd Smith, April Washington, and Laura Frank console each other. From left, Rocky Mountain News reporters Jerd Smith, April Washington, and Laura Frank console each other. (David Zalubowski/Associated Press)
Associated Press / February 27, 2009
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DENVER - Citizens, politicians, and competitors raised a tribute yesterday to Colorado's oldest newspaper, the Rocky Mountain News, which is publishing its last edition today.

"This is a sad moment in the history of Denver and Colorado. We have lost an important voice in our community," said Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper.

"I have read the Rocky Mountain News for decades and will sorely miss it," said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, a former Colorado senator. "My heart is with the Rocky and its employees."

Governor Bill Ritter was attending a Colorado Press Association convention luncheon when the shutdown was announced.

"For me, it's a very, very sad day. As much in public life you may disagree with editors, you may get taken to task by editors, I really do believe that the First Amendment and the free exercise of the press is at the heart of what makes us strong. We lose a Colorado icon, we lose a newspaper that has contributed so much, I think, to the history of this state," Ritter said.

"You can argue all you want with an editorial writer, but at the end of the day, you can call him. You can find him and call him and you can talk to him, and you can't do that on a blog," the governor said.

Rocky employees determinedly set to work putting out their last edition.

Political reporter Lynn Bartels held a box of tissues over her head. "This is for everybody," she said. Bartels said she had planned to take a vacation day yesterday but instead was calling movers and shakers in Denver for their reactions to the closure.

Reporter Jerd Smith said she had been working four months on a story about a government-funded agency that is misusing public money. She said she was a week away from finishing the story but isn't sure what will happen to it now.

The Denver Post, which competed fiercely with the News for decades, saluted its adversary and promptly hired several of its staff, including Bartels.

"For 150 years, the Rocky has been so intertwined with the story of Denver that it's difficult to discuss one without the other," said Post chairman and publisher William Dean Singleton. "The Rocky will forever be remembered for its vital role in the city's history and the city's success."

The Post hired News columnists Tina Griego, Penny Parker, Bill Johnson, Mike Littwin, and Dave Krieger.

In Washington, Democratic Senator Mark Udall called it "a sad day for Colorado journalism."

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