It’s no secret that the newspaper business is not a great business to be a part of right now, with both the Rocky Mountain News and The Denver Post cutting staff and offering buyouts. As the Rocky Mountain News reported today:

The Denver Post cut five newsroom employees Monday, on top of 16 journalists who signed up for the paper’s voluntary separation plan.

The five employees, whose last day will be Friday:

Jim Spencer, a metro columnist; Todd Engdahl, the Sunday Perspective editor; Regina Avila, a news librarian; Kay Jarvis, deputy managing editor/operations; and Carla Kimbrough- Robinson, associate editor for staff development.

“All have contributed much to this paper, and we will miss them,” Post Editor Greg Moore said in an e-mail to staff.

The Post had been seeking 37 people to take the buyout plan, so the cuts will likely continue.

“In coming days, we will be reviewing remaining staffing, the budget and the newsroom reorganization,” Moore told workers in the memo. “It is clear that we will be changing how we do business.”

It’s a little awkward to see the News report on cuts being made at the Post, given that the papers operate under the much-publicized joint operating agreement (JOA) of several years ago. With both papers cutting staff as advertising revenue drops, it sure points to an inevitable outcome where only one newspaper will survive. If both papers are operated by the same organization, and they both have to cut staff, wouldn’t it make sense from a business standpoint to just move to one newspaper?

It might make sense, but it may or may not be possible. Because both newspapers have the same owner, if one buys the other (or if one closes up shop), it could draw the ire of federal regulators who are always wary of too much media consolidation. And as someone who works for the Post explained to me in a conversation about this last week, it’s hard to see how an established media brand like the News or the Post would just go away altogether; ad revenue might be down right now, but the Rocky Mountain News and The Denver Post should still be valuable brand names. Theoretically, at least.

I would hate to see Denver end up as a one newspaper town, because inevitably both the quantity and the quality of the news would suffer without the competition. Unfortunately, it’s hard to ignore the obvious smell of inevitability.