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When the Rocky Mountain News closed its doors (see “All the News that’s Fit to be Killed” on page 76), hundreds of reporters and editors found themselves scrambling for jobs, because while employment opportunities are tight everywhere, newspaper jobs are as rare as a booming stock portfolio.
The obvious landing spot was the Denver Post. Unfortunately, the Post has its own financial problems, with parent company MediaNews burdened with hundreds of millions of dollars in debt. The Post cracked its door, snagging 11 ex-Rocky staffers, including columnists Mike Littwin, Penny Parker, and Vince Carroll, plus crack reporters Lynn Bartels and Kevin Vaughan.
The remaining Colorado media outlets absorbed a few folks: Political reporter Ed Sealover joined the Denver Business Journal, and Gregory McElvain, John Ensslin, and Daniel Chacon went to the Colorado Springs Gazette. Sports beat writers Jeff Legwold and Rick Sadowski, meanwhile, found freelance gigs for Fox Sports and NHL.com.
Other print journalists made the leap to the Internet. Tracy Ringolsby and Jack Etkin founded InsidetheRockies.com to continue their beat coverage of the Colorado Rockies. George Tanner, assistant presentation director for news, started ColoradoSoccerNow.com. “Journalism is not dying,” Tanner says. “But what you have to do is go out there and find your niche.” Even John Temple, the editor and publisher of the Rocky, has launched a blog, Johntemple.net, to comment on the state of journalism.
The most ambitious online effort is InDenverTimes.com, a Web paper launched by several dozen former Rocky reporters. InDenverTimes’ future, though, remains murky, as the operation’s financers exited after only 3,000 subscribers signed up for the website—well short of the 50,000-subscriber goal. At press time, the InDenverTimes staff was seeking additional funding; meanwhile, a splinter group has launched yet another online newspaper, the Rocky Mountain Independent.
Much of the rest of the Rocky’s staff seems to be looking for jobs or has left newspapers entirely. Investigative reporter Laura Frank teamed up with the University of Colorado to form the Rocky Mountain Investigative News Network, a nonprofit pairing graduate students with pro journalists to create multimedia journalism. Environmental reporter Todd Hartman now works for Governor Ritter’s energy office, and city editor Eric Brown became the communications director for Mayor Hickenlooper.
Brown says everyone left the Rocky knowing they’d struggle to find work in traditional journalism. “I knew the chances of working at a newspaper were small,” he says. “You’re seeing a lot of good journalists choosing to do something else.”