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February 27, 2009 / conceptbin

“You won’t miss it until it’s gone”

It’s a sad day for local newspapers today. The Rocky Mountain News is shutting down, leaving Denver, CO with one metropolitan newspaper. Even though I live in London and have never even seen a print-copy of The Rocky, it’s a poignant reminder that local media now face a stark choice between having to reinvent themselves or vanish.

The video documentary of The Rocky’s last day, Final Edition, reminds us that the business model of local newspapers used to rely on classified ads for their bread and butter. That revenue stream dried up, leaving The Rocky and many other newspapers in similar circumstances to rely on print advertising and subscription fees to sustain their operations in an economic downturn that has seen advertising spend shift online.

There’s a real need for a professional class of truth-tellers, inherently suspicious and factual in their reporting. This, of course, is the journalistic ideal. Rocky Journalist Jeff Legwold says that the motto on the wall in the first newsroom he worked in was: “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.” The problem is that such an operation is expensive, and has to be paid for with something else.

Note that the video above comes to you via Vimeo, and one of the stories on The Rocky’s site today reports that “The world followed the closure on Twitter.” And how did I, a Londoner, notice this story in the first place? I saw it on the Talking Points Memo political news blog.

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