150-year-old newspaper blogs its own demise

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The Rocky Mountain News (Denver CO, USA) will appear for the last time today, just short of its 150th birthday. And the staff has been chronicling the closure in real time through social media.

One of the paper’s official blogs discusses it. Staff members have been posting their feelings, pictures, etc. on Facebook.

There is something extremely ironic and poetic about this, especially given the brutality of the announcement.  Although rumours have been swirling for months (I know someone who works there who has been telling me abut it), the parent company gave the staff just one day to deal with the announcement: “Tomorrow’s is the last edition”. But the social media are giving the staff a way to express their grief and to be comforted.

I don’t have any deep insights into this example. I find it touching. And sad. And somehow very human.  

3 COMMENTS

  1. Kristen – Like you I find it sad to hear of well established concerns like this winding up. The impact on real people of the current economic or technology-driven changes is also always moving.

    We do lose something of cultural and societal significance when newspapers or high street shops (in the case of the UK’s Woolworth’s which has closed after 99 years) disappear. They are part of the fabric of life for many people.

    Can we ever feel as affectionate for Google as for a local newspaper, or for Amazon and for our favourite local book store?

    For me one major difference is that organisations today seem to be founded primarily for monetary purposes rather than to fulfil an individual dream of running a business or to benefit society (even if just in providing goods to meet a need).

    The headlines in UK today regarding banks sums this up for me – once a bank manager was a local dignitary, someone of importance, looked up to and of character.

    Today banks are just about selling and impersonal demands – and their top guys who have brought about the demise of well respected organisations by their own greed and bad management are rewarded by fat pensions and have little respect for the havoc they have caused, little regard for their own reputation and no sense of responsibility at all.

    Can we learn lessons from all this and ensure the emergence of modern, societally respectful businesses that will survive at least 100 years? I’d like to think so, but I’m really not sure.

  2. Heather, I agree, but at the same time, I don’t thing we should cling to things simply because they are old. A few years ago, we visited Wupatki National Monument in Arizona and found it amusing that the very premise of the park, which conserves ancient Anasazi dwellings is against the philosophy of those people, who believed that old buildings, etc. should be recycled for the benefit of the living and not kept as monuments to the past.

    I think your point about ownership structure mattering is interesting. One of the first reactions to the paper’s official blogpost recommends an employee buy-out (the paper is being shut down by a major news corporation).

    On the paper’s blog, you can watch the Youtube video of the guy from the parent corporation giving the bad news. I admit that I am judging his performance on the basis of a two-minute extract, but it didn’t overwhelm me as a good case of employee relations.

    I’ll give him credit for making the announcement in person and immediately reassuring the staff that they had done their jobs well, but, he explained, the news business model changed around them.

    But then it goes pear shaped when he gets embarks on this philosophical ramble about how the other newspaper in town is better fit for survival. I’m not sure that part of the speech was very constructive.

  3. I was having a conversation earlier this week regarding expectations that companies have a right to exist – rather than this being a privilege granted by society (that also carries responsibilities). So, I accept an argument that some organisations or cultures come to an end and that is sad, but inevitable.

    At the same time, some in management seem to fail to realise that there is a reciprocal arrangement in society. Employees are not the servants of organisations and there is more than a simple contractural/exchange relationship, especially when people are expected to make a commitment to their employer.

    In the UK, the way in which some companies are treating “contract” staff in the current situation is quite shocking. They do not have the same legal rights as full-time employees, but still deserve respect and recognition that they are people, not a piece of machinery to be stood down.

    There are certainly a lot of lessons for PR to ensure their organisations are behaving responsibly at this time – although I have heard some say that CSR isn’t on their agenda this year.

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