The decision to close the Rocky Mountain News in February 2009 was always presented as a financial one — for the owner.
The E.W. Scripps Co. said it couldn't afford the losses it projected for the paper for the foreseeable future, estimated at $25 million a year for the next five years.
On Feb. 27, 2009, the day the paper published its final edition, Scripps stock closed at $1.14. On Thursday, Feb. 24, one trading day before the two-year anniversary of the Rocky's closure, the stock closed at $9.10, eight times its price on the Rocky's last day.
So from a financial perspective, it's clear that the company is in a much stronger position today than it was two years ago.
Perhaps that's why the same people who made the decision to close Colorado's oldest newspaper and leave the Denver market are still running Scripps today.
Meanwhile, at The Denver Post, owner MediaNews Group has expanded its reach in Colorado, with Prairie Mountain Publishing's purchase of Lehman Communications Corp. The deal gives MediaNews ownership of all the major daily newspapers between Colorado and Fort Collins, according to the Denver Business Journal.
And there are reports of a possible merger between MediaNews and Freedom Communications Inc., owner of the Gazette of Colorado Springs.
Martin Langeveld, a former MediaNews publisher, who writes on media economics at Nieman Journalism Lab, summarized developments at the company this way recently:
"MediaNews could not outrun the ticking clock of debt accumulation; revenues plummeted; newspaper values tumbled; and lenders threatened foreclosure. Lodovic engineered a strategic and very quick bankruptcy that wiped out $765 million in debt by placing nearly all of the company’s stock in the hands of the former bondholders. Remarkably, the bankruptcy reorganization left him and Singleton in charge and with a small equity stake, plus the opportunity to earn back an equity position up to 20 percent. They also had theoretical control in the form of the power to appoint a majority of the board."
In January, leadership changes at MediaNews were announced, with Chairman and CEO Dean Singleton becoming executive chairman and president Joseph Lodovic leaving the company, which is looking for a new CEO. Singleton remains publisher of The Denver Post.
Other stories in this report: Read the main article about the results of my survey of the editorial staff of the Rocky Mountain News on its last day, and a related article at The Atlantic. You can also read what those still working as journalists told me and what those who have left the profession told me.