human, being an idea for today?

On Monday, former employees of the Rocky Mountain News, Denver’s now-defunct, almost 150-year-old daily paper, launched a project called Backed by three Denver investors, the website is looking to do something a lot of newspapers want to do: sell premium content subscriptions, partner with sponsors–aka advertisers–and keep a competing editorial voice in the Denver market.

Former writers and editors of the Rocky are already writing for free on They want to continue covering their Rocky beats, but earning actual money. That sounds good to me. I already am reading their free stuff, and I plan to keep reading.

The catch: $4.99 a month, which is about the same as what I was paying to get the Saturday Rocky and Sunday Post. The double catch: They must get 50,000 subscribers by April 23–the Rocky’s 150-year birthday–or the site doesn’t go live. Until April 23, my credit card won’t get charged either.

I’ve subscribed. I’m following indenvertimes on Twitter. I’m a fan on Facebook. Now I’m waiting to see how it goes.

Will it work? The Wall Street Journal’s full articles are available online only to subscribers. The New York Times’ attempt failed. This week, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, another near-150-year-old daily, announced it was going to an all online format.

I heard transportation reporter Kevin Flynn interviewed on Colorado Public Radio’s Colorado Matters yesterday, and he said the main thing he wants people to do is be patient and give the concept a chance to work.

I am a blogger, of course, and as such I’m part of this new world of storytelling. Because of my journalism training and experience, I would never just make up something and post it as news. I would never write my opinion as news. I disrespect any blogger that does so. Blogs, in the worst light, have helped turn online journalism into gossipmongering. I loathe celebrity gossip, and I think it’s part of the downfall we are currently experiencing. Even though Flynn and the managing editor (whose name I don’t remember, sorry) were very clear that is NOT a blog, blogs have come to define what we expect from online news. I hope that they intend for it to be interactive–if not, it will die. And interactive beyond comments, as newspaper sites are massive bridges whose undersides get populated by trolls. I think in order to succeed, will have to do what the Rocky did, and that is build a sense of community.

In the CPR story, Flynn and the managing editor mentioned that for the foreseeable future, the site will focus on the Denver-metro area. They don’t have the resources, they said, to have bureaus all around the state. I think that’s a mistake once the site reaches a certain capacity. Unlike a printed piece, which costs tons of money to print and distribute, the Internet can have a far reach without expending much. The site could pay attention to people who are already blogging about their Colorado hometowns–the issues that matter, the topics of the day–and if they are good writers who actually cite sources, hire them as stringers. The Rocky didn’t have the reach the Post does, and it’s one of the reasons why the Rocky is now dead, in my opinion. The newspaper forgot about the rest of the state. Denver-metro has a finite number of people who are going to be interested in reading an online local news source.

At the same time, has an excellent opportunity to do what the Post doesn’t do as well, and that is get to the heart of the community it serves. That’s what I always loved about the Rocky: it felt like my paper, not a generic, wire-story-filled tome. The reporting felt personal. With the same writers on staff, that can only get better.

I don’t know if I will ever be able to go completely newspaper-free for the same reason I’m not plunking down $500 or so for a Kindle: Reading is a tactile experience for me. I love the feel of paper in my hands. However, my daughter’s generation will likely forget about printed papers, and maybe their kids will never know what they are. My grandkids will give me the same stare when I talk about how I used to work for a newspaper that got printed and folded and rubber-banded and thrown onto my driveway everymorning as Lauren does when I try to explain a typewriter to her, or TV without 100 channels, or a car you unlock with a key. Hopefully, by then, some iteration of will still be around.


1 Comment so far
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I feel the same about the E reader. I love the feel of a book, I can’t imagine reading it in anything but paper form and I agree, the same goes for the newspaper.

Comment by Jessica Bern

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