BROOKE GLADSTONE: 2009 looks to be another bad year for newspapers. The Philadelphia Inquirer’s owners have filed for bankruptcy, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer is for sale and will likely shutter its print edition and, at the end of February, a bellwether. After 150 years of service to Denver, The Rocky Mountain News became the nation’s largest paper to be killed off in this recession.
RICH BOEHNE: The one thing I just want to make sure and say, it’s certainly nothing you did. You all did everything right. But while you were out doing your part, the business model and the economy changed, and The Rocky became a victim.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: The city will still have The Denver Post but we wondered, when more than 200 reporters suddenly lose their jobs, what happens to their stories? Laura Frank was an investigative reporter at The Rocky. Laura, welcome to the show.
LAURA FRANK: Thanks for having me, Brooke.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: So, what stories were you working on the week the paper went under?
LAURA FRANK: What would have been in our Saturday paper, the first paper that The Rocky missed because of its closure, we had stories ready to go about a government agency that had allegedly misused public money, we had a story about how children in state custody were being abused. And we had a story about a bus driver in Denver who was helping an elderly lady and her daughter across the street when he was hit by another vehicle, and the State Patrol gave him a ticket for jaywalking. Our reporter was ready to write that the bus driver was actually in the legal crosswalk; he should never have been given the ticket at all.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Were these stories being covered by the – forgive me – Denver Post?
LAURA FRANK: In this case, no, none of these stories have been covered by the other media.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Where do these stories go now?
LAURA FRANK: Well, I'll tell you, it’s interesting, because on Monday Kevin Flynn, one of our terrific reporters who was working on that jaywalking story, went ahead and published it online. When the Scripps Company announced The Rocky Mountain News was for sale December 4th, some of the staffers created a website called Iwantmyrocky.com, and it’s been a place for people to post their feelings and concerns and to get to know the staff of The Rocky a little bit better. Kevin posted his story right at the top of Iwantmyrocky.com, and others are continuing to do that. You know, when you’re a reporter, reporting is in your DNA, you can't just pull the stops and quit. So, some of it’s still going, actually.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: It’s still going for free.
LAURA FRANK: Yes. I think Kevin referred to it as “pro bono journalism.”
BROOKE GLADSTONE: [LAUGHS] Now, I assume that Kevin and you would sell your stories to The Post if you could, or do you still have a reflex to deny the competition?
LAURA FRANK: You know, I think there is a competitive reflex, but let me tell you, I think each one of us hopes The Post survives because, as hard as it is to imagine Denver and Colorado without The Rocky Mountain News, it’s impossible to imagine the city and the state without any major newspaper.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: So fundamentally, then, what do you think the people of Colorado will miss with the end of The Rocky?
LAURA FRANK: We consistently did special projects that took in-depth looks at the issues of most concern to the citizens of Denver and the State of Colorado. And I'm hoping we can rebuild that, somehow. But that’s what The Rocky was known for, and this week it’s missing.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Is there a particular story that you just wish could have gotten out there?
LAURA FRANK: I'm bursting with stories that are never going to make it into The Rocky. And that’s a hard thing to handle.
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BROOKE GLADSTONE: Thank you so much.
LAURA FRANK: Thank you, Brooke.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Laura Frank was an investigative reporter at The Rocky Mountain News.