Our view: The closing heard ’round the nation

The Internet was a-buzz Thursday afternoon. Word spread across Twitter, Facebook and on RSS feeds. Within hours, messages of sympathy and support poured in from across the nation.

What event caused this reaction?

The E.W. Scripps Co. announced Thursday the Rocky Mountain News in Denver would publish its last paper Friday and close its doors for good. The announcement came as a shock to many, although Scripps had put the paper up for sale in December after it lost millions of dollars over the last several years.

Now, here in Franklin Hall, this announcement was particularly depressing. Professors in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication have friends and colleagues who are now out of work. This paper, known affectionately in our halls as “Rocky,” has often been looked to for innovative storytelling methods and fun, eye-catching design.

And though few journalism students today choose this profession because we want to become rich and famous – we know we won’t – it still is frustrating to see a respected newspaper close just shy of its 150th anniversary.

Still, what added insult to injury for those of us in Franklin Hall and for journalists across the nation was the hue and cry that arose following Thursday’s announcement.

The Rocky Mountain News is not the first paper to fold. It will most certainly not be the last, especially as the nation’s economy isn’t showing signs of looking up until the second half of this year.

But the outpouring of sympathy and the indignation of national pundits and average folks rings a little insincere.

How many people who lamented the closing of the Rocky last week on Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere actually subscribe to a daily newspaper?

How many people who bemoaned the loss of yet another paper pay hardly anything for a copy of The Plain Dealer or the Akron Beacon Journal when they spend $4 for their morning coffee?

How many people who complained that the loss of a free press endangers American democracy take time out of reading celebrity and sports news on Web sites to pick up a free copy of The New York Times on campus?

Yes, losing the Rocky Mountain News is a shame, but it’s an event that perhaps could have been prevented.

Imagine that this afternoon another local news outlet announces that it’s closing: This one. Imagine what would happen if the Daily Kent Stater, TV2, Black Squirrel Radio and KentNewsNet disappeared tomorrow.

Without local news outlets – be it Kent State’s student-produced media or The Record Courier – there is a void. And as nature abhors a vacuum, something will inevitably appear to fill that void, for better or for worse.

So, do yourselves a favor: Pick up a newspaper. Read it. Switch the channel over from E! or CNN and watch some local news. Get involved in the process of our democracy.

And in the meantime, goodbye, Rocky. We’ll miss you.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.