The owner of The Gazette is exploring the possibility of reviving the Rocky Mountain News, the longtime Denver daily newspaper that folded more than five years ago.
Denver-based Clarity Media Group, controlled by businessman Philip Anschutz, has created a 28-page Rocky Mountain News prototype, posted it online at www.rockymountainnews.com and is inviting members of the public to respond to a survey about what they think and their attitudes toward the Denver news landscape. The story about a possible Rocky revival was first reported Tuesday by the Denver Business Journal.
Ryan McKibben, Clarity Media's president and CEO, said the exploration of a new Rocky Mountain News is an outgrowth of the company's mission. Clarity bought The Gazette two years ago; its holdings also include the Weekly Standard news magazine and the Washington Examiner. A separate Anschutz company owns the Daily Oklahoman in Oklahoma City.
"This is the business we're in," McKibben said. "We own newspapers, we own magazines. Clarity Media Group is a media company and that's what we do. We have a newspaper 60 miles away (The Gazette). We like newspapers."
The prototype's front page has a similar look to the old Rocky - a tabloid format with a nameplate whose font mirrors that of the former paper. Its inside pages include local, state, national, business and entertainment news and a four-page editorial section. Sports - as with most tabloids - starts on the back page.
The Rocky, then owned by the Cincinnati-based E.W. Scripps Co., closed in February 2009, two months shy of its 150th birthday. At the time, it was Colorado's oldest daily newspaper.
For decades, the Rocky battled The Denver Post for readers and advertisers. It eventually fell victim to dramatic changes in the media landscape. Over the past eight to 10 years, newspapers have seen their advertising revenues, profits and circulation plunge in large part because of competition from the Internet.
Shortly after the Rocky closed, Clarity Media purchased "most of the paper's intellectual property," which included its nameplate and website address, McKibben said.
"Since then, we've been doing a lot of groundwork to see what the possibility is of reviving the Rocky," he said. "And now we're simply in the research stage. We're doing some exploratory market research to see what the potential is of bringing the Rocky back."
In addition to the online survey, that includes additional "qualitative and quantitative research," McKibben said. There's no timetable to complete the research, he said.
"A lot of companies do this exploratory market research before they jump into a big initiative and that's what we're looking at," he said.
For many months, Clarity Media and Anschutz have been rumored to be potential buyers of The Denver Post. Digital First Media, the Post's New York-based owner, said in September that it was taking steps that could lead to the sale of the paper and several others that it owns.
Asked about Clarity's potential interest in the Post and whether a Rocky Mountain News revival was part of an acquisition strategy, McKibben wouldn't say.
"That's all speculation and we're not going to comment on that," he said.
In September 2012, a few months before Clarity Media bought The Gazette, the Denver Business Journal quoted McKibben as saying that the media company was investigating "buying (The Gazette) or starting a paper" in Colorado Springs. Clarity announced Nov. 30 of that year that it had purchased The Gazette.
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