The Closing of the Rocky

“Do you know what your paper published about Cesar Chavez’s birthday?” a Latino leader asked John Temple, the editor, publisher and president of the Rocky Mountain News in Denver, Colorado.

“No,” Temple replied.“That parking was free downtown. That’s it.”It was one of many tough questions Temple would field from the Latino community during a 2003 town hall meeting the paper co-sponsored with the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ).

Under the leadership of its president Juan Gonzalez, NAHJ had launched an ambitious effort in 2002 to increase the presence of Latinos in newsrooms across the country as a means of improving coverage of the community. At the time, I was the Association’s deputy director who helped to launch the initiative, called the Parity Project.

The Parity Project partnered with news organizations that struggled to recruit Latino journalists and to cover the community. The Rocky Mountain News was the first news organization to join the initiative, which called for its partners to hold a town hall meeting with the community and to form an advisory board.

For years, Denver’s Latino leaders had been angry with the paper for its poor coverage of the community and for its conservative editorial positions. But following that contentious town hall, Temple led an effort to forge a new relationship.

He created an advisory board, doubled the number of Latinos on staff in just two years, met regularly with Latino leaders and developed a true partnership with the community. As a result, coverage of Latinos improved. Quickly.

The paper believed in quality journalism and the obligation to serve the public good.Temple and his staff have made a real difference in the both the city’s Latino community and the entire city.

But today, the Rocky printed its last edition. Despite efforts to save it, the paper’s owner, E.W. Scripps, announced it was shutting down the publication that has been in existence for nearly 150 years.

The closing of the Rocky is a terrible day for the Latino community, but a worse day for Colorado and for a newspaper industry spiraling deeper into crisis. Our country and our democracy need journalists and editors like John Temple and the staff of the Rocky.

Let’s hope we see their bylines again soon.