John Temple on the Fall of the Rocky Mountain News
John Temple is the former editor of the Rocky Mountain News, the Denver newspaper that ceased publication in 2009. Under his editorship, beginning in 1998, the paper won four Pulitzer Prizes and numerous other awards for journalistic excellence. He also held the titles of president and publisher.
Temple joined the Rocky in 1992 as metro editor. He was named managing editor in 1995. Before joining the paper, he was managing editor of The Albuquerque Tribune, another E.W. Scripps Co. newspaper. He has also worked at The Toronto Star, Canada’s largest newspaper.
Temple also served as VP/News for Scripps’ newspaper division since 2006. In that capacity, he acted as a sounding board for editors and publishers to help them explore and develop print and online initiatives. Temple has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Toronto. He is married to artist Judith Cohn and has three children.
Question: When did you know it was over?
Temple: Not actually ‘til about 2 weeks before the announcement. Until then I still thought it was conceivable that there would be other outcomes. One would be a buyer emerging at the last minute, another would be a sort of bankruptcy restructuring but I really felt… about once I realized that the no viable buyer would emerge and that there was a determination to avoid bankruptcy. I knew it was a matter of time and that… that didn’t mean it couldn’t have lasted a lot longer than it could have but I knew that it was just a matter of time. When I really knew that it was going to happen was the day before, I mean, when I went home the day before the announcement, I knew it was almost certain, I mean, without borrowing a miracle or some unexpected development, I knew that it was going to close. One thing I have learned about business deals as is the closure they get to culmination, things kind of merge that really pushed parties apart again and so you have to be patient, my mantra in the newsroom was be patient because it’s very surprising the developments that can… that twists and turns that you can see.
Question: What have you learned about the culture of newspapers?
Temple: Well, you know, the response that we were going to close and that people would have us no longer, what was really… it told us that there is a deep bond that can exist between a community and its newspaper and that… that is what you’re trying to build, you should be as an editor and a publisher and it was really, really encouraging and kind of uplifting the sentiments that were expressed to us. I know it made my staff, for the last 3 months since the sale was announced, it really helped us get through our days and weeks because what it told us was, “Okay. You know what? As difficult as things are, we matter in people’s lives and we’ve really touched people’s lives and that they really appreciate us being part of their lives,” and so I found that very encouraging.
John Temple on the Fall of the Rocky Mountain News.
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