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RIP Rocky.

I remember the first time I heard senior managers at my newspaper use the word “customer” instead of “reader.” That was the beginning of the end.

Minutes ago, corporate honchos from Scripps went into the newsroom to announce the Rocky Mountain News will publish its last edition tomorrow morning. So many businesses are going down around us, but the death of a newspaper is not like the closing of a store. It is a death — especially to those who have loved the tradition of newspapers as I have.

I started my career in a newsroom in Michigan when I was 15 years old. Most of the people who put the newspaper out every day came to the news business with altruistic missions to inform the public and make the world better. That’s why it always hurt so much when corporate suits would come in and remind us that newspapers weren’t charities — they were businesses. 

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There was a constant clash between idealism and reality, and reality won. I am partly to blame for that, now that I no longer work in journalism. I stopped getting a daily paper a couple of years ago. I am an only-on-Sunday subscriber because I don’t need the hard copy cluttering up my house. I read everything for free on the Internet. I didn’t buy the cow because the milk was free. Now the cows are all dying.

I had five great years at the Rocky and three were horrible. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I had a bully boss who ordained that I would never amount to more than a reporter. Ultimately, he did me a huge favor because, if not for him, I probably would be working right now to help put out that last edition.

I wish so much goodness for those who stayed behind to fight for that paper. I have no idea where or how people will land — but journalists are a tough and smart. They’ll figure it out.

I tip my hat to the staff of the Rocky Mountain News and to William Byers, who founded it. Great work, everybody.

Fawn Germer is the best-selling author of four books. Her next book, Finding the UP in the Downturn, will be released this spring by Newhouse Books.

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