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Oldest daily to close after 150 years

DENVER, February 27 – Colorado\’s oldest daily, The Rocky Mountain News, is to close after nearly 150 years, the latest victim of the crisis gripping the US newspaper industry, its owner announced on Thursday.

In a meeting with employees of the Denver tabloid and a statement on the Rocky\’s website, the E.W. Scripps Co. said the daily would publish its final edition on Friday.

Scripps chief executive Rich Boehne said the paper had become a "victim of changing times in our industry and huge economic challenges."

"The Rocky is one of America?s very best examples of what local news organizations need to be in the future. Unfortunately, the partnership?s business model is locked in the past," Boehne said.

The Rocky Mountain News entered into a joint operating agreement with The Denver Post, owned by MediaNews Group, in 2001 which allowed the papers to share business services in order to maintain two distinct editorial voices.

However Scripps announced in December the Rocky Mountain News was up for sale, saying the paper had suffered losses of 16 million dollars in 2008.

Scripps said a potential buyer emerged in January but talks stalled because the interested party was "unable to present a viable plan."

US newspapers have struggled to adjust to the Internet age, a period which has seen dailies suffer a collapse in traditional revenue streams such as classified advertising with the growth of websites such as craigslist.org.

Like other papers, the Rocky Mountain News has also suffered from a sharp drop in print advertising revenue, declining circulation and the migration of readers to free news online.

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Founded in 1859 by William Byers, news of the Rocky Mountain News\’ closure comes just two months shy of its 150th anniversary. The paper, which was bought by Scripps in 1926, has won four Pulitzer Prizes in the past decade alone.

Scripps said the papers\’s 200 editorial employees would remain on the payroll until April 28.

Boehne announced the closure of the paper at a meeting with staffers which a Rocky blogger described as "glum" and occasionally "bitter" and which left some employees in tears.

"Denver can\’t support two newspapers anymore," Boehne was quoted as saying. "The industry is in serious, serious trouble.

"I could say stupid things like \’I know how you feel.\’ I don\’t," Boehne added. "We are just deeply sorry. I hope you will accept that."

The announcement of the Rocky Mountain News\’ closure comes just days after publishing group Hearst Corp said it may shutter the beloved San Francisco Chronicle daily if staff did not agree to "significant" job cuts.

Hearst announced in January that it plans to close its money-losing Seattle newspaper, the Post-Intelligencer, if a buyer cannot be found.

Philadelphia Newspapers, owner of the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Daily News, filed for bankruptcy protection on Sunday.

Tribune Co., owner of The Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, six other dailies and 23 television stations, filed for bankruptcy in December and a Minnesota newspaper, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, filed for bankruptcy in January.

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Gannett, the largest US newspaper chain and owner of USA Today, announced on Wednesday that it was slashing its quarterly dividend from 40 cents per share to four cents per share to help pay down its debt.

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