Is Anschutz’s Rocky Mountain News revival a ‘stalking horse’ for The Denver Post?

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Photo: Final edition of Rocky Mountain News (AP Photo)
The final edition of the Rocky Mountain News was printed on Feb. 26, 2009.

There’s talk -- for the first time in years -- that the Rocky Mountain News could be resurrected.

But the buzz about about the paper, lacks, well… buzz.

“I think the reaction I’ve seen from colleagues is very wary, you know, like, ‘Really? Uh-huh. Sure,’” said Steve Haigh, a former Rocky Mountain News editor.

Haigh was among those back in 2009 hopeful that the Rocky could somehow be revived after Ohio-based E.W. Scripps Co. shut it down. Back then, there were simply no buyers.

Fast forward to this month and a dummy print edition of a new Rocky can be viewed at

“Tell us what you think,” the website asks.

Last week, the Denver Business Journal reported that local billionaire Philip Anschutz’s Clarity Media Group quietly bought the rights to the Rocky Mountain News name and intellectual properties. Neil Westergaard, the editor of the journal, said the prototype of the newspaper didn't wow him.

"It's got a lot of typos in it," he noted. But that conveys that Clarity Media is capable of creating a professional newspaper with objective journalistic standards.

Still, the idea of resurrecting the newspaper that traces its roots back to the founding of Denver has been met with skepticism from media watchers.

"It is very likely that this is a stalking horse, if you will, and the real goal is to buy The Denver Post," Westergaard said.

In September, Digital Media First announced The Post and hundreds of daily and weekly newspapers in Colorado and beyond would soon likely be sold. Digital First Media is controlled by Alden Global Capital, a privately owned hedge fund based in New York.

Westergaard noted that Clarity Media's ownership of the Rocky is an advantage. He said ownership -- and the threat that he could revive the Rocky -- could scare off other potential buyers and bring Digital First Media to the bargaining table.

He added that about two years ago, as Anschutz acquired the Colorado Springs Gazette, Clarity Media said it was considering buying a newspaper in the region -- or starting one up.

"We've kind of seen this play out in the past," he said.

CPR News requested an interview with Clarity Media CEO Ryan McKibben. He did not return calls.

Digital First Media's holdings in Colorado include Boulder’s Daily Camera, Longmont’s Times-Call, Estes Park’s Trail-Gazette, Loveland’s Reporter-Herald, Canon City’s Daily Record and many others in Colorado.

It is unclear exactly how or if that company will parse them out. Newspaper industry analyst Ken Doctor wrote in a Neiman Lab blog post earlier this month that Digital First Media “would love to sell off the whole company in one sale.”

“No muss, no fuss, less time and fewer costs,” Doctor wrote, adding, however, "that is unlikely.”