On February 26, 2009 The Rocky Mountain News published its final edition.
Final Edition is a documentary film about the last ever edition of The Rocky Mountain News, a local paper in Denver, Colorado. The film interviews people who have worked at the paper for years and shows the effect that the closure of the paper will have on their lives and on society.
The most effective thing about the documentary is that in such a short time, only 20 minutes, it gives an emotional resonance to the closure of a newspaper. The film conveys the hole that The Rocky Mountain News will leave in the lives of its reporters and its readers.
One heartfelt interview with one of the reporters shows him nearly crying as he describes how when he moved to the paper her has hoped that he would grow old there and end up being the crusty old journalist in the corner of the newsroom who had been there forever. Now he knows he never will be.
The film ends with a shot of a reporter talking about a story she was covering the day before. She looks at the final edition of The Rocky and says that the story will never be told, it was meant to go in Saturday’s paper.
What can a journalist learn from the film?
Unfortunately The Rocky Mountain News was the victim of a change in the newspaper industry which they couldn’t keep up with coupled with large scale economic downturn. The documentary certainly seems to suggest that they didn’t do anything wrong and people still wanted the newspaper. But it was the business model and the economy which they couldn’t keep up with.
The film makes an impassioned argument for the importance of local newspapers. In one montage readers of the paper, who call the paper ‘my Rocky’ not just The Rocky, describe how much reading the local paper means to them.
The mayor of Denver then highlights the crucial role the local press play in holding power to account. Without The Rocky Mountain News the people of Denver will suffer.
One of the reporters also passes on a piece of advice about the importance of fact checking. He says that throughout his career he ha always lived by the maxim “if your mother says she loves you, check it.”
Final Edition can be viewed here: