Newspaper death watch: Rocky Mountain News closes. The toll of dead, dying and losing newspaper groups continues to mount with the Rocky Mountain News in Denver tapping the mat and closing tonight after its owners, EW Scripps, couldn’t sell it. EW Scripps announced the news in a statement on its website this morning. Scripps said the paper lost $US16 million last year.

Last weekend there were separate bankruptcy filings by the Journal Register Co. and by the owners of The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News. They followed the early December failure of the Tribune Co. and January’s filing by the owners of the Star Tribune in Minneapolis.

The closure of the Rocky Mountain News calls into question the arrangement Scripps had with the Denver Post. The RM News has shared business operations with the Post in a joint operating agreement. The fate of that agreement has yet to be announced. Some Rocky Mountain staff will join the Post, which will publish a Saturday edition, starting tomorrow. — Glenn Dyer

Woody’s tax whinge. Is former tennis star Todd Woodbridge trying just a little too hard to get a regular gig as a conservative commentator? Speaking to Neil Mitchell on 3AW on Wednesday, he had a long rant about not being eligible for any handouts from the government and earning too much to receive anything from the stimulus package, eliciting very little sympathy from both Mitchell and callers. Life’s tough when your career earnings are in excess of $10 million. Listen here.

Fairfax fawns over new Virgin plane. The Smage websites are both running an incredible puff piece on Virgin’s new Boeing 777 plane by Age “aviation, energy and infrastructure” reporter Mathew Murphy today, entitled “Branson’s new baby: how V Australia measures up”:

You get the feeling that Austin Powers would not be out of place on board V Australia.

The touch screen in-flight entertainment system is also well suited to serial flirts like Powers. The chat feature allows passengers to select a seat number and send messages direct to anyone who catches their eye on the plane. Passengers can use the entertainment system to play games like Texas hold’em poker and sudoku, complete crosswords, shop or even read books on screen. Naturally the system is stocked with hundreds of CDs and movies.

Accompanying the article is a photo slideshow more akin to a brochure, with captions like “The premium economy seats are comfortable and feature laptop power, USB slot and moveable reading light – as well as a separate bar” and “While the 288 economy seats have less room than premium economy, at 18.8 inches wide they are the widest economy seats of any carrier offering flights across the Pacific, including the behemoth Airbus A380.” But wait, there’s more:

While the iconic image of the flying kangaroo has the ability to make even the most stoic Australian traveller feel homesick, V Australia is attempting to wrestle away Qantas’ long-held claim over the national identity.

And it doesn’t get much more Australian then the Southern Cross which adorns V Australia’s tail and the business cabin ceiling when the lights are dimmed.

Thanks, Moira.

Murphy discloses that he scored a free junket to Seattle courtesy of Boeing and Virgin for the report, but that hardly justifies something that reads like a glorified Virgin press release.

Cartoonists casualties in newspaper cost-cutting. It’s not only journalists who are feeling the cost cutting exercises in the print media. Phil Somerville, the political cartoonist at Sydney’s Sun-Herald, has just been told to pack up his drawing ink and pens and head for the door. I’m told Melbourne’s Herald Sun is cancelling a number of panel cartoons and strips, including “It’s a Jungle Out There” by Christopher Granet. It’s my understanding Auspac Media, an Aussie syndication company that’s been around since 1939, aren’t taking new material as the only thing selling nowadays are puzzles. I’m a cartoonist and am finding many of my regular trade journals just aren’t accepting contributions anymore. The only redeeming thing out of all this downsizing pain is that maybe the Herald Sun will finally drop Fred Bassett. — Crikey reader John Allison

Nine Network will defend hidden-camera story. Nine Network is standing by a hidden-camera report, in which a journalist posed as an alleged hitman’s accomplice. Despite the prospect of criminal charges, Nine claims the story, by A Current Affair journalist Ben Fordham, headed off a murder. A “shell-shocked” and “stunned” Mr Fordham on Wednesday said he and ACA producer Andrew Byrne expected police to charge them after the Director of Public Prosecutions recommended action. — Australian

Pentagon OKs media photos of war dead. News organizations will be allowed to photograph the homecomings of America’s war dead under a new Pentagon policy, defense and congressional officials said Thursday. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has decided to allow photos of flag-draped caskets at Dover Air Force Base, Del., if the families of the fallen troops agree. — AP

Newsday plans to charge for online news. Cablevision Systems Corp plans to charge online readers of its Newsday newspaper, a move that would make it one of the first large U.S. papers to reverse a trend toward free Web readership. — Reuters

Ads in Google News? Cue newspaper industry outcry in 3… 2… 1. Leave it to Google to find a bit of meat on the revenue-starved bones of the newspaper industry. On Wednesday, the company extended its AdWords program to Google News, serving up text ads alongside news searches in much the same way it does regular Google searches. — Digital Daily

Good news newspaper story: nears 30 million user mark. The Guardian News and Media site grew its total audience by 51.26 per cent year on year to reach 29,811,671 unique users last month. It was 3.9 million users ahead of the second-ranked, which was the biggest year-on-year riser – up 109.78% to 25,904,722. — Press Gazette

Financial Times launches subscription-based China e-newsletter. The Financial Times today announces the launch of China Confidential, a publication dedicated to providing exclusive predictive analysis on China investment themes. China Confidential is a subscription-only fortnightly electronic newsletter and website. The first issue will be available on 5th March 2009 and will be distributed globally. — Asia Media Journal

Apple board defends disclosures on Jobs’ health. Apple officials told investors Wednesday that they expect CEO Steve Jobs to return to work from a medical leave in June and defended the company’s disclosures regarding the charismatic leader’s health… The way Apple has gone about alerting shareholders about Jobs’ health reportedly has caught the attention of the Securities and Exchange Commission, which has launched an inquiry into whether Apple properly released material information about Jobs’ health situation. — San Francisco Chronicle

Tribune Tower pulled off the market. [Tribune Co.] hired brokers last summer to sell the landmark tower as well as the Los Angeles Times‘ headquarters complex, known as Times Mirror Square, and had hoped to get marketing materials to prospective investors early this year. But the moribund real estate investment sales market prompted the company to shelve those plans, says Stephanie Pater, Tribune’s director of real estate. — Chicago Business

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey