A group of former RMN sportswriters has started Inside The Rockies, to cover the city's baseball team. Other staffers are gathering at I Want My Rocky to post stories from their old beats. Some of them plan to spin off their coverage into their own blogs or sites.
We're seeing this phenomenon elsewhere as news organizations downsize. The St. Louis Beacon carries the work of former Post-Dispatch staffers. In Phoenix, a group of former staffers from the East Valley Tribune has started The Arizona Guardian, to cover state politics. Jeff Jarvis wrote the other day about a reporter for the L.A. Daily News, Greg Hernandez, who went into competition with his former employer with a sharp-looking site within a week of being laid off. (And you know what? These folks are doing actual reporting, contrary to the idiotic canard that"real" journalism can only be committed by large newspaper companies, and certainly not by blogs.)
It's not at all clear yet if there is a successful business model is for these sort of things. But it may be possible for some of the paper's stronger beat reporters to find a way to get advertisers or even readers to pay for in-depth coverage that was lost when the paper folded.
This sort of thing was unthinkable a few years ago, of course, and it speaks to the democratization of information wrought by the Web. In the old days, you needed a printing press to be a publisher; now, with blogs and other easy-to-use Web platforms, everybody is a publisher. It may be a while until people laid off by the Rocky Mountain News or other papers can find a job; while they're looking, it's a great idea for them to take a shot at being entrepreneurs and starting their own online publications.
We're going to see much more of this in the months to come, as the cutbacks in newsrooms and of entire papers continue. Some of them are going to be dazzling successes and provide stiff competition or replacement for their former employers. Others will be interesting experiments. But they all point to the fracturing of the old, central journalism model into a million bright, shining, new sources of news and information, created and presented in new ways. And that's a good thing.