Aspen Untucked: The importance of the Denver Post
By Monday, 25 newsroom employees at The Denver Post had to leave their jobs. These staffers include editors, reporters, photographers, videographers and designers as well as many other professions that create the print and online content that is available to us every day. The newsroom now has fewer than 100 employees left and five more have to be laid off by the beginning of July. This few staffers is unprecedented for a metropolitan newspaper that primarily covers 3 million people in its direct area and 5.6 million statewide.
Sadly, these kinds of layoffs have become business as usual for The Denver Post, which is the largest publication in Colorado and refers to itself as the “Voice of the Rocky Mountain Empire.” The newsroom had more than 220 employees in 2007, but that number has decreased since then, and more significantly so in the past eight years after the hedge fund Alden Global Capital purchased the Post’s parent company. Along with layoffs, several editors and reporters have quit because of Alden’s management style. Former editor Gregory L. Moore admitted that he resigned in March 2016 because he was tired of laying off journalists.
The recent history of the Post, as well as other newspapers in our state’s capital, is simply not right. Some like to blame it on the digital age and the “death of print journalism,” but several other city’s publications have found success, even in our ever-moving, clickbait culture. The Denver Post editorial team recognizes the new challenges, but said in an op-ed April 8 that those aren’t the main reasons the newsroom is crumbling. It’s because of Alden. In this issue, there also were several opinion pieces from former editors and reporters blaming the hedge fund for poor management of funds and advocating the existence of The Denver Post. The main editorial, titled “News Matters,” cited their article as a plea to Alden, and to the people of Colorado, to stick up for and save the publication before it’s too late.
“A news organization like ours ought to be seen, especially by our owner, as a necessary public institution vital to the very maintenance of our grand democratic experiment,” the editorial stated.
This is not the first time The Denver Post, and others, have protested against Alden. In June 2016, the newspaper’s journalists, as well as ones from other publications, took to the streets to protest how the publication was being starved of its resources. However, this is the first time The Post’s employees have called out Alden so blatantly in print. This is not a typical strategy for journalists, who believe in unbiased reporting, but it’s clear that their owner has pushed them to the breaking point.
Alden Global Capital owns Digital First Media, a newspaper chain with nearly 100 newspapers coast to coast, including Boulder’s Daily Camera and the Longmont Times-Call. There are many clear signs that Alden is not managing its newspaper company well, including a recent admission in court filings that it has diverted hundreds of millions of dollars away from its papers and into other investments. If you Google “Alden Global Capital,” you’ll find that the first several pages are filled with stories of how the company kills newspapers. There’s even a website called Alden Exposed that is encouraging people to sign a petition to call out Randall Smith, the founder of Alden. The group’s website says it currently has 11,000 signatures.
Regardless of one’s feelings for The Denver Post and other mainstream media outlets, one thing is for certain: This newspaper must be saved. Many in the valley may think this doesn’t affect them. We have several papers from Glenwood Springs to Aspen, as well as several other media outlets, that are doing quite well. I’m not trying to discredit those outlets or the talented reporters who work for them. Journalism, like many professions, thrives off competition. The less newspapers and news outlets we have, the less informed the public will be and the less accountable politicians and executives in the private and public sectors will be to the citizens.
There’s nothing good about having fewer journalists in Denver, as Lee Ann Colacioppo, the editor of The Denver Post, said in a staff memo when these layoffs were announced in mid-March. There’s also nothing good about having less journalists in the state, in this country or in this world. Democracy doesn’t work without the fourth estate. We live in an age where there are plenty of “citizen journalists” and bloggers out there, but they don’t do the same kind of investigations and research that professional reporters do.
If you have time this week, please read the full Denver Post editorial online. I’m not sure yet what each of us, as citizens, can do to save this newspaper and find it a responsible buyer, but we can start by speaking up. Share the story on social media, email it to friends or colleagues, and consider buying an online or print subscription. We all must show our support for journalism or the state that we love may soon be without one of its main and most credible voices. And we won’t like the outcome from that.
Barbara Platts believes in The Denver Post’s mission wholeheartedly and subscribes for print and online content. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BarbaraPlatts.
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