John Colson: Colorado rejected Trump, now let’s save the Post
Hit & Run
Every now and then we get a chance to recognize the benefits of living in Colorado, a vibrant, feisty state that has made its share of mistakes through the decades but that generally has turned into a fine place to call home.
For one obvious example, Colorado is one of the relatively few states that clearly backed Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, rejecting Donald J. Trump’s brand of incendiary, hate-based, anti-science and anti-humanity electioneering by a percentile margin of 48-43.
Trump’s lack of popularity in the Centennial State was so pronounced, in fact, that the state’s Republican Party precincts did not even bother with a presidential preference poll. This was despite the historical data showing that the state has supported Republican presidential candidates more often than Democrats (63 percent of the time), truly a measure of how deeply disliked Trump was in Colorado.
It is worth noting that, in the GOP conventions for the 2016 race, Ted Cruz (dubbed the most despised man in Congress) won 30 delegates who pledged to support his candidacy.
It also is worth noting that Colorado Republican delegates to the national convention in Cleveland in 2016 were leaders of a movement to release delegates from their state-connected voting pledges as a way of preventing Trump from gaining the party’s nomination.
Obviously, all that came to naught, the orange-haired infant-in-an-adult’s-body became president, and the world is reaping the troubling results in ways we never could have imagined back when Barack Obama occupied the Oval Office.
And recently there came another chance to revel in being a Coloradan.
On April 6, the editorial board of the state’s sole remaining flagship newspaper, The Denver Post, issued a clarion call to its readership, supporters and the state’s business barons to rescue the paper from the predatory actions of its owners, the New York-based hedge fund known as Alden Global Capital.
Referring to Alden as an example of “vulture capitalism,” the editorial board noted that Alden has slashed the paper’s editorial in a series of cuts, bringing it from a high of more than 250 editors, reporters, photographers and others, down to fewer than 100 today, and that it has now ordered the Post’s management to get rid of another 30 editorial staffers.
All of this slash-and-burn management has hampered the paper’s investigative abilities, ratcheted downward the overall quality of the reportage coming out of the newsroom as fewer reporters are pushed to carry an ever-increasing load, and generally done nothing but damage to a newspaper once known for winning Pulitzer prizes and providing high-quality news in general.
Disregarding the potential threat to their jobs, careers and personal financial security that might follow such actions, the editorial board and staff bravely shone a bright light on Alden’s rapacious behavior, which has happened in the face of respectable profits since the hedge fund bought The Post’s parent chain (Digital First Media) in 2010.
In the interests of full disclosure, I should point out that at one time I was a Western Slope correspondent for The Post, covering a variety of stories for the state editor. This was in the mid-1980s, when I found myself between jobs on papers in the Roaring Fork Valley region, and long before the sad day in 2009 when the Rocky Mountain News was shuttered by its own parent newspaper chain, folded into a production agreement with the Post, and essentially made Denver a one-paper town.
Newspapers once were a marvel of 20th-century capitalism, regularly making annual profits of 20 percent or more for their owners, and the anti-Alden editorial on April 6 maintained that the paper still brings in “double-digit” profits today.
So why would its ownership decide to illogically ruin the very function that brings in all that money — the editorial staff and the news it produces?
One reason, according to economic investigative writer Michael Lewis, is that Alden made a bad mistake in 2016 when it acquired the Tennessee-based Fred’s drugstore chain for $158 million and lost its corporate shirt over the following year. Lewis reported that Alden paid $158 million for the drugstore chain, and lost $102 million in share value in only eight months.
To make up for this disastrous and losing financial gamble (having to do with the drugstore wars, the 2008 financial crisis and other variables that have nothing to do with newspapers) Alden began putting the squeeze on DFM, sending more than 300 union DFM news workers packing in order to trim the personnel costs of the various papers.
But Lewis maintains, in his book, “The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine,” that if those workers had been kept on staff and producing news, the papers would have been performing their function in a democratic society at a cost well below the $100 million Alden lost thanks to its bad bet with Fred’s drug stores.
And all the cities and towns across America would not be faced with the possible collapse of their local newspapers, which is what could easily happen if Alden goes through with its current plan to keep shredding DFM and its stable of newspapers in order to keep the profits flowing.
The fact that if the papers fold, the money will cease to flow apparently does not even register with these vultures. Their short-term understanding of the world sees only the flow of money in the next quarter, and ignores the future implications.
Well, thanks to the courageous act of the editorial board, The Post’s April 6 edition tells the whole story, in all its gory and painful details. It can only be hoped that some kind of arrangement — purchase by an individual or group, support from readers and more — can be cobbled together to help the paper weather this latest awful storm.
If the worst happens and we lose The Denver Post thanks to the greed of some hedge-fund sharpies, we will not be able to complain that we were not warned.
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