This week, 25 newsroom employees at the Denver Post were laid off. In the newsroom, there are reporters, editors, photographers, videographers, designers and many more professions that work daily to create the publication’s online and print content. No type of position was safe from the cuts. The newspaper must layoff five more by the beginning of July. At this point, there are fewer than 100 staffers that make up a newsroom responsible for covering a growing city and surrounding area with nearly 3 million people, as well as a state with a total of 5.6 million.
The Denver Post, which is the largest publication of its kind in the state and often refers to itself as the “Voice of the Rocky Mountain Empire,” is used to layoffs. In 2007, there were more than 220 newsroom staffers. That number has decreased steadily since then, but the cutting of staff picked up significantly in 2010, when Alden Global Capital first purchased The Post’s parent company. Many of the layoffs have occurred in the last couple of years. Former editor Gregory L. Moore even admitted that he resigned in March 2016 because he didn’t want to be in the profession of letting go journalists.
The recent history of the newspaper, as well as others in the metropolitan area, is devastating, to say the least. Perhaps the saddest part about the crumbling of The Post, though, is that all of this is avoidable, even in the digital age. This past Sunday, the newspaper’s editorial board wrote a plea to Alden, and the citizens and civic leaders of Colorado, to save the publication before it’s too late. Along with the editorial were several op-eds about the importance of journalism and, more specifically, the Denver Post. Several of the articles were written by former editors and reporters who have watched the newspaper slowly deflate.
“Denver deserves a newspaper owner who supports its newsroom. If Alden isn’t willing to do good journalism here, it should sell The Post to owners who will,” the editorial stated.
The editorial was a shock for readers and caused a national media stir, even though many of these journalists took to the streets and protested Alden in 2016. Penning an opinion piece in which newsroom employees specifically call out their owners is a rare occurrence. However, Alden is pushing just about everyone on the staff, as well as many loyal followers of the paper, to their breaking point.
Alden Global Capital is a hedge fund that owns Digital First Media, a newspaper chain with nearly 100 newspapers across the country, 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 newspapers 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 political beliefs or their feelings for the Denver Post and other mainstream media outlets, one thing is for certain: This newspaper must be saved. Many in and around Telluride may think that The Post’s struggle doesn’t affect them. We’re roughly 330 miles away from the state’s capital, and we have several papers and other media outlets in between here and there to give us information. I’m not trying to discredit any of those outlets or the passionate and hardworking newsroom employees that work at them. But the truth is that journalism, similar to many professions, thrives off of 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 citizens.
When the announcement for this round of layoffs was made in mid-March, Lee Ann Colacioppo, the editor of the Denver Post, said this in a staff memo: “These job losses are painful, and we know meaningful work will not get done because talented journalists have left the organization. I’m sure some commenters will cheer what they believe is the eventual demise of the mainstream media, but there is nothing to celebrate when a city has fewer journalists working in it.”
The last few words of this are particularly important to remember: There’s nothing good about having less journalists in our state’s capital, in Colorado, 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.
Please, take some time this week to read the full Denver Post editorial online. It’s titled “News Matters.” 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 to the paper. We all must show our support or the state that we love may soon be without one of its main and most credible voices.
Barbara Platts is a print and online subscriber to the Denver Post and believes in the organization’s mission wholeheartedly. Reach her at [email protected] or on Twitter @BarbaraPlatts.