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In a move described as both extraordinary and brave, the editorial board of the Denver Post publicly skewered its hedge-fund owner in a searing article published Friday. The message was plain: Sell the paper before it’s too late.
The Post has endured multiple rounds of layoffs since 2010, when Alden Global Capital purchased the paper’s parent company, Media News Group (now Digital First Media), and adopted what’s been described as a “strip-mining” approach to management. According to the editorial, Alden has slashed the Post’s staff by almost two-thirds — and that’s despite the paper’s reported profitability. As of next week, only 100 staffers will remain.
“Denver deserves a newspaper owner who supports its newsroom,” the board wrote. “If Alden isn’t willing to do good journalism here, it should sell the Post to owners who will.”
Otherwise, the journalists warned, the paper — which has been in circulation since 1892 and boasts nine Pulitzer Prizes — will be “rotting bones” in a few years, leaving “a major city in an important political region … without a newspaper.”
The journalists of the Denver Post have gone in open revolt against their hedge-fund owner, asking for the paper to be sold before Alden Global Capital kills it. https://t.co/6xBztEJY2s
— Matt Pearce 🦅 (@mattdpearce) April 6, 2018
Other than the staff editorial, the Post published five other opinion articles on Friday related to its decline under Alden. In one, veteran journalist and former Post editor Gregory Moore urged government, business and community leaders to come together to find a solution to save the decimated paper.
“The Post has been an integral part of progress in Colorado,” Moore wrote. “It helped the community heal after fires, floods and unspeakable gun violence. It explained how we were changing politically and demographically, and it exposed corruption and malfeasance. It has provided a window and a mirror to help us become a better community.”
“Not everybody loves it, but everybody needs it — whether they know it or not,” he added.
Many journalists and others reacted to the Post’s “open revolt” with words of awe and support. Los Angeles Times editor Mitchell Landsberg described the coverage as “remarkable.”
“This is what brave looks like,” wrote Bloomberg View columnist Joe Nocera.
This is a remarkable thing for a newspaper to do. The Denver Post is calling on its hedge fund owners, Alden Global Capital (which also owns the San Jose Mercury News) to sell the paper after it cut two-thirds of the Post newsroom.https://t.co/Bsd4bFS8Z7
— Mike Rosenberg (@ByRosenberg) April 6, 2018
This is just remarkable. A newspaper calling out the “cynical strategy” of its owners, and declaring: “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.” https://t.co/7jAOU6qZ4g
— Mitchell Landsberg (@LATlands) April 6, 2018
One of the most courageous things I have seen in journalism in years. Truly speaking truth to power. Chuck Plunkett is my hero. Will the community rise to the clarion call? I hope so! https://t.co/ytHXSlhUhZ
— Gregory Moore (@gregorymoore) April 6, 2018
Earlier on Friday, the Post was called out for a glaring mistake on the cover of its print edition’s Life & Culture section. In an article described as the “ultimate visitors guide” to Denver’s Coors Field,” the paper erroneously printed a large photograph of Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia instead.
The paper was quick to admit to the mistake and published a tongue-in-cheek mea culpa. Still, the Post was harshly criticized by readers for the gaffe.
Many observers defended the paper, however, pointing out how hard it is for a newsroom to do its job well when it doesn’t have the resources to even scrape by.
Copy editors at the Post were among the first to be expunged from the paper. “The Post cannot do its job starved of resources the way it is now,” said Moore in his op-ed.
Weird how the Denver Post laid off a ton of journalists, then printed a photo of the stadium in Philadelphia with “Phillies” all over it and called it Coors Field, I’m sure those are two totally unrelated things that happened. https://t.co/0aGY5oym5O
— (16) Jesse Specolorado (@jessespector) April 6, 2018
In March, Alden admitted that it had taken hundreds of millions of dollars from its Digital First Media newspapers, including the Post, to finance the fund’s often-risky investments, including buying sovereign Greek debt and a failing pharmaceutical chain.
“Alden Global Capital has for years treated one of the biggest media companies in the country like a big ATM,” wrote Lee Schafer, a columnist for The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, last month. “Someday, it will run out of money.”