In the Face of Recurring Cuts, Denver Post Journalists Soldier On

This week's Westword cover story is a must-read for followers of the beleaguered print newspaper industry.

The headline for Alan Prendergast’s fantastic cover story in this week’s edition of Colorado alt-weekly Westword asks: “Can the Denver Post Survive Its Hedge-Fund Owners”? Beneath that chilling and timely question, the reporter offers a thoroughly detailed look at how things have progressed in recent years under Digital First Media and, subsequently, current owners Alden Global Capital, based in New York.

Towards the end of the feature piece, Prendergast boils down the headline question to the reporter level. Whether the troops can survive depends largely on a circulating rumor that more editorial staff cuts will be meted out in 2017:

The Post’s ability to attract Denver’s gold rush of millennials has been somewhat hamstrung by the staff cuts. Most of the paper’s arts and entertainment writers took the buyouts, leaving the “life and culture” section on life support. “A vibrant, growing city on its way to being a significant cultural contributor needs reporters, critics and writers to bring attention to percolating ideas and trends, to encourage discussion and identify the issues,” says Joanne Ostrow, the paper’s former TV and theater critic. “The hedge-fund folks are not interested in content. They are interested in increasing profits year to year.” …

A few months ago, a newsroom announcement that every Post reporter is expected to crank out one story a day, and some at least two, produced some grumbling about quotas. “The reaction in the newsroom was, ‘Now we’re a widget factory,’” Nicholson recalls. There hasn’t been much talk of quotas since, possibly because so many members of the Now Team seem to be generating multiple stories a day. Among several staffers who spoke to Westword anonymously, though, there appears to be growing anxiety about management’s obsession with page views and online traffic in general, concerns about prizing clickbait over quality journalism.

According to Prendergast, a recent attempt by billionaire Philip Anschutz to buy the Post was rebuffed, perhaps because the hedge-fund owners want to continue for now a “cash harvest” approach. Read-bookmark the Westword piece here.

Addendum (Sept. 29):
Today, Westword has an item about the departure from the Post of political reporter Joey Bunch. He’s moving to the Colorado Sprngs Gazette starting Oct. 3. Check out this quote from Bunch about the current state of Post affairs, which echos another part of the Prendergast article about the profitable paper being used as a vehicle to harvest cash:

“As far as things go with the hedge fund in New York, they’re robbing the Post blind,” he maintains. “I question their commitment to journalism. I hope somebody buys the Post soon, so they can invest in journalism instead of the hedge fund using us like an ATM.”

@hollywoodspin Richard Horgan is co-editor of Fishbowl.