The Denver Post’s ‘hedge fund Catch 22’ paywall

The Denver Post’s ‘hedge fund Catch 22’ paywall

Last week, Denver Post staffers “rallied around their paper’s new $11.99-per-month paywall, optimistic that the move might bring more resources to a beleaguered Post newsroom,” I wrote for Columbia Journalism Review’s United States Project. “But the paywall goes up at a rocky time for Colorado’s largest newspaper, in which layoffs, an impending move, and the sudden resignation of its publisher have left some at the paper feeling destabilized.”

The piece asks a question I and others thought should be asked given the recent years of public commentary— some of it coming from within the Post’s own newsroom— about the Digital First Media paper’s hedge-fund owner.To wit, from the piece:

During one week in 2016, Denver’s 5280 and alt-weekly Westword each published in-depth stories that scrutinized the private equity firm that controls DFM, an entity that has drawn the ire of union organizers at DFM papers across the country. This week, The Los Angeles Times reported “significant” impending newsroom layoffs at the Southern California News Group, a DFM-owned constellation of nearly a dozen daily papers and as many weeklies.”

So…

As The Denver Post asks its readers to pay for online content, some readers naturally might wonder if doing so will mean an investment into the newsroom and no more cuts, or a boost to corporate profits as layoffs continue.

It’s the “hedge fund Catch 22,” as Matt Sebastian, city editor of The Boulder Daily Camera, also owned by DFM, said. Some of the Post’s journalists were getting asked that question, too. Find out what The Denver Post’s editor had to say in the full story here. And make a point to read through reporter John Ingold’s Twitter posts about the situation and his impassioned plea for readers to help support the Post’s important work.

Colorado Springs TV station: B-b-b-b-but that’s what the cops say!

#ProTip on reader engagement: When a reader posts a comment on social media saying he or she finds a headline misleading, here’s how not to respond, courtesy of KKTV in the Springs:

 

Reverting to that’s “the term police use” when defending a headline against charges of unclear writing from a reader might not be the best move. Police use a lot of terms and that’s why so often local police stories in TV reports — and sometimes daily newspaper stories from coast to coast — are full of cop-speak and passive voice. A suspect was “unsteady on his feet.” Shots “were fired.” “A chase started.”

In this case, why not just write clearly what happened? “Police say an officer shot and killed someone in Pueblo.” These days, headlines are super important given their virality on social media. You hope everyone reads the story, but plenty won’t. In this case, a reader did— and then found the headline confusing after reading the story. Police and police spokespeople use certain language with the press because, like any government or entity dealing with the press, they often want to control the message— or muddle it. And because it’s “official,” often time-crunched reporters go with it as gospel. “I reported the facts I was given by the police,” sometimes isn’t the best look. Nor is writing how police talk just because that’s what they say.

Low-power to the people

The New York Times had a big recent piece datelined out of Seattle about the rise of low-power local radio, “where weird is good,” leading with a small station called KBFG:

Low-power nonprofit FM stations are the still, small voices of media. They whisper out from basements and attics, and from miniscule studios and on-the-fly live broadcasts like KBFG’s. They have traditionally been rural and often run by churches; many date to the early 2000s, when the first surge of federal licenses were issued.

But in the last year, a diverse new wave of stations has arrived in urban America, cranking up in cities from Miami to the Twin Cities in Minnesota, and especially here in the Northwest, where six community stations began to broadcast in Seattle. At least four more have started in Portland. Some are trying to become neighborhood bulletin boards, or voices of the counterculture or social justice. “Alternative” is the word that unites them.

In noting the story in their local news newsletter The Local Fix, Josh Stearns and Teresa Gorman pointed to some local stations “that showcase how important it can be for communities to share their own stories, and have the power and ownership to do so,” including one in Colorado. That would be KUVO, which Colorado Public Radio profiled last October. The station’s founder, Florence Hernandez-Ramos, and her friends “imagined KUVO would be a bilingual service by and for Hispanics in Colorado,” CPR reported. “On the station’s inaugural broadcast in 1985, she said it would carry, ‘the most innovative, culturally unique programming that the Denver metro area will probably ever see.'”

The FCC might have cracked down on Boulder-area pirate radio stations 

“A pair of unlicensed radio stations that for years had broadcast music, community events and more from high in the Boulder County foothills fell silent this week after reporting visits by the Federal Communications Commission,” reports The Boulder Daily Camera. “The operators of Nederland’s KNED 93.1 FM and Ward’s KWHR 90.5 FM each shut down their over-the-air broadcasts Wednesday following what appears to be increased focus by the FCC on pirate radio in Boulder County.”

From the story:

“We are under attack from the FCC,” the broadcasters behind KWHR, known as Way High Radio, declared on their Facebook page. Neither ever had been visited by the feds before, according to representatives of the two stations, though a predecessor — Radio Free Ned, broadcast out of an accountant’s office — was shut down by the FCC in 2002 after eight years on the air. Will Wiquist, the FCC’s deputy press secretary, would not confirm whether the commission took any enforcement action in Boulder County this week.

This comes after an FCC commissioner recently wrote a letter to a Longmont nonprofit news outlet to chastise it for what the commissioner called “tacit support” of a local pirate radio station.

Read the Camera’s interesting piece on pirate radio in Boulder here.

What you missed on the Sunday front pages

The Greeley Tribune considered the need for a seatbelt law in ColoradoThe Loveland Reporter-Herald covered anti-puppy-mill protestorsThe Steamboat Pilot put a local housing shortage on its coverThe Grand Junction Daily Sentinel had a local women’s march on the front page, as did The Pueblo ChieftainThe Boulder Daily CameraThe Denver Postand The Gazette in Colorado Springs. Vail Daily checked in on the big race for governor. The Coloradoan in Fort Collins reported local pot shops found an unlikely allyThe Durango Herald asked if the snowpack in Southwest Colorado could rebound.

A few Colorado news jobs that could be fun

The Colorado Springs Independent alt-weekly is hiring a general assignment reporter to “escape from dry beat reporting … to cherry-pick the best stories from around our fascinating region.” They’re looking for someone with a passion for alternative journalism to cover politics, the environment, marijuana, social issues, local development an people in the community.

Colorado Public Radio is looking for a news director to manage “day-to-day news coverage across all platforms” and to work with editors and reporters “to develop ideas for features, daily spots, interviews, and digital content.”

Marijuana Business Daily wants a business magazine editor to manage a team and freelancers, develop ideas, among other duties.

 

CU study: Incoming journalists are tech savvy but lack ‘the basics’

new paper out this week from the University of Colorado Boulder finds that while young journalists entering newsrooms these days might know how to edit video and audio, are native to the web and social media savvy, they “lack news judgment, interviewing skills and writing chops,” according to the graybeards all those youngins are joining in newsrooms.

“We get these fresh-faced kids who know all about Pro-Tools and Storify or whatever’s the flavor of the day, but can they interview someone? No,” said one digital journalist cited in the paper titled “We’ve lost the Basics.”

Ouch.

“Veteran journalists believe schools have overcorrected and begun to focus too much on technology at the expense of the fundamentals,” said study author Patrick Ferrucci, an assistant professor of journalism in the College of Media, Communication and Information, in a statement. For the paper, Ferrucci conducted in-depth interviews with dozens of journalists around the country about “how the digital revolution has changed the way they do their jobs.”

More from CU about the work:

In another study, Ferrucci found that journalists with more than 10 years of experience measured their success by the impact their stories had on others, catalyzing social or personal change. Younger journalists tended to pay more attention to personal recognition via tweets, retweets and seeing their stories go viral on the internet. “The less experienced you were, the more success was about your own profile being raised,” Ferrucci said. Less-experienced journalists also argued that “technology fundamentally altered journalism and norms need to evolve to reflect this reality,” the study found. As newsroom staffs shrink and more journalists work independently, Ferrucci believes the trend of veteran journalists passing skills and values down to newcomers could diminish, placing more responsibility on journalism programs to provide a well-rounded education.

Reactions from journalists on social media when I posted about it were mixed. “This appears like a dressed-up take-down of millennials by older folks,” wrote one in Georgia. “I came out of school knowing how to interview, use social media and write/edit copy, but I’m still behind the curve on what’s publicly available and where/how to find some of it. We got virtually none of that in my journalism classes,” said another in North Carolina. “Never saw the point of J-schools when a few semesters on your school’s independent newspaper (or working at the local daily) with a solid liberal arts degree would do,” offered an educator in Seattle. “I was lucky to be part of the final graduating class of CU’s former journalism school in 2011,” said a writer in Superior, Colorado. “We still learned basics of research, storytelling, and interviewing but also the new tech. Hope these kids get that same opportunity. Basics are key.”

The Boulder Daily Camera wrote up the story and caught up with its author. “Ferrucci placed part of the blame on journalism programs, even admitting CU’s new information college has been at fault,” wrote reporter Elizabeth Hernandez.

“I remember being in a newsroom a decade ago, and we’d always said that students didn’t know enough about technology,”  Ferrucci told the paper. “Now, it seems to go the other way. It was a really, really consistent theme with really no deviation: new journalists weren’t very good at a lot of basic stuff.”

Speaking of the basics… “Nobody tweet that,” the governor said. And then…

Political reporter John Frank scored a scoop for The Denver Post this week by following one of the basics: being in the room. His eye-popping story headlined “If Amazon doesn’t pick Denver, ‘there will be a sense of relief,’ Colorado governor says,” relied on remarks Colorado’s Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper made to members of a group in Denver.

From the story:

“There will be a sense of relief if they choose somewhere else, because there are a lot of challenges and lot of hard work we will be avoiding,” Hickenlooper told the City Club of Denver on Tuesday in response to a question about Amazon. The Democrat is one of the state’s chief recruiters in the effort to bring the Seattle-based company’s $5 billion second home to the Denver area, and he acknowledged the sentiment is a controversial one, particularly as other locations gush about the potential investment. “Nobody tweet that,” he quipped after his remarks.

The comments come after the state submitted an official bid to woo the corporate giant to Denver. “Hickenlooper said the state is ‘legitimately and sincerely’ pursuing the company, and he later clarified in an interview that he believes the positives outweigh the negatives,” Frank wrote. “I wouldn’t pursue it if I didn’t think it’s the right thing,” he quoted the governor as saying. After some fallout, Hickenlooper later said he was just joking in his remarks to the City Club crowd.

The governor’s candid remarks to members of the business community have emerged before, albeit in a different way. It was around this time two years ago when Hickenlooper barred multiple reporters from a talk he gave to a high-powered group called the Colorado Forum. Todd Shepherd, then of Complete Colorado, filed an open records request for the audio of his talk, and actually got it. The tape led to the revelation that Hickenlooper had seen polling showing a legislative budget fix he was proposing wouldn’t fly if put to Colorado voters on a statewide ballot. Filing open records requests is another basic. But in Frank’s instance, being there was better.

*This roundup appears a little differently as a published version of a weekly e-mailed newsletter about Colorado local news and media. If you’d like to add your e-mail address for the unabridged versions, please subscribe HERE.

Photo by Allen Tian

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About the Author

Corey Hutchins

is a journalist in Colorado, and Columbia Journalism Review's Rocky Mountain correspondent for the United States Project. Follow him on Twitter @CoreyHutchins and email him at CoreyHutchins [at] gmail [dot] com.

1 Comment

  1. TomF on said:

    I would be more likely to pay for access to the Denver Post if the people who own it now were to sell it to someone who wants to run a newspaper and has a commitment to producing a good product. It isn’t as though they haven’t had offers. For now it the PE or hedge fund or whatever that owns the paper keeps diminishing its resources while sucking whatever they can from the corpse. It also doesn’t help that they have changed the philsophy on the editorial page to the conservative side in an area of the state that trends progressive.

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