Protest: 55 Denver Post journalists say they’re ‘outraged at the unconscionable censorship’ at their paper

Protest: 55 Denver Post journalists say they’re ‘outraged at the unconscionable censorship’ at their paper

Following the sudden Thursday resignation of Denver Post editorial page editor Chuck Plunkett after an editorial he authored about the paper’s hedge-fund owners was spiked by higher-ups, more than 50 journalists at the paper signed onto a letter supporting him.

“Newspapers tell the truth. They must. Always,” the letter begins. “That is why we, the newsroom of The Denver Post, are outraged at the unconscionable censorship imposed on our now-former editorial page editor, Chuck Plunkett. Chuck told the truth, eloquently and pointedly. And in that our newspaper’s corporate ownership — Digital First Media and the hedge fund Alden Global Capital — saw something to fear, not to champion.”

Following Plunkett’s resignation, two senior editors of The Denver Post also resigned. And so did the paper’s chairman, Dean Singleton, who gave a lengthy interview to Westword about why. Among the reasons, he said, “I have total disagreement with how they’re managing the place, but I’m not going to stand up and be overly critical of them. They’ve got the keys to the car and they can drive it any way they want to. But they’re not driving it in a way that I want to be a passenger of the car.”

Denver Post employees plan to rally outside their printing facility in Adams County at noon tomorrow, and a contingent flew to New York City where they plan to protest outside the building owned by Digital First Media’s primary controller, the Alden Global Capital hedge fund. They want the company to “invest in the newspaper or sell it to someone who cares about Colorado.”

The full letter follows:

Newspapers tell the truth.

They must. Always.

That is why we, the newsroom of The Denver Post, are outraged at the unconscionable censorship imposed on our now-former editorial page editor, Chuck Plunkett. Chuck told the truth, eloquently and pointedly. And in that our newspaper’s corporate ownership — Digital First Media and the hedge fund Alden Global Capital — saw something to fear, not to champion.

Chuck resigned Thursday after the chief operating officer of DFM, Guy Gilmore, blocked Chuck from publishing an editorial that forcefully criticized DFM and Alden. Chuck’s resignation followed the firing last month of the editorial page editor for our corporate sibling, the Boulder Daily Camera, who also spoke out against our owners. This censorship harms our readers, and we are concerned it also threatens the newsroom’s independence. It requires journalists to work in an unacceptable climate of intimidation, worried that telling the truth will lead to dismissal.

For years, the companies have blamed journalists and the reading public for the steady decline in their newspapers’ quality. In Chuck’s banned editorial, you can read the facts: According to an independent report, Alden and DFM reaped $160 million in profits from their newspapers across the country in 2017, including $28 million from The Denver Post.

In that time, the corporate owners — led by Alden bosses Heath Freeman and Randall Smith — slashed budgets and laid off reporters, editors, photographers, designers, producers, pressmen, advertising reps, customer service personnel and other members of the newspaper family. Journalism in those places withered, the powerful impact on community and accountability that newspapers provide did too, and only a handful of wealthy individuals benefited.

Those are not the actions of owners who appear to care about journalism or about Colorado.

Though Chuck’s province at the newspaper was opinion and we, the newsroom, operate with strict ethical rules for objectivity, we have always shared a common purpose. We tell the truth, even when it is difficult. We tell the truth, even when the subject hits close to home.

There was an inscription that decorated the front of one of The Denver Post’s earliest buildings that read:

“O Justice, when expelled from other habitations, make this thy dwelling place.”

For 125 years, that has been a solemn vow that The Denver Post has made to its readers, and it is one Chuck and we in the newsroom intend to keep.

It has become vividly clear that Alden and DFM do not share in that vow. It has become vividly clear that they are undeserving of owning The Denver Post and of serving you. It has become vividly clear that they must either invest in the newspaper or sell it to someone who cares about Colorado, and they must do it immediately.

That is the truth.

The 55 journalists who signed it:

John Aguilar, Suburbs Reporter
Joe Amon, Photographer
Torin Berge, Deputy Sports Editor
Dan Boniface, Digital Director, Sports
Amy Brothers, Digital Photo/Video Editor
Jennifer Brown, Investigations Reporter
Mike Chambers, Avalanche Reporter
Hyoung Chang, Photographer
Tamara Chuang, Technology Reporter
Dana Coffield, Senior Editor
Adrian Crawford, Digital Producer
Andy Cross, Photographer
Barb Ellis, Features Editor
Bruce Finley, Environment Reporter
Peyton Garcia, Community Journalist
Susan Gonzalez, Digital Producer
Sara Grant, Editor, The Know
Greg Griffin, Business/Investigations Editor
Kevin Hamm, Digital Producer
Elizabeth Hernandez, Breaking News Reporter
TJ Hutchinson, Systems Editor
John Ingold, Health/Enterprise Reporter
Mike Judson, Assistant Editor
Eric J. Lubbers, Director of Innovation
Mark Matthews, Politics Reporter
David Migoya, Investigations Reporter
Kirk Mitchell, Breaking News Reporter
Scott Monserud, Assistant Managing Editor, Sports
John Mossman, Copy Editor
Jon Murray, City Hall Reporter
Joe Nguyen, Digital Producer
Kieran Nicholson, Breaking News Reporter
AAron Ontiveroz, Visual Journalist
Chris Osher, Investigations Reporter
Jesse Paul, Politics Reporter
Noelle Phillips, Police Reporter
Lori Punko, Content Coordinator
Helen Richardson, Photographer
Chris Rickett, Politics Editor
Becky Risch, Digital Director 
Dena Rosenberry, Deputy City Editor
Joe Rubino, Business Reporter
Larry Ryckman, Senior Editor
Mario Sanelli, Editorial Assistant
RJ Sangosti, Photographer
Patrick Saunders, Rockies Reporter
Daniel J. Schneider, Digital Producer
Megan Schrader, Editorial Writer
Kevin Simpson, General Assignment/Enterprise Reporter
Aldo Svaldi, Real Estate/Economy Reporter
Patrick Traylor, Photo Editor
Alicia Wallace, Business Reporter
John Wenzel, Reporter
Monte Whaley, Education Reporter
Danika Worthington, Breaking News Reporter

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.

4 Comments

  1. john in denver on said:

    I wonder if there will be “adjunct” signings from the Boulder Camera.

    Or even more likely to get notice, a statement from “partners” of the Denver Post (The Denver Channel / Channel 7, Washington Post) or advertisers in the Post.

  2. Sue Mullins on said:

    Yeah! At great personal risk, these folks have taken a stand for the ethics of their profession and in support of former POST leadership who provided leadership for truth. Subscribers need to support them by cancelling our subscriptions. Clearly, they know that their jobs are now at risk. What they need is support.

  3. FIN D/J on said:

    I support these writers and the Writer’s Guild. Time to sell our paper back to U.S. citizens, Alden. Let it go.

  4. FIN D/J on said:

    I support these writers and the Writer’s Guild. Time to sell our paper back to us citizens, Alden. Let it go.

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