Politicker.com shuts down Colorado, 11 other state sites, lays off reporters

Twelve Politicker political news sites around the country, including PolitickerCO.com in Colorado, were shut down and their reporters unexpectedly laid off Friday morning. The sites, billed as “Inside politics for political insiders,” covered news in 17 states and are owned by the Observer Media Group, based in New York.

Politicker.com sites in New Jersey, New York, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania will remain operating, according to a source with the company. Sites in Arizona, California, Colorado, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, Vermont and Washington state will disappear.

Most of the sites, including Colorado’s, employed a single reporter to cover local political news, which was then aggregated on a national site. Jeremy Pelzer, the lone PolitickerCO.com reporter, has been based out of the state Capitol since January and is among those who learned of the layoffs Friday morning, according to a source with the news organization.

The sites also published gossip and analysis from an anonymous “insider” who went by the pseudonym Wally Edge. National correspondent Alex Isenstadt, based out of Washington, D.C., and cartoonist Rob Tornoe also contribute to each state’s sites but were among those laid off Friday. D.C.-based editor Eric Pfeiffer also lost his job. Remaining editors will take a cut in pay.

The PolitckerCO.com site’s disappearance also means even fewer reporters will be covering Colorado’s statehouse, following a trend that has seen the number of Capitol bureau reporters cut nearly in half in recent years.

The closings come at the end of a tumultuous week in the news business, with a bankruptcy declaration from media giant Tribune Co., 2,000 layoffs announced by the newspaper chain Gannett Co., and the announcement that Denver’s oldest newspaper, the Rocky Mountain News, is for sale and could face shutdown. On Thursday, Moody’s Investors Services downgraded the credit of the Denver Post’s parent company to a rating suggesting “a substantial risk” of default, but the company disputed the meaning of that characterization.

Politicker.com editors and executives at Observer Media Group did not respond to a request for comment Friday morning.

UPDATE: On Friday afternoon, the PolitickerCO.com reporter posted the following story on the site, under the heading “Thanks and farewell, Colorado”:

To all PolitickerCO.com readers:

As you may have heard, most Politicker sites — including in Colorado — are being closed.

I’ve had the time of my life covering Colorado politics this year, and I’ve made friends for life. For future reference, I can be reached at jeremypelzer[at]gmail.com.

Thanks so much for reading!

Jeremy Pelzer

Sources said the Colorado site would remain online through December, perhaps with occasional updates from the national desk, but that no further local reporting would be posted.

LATER UPDATE: The PolitckerCO site removed the above post from its reporter Friday afternoon, substituting a news feed from various Colorado sites, including The Denver Post, The Rocky Mountain News, Colorado Pols and The Colorado Independent.

The feeds could probably stand some tweaking, however, as posts dated Dec. 12 include the “news” that “Colorado voters waiting months to exhale let it out with a shout Tuesday night, hailing Barack Obama’s presidential victory from packed ballrooms, in crowded dens and out onto the streets until a red state turned blue in the face.”

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Ernest Luning

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