Employees of Colorado’s largest newspaper rallied outside their printing plant Tuesday calling on The Denver Post’s hedge-fund owner to sell the paper.
“What do we want? New owners,” they chanted. “When do we want it? Now. Hey-hey, Ho-ho, Alden Global’s got to go.”
That’s a reference to the New York City-based private equity firm that controls Digital First Media, which owns The Post. The company has cut deeply into the paper in recent years, most recently with a directive for management to lay off 30 newsroom employees in March, despite reports of high company profit margins. The paper now has around 70 reporters, down from around 300 in its heyday.
Protestors marched from the front doors of the paper’s Adams County printing a plant, where the newsroom relocated earlier this year from its iconic building in downtown Denver as another cost-cutting measure.
Frank Donato, who has worked as a pressman at the printing facility since 1993, said it’s not just journalists who have suffered job losses. “Our numbers have been decimated over the years,” he said. “Call, write, get the politicians involved. The pressure needs to be put on Alden [Global] Capital if they’re not going to bring the paper around, to sell it to someone who will.”
Wearing T-shirts bearing the phrase #NewsMatters, journalists gathered around former editorial page editor Chuck Plunkett, who resigned in protest last week after he says higher-ups at the company refused to run an editorial he wrote that was critical of the paper’s owners. His resignation, which gained national attention, was followed by that of senior editors Dana Coffield and Larry Ryckman. Former Denver Post Chairman Dean Singleton also stepped down. Speaking to Poynter, Ryckman said, “I had more freedom as a journalist in Russia than I did under Alden Capital.”
“I’m tired of watching people walk our doors, good quality people like you,” Plunkett said, ringed by Post staffers and several TV cameras on the grass near The Denver Post’s sign on an industrial zone across the street from a strip mall of liquor and auto paint supply storefronts. “Keep doing what you’re doing and don’t let the vultures get you down.”
The protest outside the Denver Post was a local counterpart to a similar rally at the offices of Alden Global Capital in New York City that also counted employees from other Digital First Media newspapers. Some Denver Post reporters and members of the Denver Newspaper Guild flew there to join in.
On Monday, 55 Denver Post journalists signed onto a letter saying they were “outraged at the unconscionable censorship” at the paper, and reiterating their hope that company sells it to someone “who cares about Colorado.”
John Wenzel, a reporter who has been at the paper for almost 18 years, bemoaned the corporate slashing as the company maintained double-digit profit margins. “We have nothing to lose except our livelihoods, our careers, accountability for the city,” he said. “This is why we’re here and doing this right now … things have come to a head. If Alden does not act now, The Denver Post is not going to continue to cover the community.”