It should come as no surprise to anyone that in 2018, the print newspaper industry is a dying one. Even further, smaller media outlets face a continual threat to their editorial independence as a result of corporate consolidation and greedy ownership that has put little effort into uplifting a battered free press.
What’s more of a surprise is that one newspaper, The Denver Post, has chosen to boldly fight back against its New York-based hedge fund owner, Alden Global Capital. At a time when the president has waged his own personal war against outlets that criticize him, the fight is arguably more necessary than ever before.
Faced with having to layoff 30 employees, a decision backed by its hedge fund owner, the Post openly questioned the decision in a scathing editorial on Friday. The newsroom has already been plagued with cuts in the past, and already had less than 100 employees.
"News matters," the headline read.
"The cuts, backed by our owner, the New York City hedge fund Alden Global Capital, also are a mystery, if you look at them from the point of view of those of us intent on running a serious news operation befitting the city that bears our name," the editorial read. "Media experts locally and nationally question why our future looks so bleak, as many newspapers still enjoy double-digit profits and our management reported solid profits as recently as last year."
But the paper made it clear that it wasn’t just fighting for its own survival and ability to deliver important stories, it was standing up for all outlets under Digital First Media.
"We call for action. Consider this editorial and this Sunday’s Perspective offerings a plea to Alden — owner of Digital First Media, one of the largest newspaper chains in the country — to rethink its business strategy across all its newspaper holdings," read the editorial.
Several other stories were also published on Friday, by the editorial page editor, Chuck Plunkett. "I had to do it because it was the right thing to do," he told the New York Times. "If that means that I lose my job trying to stand up for my readers, then that means I’m not working for the right people anyway."
The priorities of Digital First Media have also not gone unnoticed.
While he guts newspapers across the country & decimates the #Denverpost with layoffs, Digital First Media chairman Heath Freeman of vulture hedge fund Alden Global Capital is expanding his waterfront mansion in Montauk NY. #Aldenexposed pic.twitter.com/p5h6QjbWqG
— Thomas Peele (@thomas_peele) April 7, 2018
Perhaps most importantly, the paper called on the public to simply "demand better" because the free press is nothing without a public willing to fight for it.
"Consider this also a signal to our community and civic leaders that they ought to demand better. Denver deserves a newspaper owner who supports its newsroom," the editorial continued. "If Alden isn’t willing to do good journalism here, it should sell The Post to owners who will."
In what could only be described as a plea for help, the Post made the case for its vital importance:
A flagship local newspaper like The Post plays a critically important role in its city and state: It provides a public record of the good and the bad, serves as a watchdog against public and private corruption, offers a free marketplace of ideas and stands as a lighthouse reflective and protective of — and accountable to — a community’s values and goals. A news organization like ours ought to be seen, especially by our owner, as a necessary public institution vital to the very maintenance of our grand democratic experiment.
The Post, which was first created in 1892, serves a city with roughly 700,000 residents, and has left its mark on the world of journalism with nine Pulitzer Prizes, the Times noted.
The Post’s writers have also been outspoken on Twitter, in order to share how decisions to cut back on newsrooms will impact their lives.
I am so proud to work for this brave newspaper staff. I’ve been asked if I’m afraid of losing my job for speaking out against our owners. I am afraid of losing my job due to our owners completely killing Colorado’s largest newspaper. #AldenExposed #NewsMatters
— Elizabeth Hernandez (@ehernandez) April 7, 2018