The staff of The Denver Post has been fighting for their professional survival ever since it was purchased by the Alden Global Capital vulture fund in 2010, and no one has taken a stronger stand than Editorial Page Editor Chuck Plunkett.
Instead of quietly enabling the piecemeal destruction of the newsroom he loves, Plunkett has gone to the mat for his people. This Working Class Hero correctly discerned that they were going to be parted out by Wall Street like a steer in a meatpacking plant. Even as Editor-In-Chief Lee Ann Colacioppo, an ambitious second-stringer who should have been making similar ethical stands, was monetizing her own integrity and playing ball with the enemy like a modern-day sonderkommando.
Last week, Plunkett resigned in protest after Alden and its corporate stooges spiked an editorial his team had produced about their war on America's free press. It came just one week after Alden fired Boulder Daily Camera Editorial Page Editor Dave Krieger for an editorial lambasting its bottom feeding ways.
"This company is a parasite,” Denver Post Reporter Joe Rubino told the Columbia Journalism Review. “They fear a free press and do not belong in the (news) business.”
Alden's ongoing destruction of The Denver Post, a newspaper which should be growing by leaps and bounds, is being repeated across the nation by predatory hedge funds and private equity funds.
The same groups are pouring money into the propaganda vehicles of The Right Wing Noise Machine, like Breitbart and Fox News, which have spent most of the past 20 years demonizing liberals.
Why should you care?
Because their knowing lies and sins of omission are meant to make the masses think liberals and the free press - two of the foremost protectors of American democracy and equality - are the enemy.
True liberalism has the same values as America itself: equality, democracy, freedom and taking care of the needy. It's not the vehicle of elitist hypocrisy the professional liars of the Right make it out to be. It champions the masses.
That's precisely why liberals and public service journalists are being vilified by those who want to replace representative democracy with the tyranny of the rich, hereditary rule and corporate oligarchy.
The painful truth is that Wall Street is using the rise of a global economy with no global government or regulation as a guise for achieving all three of those villainous goals right now.
To destroy democracy they must first destroy its champions.
That's why Plunkett's resignation is a cause for celebration. Not sadness.
Homeboy went out on his shield, by taking a principled stand in defense of the freedom of the press. If you have to die professionally as a journalism lifer, fighting the good fight is one of the best ways to go.
It sure as hell beats being a sellout like Colacioppo (right). Or going out with a whimper after she replaces you with some clueless kid fresh out of journalism school, who is willing to regurgitate press releases for peanuts and call it "news."
The Cynical Times salutes Chuck Plunkett. In honor of his principled sacrifice we are running the full text of his spiked editorial below.
Enjoy the article, which is a humdinger, and understand that you won't be seeing as much of this kind of public service in the future.
Because you vote for billionaires, which is the same as voting for Wall Street greed. Unless you're a billionaire too, it's not going to have a happy ending.
Alden Capital is as UnAmerican as Eugene McCarthy
Its Wanton Greed is Killing Our Free Press
A SERIOUS THREAT to journalism in Colorado and across the country is only growing stronger. Papers owned by Alden Global Capital and operated by Digital First Media now suffer not just from neglect, but outright censorship.
Early last month, we called on Alden to reform its business practices or sell to more responsible owners. Now developments suggest our management not only didn’t get the message, it is trying to silence the messengers.
On April 25, the editorial page editor of Boulder’s Daily Camera – Dave Krieger – was fired, and so far there is no word on whether his position will be refilled. While there are legitimate questions about whether Krieger’s actions warranted his dismissal, the relevant answers are complex, and can easily be seen from his perspective.
Meanwhile, our sister paper remains without an independent editorial board, and the city it seeks to cover and serve is outraged. Boulder’s City Council decried Krieger’s ouster this week, and requested that the editorial pages be restored.
They deserve immediate assurances, and action.
The Camera is operated by Digital First Media, the same parent company that manages The Denver Post, the Longmont Times-Call and many other local papers. Digital First Media’s controlling owner, the New York City hedge fund Alden Global Capital, appears intent on reaping out-sized profits while its newsrooms wither.
Reporters from many non-Alden newsrooms have continued to shed light on the company’s controversial practices. Last week, the national media expert Ken Doctor published a blockbuster account titled “Alden Global Capital is making so much money wrecking local journalism it might not want to stop anytime soon.”
Doctor relied on insiders who said the privately held Alden made 19 percent profit in Colorado. Company-wide, its operating margin of 17 percent represented a haul of almost $160 million and surpassed its industry peers.
While we cheer economic success, we note that such profits suggest many local papers shouldn’t be in such dire straits, and that the communities in which their journalists toil are being underserved. Here in Denver, the cuts have been so draconian – The Post now employs roughly 70 journalists to cover a city of more than 700,000 – we must shake our heads in shame and agree with those critics who say our readers are being badly underserved.
Krieger meant to call attention to this dynamic for Boulder readers. He worked through proper channels to write an editorial that sought more responsible management, but was rebuffed by the paper’s publisher, who, of course, reports to Digital First Media. Though the Camera’s editor voted with its editorial page editor to publish the editorial, the publisher nixed it. He did so on orders from Digital First Media chief Guy Gilmore.
Krieger published the editorial anyway, on the blog Boulder Free Press.
Normally, we would view such an action as insubordination. A newspaper’s owner has the right to reject any of its offerings, and should be able to expect its staff will follow orders.
But our industry demands transparency and responsible behavior from the entities and people its newsrooms cover, and best practices dictate that journalists don’t shirk their duties even when the story turns to management or their own.
Also, last week we learned that Digital First Media has demanded at some of its papers (i.e., likely all of them) that any mention of the company or of Alden must be screened by top editors before publication.
Journalism’s mission is too important for such atrocious apostasy.
We renew our call for Alden to reinvest in its newsrooms, or release us to better ownership.