When a hedge fund tries to kill the newspapers it owns, journalists must fight back

When a hedge fund tries to kill the newspapers it owns, journalists must fight back

Skilled newspaper journalists aren’t recognized for publicly expressing their opinions, so think about my shock again in June 2016 when my Denver Publish colleagues requested me if I’d be part of them in a protest.

My colleagues had been planning to show in opposition to a New York hedge fund that was choking out a revered Colorado establishment, a Denver enterprise that had served the general public for greater than a century.

Fellow editors, reporters, web page designers and artists — usually recognized exterior the newsroom for his or her unbiased public presence and stringent moral requirements — made T-shirts and picket indicators, organized a slate of audio system and invited media retailers with which The Publish competes to attend.

If this seems like a scene out of a dystopian novel, you’re not that far off. Staff of The Denver Publish had been, the truth is, protesting their very own.

We had been protesting Alden International Capital, the Manhattan hedge fund that owns The Publish and plenty of different papers — together with Boulder’s Each day Digicam, the Longmont Occasions-Name and esteemed American dailies from San Jose, Calif., to Trenton, N.J.

The protest drew loads of consideration, particularly as a result of this very unlikely of picketing demographics was on the market elevating hell, shouting concerning the significance of the fourth property and holding indicators that learn “Democracy Is determined by Journalism” and “Journalists Maintain the Highly effective Accountable.” However as unlikely because it was to see journalists protesting their very own paper’s possession on the entrance steps of the newsroom, it’s even stranger to see those self same journalists protesting the paper’s possession in its personal pages.

But right here we’re, declaring to all who will pay attention that Alden International Capital — “one of the crucial ruthless of the company strip-miners seemingly intent on destroying native journalism,” in accordance with Washington Publish media columnist Margaret Sullivan — is systematically gutting The Denver Publish and different Pulitzer-winning newspapers all through the nation.

These are determined measures, to make certain; protesting definitely doesn’t come naturally to journalists, nor does penning opinion items concentrating on a newspaper’s possession. To an extent, that is the other of what we’ve been skilled to do since Journalism 101.

However these are additionally determined instances, and if we don’t converse up now, then we shall be destined to witness the demise of our metropolis’s largest and most important news-gathering operations — and what would occur to democracy then? Who would then maintain the highly effective, Alden International Capital included, accountable within the absence of a significant metropolitan each day newspaper?

Thoughts you, I’m now not a Publish staffer. I edited and wrote for the newspaper for 15 years earlier than resigning in December 2016, and I additionally labored for the Rocky Mountain Information for 4 years earlier than that. Colorado already misplaced the Rocky in 2009, and this most up-to-date slate of cuts at The Publish — involving 30 journalists in a newsroom that hardly numbers 100, representing the most important layoff by share within the newspaper’s historical past — forces us to think about a Denver with no substantive each day newspaper.

And that’s one thing I’m simply not keen to do.

At a time when Denver is booming and Colorado is rising and The Denver Publish is innovating, Alden International Capital is chopping workers, simply as they’ve since they first bought The Publish’s mother or father firm, Media Information Group, in 2010. As Bloomberg View columnist Joe Nocera wrote about these eight years of layoffs at The Publish and its sister papers carried out by Alden International Capital president Heath Freeman: “His layoffs aren’t simply painful. They’re savage.”

And so they’re particularly savage as a result of the profitability of Alden International Capital’s newspaper group, a.okay.a. Digital First Media, doesn’t appear to matter a lot. Printed studies have argued that The Publish is popping a wholesome revenue — a probability echoed by former DFM president and CEO Steve Rossi, who wrote in a 2017 staff-wide memo that the corporate was “solidly worthwhile” and that “promoting income has been considerably higher than that of our publicly traded trade friends.”

So why is a solidly worthwhile group providing buyouts and conducting layoffs as in the event that they’re going out of favor? That’s a topic for an additional piece, however I can’t suggest media author Ken Physician’s common evaluation sufficient — particularly his newest column on DFM, which covers a brand new Delaware lawsuit that alleges Alden International Capital yanked income from DFM newspapers and moved them into “poorly performing investments.”

There are sadly many extra terrible tales detailing Freeman’s heartless administration of Digital First Media, however he’s little greater than a vulture capitalist whose Nixonian legacy will contain the tried homicide of native American journalism, so let’s as a substitute give attention to the way forward for The Denver Publish and different DFM papers.

As a result of there’s a future there, and I wholeheartedly consider that.

Whereas Alden International Capital and Heath Freeman will all the time be remembered because the money-over-everything behemoths that tried genocide on their very personal newspaper group, they’ll finally tire of such devastating work and transfer onto one other trade in misery. And after they lastly promote these high quality American newspapers to a much less vicious company proprietor, or maybe even a community of native homeowners, these resource-starved papers and their too-lean staffs shall be able to rebuild their newsrooms and restore their reputations.

The papers then should regain the general public’s belief by overlaying what different retailers have let fall by the wayside. They may embolden their standing because the papers of report of their communities. They may begin nearly from scratch, constructing a enterprise from an precise digital-first mindset as a substitute of the enterprise mannequin that unsuccessfully tried to create digital dimes from print .

And when The Denver Publish and different papers emerge from the shameful shroud of Alden International Capital and Heath Freeman, they won’t go after their former possession with a sequence of hatchet-job items or one-sided, everything-and-the-kitchen-sink deep-dives; They received’t try this as a result of that may be vengeful and unethical, and whereas we journalists will get up for our colleagues and office when they’re below an unprecedented assault, we is not going to goal topics purely out of spite.

That’s simply not what skilled newspaper journalists do.

Ricardo Baca is the founding father of The Cannabist and The united statesand a former workers author and editor at The Denver Publish, the Corpus Christi Caller-Occasions and the Rocky Mountain Information. He now runs full-service communications company Grasslands.

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