Denver Post journalists gathered outside their offices and the New York City offices of Alden Global Capital on Tuesday to demand the paper’s hedge fund owner invest in its newsrooms or sell to someone who will.
The rallies happened at noon in each time zone. On the East Coast, four Post journalists joined staff from other newspapers owned by their parent company, Digital First Media, at Alden’s midtown Manhattan offices and attempted to deliver a petition. In the West, Post staffers from the newsroom and printing press operation walked out of their offices at the paper’s Adams County printing plant and stood by the side of Washington Street, chanting and waving signs.
The staff who walked out are Denver Newspaper Guild members, reporter Kevin Hamm said.
Among them was John Wenzel, a Denver Post staffer of 18 years who was joined at the rally by his wife, Kathleen St. John, and their 1-year-old daughter.
“This is just a long time coming,” Wenzel said. “Things came to a head and this is it. I don’t feel like we have a lot to lose at this point — other than my income, insurance and livelihood … so why not try to slow it down and stop it?”
Wenzel addressed the crowd once it had marched out to Washington Street, as did former editorial page editor Chuck Plunkett.
“For all these people to be out here publicly doing something that doesn’t feel comfortable for them shows the magnitude of what they feel like they’re up against,” Plunkett said, addressing television cameras and “folks watching at home.”
“… And these people have been working hard under impossible conditions for way too long, and it’s time for the people of Colorado to stand up and help these folks if they care about local journalism. And they should.”
Among the crowd rallying were some people formerly employed by the Post — recently and many years ago — and some never employed by the Post.
“Following the drama in the news I figured I’d come out and show support,” said Doug Grinbergs, of Louisville. “If The Denver Post and the Camera and the Colorado Daily and the Colorado Hometown Weekly … if they had a responsible owner, I’d be happy to support my local paper.”
Ahead of the rallies, 56 Post journalists signed a letter addressed to readers condemning Alden and DFM’s years-long neglect of their newspapers (the media group is the second-largest by circulation in the country) and for its recent censorship of an editorial critical of both companies.
Plunkett resigned over the censorship last Thursday. Senior editors Larry Ryckman and Dana Coffield followed him out the door the next day, as did Denver Post chairman and former owner Dean Singleton. Plunkett’s rejected editorial decrying the firing of editorial page editor Dave Krieger at the DFM-owned Boulder Daily Camera — who self-published a piece critical of the companies — was published by the Columbia Journalism Review on Monday.
In New York, Post reporters joined colleagues from around the country.
Several reporters flew in to visit Alden’s headquarters there for a coordinated protest against the steady cuts and new editorial meddling by Alden.
“It’s damaged our ability to serve as watchdogs for Denver and the front range at Colorado, and we haven’t heard anything from Alden Global Management, who owns Digital First Media, which is our parent company,” Post reporter Noelle Phillips said. Demonstrators put the finishing touches on a petition at a hotel two blocks from Alden’s offices in what is known as the Lipstick Building, at 885 3rd Ave., just east of Times Square in Manhattan and about 1,800 miles from the Post’s office. “We’re basically knocking on their front door. We’re here, listen to us. We either want you to invest in our newsroom or sell.”
The protesters rallied outside the building, and planned to attempt to deliver the petition to Alden.
“Alden is totally unaccountable,” Post reporter Joe Rubino said. “They don’t take our calls, their website is a joke, it’s a dead end. There’s not even a number or a place to email. This is why we’re doing it. We had to do it.”
Five demonstrators managed to enter the lobby to deliver the petition before building security blocked the revolving door. After a few tense moments, building staff refused to accept the petition, and protesters were thrown out.
“They refused to acknowledge that we were there,” Denver Post reporter Kieran Nicholson said. “They would not phone up to their office or send any type of message that we were there. We have 11,000 signatures asking them to invest or sell.”
On the program, hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan González, Krieger suggested that if recent reports about the company are accurate, the protests may not be effective, and that protesters may need to fight Alden economically if they want to see any real change.
“And as Juan will remember back in the days when both of us were newspaper guild people, the way you do that is you get subscribers to boycott those papers,” Krieger said. “You get a collective action, which subscribers commit to canceling their subscriptions if and when the organizer decides they can’t get a response from the company.”
At the rally, Hernandez advocated for a different role for news readers.
“At this point we’re asking our subscribers to make a lot of noise, to keep the issue in the public eye,” she said. “Pretty soon there might not be a local paper in Denver, if this continues. Alden just cuts people, so we know if you don’t subscribe, they’ll cut us more. If you want journalism in Denver, you’re going to have to invest.”
Freelance reporter Julian Lim and Denverite editor Dave Burdick contributed reporting.