What can we do to nurture a healthy fourth estate in Colorado?
We think we can speak for you when we say the media fulfills an essential role in democracy – a free press is what makes our government accountable, speaking truth to power. Reporters are our institutional watchdogs.
Without it, we the people wouldn't have been able to end Rep. Joseph McCarthy's "Un-American Activities Committee" scourge, advance the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s, force the resignation of President Richard Nixon for the Watergate scandal nor rein in NSA intelligence gathering of U.S. citizens' phone records.
In between the allegations of "fake news," censorship, an iffy business model and brutal newsroom downsizing, journalism is in serious danger.
Here in Colorado the situation is escalating at the Denver Post. Recently current and former Denver Post employees protested Alden Global Capital's abuse of our only statewide daily newspaper, as reported by the Colorado Independent and many other outlets. At this point, Alden Global is sucking the cash out of the Post to fund other investments as fast as possible, even as the newspaper has been profitable. As the Nieman Lab analyst Ken Doctor wrote, “Alden Global Capital is making so much money wrecking local journalism it might not want to stop anytime soon.”
What does this look like? Censorship of opinion pieces critical of their management – which has sparked an exodus of top editors and even the DP board chair. The newsroom staff has shrunk from 200+ in the good old days to about 60 today, which means that coverage is spotty and copyediting is a joke. The editorial page has been shoehorned into one page of national wire columns from two larger-sized pages that were full of local opinions just a few years ago.
Every action Alden Global takes means we get less news and makes our subscriptions less worthwhile. Honestly, the paper could die, leading one legislator to quip, "Hey, that means we can do whatever we want, apparently gleeful that lawmakers might have the opportunity to run amok without scrutiny from the watchful media. This is bad for Colorado and our people.
How To Help: No one knows exactly how to save the Denver Post – but here are some initial ideas for concrete actions to help:
1. Sign a petition to Alden asking them to sell to Coloradans who want to run the paper – plus post on social media with #NewsMatters and talk to folks IRL to about the petition, too
2. Subscribe online to continue supporting the remaining journalists
3. Attend this lunch next week to learn how to survive the Colorado news apocalypse
It's up to all of us to protect local journalism (and our democracy) – do your part today.