Going Public

The fight is on at Colorado Public Radio, where one high-powered boardmember has resigned, and at the Denver Post, where the bloodletting has begun in earnest.

In other words, they're restricting their comments to the boardroom.

Shortfall: Meanwhile, at the Denver Post, harsh reality has struck another blow. In April, managers announced their desire to trim the editorial roster by 37 positions through buyouts aimed at workers aged fifty and up. On June 9, Post editor Greg Moore sent out a memo revealing that just sixteen employees had accepted the deal, which sports a seven-day "recision period" designed for takers who change their mind prior to deadline day, June 15. But instead of waiting for this week to pass, Post bosses lowered the boom on five staffers whose employment isn't governed by a newspaper guild contract. Notable among them are columnist Jim Spencer, Sunday Perspective editor Todd Engdahl and Carla Kimbrough-Robinson, who was charged with recruiting — a chore there isn't much call for these days.

The contingent leaving voluntarily is led by media columnist Dick Kreck, who's a buyout veteran, having taken a deal in June 1987, when then-Post owner Times Mirror was slashing expenses in the hopes of attracting a buyer, before returning the next year. He says he was considering leaving in 2008, but he'll receive a year's pay for taking the buyout — "and I thought, why would I work another year when I can get the money now?"

Frances Koncilja fears for the future of Colorado Public Radio.
Mark Manger
Frances Koncilja fears for the future of Colorado Public Radio.

Three other staffers had differing reasons for accepting the buyout. Feature writer Jack Cox took the offer because of its improved health-insurance component. Food writer Ellen Sweets experienced the deaths of three people close to her in the past year or so, including columnist Molly Ivins, and she decided she shouldn't wait any longer to travel and do other things she's been putting off. And Washington, D.C.-based political writer John Aloysius Farrell signed up because he agreed to write a biography of famed attorney Clarence Darrow before Denver was awarded the 2008 Democratic convention — and afterward, he realized that he couldn't do justice to both.

Farrell's decision represents a huge hit for the paper, since he'd been expected to head up coverage of next year's presidential race in addition to fronting the convention team — and his departure has led to speculation that MediaNews might shutter its Washington bureau to further cut costs. With the election approaching, Farrell doesn't expect such a move, but he acknowledges that the number of staffers is down by half from the bureau's high-water mark, fourteen.

More shrinkage is coming, and Kreck thinks that's unfortunate. In May, he wrote an opinion piece about the future of newspapers filled with "unsolicited advice" for improving dailies' dire situation. Among his suggestions: "Stop trimming features like special-interest columns.... Giving readers less doesn't attract more of them"; "Stop chasing 'youth' readers with allegedly hip features written by people well beyond their youth. Under-20s don't read the paper, never will"; and "Hire, don't fire reporters. More and better coverage doesn't come from fewer newsgatherers."

When asked about this essay, Kreck says he didn't hear from a single supervisor about it. Either they weren't paying attention or, more likely, they've come to very different conclusions.

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