Benjamin Hochman Follows Kevin Dale Out of Denver Post, Silence From Editor
Late last month, we told you about twenty journalists leaving the Denver Post — nineteen by way of a voluntary buyout, one via the elimination of his position.
Since then, the exodus has continued — first senior news editor Kevin Dale, who's been named the executive editor of Cronkite News at Arizona PBS, and, more recently, Benjamin Hochman, a sports columnist who's taken a similar position at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Given the number of big names that took the buyout (including political reporter Lynn Bartels and film critic Lisa Kennedy), the loss of Dale and Hochman can hardly be considered good news for the Post, which was put up for sale last year. Thus far, no takers.
More surprising, however, is Post editor Greg Moore's lack of response to inquiries from Westword for comment about the latest departures — four separate requests since August 6.
In the past, Moore has been extraordinarily accessible to Westword no matter how difficult the developments, even getting back to us on days off or during vacations. And while there may be a perfectly reasonable explanation for the radio silence this time around (he could be off the grid or his phone may be broken), it certainly can't be fun to talk about what's been happening at the Post of late.
Things aren't any better for the paper's reeling parent company, Digital First Media. Last week, as noted by Poynter's MediaWire page, Dave Butler, the editor in chief of DFM newspapers nationwide, announced that he plans to retire this fall — a decision he thought would have been made for him by now. His memo about the move reads in part, "Like many of you, we had expected that the company would be sold and that new management would come — and I would go out! Well, that obviously didn’t happen so I have been reflecting on what to do and concluded that for personal and professional reasons, now is the right time to go."
This news came only days after Moore issued a memo about Dale, who had served as his right-hand man in recent years. The memo reads:
I am sorry to have to announce that the inestimable Kevin Dale, our news director and my trusted deputy, is leaving The Post for a great opportunity at the Cronkite School at Arizona State University.
I don’t need to tell you how important he has been to The Post or how much he will be missed. Kevin has broad shoulders and handled every major story that came down the pike, collaborated with and mentored our department heads, was a key strategist as we navigated transformation and led our digital operation to stellar heights.
Kevin was a terrific sports editor and managed his department creatively and supremely. It was that leadership that really caught my attention. Soon he was in running the Sunday newspaper and in a stroke of genius I put him in charge of planning for the 2008 DNC. He developed and executed an excellent plan, putting together an interdepartmental team that did us proud during those five days in August.
Soon after he took over our digital operation. He made himself an expert in that realm and put together an amazing team that helped train and transform our staff. As you all know, a major reason we won the Pulitzer for Aurora was our outstanding digital coverage of that unforgettable tragedy.
As our News Director since 2009, Kevin has been an incredible leader and effective communicator. He has been all about excellence and developing the people who work here.
In his new job, Kevin will be executive editor of Cronkite News at Arizona PBS, a multiplatform daily news operation and innovation center operated by the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. He will be responsible for all news-gathering operations, overseeing the full-time editor/professors and 120 students who produce daily content from bureaus in Phoenix, Washington and Los Angeles.
It is a great opportunity and as much as we will miss him, I know we all wish him well.
Kevin will be around for the next few weeks. Please make sure you take some time to express our gratitude for his terrific service to The Post during an amazing 15 years here.
Gregory L. Moore
The Denver Post
Unlike Dale, whose work has been mainly behind the scenes, Hochman has been among the most prominent public faces of thePost
in recent years: young, vital, funny, savvy when it comes to social media and video, and willing to take part in attention-getting stunts like running with Ralphie, the CU Boulder mascot, during a game last year, as seen in the following clip:
But as Hochman notes in his Twitter bio, he's a "St. Louis native, Mizzou alum." And getting the chance to go back to his stomping grounds proved mighty appealing to him.
Here's how he announced his jump to the Post-Dispatch on Twitter:
Well, there is news. I'm moving to my hometown of St. Louis, where I will be sports columnist for The St. Louis Post-Dispatch.— Benjamin Hochman (@hochman) August 5, 2015
That message was followed by this one:
I have LOVED my time at Denver Post. We have such a talented team & I'm proud of our work. I wasn't looking to leave, but home came calling.— Benjamin Hochman (@hochman) August 5, 2015
Hochman's switch makes perfect sense from a personal standpoint. Yet the sheer number of people leaving the Post right now suggests that plenty of those with the opportunity to arrange a soft landing are getting out while the getting is good.
In our e-mail interview requests to Moore, we noted that "some of our less-kind readers have used the 'sinking ship' description" in connection with the journalists who've moved on. In that context, we asked, "Is that unfair?"
When and if Moore gets back to us and addresses this question, we'll share his answer.
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