Another new development in the crazy world of Denver newspapers: Shortly after news broke that Moody's Investor Services had downgraded the credit rating of MediaNews Group, the owner of the Denver Post, MediaNews head Dean Singleton asked unions to open negotiations on new labor contracts as early as this week, saying he needs to cut costs by $20 million.
What is the Denver Newspaper Guild saying about this request? As little as possible right now. When contacted this morning, DNG spokesman Tony Mulligan declined even to comment about when he might be able to comment, offering only a statement that went out to assorted parties on Friday. It reads:
This morning, Dean Singleton met with the Denver Council of Newspaper Unions, a coalition of unions that represents employees at the DNA, the Post and the News. Singleton expressed some concern about the financial condition of the DNA and the Post. He then asked the unions to open the existing contracts early and begin talks next week. Leaders from the unions are currently discussing the situation with their respective national offices. The current contract between the Guild and the Post expires March 12, 2010.
Meanwhile, Singleton received the profile treatment in Sunday's New York Times, whose piece, "MediaNews Sees Bad Timing on Newspapers, Not Bad Bets," begins in grabby fashion:
Dean Singleton expanded his newspaper empire at the worst possible time, in the worst part of the country he could have chosen [California], and he has been paying the price ever since in plummeting advertising and shrinking papers. Yet somehow, even in today's adverse climate, he professes optimism.
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The rationale for Singleton's upbeat assessment is described like so:
In a rare burst of good news for him, new industry miseries could work to his benefit -- outside of California -- by weakening or eliminating competitors to his Denver Post and Pioneer Press in St. Paul.
Perhaps the Times would see the opportunity to renegotiate union contracts in Denver more than a year early as another positive development for Singleton. As for if and when that might happen, however, Mulligan isn't saying. At least not yet. -- Michael Roberts