Denver Post execs on in-print, web changes, status of Colorado Rockies stake for sale
Update: Yesterday, we shared our views about changes at the Denver Post, including new, smaller dimensions for the print edition, a website redesign and the departures of Broncos specialist Jeff Legwold and Jeff Bairstow, president of the Post's parent company, Digital First Media; see our previous coverage below.
Since then, we've corresponded with two of the paper's most powerful executives -- president and CEO Mac Tully and editor Greg Moore -- to get their takes on the latest developments at Colorado's largest news operation. Here's what they had to say.
Tully has only been a part of the Post braintrust for a relatively brief period. The former president and publisher of the San Jose Mercury News came to Denver in May to fill the slot vacated by Ed Moss, who left the previous month.
Digital First is now undergoing a similar shift in upper management, with Bairstow, who'd served as president of the company for less than two years, splitting in favor of a gig as chief financial officer at Time Inc. However, Tully doesn't believe local readers will feel the impact of Bairstow's exit.
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"Although we will miss Jeff, his departure will not impact the day-to-day operations of the Post," he notes via e-mail. "The operating committee and their reports make those decisions."
Among the moves that preceded Tully's arrival was the decision this past November to put the Post's small ownership stake in the Colorado Rockies baseball franchise on the market. At the time, an inside source told us the strategy was dictated by dire financial problems at the Post -- ones serious enough that they could lead to bankruptcy. But Moss denied this assertion.
"There couldn't be anything further from the truth," Moss said about Chapter 11 fears -- concerns likely stoked by the September 2012 bankruptcy filing by the Journal Register Company, a sister firm of MediaNews Group, the Post's owner. "The attempt to potentially sell our stake really has everything to do with what I stated in our press release, and what John Paton" -- MediaNews Group's CEO, as well as the Journal Register Company's top dog -- "has been talking about, which is that we're focusing on our core business. And we're actually making great strides at improving our position overall."
More recently, another story about baseball and newspapers has thrust its way into the national journalism conversation -- Boston Red Sox majority owner John Henry's agreement to purchase the Boston Globe. Some observers worry that Henry's influence will result in a softening of the Globe's often tough Red Sox coverage, which has occasionally gotten under the new boss' skin. But that hasn't been a major point of controversy in Denver given the modest size of the Post's share of the Rockies -- just 7.3 percent, an asset obtained by the paper upon the 2009 death of the Rocky Mountain News.
What's the status of the Post's piece of the Rockies?
"We are still a partial owner of the Rockies," Tully notes. "We also recognize the increased value of our position, as the overall valuation of major league teams continues to rise. Accordingly, we remain open to a reasonable offer for this non-core asset."
In other words, a transaction can still happen, but there have been no takers over the better part of a year.
Meanwhile, the aforementioned loss of sports reporter Legwold, who left to become an ESPN Broncos specialist, comes at a particularly difficult time; the team is touted as a Super Bowl contender and its season is just starting to rev up. Is editor Moore concerned?
Continue for Denver Post editor Greg Moore's comments about changes at the paper, plus our previous coverage. "Jeff was an important part of our team and we will miss him," Moore writes via e-mail. But "as far as coverage, let me say it this way: The Broncos beat is our franchise and we will cover the team and the season very well."
Does that mean a new staffer will be hired to fill Legwold's slot? After all, a source tells us this wasn't done when Lindsay Jones-Paul, another of the paper's longtime Broncos scribes, took a position with USA Today last year.
Moore doesn't answer the question of a new hire directly. Instead, he stresses that "the beat will not be under-resourced."
Also smaller is the Post's print edition, by about an inch. The Post is hardly the first major broadsheet to make such a move; an editor's note published yesterday pointed out that the step had previously been taken by the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune and Tully's old stomping grounds, the San Jose Mercury News. As such, Moore maintains that there were "no real challenges" when it came to making the transition.
The shrinkage did have an impact on the news hole, though. "The web reduction results in about an 8 percent loss of space," he allows. Nonetheless, "the response so far has been muted, almost like no one noticed. I know that could change. But we were very transparent about what we were doing, so that probably helps."
Readers have been paying more attention to the Post's web redesign, which features a much cleaner, less cluttered look -- and not all of them are fans.
"You usually hear from the people who don't like it, and that has been the case," he acknowledges. "But we have also received some very thoughtful critiques and we are trying to be responsive to those suggestions.
"Our traffic is holding steady," he adds, "and with a redesign, that is a very significant metric. So things are about where we expected them to be. I know I like it better."
Beginning with today's print edition, there's less of the Denver Post. The page size is now one inch narrower, with the dimensions when folded actually smaller than (believe it or not) Westword's. The physical paper has also been reorganized, and the Post's website has been redesigned. But these aren't the only changes at the paper, which recently lost one of its main Broncos writers as football season heats up, and the president of its parent company has split -- more signs of the times in an industry currently getting a good shaking from coast to coast.
The above-the-fold headline on page one of today's Post -- "Budget weights in paroles" -- is placed over a boxed story about Alex Rodriguez's Major League Baseball suspension. Rather than employing a standard headline, however, the A-Rod story features a long quote that accentuates the slimmer page, mostly for the worst; it's a whopping four decks, with a large amount of unfortunate white space, presumably because the word "everything" was too long. Here's a larger look at it:
Granted, white space appears to be a thing at the paper. The new Post website is a lot less cluttered and easy to navigate -- and because of the white-is-right approach being used by oodles of sites in pretty much every field, the paper's once logy load time has been better in recent days. For those who've let their print subscriptions lapse, that's a positive development.
Of course, such aesthetic concerns will be of less interest to print readers than the reshuffling of material in the first section, with Denver & the West, Business, national and world news and the Opinion page all crammed into sixteen pages. The approach has been used on Mondays for a while, but now, it'll remain in place Monday through Saturday -- a necessity given the thin-thin-thin nature of papers like today's.
As for the Sports section, it remains a standalone, but there's a significant name missing from it: Jeff Legwold, who jumped ship to join the staff of ESPN as a Broncos reporter. Not long ago, as pointed out by South Stands Denver, Legwold was one of three veteran scribes covering the team, along with Lindsay Jones-Paul and Mike Klis. Now, only Kils remains; Jones-Paul joined the staff of USA Today last year.
We're told Jones-Paul's position was never filled. Will Legwold's? We've e-mailed Post editor Greg Moore about this and several other issues. Given the Boston Globe's sale to the owner of the hometown Red Sox, for example, we wondered about the Post's small ownership stake in the Colorado Rockies, which it announced was up for sale last November.
And then there's the announced departure of Jeff Bairstow, president of Digital First Media, the Post's parent company; he's becoming chief financial officer of Time Inc. Will the absence of Bairstow have any impact on the day-to-day operation of the Post. Does it indicate any turmoil at the top? Thus far, Moore hasn't gotten back to us. If and when he does, we'll update this item.
Until then, these changes, when taken as a whole, seem to echo a continuing theme for old-school media organizations -- downsizing, shrinking, trying to do more with less. The Post appears to be handling these challenges adequately at this point, but that doesn't mean they're pretty.
More from our Media archive circa November 2012: "Denver Post's decision to sell stake in Colorado Rockies not sign of financial turmoil, CEO says."