Like its sister paper, the Denver Post , the Boulder Daily Camera has suffered layoffs and downsizing aplenty of late. But in the coming months, the Camera will be hiring, sort of. Unfortunately, the positions at Prairie Mountain Publishing, its parent company, will come at the expense of the Boston Herald, ten to fifteen of whose employees were given their walking papers last week.
The firm at the center of these complicated events is vampire hedge fund Alden Global Capital, which owns around 100 newspapers, including the Post, the Camera and around a dozen other publications in Colorado, thanks to its acquisition of Digital First Media. Prairie Mountain Publishing is essentially a branch of DFM — and its properties have been cut to the bone, as have the others in the Alden Global Capital portfolio, undermining the ability to create good journalism and endangering their long-term future in order to maintain a healthy profit margin.
One response to this scenario: A handful of former Post staffers have announced the launch of the Colorado Sun, an ad-free online project whose funding will come in part from a blockchain startup.
The plight of the Post, Digital First Media's flagship, has gotten national attention, with oodles of journalists and media consumers advocating for Alden to sell the paper to a buyer willing to build it back up rather than burn it to the ground. But insiders believe the hedge fund will never peddle the Post in a standalone deal, in part because its operations are so entwined with the other Colorado papers.
And Digital First Media properties that are further afield are becoming increasingly connected to Colorado — and specifically Prairie Mountain Publishing.
Witness a recent Boston Business Journal report that the aforementioned layoffs at the Herald, which DFM/Alden obtained earlier this year for just under $12 million, had been made in order to "move page design and advertising production to Colorado. ... The page design shift to Digital First’s Boulder, Colorado, office is expected to take place in October, the sources said, with the ad production move expected to occur earlier, in August."
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According to Al Manzi, president and CEO of Prairie Mountain Publishing (and publisher of the Camera), that's not quite right. Corresponding via email, he notes that "only page production work is moving to Boulder."
The facility is a busy one. Manzi points out that "our centralized page production hub builds nearly all the Prairie Mountain Media papers plus St. Paul [that's Minnesota's St. Paul Pioneer Press] and Denver," meaning the Post. "Boston will be added to the hub over the next several months, with full implementation by October if all goes well."
That Digital First Media is consolidating so much of its infrastructure in Boulder suggests strongly that even selling all the Colorado papers in a package deal (as Alden considered doing back in March 2015 to, naturally, another hedge fund, Apollo Global Management) is growing increasingly improbable.
Oh, yeah: Manzi confirms that "we will hire additional staff to take on the work" related to designing pages for the Herald. That's potentially good news for Colorado job seekers. But those in Boston? Not so much.