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Denver Post ex-columnist Chuck Murphy leaving paper for job with nonprofit

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Another high-profile staffer is leaving the Denver Post: On November 10, Chuck Murphy, who served briefly as a metro columnist for the paper before taking on a different position amid a series of cost-cutting moves, is leaving the paper to work for an unnamed nonprofit.

But Murphy maintains that his departure isn't a reaction to the continuing tough times in the journalism industry.

Back in March, as we've reported, the Post laid off metro columnist Mike Littwin and business scribe Penny Parker and transferred columnist Murphy into a behind-the-scenes social-media-editor role after eliminating his columnist position. Sources tell us the latter change was made because the Post's contract with the Denver Newspaper Guild would have required the paper to give Littwin Murphy's old gig if it had continued to exist. These maneuvers left Tina Griego as the paper's only metro columnist. But then, in mid-May, Griego announced she was leaving the Post to relocate with her family to Virginia. The Post couldn't simply give Murphy her job, however, because Littwin and Parker had more seniority in the position. As such, the Post either had to rehire one of them or go without a columnist, as laid out in this contract clause:

Employees who are dismissed to reduce the force and employees who have elected to bump into another job title will be placed on a rehiring list, based on seniority, and will be rehired on a seniority basis in the old job title if and when a vacancy occurs.

Because the contract establishes that rehire lists must be maintained for "one (1) year from the date of dismissal," no new columnist other than Littwin or Parker can be hired until March 2013 -- which proved to be a big handicap following the July 20 Aurora theather shooting. In the massacre's immediate aftermath, Murphy wrote a number of pieces under a byline that listed him as a columnist, as seen in the online screen capture above. That was an error, according to Post editor Greg Moore, who said the proper label should have been "commentary."

The latest? Murphy confirms via e-mail that his last day at the Post will be November 10. "I'll be going to work for a local not-for-profit (insert your own joke about the financial state of the newspaper industry here)," he writes.

Continue for more about Chuck Murphy's impending departure from the Denver Post. The parenthetical above is meant as a joke, as is clear from a followup e-mail in which Murphy elaborates on the move.

"Look, there is no question that these are challenging times for the news business -- print, television and radio," he notes. "More people than ever before are reading, watching and listening, but the ad revenue is now spread so thin that change is inevitable and well underway.

"That said," he goes on, "my move really has nothing to do with the state of the business. I have faith that I'll be getting my news from The Denver Post for many years or even decades to come.

"But I have been working in daily newspaper journalism for nearly thirty years now. It was simply time to try something new and see if my experience translates to a new field. Change is good for the soul."

When asked about Murphy's departure and the question of whether the social-media-editor opening he'll leave will be filled, editor Moore replied that he's unable to provide specifics at this time but expects that he'll be able to do so soon.

Also this month, Post sportswriter Lindsay Jones announced that she, too, was moving on -- but in her case, she'll be staying in journalism, having been hired by USA Today. That kind of story was once typical when it came to daily newspapering. Now, however, career changes like Murphy's are often the order of the day.

More from our Media archive: "Denver Post covers Aurora theater shootings without official columnist."

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