Denver Post's Hedge Fund Owner Needs to Sell Paper Now, Union Says

Protesters at a 2016 rally against Alden Global Capital, the hedge fund that owns the Denver Post, held just prior to a series of buyout announcements.
Protesters at a 2016 rally against Alden Global Capital, the hedge fund that owns the Denver Post, held just prior to a series of buyout announcements. Photo by Lindsey Bartlett
Early on March 15, after yesterday's announcement that the Denver Post will lay off thirty employees, the Denver Newspaper Guild, the union that represents most staffers, published a message to Alden Global Capital, the hedge fund that owns the paper: "Sell The Denver Post Now!" In addition, the DNG estimates that the number of journalists at the broadsheet will actually number fewer than fifty once the layoffs are complete.

The guild reveals that the thirty layoffs will include 25 journalists represented by the union and five newsroom managers.

According to our estimates, the number of newsroom employees peaked at approximately 300 around a decade ago. The guild, for its part, maintains that in 2007, the actual number of journalists, excluding management, stood at 222. That total went up and down several times over the next few years but tended to hover around 200 through 2011, when Alden Global Capital took control of the Post's parent company, Digital First Media.

From that point forward, the decline wasn't steady, but precipitous. By 2016, the staff was less than 50 percent of the size it was nine years earlier, and it's on the way to being halved again. By the DNG's calculations, the newsroom — now located in Adams County after moving from its longtime location in downtown Denver earlier this year — will have an occupancy of 49.

Here's a look at the guild graphic depicting the job-shedding:

Denver Newspaper Guild
The DNG's demand that Alden Global Capital sell the paper, as well as others in the Digital First Media chain, comes two and a half years or so after an announcement that the Post was on the block. In September 2014, DFM stated that it would "evaluate and consider strategic alternatives" that could lead to the sale of some or all of the firm's assets.

In the immediate aftermath of this development, rumors swirled that gazillionaire Phil Anschutz might pluck the Post from the bargain bin, since one of his companies had purchased the Colorado Springs Gazette two years earlier. But since then, neither Anschutz nor any other well-funded entrepreneur has deemed the Post worthy of an investment.

Meanwhile, the Post made public excerpts from a memo about the layoffs by editor Lee Ann Colacioppo. One passage has something of a defensive tone: "I’m sure some commenters will cheer what they believe is the eventual demise of the mainstream media," she wrote before adding, "But there is nothing to celebrate when a city has fewer journalists working in it."

However, Colacioppo ended on a more optimistic note: "The Denver Post will emerge on the other side still doing important work that impacts the lives of our readers — stories that inform them, move them, surprise them and entertain them. We will continue our aggressive, groundbreaking efforts to find ways to reach and connect with those readers."

The number of folks looking at the physical version of the Post has been sliding. The DNG points out that as of early last year, circulation stood at 170,064 daily and 279,215 on Sunday — less than half the 2012 totals of 401,120 daily and 595,363 Sundays.

The Post's online readership is much, much larger. Denver Post Media numbers show 8,659,741 monthly online unique visitors, 35,709,806 monthly online page views and 16,621,346 monthly mobile page views. But it's unclear whether these digits reflect the decision earlier this year to put up a paywall over Post content for the first time since the Aurora theater shooting trial — a move that has undoubtedly limited clicks.

Whatever the case, Denver Post Media's boast that the Post still has "Colorado's largest audience" rings hollow to the DNG. "The Denver Newspaper Guild implores Alden to sell its free-falling properties to local owners while there remains a chance to invest in quality journalism," the union's jeremiad states. "Sell now before it’s too late."
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts