George Pyle: You think The Tribune has problems? Look to Denver …

Denver is on its way to becoming a news desert.

Denver Post, April 8, 2018

Yes, I know. You are frustrated. We are frustrated.

The Salt Lake Tribune is smaller than it used to be, in the size of its staff and the number of its pages.

Your town, your issue, your arts group, something that means a lot to you, isn’t covered as often or as well as you think it used to be. And, to judge from some of the very frustrated emails I receive — from people who know I don’t deliver the paper but don’t know where else to turn — the number of times it fails to show up in your driveway may be increasing.

But it could be worse.

We could all live in Denver.

Denver used to be a big-time newspaper town. It had two robustly competing publications, The Denver Post and The Rocky Mountain News. Like the two newspapers that serve Salt Lake City, they were in a joint operating agreement, taking advantage of a specific carve-out in federal antitrust law — The Newspaper Preservation Act — that allowed them to compete for readers with their own newsrooms and editorial pages but share things like advertising staff, delivery trucks and, most important, the printing press that powered it all.

But changes in technology and demographics, mostly the onrushing internet, blew up the business model for newspapers in general. The Rocky shut down in 2009. The Post soldiered on as its parent company, MediaNews Group, was battered by bankruptcy and its sale to the New York City hedge fund Alden Global Captial.

Yes, the same vulture capital outfit that controlled The Tribune for a while. Long enough to put us through rounds of layoffs and other declines that very nearly extinguished the place altogether.

A couple of years ago, we were bought out of that bondage by Paul Huntsman. Things are looking up. We don’t have quite so many empty desks. The website has been upgraded significantly and we’re figuring out how to shift from a world in which newspapers make their money by selling readers to advertisers — yes, kind of what Facebook thinks it invented — to a culture where we make money by selling news and information to readers.

The Post, meanwhile, is still in those chains. Its newsroom has shrunk and shrunk and shrunk some more. Denver is in real danger of going from a city with two good newspapers to a city with none. And you can’t run a democracy like that.

Apparently, there is no rich guy in Denver who gives a darn about the condition of the community.


Sunday, there went up an extraordinary cry for help.

As vultures circle, The Denver Post must be saved — Denver Post Editorial

“We call for action. Consider this editorial and this Sunday’s Perspective offerings a plea to Alden — owner of Digital First Media, one of the largest newspaper chains in the country — to rethink its business strategy across all its newspaper holdings. Consider this also a signal to our community and civic leaders that they ought to demand better. Denver deserves a newspaper owner who supports its newsroom. If Alden isn’t willing to do good journalism here, it should sell The Post to owners who will.”

Much of the Post’s Sunday opinion section, Perspective, was devoted to the subject.

Who will step up and save The Denver Post? — Greg Moore | For The Denver Post

“We were a pretty good newspaper for a real long time (winning nine Pulitzer Prizes over our 125-year history). We have provided a rich variety of news, opinion and information every day. I will miss it if it is gone. We all will.”

When a hedge fund tries to kill the newspapers it owns, journalists must fight back — Ricardo Baca | For The Denver Post

Love us or hate us, you’ll miss us when we’re gone — Diane Carman | For The Denver Post

The managers of The Salt Lake Tribune never made any secret of the fact that we’d prefer another owner, preferably someone local who would care about the quality of the newspaper. But we didn’t go this far.

It was an extraordinary act that drew attention far and wide.

Denver Post Rebels Against Its Hedge-Fund Ownership — Sydney Ember | The New York Times

“Chuck Plunkett, The Post’s editorial page editor, masterminded the package of articles that, in part, rebuked the ownership of the publication where he has worked since 2003. Before posting it, Mr. Plunkett said, he did not warn executives at Digital First Media. The Post’s news and opinion sections are separate fiefs, and he also did not inform the paper’s chief editor, Lee Ann Colacioppo, of his plans.<br>Shortly after the articles were posted online, Guy Gilmore, the chief operating officer of Digital First Media, called Ms. Colacioppo. He said he wanted to discuss the editorial and the ‘appropriate response’ from the company, Ms. Colacioppo said. The two ultimately decided, she said, that the stories would remain online and that the Sunday print section would proceed as planned. In addition, Mr. Plunkett would stay on as editorial page editor, she said.“

Which kind of proves the point. The company that owns The Denver Post doesn’t really give a jolly damn what The Denver Post says. It never has. These people just want to bleed it dry for as long as they can, then toss it aside.

In the editorial pages of the Denver Post, a rebellion against its ‘vulture capitalist’ owners — The Washington Post

“The Denver Post’s editor in chief, Lee Ann Colacioppo, told The Washington Post that Alden has had no contact with her or anyone on the editorial side. She said she has spoken with executives from Digital First Media, who she said appear aware of the impact the deep cuts have had on the morale of the newsroom. The justification for the cuts provided to her was that, despite being profitable, the company was not on track to make its budget, Colacioppo said, declining to give an opinion about that reasoning.”

New York Times top editor on journalism’s ‘biggest crisis’ — Jackie Wattles | Reliable Sources | CNN

The top editor at The New York Times says President Donald Trump’s attacks on journalism are ‘out of control.’ But he’s more concerned about the slow death of local news.<br>Executive Editor Dean Baquet told CNN’s Brian Stelter on Sunday that the “biggest crisis” facing journalism today is “the decline of local newspapers.”<br> “This is a major city, Denver. This is a newsroom that now is on the verge of having fewer than 100 journalists,” Baquet said. “That is unbelievable. That means things won’t be covered, school boards aren’t being covered. This is a crisis in American journalism.”

But, as it turns out, the death of local news and the rise of Donald Trump may be tied together.

Trump thrives in areas that lack traditional news outlets — Shawn Musgrave and Matthew Nussbaum | Politico

“President Donald Trump’s attacks on the mainstream media may be rooted in statistical reality: An extensive review of subscription data and election results shows that Trump outperformed the previous Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, in counties with the lowest numbers of news subscribers, but didn’t do nearly as well in areas with heavier circulation. ...<br>“The results show a clear correlation between low subscription rates and Trump’s success in the 2016 election.”

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Tribune staff. George Pyle.

George Pyle, The Tribune’s editorial page editor, was really disappointed when he didn’t get that job at The Denver Post in 2002. He’s gotten over it. gpyle@sltrib.com