On Tuesday, I met my wife and 1-year-old daughter at the plant where my office is located, a hangar of a building in Adams County, Colorado, that prints The Denver Post. I wore a black T-shirt with #NewsMatters printed across the front (my daughter was in a onesie bearing the same message, in purple Sharpie) and joined dozens of my co-workers—fellow reporters, editors, page designers, pressmen—outside our building.
We had gathered to rally against the New York–based hedge fund that owns our paper, Alden Global Capital, for laying off or forcing out most of my colleagues for the sake of cost-cutting, a process that has only accelerated in recent months. In New York, a dozen of our colleagues from The Denver Post and other Digital First Media publications held a parallel protest in front of Alden’s headquarters in the Lipstick Building. They attempted to deliver 11,000 signatures demanding that Alden invest in its newspapers or sell them to an owner who would. Building security guards refused the package and escorted them out.
Reporters typically cover protests. They don’t participate in them. But when their owners are “hell-bent on destroying” their publication, as the Denver Post reporter Kieran Nicholson said Tuesday in New York, reporters come to feel that they don’t have much choice. Alden’s newspaper chain, Digital First Media, is the country’s second-largest after Gannett; along with The Denver Post, Alden owns the Orange County Register, the St. Paul Pioneer Press, and the San Jose Mercury News.
Cuts at newspapers are common these days. The owner and publisher of the Salt Lake Tribune, a former Digital First property, this week announced that it is laying off staff and considering shrinking its print edition, to address a 40 percent decline in ad revenue. But Alden’s cuts are happening at twice the industry rate. Furthermore, leaked financial information last week confirmed what had been rumored of the privately held company for years: Digital First Media reported a 17 percent operating margin, the highest in the industry, in its 2017 fiscal year. Its profit totaled nearly $160 million, $28 million of which came from The Denver Post. As the Nieman Lab analyst Ken Doctor wrote, “Alden Global Capital is making so much money wrecking local journalism it might not want to stop anytime soon.”
My colleagues and I have risked our jobs to rebel against Digital First’s bleeding of its papers at Alden’s