Dear local community benefactor,
A newspaper with more than 100 years of history and multiple Pulitzer Prizes is looking for an owner who cares about Denver, Colorado and the Rocky Mountain Empire, as well as an unfettered press to watch over them.
The current owner, a New York City hedge fund, focuses on lofty profit margins rather than lofty journalistic ambitions, has cut jobs in all areas of the newsroom and refuses to open its purse strings and reward employees with much-needed raises. Fewer journalists means fewer people asking hard questions. Fewer journalists means fewer people demanding accountability from those in positions of power. Fewer journalists means fewer news stories and less information for the public.
We seek an owner who has a stake in our community and a sense of local, civic responsibility. The Denver Newspaper Guild hopes that local stewardship will help return the paper to its glory days and a new owner may be more willing to pay the price to do it.
The Denver Newspaper Guild
Wanted: New owners.
That’s the message today from journalists, ad reps and other media workers across the country seeking alternatives to Digital First Media, the nation’s second-largest newspaper chain.
Today, Guild-represented staff at major newspapers including The Denver Post, San Jose Mercury News and St. Paul Pioneer Press have published ads online and in print seeking local, community-minded buyers for their newsrooms.
Newspaper Guild units taking part in this action
The Argus (Fremont, CA)
Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, CA)
East County Times (Antioch, CA)
The Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY)
The Daily Review (Hayward CA)
The Daily Tribune (Royal Oak, MI)
The Delware County Daily Times (PA)
The Denver Post (CO)
The Long Beach Press-Telegram (Long Beach, CA)
The Macomb Daily (Mount Clemens, MI)
The Mercury (Pottstown PA)
Monterey County Herald (CA)
Oakland Tribune (CA)
The San Jose Mercury News (CA)
San Mateo County Times (San Mateo, CA)
San Ramon Valley Times (Pleasanton, CA)
The St. Paul Pioneer Press (St. Paul, MN)
The Trentonian (Trenton, NJ)
The Times Herald (Norristown, PA)
Tri-Valley Times (CA)
West County Times (Richmond, CA)
York Daily Record (York, PA)
York Dispatch (York, PA)
“Dear local community benefactor,” one such ad begins, “A newspaper with more than 100 years of history and multiple Pulitzer Prizes is looking for an owner who cares about Denver, Colorado and the Rocky Mountain Empire. The current owner, a hedge fund out of New York City, refuses to open its purse strings and reward employees with much-needed raises.”
Properties owned by Digital First Media have yet to be put officially on the market, but recent actions (including the sale of newspaper buildings and the shutdown of the company’s Thunderdome initiative) make it clear that investors are seeking an exit strategy.
Nationally, The Newspaper Guild-CWA is reaching out to Digital First CEO John Paton, offering to help identify potential new owners for individual papers and regional clusters.
“The future of journalism is too important to leave in the hands of distant investors who fail to grasp that investing in better news products is also good business,” said Bernie Lunzer, president of The Newspaper Guild. “These papers are profitable, and they can remain so, but cutting costs is not a long-term business strategy.”
Comprised of MediaNews Group and 21st Century Media (formerly Journal Register), Digital First Media manages more than 100 local newsrooms in 18 states. Its majority owner is the “Distressed Opportunities Fund” of New York-based hedge fund Alden Global Capital, founded by Randall Duncan Smith, a specialist in “vulture investing.”
Under the direction of Alden, Digital First has drained its media properties of real estate and other assets, while laying off journalists, cutting wages and reducing news coverage.
“When we were fully staffed, our coverage was better, there’s just no getting around it,” said Kieran Nicholson, a breaking news reporter who’s worked at the Denver Post for 28 years. “Everyone here continues to work hard — we try to do more with less, but it’s a tough road.”
Nicholson and his colleagues are hoping for owners who would take pride in The Denver Post and its tradition of excellence, he said. “Every business has to be profitable, and we all understand that, but we think a local owner might also see this as community service.”
The Guild welcomes confidential inquiries from potential investors, as well as Digital First employees, including those at non-represented papers. Contact Tony Mulligan, Denver Newspaper Guild administrative officer, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-595-9818.