Together for Colorado Springs, a Pikes Peak-area nonprofit civic organization, is leading a campaign to buy The Denver Post.
John Weiss, Together for Colorado Springs chairman, said an exploratory committee has been formed and potential investors have already pledged more than $10 million, contingent upon fair terms being worked out.
“We are rallying residents from across Colorado to join with us to purchase The Denver Post,” said Weiss, owner of the Colorado Springs Independent, the Colorado Springs Business Journal, the Pikes Peak Bulletin and The Transcript. He also holds the contract to publish three local military newspapers under the Colorado Springs Military Newspaper Group.
The Post’s owner, New York-based hedge fund Alden Global Capital, has slashed the newspaper’s editorial staff from more than 250 to fewer than 100. On March 14, the fund ordered The Post to cut nearly a third of the remaining journalists.
“Even after the cuts, The Denver Post is by far the state’s largest news organization,” Weiss said. “The Post is now profitable, according to reliable sources — just not profitable enough to please the out-of-state hedge fund owners. Newspapers need to be owned by people who have ink in their blood, and they need to be part of their community to be successful.
“We want The Denver Post to be truly representative of the state of Colorado and not owned by a hedge fund with a narrow, partisan agenda,” he said. “We think it would be a good message to the citizens of Denver if Colorado Springs were part of the solution.”
In addition, Weiss said, “we believe that the owners of The Denver Post should look at it as a triple bottom line investment” — one that incorporates social, environmental and financial dimensions. “We would need to make a reasonable profit while providing solid journalism and taking care of the employees who do such remarkable work.”
Alden Global Capital acquired The Post’s bankrupt parent company, MediaNews Group, in 2010. The fund operates the paper through a subsidiary, Digital First Media.
Digital First Media owns more than 90 newspapers across the country, including The Boston Herald, The Orange County Register, The Mercury News of San Jose, Calif., and The Pioneer Press of St. Paul, Minn. Many of those publications also have suffered drastic staff reductions.
According to NewsMatters, a publication of Digital First Media employees who are represented by the NewsGuild-Communications Workers of America, Alden Global Capital has eliminated thousands of newspaper jobs and acknowledged in legal filings that it diverted hundreds of millions of dollars from its newspaper chain to support its other investments.
According to The New York Times, “[t]he company has aggressively cut resources in its quest for profit…. Alden’s strategy follows a pattern: It typically buys newspapers at a bargain… before cutting costs.”
Denver Post employees took the unprecedented step of directly addressing the paper’s owners in the Perspective section of the Sunday, April 8, edition.
Under the banner headline “News matters,” The Post’s editorial board appealed to the hedge fund to stop bleeding the newspaper or sell it to someone who will serve its readers properly, and expressed the fear that the latest cuts “represent the beginning of the end for the Voice of the Rocky Mountain Empire.”
In an effort to reverse that course, a growing list of advisers is helping Together for Colorado Springs connect to allies across Colorado.
“To the greatest extent possible, The Post’s new owners should reflect the diversity of Colorado, geographically, politically and demographically,” Weiss said. “We need a great statewide newspaper, and we want to be part of the team that ensures a revitalized Denver Post covers the entire state.”
Among the members of the Resurrect The Denver Post Exploratory Committee are Perry Sanders and John Goede, owners of Colorado Springs’ two largest hotels.
“We are committed to helping facilitate the purchase of The Denver Post to ensure open-minded, journalist-driven print and digital news for decades to come,” Sanders and Goede said in a statement.
“When I served as El Paso County commissioner, state legislator, Manitou Springs mayor and Colorado State Insurance Commissioner, my first priority every morning was to read The Denver Post,” said Marcy Morrison, who is a member of the exploratory committee. “Colorado needs a great statewide newspaper to keep citizens informed.”
Weiss said Together for Colorado Springs is “in the process of hiring an investment banking firm to represent us in negotiations with the hedge fund. Any potential investment is contingent upon the terms of an agreement and due diligence. We understand that ‘patient capital’ will be needed to return the state’s flagship newspaper to sustainability first and then true profitability.”
Together for Colorado Springs is a 3-year-old civic organization “designed to make Colorado Springs more just, more sustainable, more vibrant and more entrepreneurial,” Weiss said.
Besides The Denver Post campaign, the organization is exploring the possibility of launching a new community newspaper to serve Southeast Colorado Springs, the city’s most diverse neighborhood. Another project is to determine how Colorado Springs might sidestep some of the TABOR restrictions that affect the city, which is the only community in the state covered by both municipal and state TABOR regulations.
Individual investors, businesses, foundations and individual investors interested in supporting Colorado-wide ownership of The Denver Post may email inquiries to ResurrectTheDenverPost@gmail.com.
Resurrect The Denver Post Exploratory Committee (partial list):
• Jen Furda, a health care executive who served as vice president of the Colorado Springs Chamber, COO of the National Cybersecurity Center and as publisher of the Colorado Springs Business Journal and the Colorado Springs Military Newspaper Group
• Alan Gottlieb, former Denver Post reporter and co-founder of Chalkbeat, a national nonprofit digital news organization covering education
• Deborah Mahan, vice president of a statewide bank who serves on numerous nonprofit boards
• Marcy Morrison, former Manitou Springs mayor, El Paso County commissioner, state representative and Colorado Insurance Commissioner
• Chuck Murphy, president of Murphy Constructors. Gov. John Hickenlooper called him “an inspiration to many and a community and business role model beyond compare” when Murphy received the Colorado Springs Chamber’s Business Citizen of the Year honor.
• Ralph Routon, former editor of the Colorado Springs Business Journal and Colorado Springs Independent and reporter and columnist for the Colorado Springs Gazette-Telegraph for more than two decades
• Perry Sanders, co-owner of The Mining Exchange and The Antlers hotels and a nationally known environmental lawyer
• Retired Air Force Col. Jim Stewart, serial entrepreneur and founder of the Colorado Springs Black Chamber of Commerce
• John Street, founder of Telephone Express, Internet Express, USA.net and Pax8
• John Weiss, founder and owner of the Colorado Publishing House.