Larry Ryckman and Dana Coffield creatively worked through shrinking budgets and staffs at newspapers before. The Denver Post’s two senior editors for news both decided on the same day that they could go no further.
Ryckman was in editor Lee Ann Colacioppo’s office to resign when she got the call from the former owner and editorial board chairman, Dean Singleton, on Friday.
“Do you want me to leave?” Ryckman asked as she took the call. She said no.
Singleton asked to have his name removed from the masthead after current owner Alden Global Capital’s censorship of the paper’s editorial page editor, who quit the day before. Ryckman and Coffield, the paper’s two day-to-day editors, in the business more than six decades between them, also quit the Digital First Media paper. Its parent company, Alden, is the hedge-fund known for aggressively downsizing papers to maintain high profit margins.
In interviews Monday, both felt a sense of relief at leaving. “Once I got the words out, I did feel better,” said Coffield. “I would rather mow lawns for a living,” Ryckman said.
Coffield said she had reached the physical limits of what she could do, working harder and harder with fewer people. Ryckman said the final straw was when the Post’s out-of-town hedge fund owners began censoring stories.
The Post initially was not allowed to write about the firing of Dave Krieger, the popular editorial page editor of the Alden-owned Daily Camera in Boulder, after he had criticized the paper. Only after discussion was Ryckman able to write about the departure of the Post’s own editorial board editor, Chuck Plunkett, and he had to remove a direct reference to Alden to get it published. Plunkett’s editorials were censored in his final weeks (here’s one of the censored editorials).
“When I’m having to dance around things I can or cannot say, then it’s time to go,” said Ryckman, a former AP news executive and foreign correspondent. “I had more freedom as a journalist in Russia than I did under Alden Capital.”
Singleton, the former owner, told Nieman Lab’s Ken Doctor pretty much the same thing.
“Everything I believe about the news business is being violated,” Doctor quoted Singleton as saying. “It is breaking my heart.” To Denver's Westword, Singleton said: "They've killed a great newspaper."
At least 55 of the Post’s remaining 65 or so newsroom staffers signed an open letter on Monday deploring censorship and calling on Alden to “either invest in the newspaper or sell it to someone who cares about Colorado, and they must do it immediately.”
On Tuesday a protest and rally is planned at noon at Alden Global's New York headquarters.