May 17, 2018

A call goes out: Can someone help journalism in Denver?

It began as a nighttime tweet from the Texas Tribune’s Evan Smith to Denver journalists. Peeps, we stand ready to help you.

Within hours, news outlets around the country, such as the VT Digger, joined in. They would share what they’ve learned to help journalists who want to build an independent outlet or to improve an existing independent publication to replace the hemorrhaging, hedge fund-desiccated Denver Post.

Smith was responding initially to Ana Campbell, managing editor of Denver’s Westword.

“All of us at Texas Tribune believe the kind of work we do — nonpartisan reporting on politics and policy in the public interest, funded by individuals, foundations and corporate underwriters — is possible in other places,” Smith elaborated in a series of follow-up tweets Wednesday. He quickly added that the Trib didn’t want to franchise in other places, like some “In-N-Out Burger” o’ news.

Two main points arose in the discussion: 1) Denver appears to be an ideal market for a digital news outlet: a state capitol, people who care about public affairs, a lively arts scene. 2) The Trib and other outlets could share their financials, talk revenue and expense strategies, tech investment and innovation. “We are all brothers in arms,” Smith wrote.

Here’s more on what’s needed to build local news interest:

The Denver journalism ecosystem already has a public radio and television infrastructure, the alternative Westword, the Denverite and the statewide Colorado Independent. Is there room — or a need — for something new, or would this help be best for existing places?

The subject of saving the Post and Denver journalism propelled this standing room only talk in Denver on Tuesday night. Dave Krieger, fired from The Daily Camera in Boulder for his criticism of owner Alden Global Capital, says subscribers should pull their support from the paper; Chuck Plunkett, who left the Denver Post after Alden censored his criticism, argued that canceling subscriptions would hurt remaining journalists and the paper’s continuing effort to hold public officials accountable.

Readers, would you keep subscribing or cancel with an owner like Alden? Email me at

cartoon from boston
Colorado Independent cartoon by Pulitzer-winning Mike Keefe, formerly of the Denver Post. (Used with permission)

Meanwhile, in Boston…

The Boston Herald's 240 employees had to apply for 175 jobs when Alden’s Digital First Media bought it in March.

How did Alden inform those who didn’t make the cut? Those now-former workers simply didn’t get an email, former Herald reporter Bob McGovern wrote this week.

“It was a dehumanizing way to handle a delicate situation,” McGovern wrote via Medium. “The sports desk kept empty boxes next to their keyboards in a joking-but-not-really way. People cried. Rumors fluttered around the newsroom as we all waited for ‘the email.’”

Finally, on the Friday before the Digital First takeover, a staff-wide memo “reminded” those who didn’t get an offer to take their belongings on the way out, since they wouldn’t be allowed back in.

Quick hits

SENATE APPROVES OVERTURNING FCC’S NET NEUTRALITY RULING: The upper house of Congress rejected the unpopular FCC ruling, but it is unlikely to be overturned in the House. Democrats will seize upon this Trump-era ruling in the 2018 election since Americans are overwhelmingly opposed to allowing companies to slow down or speed up access to specific websites and apps.

BURYING THE LEAD: That's Erik Wemple's term for a New York Times acknowledgment of underplaying a Justice Department investigation into a Russia-Trump tie before the 2016 election. David Uberti calls the NYT admission on Wednesday backtracking. Uberti cites this paragraph:

REPORT FOR AMERICA JOURNALISTS CHOSEN: 10 journalists were chosen from 740 candidates to begin reporting for news organizations in Illinois, Georgia, Texas, Mississippi and New Mexico in early June, the non-profit group announced Thursday. Their salaries will be split by Report For America, dedicated to boosting depleted local reporting, and by host news organizations. Those chosen are: Carlos Ballesteros, Mallory Falk, Sarah Anne Hughes, Michelle Liu, Obed Manuel, Samantha Max, Clara McCarthy, Manny Ramos, Eric Shelton and Alexandra Watts. Three journalists for Report for America already are in the field.

COMINGS AND GOINGS: Will Sommer will be covering digital culture for The Daily Beast, executive editor Noah Shachtman announced. / The Verge's Silicon Valley editor, Casey Newton, will be hosting a new game show-style podcast called Converge / Paul Cheung is moving to the Knight Foundation to be its new director of tech innovation for its journalism efforts.

THE JAILER OF JOURNALISTS: 1 of 3 jailed journalists in the world are detained because of him. But Turkey’s ruler, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, could not give a coherent reason for his suppression of freedom when Matt Frei of Britain’s Channel 4 asked him.

SLAIN, EXECUTION-STYLE: A popular Mexican radio host was leaving his home Tuesday when assailants killed him in his car. Juan Carlos Huerta of Villahermosa was the 32nd journalist killed in Mexico since December 2012 — and the 10th in the year since internationally acclaimed investigative reporter Javier Valdez was assassinated, also in his car. The killings come as ICE seeks to deport a Mexican journalist, Emilio Gutiérrez Soto, who fled death threats from Mexico. The threatened deportation of Gutiérrez Soto, who won a prestigious mid-career fellowship from the University of Michigan, is opposed by human rights and press rights advocates.

JOURNALISM IS NOT A CRIME: China has charged Ding Lingjie, the editor of a human rights news website, with “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” As a court decides Thursday whether to indict her, the Committee to Protect Journalists says China "should drop the charges."

IT WORKED!: The program that helped people spot disinformation. The downside? Readers still don’t know whom to trust, by Nieman Lab’s Laura Hazard Owen. 

What we’re reading

Prince Harry and Meghan
Britain's Prince Harry is set to marry Meghan Markle on Saturday. (Matt Dunham/AP)

DIVORCE, ANGLICAN STYLE: The Church of England was born from divorce, yet failed to recognize it for much of its existence. The royal wedding this weekend of Prince Harry and once-divorced Meghan Markle — and the divorces of three of four of Queen Elizabeth’s children — has shown how far the Episcopal Church has come, write William Booth and Karla Adam in a fascinating overview.

40 PERCENT OF FAMILIES CANNOT AFFORD MIDDLE-CLASS BASICS: That’s according to a new study commissioned by the United Way. That means 34.7 million American households cannot afford rent, transportation, childcare and a cell phone, say Steve LeVine and Chris Canipe of Axios.

News outlets called Wednesday's march the biggest organized rally by North Carolina teachers in the state's history.

TAKE CARE OF OUR CHILDREN: Thousands of teachers marched outside North Carolina's state capitol, chanting "This is what democracy looks like!" and demanding that lawmakers provide more funding to students and teachers. The crowd was so loud it drowned out business inside the capitol, the News and Observer reported.

A DIFFERENT AGE: She was an Associated Press White House reporter. She got too close to the first lady to stay on the job. Two novels chronicle her move to live in the White House and her long road trip through New England and Canada, alone with the first lady, unaccompanied by the Secret Service. The 1933 summer vacation, in which Lorena Hickok and Eleanor Roosevelt stayed together in hotels and farmhouses, remained out of the spotlight for decades, Sylvia Brownrigg writes. “Today it’s unthinkable,” she says, “that such a holiday could go undocumented — or unpunished.”

Roosevelt and Hickok
Photo: FDR Library

YANNY OR LAUREL?: PolitiFact offers a fact-checker’s guide, by Allison Graves.

What we’re listening to

What if Richard Nixon had been more than a tackle dummy on his college football team? Would history have changed? That’s the conceit of the first episode in a limited-run podcast by Mike Pesca, “Upon Further Review.” (This first episode is reported by Andrew Parsons and Leon Neyfakh of the popular “Slow Burn” podcast on Watergate). We’ll have more on Pesca, a former NPR correspondent who does the daily “Gist” podcast for Slate, in coming days.


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