Denver Post Editor Who Criticized Paper’s Ownership Resigns

Posted May 4, 2018 12:15 a.m. EDT

BOULDER, Colo. — Chuck Plunkett said he knew that he was risking his job as the editorial page editor of The Denver Post when he wrote an impassioned editorial last month blasting the newspaper’s hedge-fund owners as “vulture capitalists” who had hobbled Colorado’s largest newspaper with deep layoffs and cost-cutting.

On Thursday, Plunkett said he resigned after an executive who oversees the newspaper refused to run another sharp-edged editorial Plunkett had written for this Sunday’s newspaper. Plunkett said the editorial included new criticism of Alden Global Capital, the New York hedge fund that runs The Post and other newspapers through a subsidiary called Digital First Media.

“What they were asking was to be quiet,” Plunkett said in an interview. “For me to just sit quietly by would be hypocritical.”

Plunkett said his editorial had discussed how Alden continued to cut newsroom jobs despite making significant profits, its efforts to keep articles about newsroom turmoil out of its own newspapers and the firing of the editorial page editor of the (Boulder) Daily Camera, another Alden-owned paper in Colorado. Dave Krieger, the editor in Boulder, was fired last month after he self-published an editorial that excoriated Alden’s management.

Plunkett said his editorial had been rejected by Guy Gilmore, the chief operating officer of Digital First Media. Gilmore did not respond to an email Thursday night.

Plunkett said he had been “forced into a corner” by the decision.

“Our obligation is to the reader and the truth,” Plunkett said. “We should not be allowing ourselves to be quiet about something our own people are doing that would be considered dangerous, bad for our communities and bad for democracy.”

Representatives of Alden Global Capital and Digital First Media did not respond to emails or phone messages Thursday night. Lee Ann Colacioppo, the editor of The Denver Post, who announced Plunkett’s resignation to the staff Thursday, did not respond to an email.

Plunkett, 51, drew national attention last month for putting together a series of articles that criticized the management of the 125-year-old newspaper — the largest in Colorado — and called for the newspaper to be saved. “News matters,” read the banner headline on the paper’s Sunday opinion section.

“If Alden isn’t willing to do good journalism here,” the editorial said, “it should sell The Post to owners who will.”

The Post has a weekday circulation of an estimated 170,000 and 8.6 million unique monthly visitors to its website. The paper, which has been owned by Alden since 2010, was ordered in March to cut 30 jobs from a newsroom with a head count that was already below 100. That process is expected to be completed by July.

Plunkett’s resignation reverberated through the newsroom and beyond on Thursday.

Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., tweeted that Plunkett “told hard truths and stood up for local press. His departure is a loss for Colorado.”

Plunkett had been at the newspaper since 2003. He had overseen political coverage and was the paper’s lead writer when the Democratic National Convention came to Denver in 2008.

He said he had been “vacillating between tears and rage” Thursday. He said he hoped to stay in journalism but did not know what his immediate future held.

“Mostly what I’m thinking about is having a martini,” he said.