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From the Editor: Newsprint Blues

By Mike Rosso

Hal Walter’s column this month struck a chord with me. I too worked for both the Pueblo Star-Journal and Chieftain newspapers years ago. I was employed as a photographer and Hal came on board about six months after I left. We finally met in Salida shortly after I moved here in 2001.

It was quite the newsroom, probably typical for that time period but still exciting to a rookie such as myself. The stereotype smoked-filled room filled with the clatter of typewriters and wire-photo transmitters was the soundtrack of a 1980s newsroom.

I learned about the imminent sale of the Chieftain a few months back, but wasn’t sure about the details. It worries me a bit because we switched our printing to their presses last year and the new owners may decide to raise prices on outsourced printing. Add to that the new tariffs by the current POTUS, slapped on Canadian paper mills, the source for much newsprint used by American newspapers, are causing grave concerns for an industry already struggling in the face of digital competition.

Newspapers across the country have begun laying off staff to make up for the price increases and there are real concerns that smaller papers may have to fold altogether.

Up in Denver, it’s a different dilemma. The Denver Post laid off 30 employees in April, nearly a third of its staff. The hedge-fund owners of the Post, New York-based Alden Global Capital, operating as Digital First Media are more driven by profit than a dedication to keeping the citizens of Colorado informed. Mountain region reporter Jason Blevins resigned in solidarity with his fellow reporters.

[InContentAdTwo] Fact: In 2009, there were nearly 500 print journalists employed by the defunct Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Post combined. Today that number is down to about 70. That should alarm anyone who believes in the free press as necessary to an informed society.

The situation in Denver is so dire, a newly-formed civic group, Together for Colorado Springs, has begun contacting potential investors in the state with the hopes of buying the Post from its current owners. So far they’ve gotten $10 million pledged to the effort, but there is no guarantee the owners have any interest in selling. They’re in the habit of buying publications at a low price, as they did recently with The Boston Herald, with the goal of extracting as much profit as they can, for as long as they can.

It’s not as if the Post isn’t making money; in fact it is reported the paper made a 20 percent profit in 2017, beating the odds in a digital economy. Those profits would sustain a healthy newsroom under normal circumstances, but the current owners see the paper as little more than their personal piggybank.

According to internal Chieftain emails to employees in January, “prospective buyers” for the paper included Digital First Media, Clarity Media, Adams Publishing and GateHouse Media. By the time you read this, the new buyer may be revealed and the state of print publishing in Southern and Central Colorado hangs in the balance.

What does this mean for the future of this magazine? Our printing costs already went up once this year, so hopefully that will hold for the foreseeable future. In the meantime, please keep supporting us with your subscriptions and encourage your friends and neighbors to do the same. Once a print publication is gone, it’s unlikely to return.