The announced layoffs and changes at The Denver Post this week show that print media in Denver is coming to a crossroads that it hasn’t seen for many generations.
Throughout my life — and frankly throughout the lives of my parents, and even my grandparents — the idea of having a daily printed newspaper was a fact that could be taken very much for granted in Denver.
However, the changes announced at The Denver Post this week clearly show that, while not necessarily spelling its doom, a daily printed newspaper in Denver can no longer be taken for granted.
The Post laid off op-ed columnist Mike Littwin and business/social page columnist Penny Parker, among other positions, earlier this week. They also announced that Chuck Murphy will no longer continue his column, moving to a Social Media editor position. Tina Griego is currently the paper’s one and only non-sports columnist.
For me, the question is less about the business side of the unfortunate layoffs, and more about trying to find out at what point does a daily newspaper get to its breaking point, where it can no longer exist as a critical voice in the community?
Too often the evolution of media is strictly told regarding the revenue models. Since it is indeed a business, the revenue model must be part of the conversation.
However, far less analysis has been done regarding what elements of a newspaper need to be present for it to be relevant in a community as a daily newspaper. Obviously, with less resources, fewer reporters will be hired so actual news stories will be the first casualty.
But what about the personality of a newspaper? How vital is a newspaper’s unique voice and feel? A voice of a newspaper evolves, but I feel that it’s always there in one way or another. But that may be another media assumption that simply is no longer true.
My point is not that Mike Littwin and Penny Parker represented the voice of the Post. My point is that columnists of every flavor help to collectively make up a newspaper’s voice.
Certainly, work done by reporters and other writers make up a significant contribution to a newspaper’s voice. But opinions and insight found in columns provide a deeper reason for readers to come back to a newspaper.
It doesn’t matter if the columnists are liberal or conservative, writing about local issues or national. The important part is that they provide a local voice that readers can agree or disagree with, love or hate, echo or dismiss. Readers are able to have a deeper relationship with a paper with those voices present.
When those voices are gone, what happens to the relationship?
When I talk to people about why they enjoy a newspaper, they will inevitably talk about some part of the personality of the paper, the columnist or several columnists that they must read.
When fans of the Rocky or the Post of old talk about what they liked about those papers, they talk about like writers like Gene Amole and Chuck Green, personalities that gave readers a personal connection to the Rocky and the Post.
I realize that newspapers are a business and that our media landscape has dramatically changed. I also realize that the editors of newspapers need to make decisions that will keep their business viable. I do not envy the position editors are in.
However, as we see more cuts at the remaining daily newspaper in Denver, one must wonder about two questions.
How long can newspapers find the necessary cuts to stay in business?
And (more importantly for me) when will those cuts change the newspaper enough where staying in business doesn’t matter to the community?
About The Blogger
– Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out, hosted by Raj Chohan, on Colorado Public Television.