For several years, we have watched the gradual decline of our 128-year old newspaper. Staff has been cut, its iconic building in the heart of downtown was sold, the business section has all but disappeared, the food and lifestyle section is filled with syndicated articles and the size of the paper continues to shrink.
For as many years, common wisdom blamed the Internet for the demise of print newspapers. However, breaking news reports over the last month have revealed the true culprit: Alden Global Capital, known on Wall Street as a vulture hedge fund. Alden, in turn, owns Digital First Media (DFM), a company that has gobbled up 63 newspapers around the country including the Daily Camera.
Over the past several years, DFM has decimated its newspaper properties by slashing staff, offices and even maintenance–just as they did with the Camera. Meanwhile, it “reported a 17 percent operating margin — well above those of its peers — in its 2017 fiscal year, along with profits of almost $160 million.” (See Newsonomics article, below)
Its profits have gone to fund personal luxury homes and other pleasantries for Alden’s owners, along with play money to invest in risky ventures entirely unrelated to supporting its newspaper properties.
According to the website dedicated to DFM worker protections, Alden is now being sued by a minority shareholder. Alden admitted in court filings “that its newspaper holding company has diverted hundreds of millions of dollars from struggling Digital First Media newspapers into Alden-managed investments.”
The scope and seriousness of Alden’s and DFM’s financial dealings is astounding. Here are the articles that expose what can only be called the rape of our newspapers, community institutions that should and always have been run in the public interest. Please read them if you have any doubt as to the seriousness of the issues newspapers face across the entire country–and why we need to take action.
(Note that DFM also owns the Post, which is being ravaged in the same way as the Camera and all of DFM’s other newspapers.)
How a Unified Cancellation Protest Can Help
The last of the reports above includes an interview with Julie Reynolds, a former investigative reporter at the the Monterey County Herald, another newspaper decimated by DFM. Her investigation uncovered the meaning of a vulture hedge fund. “What that means is, they will buy a business that’s in trouble, and basically extract all the resources and money they can from it, all the profit, sell off the real estate, get what they can and leave the bones out in the desert to dry, if anything remains at all.”
This pretty well summarizes the need for an organized, widespread cancellation movement. Mass cancellations may well cause the Camera to fail. But as the previous excerpt reveals, the Camera is already fated to fail by its owners.
Timing is the only variable: Do we speed its death by cancelling in large numbers or do we continue allowing DFM and Alden to continue siphoning off our subscription dollars until they have sucked the paper completely dry–at which point it dies anyway.
Besides denying Alden and DFM any more of dollars we pay to support our community newspaper, a mass cancellation protest is likely the only way to ensure a potential future for the Camera. As former editor Dave Krieger explained in the last-cited report:
“I’m sorry to say, protests like today [when journalists picketed at Alden’s headquarters on May 8] will not matter. Alden Global Capital answers to no one other than their investors. All they care about is cash, not PR, not journalism, not digital, nothing. Cash. So, if that’s correct, then we have to fight them on that level.”
And then he recalled the tactics of the Newspaper Guild, where “[y]ou get a collective action in which subscribers commit to canceling their subscriptions, if and when the organizer decides they can’t get a response from the company. And then you demand that DFM come to the table and talk about saving these properties or selling them. And if they refuse to do that, you launch the boycott. Everybody cancels their subscriptions. And you deprive Alden—of the one thing it cares about, and that’s cash.”
That’s why this website was created–to create the “collective action” that will force Alden and DFM to sell the Camera to a buyer that wants to preserve and protect one of the most important institutions in our free society–a free and independent press.
The Straw That Broke the Camel’s Back: The Krieger Firing
Speaking of a free and independent press this post cannot finish without additional mention of Krieger. In early April he wrote an editorial to educate the community about how Alden’s and DFM’s financial maneuvers were a primary force in the continued decline of our newspaper. It was part of a piece about the first-ever Colorado Journalism Week which, he wrote,
“arrives at a moment both inspiring and dispiriting for American journalism, and newspaper journalism in particular. * * * Inspiring because, at its highest levels, American journalism has rarely been more energetic. * * * [But d]ispiriting because, at many smaller papers, including this one, the journalistic lifeblood of communities large and small is being systematically drained by their owners’ private equity business model.”
His illuminating editorial was killed by the publisher in a break with the customary decision-making process. Krieger felt the issue was of such importance to the Camera’s readers that he posted it on an the independent Boulder Free Press.
His courage got him fired–and catalyzed the community to demand changes.
Read Krieger’s account about how this episode transpired. Hopefully, we can rally to demand change by the only way that has a chance–by a mass cancellation of Camera subscriptions.
Or if you have already cancelled, also add your name to a comment.
Then share this site on to as many people as you can–including social media. Lots of cancellations will be needed to get the results we need.
Last but Not Least–Thanks to Our Journalists
To all the hard-working journalists still trying to keep us informed–thank you. Our cancellations are not at all a reflection upon your work–in fact it is the hope that they will create a better journalistic environment for you in the future.