DENVER (CN) – The Denver Post editor who called out the hedge fund owners’ reckless management resigned this week.
The Denver Post claimed their former-editorial page editor Chuck Plunkett “did not offer details of his resignation.” Plunkett did however tell the New York Times he chose to leave after he was prevented from running an editorial criticizing the newspaper’s owners Alden Global Capital, which cut 75 percent of the newsroom staff.
“Chuck Plunkett, the hero of The Denver Post, a man with integrity and honor, has resigned,” Denver Post investigative reporter Christopher Osher tweeted. “He stands for everything that our hedge fund owners just do not understand. This is a huge loss for the newspaper. And a personal loss as he is one of my best friends.”
Doing business as Digital First Media, a subsidiary of Alden, the company publishes 200 newspapers across 10 states, consumed by 48 million readers each month. Leaked profits indicate Digital First Media’s Colorado papers, including the Denver Post are generating a 19 percent profit margin, putting $36 million into its owners’ pockets annually.
The Post also maintains an average weekday circulation of 134,000 and some 16 million monthly views online.
Since the paper has never been so profitable and so poorly staffed, employees have begun speaking out. One month ago, Plunkett armed the Denver Post’s opinion section with industry voices speaking out against mismanagement and excessive layoffs.
In his infamous editorial, Plunkett made the sales pitch his own advertising team had refused to run: “Consider this also a signal to our community and civic leaders that they ought to demand better. Denver deserves a newspaper owner who supports its newsroom. If Alden isn’t willing to do good journalism here, it should sell the Post to owners who will.”
Local nonprofit Together for Colorado Springs pledged $10 million to purchase the paper, but Alden didn’t bite.
According to a lawsuit filed in the Chancery County Court of Delaware, MediaNews Group’s majority shareholder has used its media interest to fund unrelated investments. The New York-based hedge fund holding 50.1 percent of the shares, Alden Global Capital used newspaper profits to gamble on an online job board, a pharmacy chain, and Greek sovereign debt.
After company restructuring in 2017, minority shareholders Sola and Ultra Master were cut out of decision making and denied access to company records—so they filed suit in March.
Litigation on the case in the Chancery Court of Delaware has been stayed until September.
Plunkett’s resignation comes one week after another Digital First Media editor lost his job for posting his own censored editorial to a blog. Boulder Daily Camera’s editorial page editor, Dave Krieger wrote, “Journalism is not just any business. It is part of our democratic infrastructure.”
The last of Denver Post’s Cannabist staff has also been replaced with bots prompting the vertical’s founder Ricardo Baca to step forward with a letter of intent to purchase it.
“It’s devastating to have helped create a news and culture site that changed the way so many people, journalists included, talked about marijuana—and to watch it fall apart,” Baca said in a release.