More Layoffs Hit Declining Denver Post

UPDATE #2: The only additional personnel change at the Denver Post we’ve heard about today, though we’ve been warned that more may come at any moment, is the return of columnist Chuck Murphy to the editing role he had previously–no word yet on a replacement for his column, or for that matter Mike Littwin’s or Penny Parker’s. The paper continues to seek cost savings, reportedly scrapping New York Times News Service reprints. We’ve also heard that a number of Post employees have accepted significant new pay cuts.

Perversely but recognizing the need for journalism to go on, you might consider pay cuts to be good news compared to the alternative of layoffs where offered. After all, they’ll still have a job.

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UPDATE: Westword’s Michael Roberts:

“Apparently, more is coming down today,” Parker says.

To put it mildly, Parker didn’t see the layoff coming. “Kick me in the head, seriously. I knew nothing, nothing. My poor, 33-year-old boss” — business editor Kristi Arellano — “had to tell me. I feel really bad for her. This is not what she signed on for.”

She adds that “I would have expected Greg Moore,” the Post’s editor, “to have called me. He didn’t, and I’m disappointed.”

—–

That’s the word from our sources this morning–yesterday, responding to continuing declines in revenue, The Denver Post once again began laying off newsroom and editorial staff. We’ve learned that columnists Mike Littwin and Penny Parker were let go yesterday. The loss of Littwin in particular, one of the Denver Post’s best pickups from the ashes of the Rocky Mountain News, will greatly harm the landscape of political commentary in our state.

We’re told that the Post must cut some $500,000 in newsroom overhead, and that more layoffs are imminent throughout the organization. As soon as we have names, we’ll share them.

And no, our recent criticism of the Post does not make this a positive development to us. The problems we have with the Post’s journalism will not be solved by less journalism.

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  1. nancycronknancycronk says:

    Mike Littwin was the biggest reason we still suscribed to the paper newspaper! The Denver Post continues to become the newspaper of the right, and because of that, its demise will be fast and furious. Great news for on-line blogs. Dumb mistake, Post owners.

  2. jaytee says:

    Cutting the people who make the product you sell always seems like the bad management move. I wonder how many people $500K translates to… It also seems weird to let go a big name columnist like Littwin, who is a pro and who draws readers. He’s already become a big part of the brand. He should have been offered a new deal that would have made him even more productive and valuable, like ask him to run that flat dopey spot blog. The Post is a bad paper and it seems like a badly managed organization.

     

  3. DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

    The Post is still trying to make their old model work. And that is destined for failure. But it’s too bad, having a news source like the Post (was) is a good thing.

  4. Ralphie says:

    Ritter’s oil and gas regulations.

    • Libertad says:

      These exposed the DP to higher fuel costs via new taxes …. on top of the rising base load power costs to print which of course as you point out were the fault of Ritter and people like Glen Vaad and that former Arapahoe County state legislator that lost in 2010.

      Didn’t the DP editorialize for these taxes and the clean energy/jobs. Sometimes things come back to bite you I guess.

      Just think if those things didn’t happen, Litwin still might have a job.

  5. SSG_Dan says:

    …Gannett is already going down this road – you don’t need good reporting, you don’t even need adequate reporting.

    You just need a large volume of reporting, and every once in a while a decent story will get printed.

    As far as the rest of the problems with print media, they’ll just pretend they don’t exist and LALALALALALA they’ll go away.

    Because that’s the way we’ve always done things…

  6. BlueCat says:

    Not just because he’s one of the few local progressive voices featured but he’s so good, so entertaining. Writers that good who combine accurate, fact checked information with humor are rare. This sucks. The editorial page just continued on its (note, no apostrophe) road to being even more predominantly conservative, less local and much less fun. One more reason not to bother. Huge mistake.  

  7. ParkHill says:

    The Denver Post has a whole lineup of Cato institute libertarian writers, and then a whole lineup of Repbulican writers.

    Only a few Democratic writers and no Communists to balance the Liebertarians.

  8. Albert J. Nock says:

    At least he can get welfare for 98 weeks.

    • taterheaptom says:

      imagineering that all y’all had to do–y’all being the actual 1% and the deluded as yourself that feels compelled to do their bidding–was get up an leave and all would be fine.  Because if only we silly Statists understood…


      It will be clear to anyone who takes the trouble to think the matter through, that under a regime of natural order, that is to say under government, which makes no positive interventions whatever on the individual, but only negative interventions in behalf of simple justice – not law, but justice – misuses of social power would be effectively corrected; whereas we know by interminable experience that the State’s positive interventions do not correct them. Under a regime of actual individualism, actually free competition, actual laissez-faire – a regime which, as we have seen, can not possibly coexist with the State – a serious or continuous misuse of social power would be virtually impracticable. AJ Nutcase

  9. greengrrl says:

    They kicked out Doonesbury last year, now this.  

  10. PitaPita says:

    Mediocrity is their apparent goal and damned if they aren’t achieving it with these dumb ass moves.

  11. DougcoDemDougcoDem says:

    I have subscribed to the Post for the last 40 years as well as the News when it still published. For newcomers to the state or youngsters –  the Post used to be the liberal paper! The News was always far more conservative – that is where Vincent Carroll came from.

    Also to reinforce the clown show mentality they reviewed a restaurant today that closed yesterday. The excuse – online -was that the section was printed on Monday. Do they do the same with weather?

    Sheesh.

  12. It also saddens me to see the decline of the Post . . . to see less comprehensive coverage of Colorado politics.  However, in a sense it is not surprising.  The Post editorial board has become quite sloppy, slothful, and unethical.

    As evidence of this I present the Post editorial of July 3, 2011, “Editorial: State Dodges PERA Bullet” at this link:

    http://www.denverpost.com/opin

    Recall that Colorado PERA retirees are suing the state and PERA over the theft of contracted, fully-vested, accrued pension cost-of-living (COLA) benefits that were earned over 30 years.  In the first round, a District Court judge has ruled against the plaintiffs (saveperacola.com) in an incredibly flawed opinion.  That ruling is under appeal.

    Note that prior to the Legislature’s taking of the contracted COLA benefit the Colorado Attorney General issued an opinion that this action would contravene Colorado case law, and that the taking of contracted benefits from fully-vested pension members would be unconstitutional.  Also, note that in 2008, in a Denver Post article, PERA’s General Counsel Greg Smith was quoted stating that taking the COLA would likely be illegal.  For some reason he had a change of heart, and testified in favor of the COLA theft bill in 2010.

    Nevertheless, the General Assembly donned its blinders and adopted the bill, and like lemmings the Colorado PERA Board of Trustees followed Meredith Williams over the cliff.  PERA led a parade across Colorado and managed to frighten a fraction of PERA retirees into supporting the proposed theft.  They then used the support of this fraction to bolster their case for the theft of contracted benefits from all other PERA retirees.

    To ensure passage of SB 10-001, PERA hired (12 to 20? lobbyists) with the pension’s trust funds, using PERA member assets to finance the theft of contracted benefits from those same members.  That is insane.  PERA corralled the public unions into supporting the COLA-theft bill, and then rammed the bill through the process.  PERA and the General Assembly were informed hundreds of times that the proposal was prima facie unconstitutional.  

    What are the problems with the district judges’ initial decision you ask?

    The district judge does not seem to understand that Colorado has an “automatic COLA” rather than an “ad hoc” COLA that could legally be altered by the pension plan sponsor.  The judge states in his decision that PERA retirees have a contractual benefit to their base benefit, but not the COLA.  He argues this in spite of the fact that the COLA benefit is set forth with the same force of law as all other PERA pension statutory provisions.  The COLA benefit is an earned benefit identical to all other earned PERA benefits.  Judge Hyatt argues that since the COLA rate has changed in the past it can be diminished in the future.  The judge does not seem to understand that increasing a COLA benefit is not a taking, however, diminishing a COLA benefit harms the beneficiary and is therefore a taking.  The fact that a COLA benefit has been increased in the past does not grant the state the power to violate the pension contract.

    If Judge Hyatt were correct then no pension COLA provision in the nation would be considered contractual, and these provisions have been upheld as contractual in courts around the country.  If the state and other PERA members did not like the terms of the pension contract, they should not have become a party to the contract.

    PERA members who paid the pension for “service credit” did so based on this “guaranteed” (PERA’s words) COLA rate.  If these PERA members had any idea that the state would renege on its contractual obligations, lowering the value of their purchase, they would not have given PERA the money.  They would have left these funds in their 401K accounts.

    In addition, the judge contradicts one of his prior decisions in which he ruled that the COLA benefit was contractually protected.  See below this post from “Alan B” in the on-line version of the Denver Post:

    “What truly confounds me in this case is that Judge Hyatt ruled the opposite in my divorce case. Which only shows what I have read before that it takes the courts 5 to 10 years to figure something out. He ruled that my wife was entitled to her share of PERA discounted at the legal rate assuming that PERA would pay my pension compounded at 3.5 percent for the rest of my life. Her lawyers argued that her social security could not be guaranteed yet the PERA could be. Judge Hyatt ruled for her and in this case he ruled the opposite of what he had ruled in the current case. Is the 3.5 percent annual adjustment guaranteed or not, Hyatt has spoken on the record, yes and no.”

    So, by stating that “Colorado has dodged a bullet” the Denver Post editorial board  essentially countenanced the breach of contractual obligations in Colorado and sanctioned outright theft.  If the editorial board had performed due diligence it would have discovered that members of defined benefit plans in the United States do not bear market risk.  That is why the pension plans are referred to as DEFINED benefit plans rather than VARIABLE benefit plans.  

    THE COLORADO WE LIVE IN.

    Fact #1: Governor Hickenlooper signs a bill to give a raise to state legislators.  Fact

    #2: State legislators steal contracted, earned, fully-vested, and accrued retirement benefits from elderly in our state (SB 10-001, COLA theft bill.)

    Our values are warped.

    Thank God the courts are beginning to correct the outright, unabashed theft of public pension benefits that has occurred in a number of states across the U.S.  Read below the clarity that this Florida judge brings to the matter, it is truly breathtaking.

    COLA LAWSUIT VICTORY IN FLORIDA! – FLORIDA JUDGE: IT’S ILLEGAL TO TAKE EVEN FUTURE COLA ACCRUALS FROM EMPLOYEES, LET ALONE COLA BENEFITS THAT HAVE ALREADY BEEN EARNED AND ACCRUED (SEE: COLORADO GENERAL ASSEMBLY, SB1.)

    The Florida Legislature attempted pension reforms that were not nearly as aggressive, in terms of risk of unconstitutionality, as those adopted by the Colorado General Assembly. Nevertheless, the Florida Legislature has been smacked down by the courts.

    Here are some noteworthy portions of the Florida ruling:

    “This court cannot set aside its constitutional obligations because a budget crisis exists in the state of Florida. To do so would be in direct contravention of this court’s oath to follow the law.”

    “To find otherwise would mean that a contract with our state government has no meaning.”

    “There was certainly a lawful means by which they could have achieved the same result.”

    “Florida law is clear that a legislature can, as part of its power to contract, authorize a contract that grants vested rights which a future legislature cannot impair.”

    “The elimination of the future COLA adjustment alone will result in a 4 to 24% reduction in the plaintiffs total retirement income. These costs are substantial as a matter of law.”

    “Where the state violates its own contract, complete deference to a legislative assessment of reasonableness and necessity is not appropriate because the state’s self-interest is at stake.”

    “All indications are that the Florida Legislature chose to effectuate the challenged provisions of SB 2100 in order to make funds available for other purposes.”

    “If a state could reduce its financial obligations whenever it wanted to spend the money for what it regarded as an important public purpose, the Contract Clause would provide no protection at all.”

    “The Takings Clause is intended to prevent the government from forcing some people alone to bear public burdens, which in all fairness and justice should be borne by the public as a whole.”

    “Defendants are further ordered to reimburse with interest the funds deducted or withheld . . . from the compensation or cost-of-living adjustments of employees who were members of the FRS prior to July 1, 2011.”

    Here’s a link to the decision in Florida:

    http://judicial.clerk.leon.fl….

    Here’s hoping that one day Justus will prevail in Colorado.  Read all about it and support the lawsuit at saveperacola.com.

  13. Middle of the Road says:

    Most of the well known reporters the Post picked up from the News are now all gone. Parker was with RMN for years and then picked up by the Post in 2009.

    Hell of a way to lose your job–have your 33 year old boss give you the news instead of the editor of the paper, Greg Moore, having the decency to tell you himself.  

  14. thing worth reading in that damn rag. I’m so pissed I would cancel my subscription, except that I haven’t had anything but a NYTimes subscription since the Rocky was killed.  

    • BlueCat says:

      can’t face mornings without a print paper spread out on my table with my coffee and toast. Screens just aren’t the same although I must admit I mainly keep up with fresh news via  the internet. I still love and am , truth be told, addicted to, a real paper.  On the rare occasions when one isn’t there in the morning I can barely stand it.

      I did call to strongly voice my dismay without saying that I wouldn’tcancel and expressing the opinion that many who were just hanging on for Littwin and a few other features would consider this the last straw and cancel.  

      Please call and if you are planning to cancel because of this please make sure they know. I’m assuming Littwin wasn’t forewarned or called personally either.  That stinks.  

  15. Alexei says:

    …any chance Karen Crummy also got a pink slip?

  16. VoyageurVoyageur says:

    I had nearly 37 years on that newspaper.  At times, we were ranked among the ten best in the country.   It is very very painful to watch the continuing cuts and layoffs.

     I went to the funeral of Art Branscombe, one of our greatest journalists the other day, and simply couldn’t help but weep at not only the loss of a great man, Art, but of the era of journalism that made his greatness possible.

      Journalism diminimus seems all we have left.

    • allyncooper says:

      Sorry to hear about Art Branscombe, I didn’t know he had passed.

      Total print ad revenues in 2006 $47 billion

      Total print ad revenues in 2011 $23 billion

      I live in a 16 unit town house project. As an early riser I often see the Denver Post delivery person tear into the parking lot, get out and throw a paper on the doorstep of the elderly woman across the drive, the only person out of 16 households that still gets the paper.

      I go to my kitchen table and turn on my laptop where I start reading from a number of news sites.

      The work of developing and writing content remains the same. The method of delivering that content has and will continue to change.  

      • DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

        The cost of delivering that content approaches zero. We will have “newspapers” in 10 years. The demand is there and the cost with an online delivery model is pretty low.

        But like most major transformations, the old companies go out of business and the new ones replace them.

        • allyncooper says:

          And as the cost of delivering that content becomes negligible (a good thing), new business models must be developed on the revenue side to pay for the development and writing of that content.

          Simply put, content, whether in print or electrons, has no economic value unless paid for by a sustainable revenue model.  

          • gertie97 says:

            They don’t care. All that matters is SEO, which means bullshit celebrity news.

            Unless a model is found to pay for real reporters and real editors, we’ll be doomed to reading our “news” from our favorite sites. No matter how biased or left-leaning or right-leaning or moonbatty or wingnutty.

            Then we’ll all vote.

    • DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

      The problem is the Internet came along and first the papers ignored it. And during the ignoring time they lost their biggest cash cow, classifieds. By the time they woke up to the threat Craigslist and Monster had reached critical mass and that fight was over.

      Now on keeping display ads they focus on print which is the part that is clearly headed for extinction. And for their online content it’s prett much print repurposed to the web which is about as ineffective a way as possible to do this.

      And in terms of selling content, again they go old school talking a yearly subscription when that’s probably the least effective way to get paid for content.

      I’m with you that I’m sorry to see our great newspapers go away. They were a strong and necessary force for the health of our democracy. But they didn’t figue out how to be profitable in this changed world.

  17. botw says:

    Mike Littwin is terrific.

    This is the latest unclassy thing from the Paper That Shall Not Be Named.

    There were other places they could have cut.

    Mike Littwin was the last reason to subscribe.

  18. Pam Bennett says:

    Mike is a fine and creative writer. Perhaps a Huffpost or some other ‘net business will pick him up.  

  19. Say Hey Kid says:

    Littwin had gotten oh so boring.  Penny Parker instead of being lively as she once was got in the bad habit of running one or two corporate press releases and calling that a column.  This new guy Murphy clearly stole Littwin’s thunder and made him expendable. BTW whatever happened to Bill Johnson was he canned or did he move on to another paper?

    Thank God we have Pols to get our news from!

    • CaninesCanines says:

      The loss of Littwin…will greatly harm the landscape of political commentary in our state.

      • Say Hey Kid says:

        But, unlike say liberal icon Paul Krugman Mike Littwin began to speak in a monotonous monotone with nary an original thought.  His column was on cruise control.  He rarely did interviews to augment his own views which were never very profound.  Sorry to see him go but the game is about number of readers and as he got more and more boring the reader numbers must have declined.  

        For political reporting we now have a gossip column.  It wasn’t that long ago we had two dailies, an independently owned weekly and far better access to serious reporting.

  20. sloanslake says:

    don’t shed any tears for this newspaper going the way of the Dodo bird. They are poorly managed and do not deserve to stay in business.

    Although I feel bad good people lost their jobs it’s worth mentioning that the entire newsroom was offered buyouts many months ago…so it’s not like they didn’t know downsizing and layoffs were on their way…if they didn’t know, then shame on them and maybe they weren’t as good reporters / investigative journalists as you all think they were?

    again, not trying to make fun of the good people who lost their jobs, just pointing out that these people knew or should’ve known the hammer was gonna drop at some point (and if it’s obvious that a ship is sinking, why would anyone willingly stay onboard after being offered a lifeboat ie; buyout?)

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