The Denver Post announced thirty layoffs, or nearly one-third of its newsroom staff, on March 14. Just shy of two weeks later, we still don’t know the identities of all those who’ll be leaving, and that information won’t be made official for two more, thanks to a complicated system that allows some laid-off workers to “bump” individuals who haven’t been notified that their positions could be in danger. But at present, no daily reporters are being targeted, with the layoffs focusing on what Denver Newspaper Guild administrative officer Tony Mulligan refers to as “the second set of eyeballs.”
Veteran outdoor writer Jason Blevins voluntarily chose to leave the Post after news of the downsizing broke, and in conversation with Westword, he blasted Alden Global Capital, the paper’s hedge fund owner, which is reportedly making the cuts to maintain a profit margin on the property in the 20 percent range. Others who’ve revealed that they’re moving on include Kourtney Geers, the Post’s director of digital news production, and travel editor/feature writer Jenn Fields.
Here are some additional tweets from Post employees:
Music editor Dylan Owens: “Over the last few years, staffing cuts have squished The Denver Post’s music editor position. It’s been almost a side hustle for me the last year or so. Our latest layoff — about 30 newsroom staff, or 1/3 of our total — has finally flattened it.
#aldenexposed.. So, after 2.5 years as The Denver Post’s music editor, I’m stepping back out into the wild world of hired-gun writing. Breaking up is hard, but I’ll still cover music for The Post as a freelancer.”
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Scoville’s experience illustrates the fluid nature of the layoff structure, as the guild’s Mulligan explains.
“Contractually, the Post has to give two weeks’ notice of a layoff, and those who are laid off get severance pay — one week for each six months. And anybody in the affected job title can resign or retire with severance during the layoff window, which is the week we just completed. So for that week, they’ve been accepting volunteers and paying them severance. There’s no additional enticement. A buyout equals severance.”
By the way, the job titles chosen include assistant editors, content coordinators, community journalists, editorial assistants, videographers and the digital photo editor. No daily reporters were earmarked for pink slips, which surprised Mulligan. “I didn’t think they’d be able to do that,” he acknowledges.
“The other moving part,” he continues, “is that people have the power to bump to prior positions. You could have an assistant editor bumped to reporter, you could have a videographer bumped to editorial assistant. Even though someone is being displaced in a current job, they can bump back to a previously held position. So people that weren’t even scheduled to be notified through exposure could lose their job through bumping.”
Losing so many folks from the behind-the-scenes support staff will have a serious impact on the quality of the Post, Mulligan fears. “Having a copy editor is a big deal,” he says. “We lost most of the copy editors a few years ago, but we still had this crew that could take a look before stuff was published. Now reporters are going to be responsible for their content, and I anticipate more errors making their way into the paper and onto the website.”
The layoffs list is expected to be finalized on April 6. After that date, Mulligan says, “there will hopefully still be some second looks. But with the people they’re eliminating, there’s no way they can do as good of a job as they have been doing.”
Click to read the current Denver Post newsroom contract, which explains bumping and other details described above.
By Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
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