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Our View: Raise beer glass for The Denver Post

If you happen to be in the Denver area tomorrow and are hankering for a beer, we can recommend a new one, The Thirst Amendment.

You will be raising a glass for a cause close to our hearts – the survival of The Denver Post as we know it.

The Thirst Amendment, a collaboration beer between the Denver Newspaper Guild and FlyteCo Brewing, is a show of support for local journalism at tomorrow’s release party. The guild wrote: “Newshounds and boozehounds can join newspaper personnel to raise a pint of The Thirst Amendment, a black IPA, a week prior to the guild’s next bargaining session on Dec. 14. Enjoy happy hour pricing, plus the opportunity to chat with The Denver Post’s journalists about their work.”

Post reporter and newsroom union chairman Joe Rubino said, “My colleagues’ dedication to covering this city and state has never (wavered), and it’s well past time for those efforts to be rewarded with raises that allow us to keep up with the cost of living here.”

This hits close to home as some of us at The Durango Herald and The Journal are former members of this guild, survivors of newsrooms that have been gutted or closed.

No matter how you feel about editorials, separately, it’s the boots-on-the-ground work of reporters that matters most. Despite decorated histories, collected prizes, flags and banners, newspapers are only as strong as their people.

Since 2010, The Post has been owned by hedge fund firm Alden Global Capital. Alden owns more than 200 papers, including the Chicago Tribune, the Baltimore Sun and the Boston Herald, and takes an extractive approach to the news business like an oil company pumping wells dry. It does not invest in its newsrooms.

Soon after Alden acquired The Post, out came the knives with jobs slashed and resources cut deeply, particularly in 2015 and 2016. In 2017, the downtown Denver newsroom was relocated to its printing plant in Adams County, the most polluted ZIP code in the country at the time.

The Post staff members endured much.

Then – most notably – The Denver Editorial Rebellion of 2018, when 20% of staff members were laid off in a newsroom of 100. Editorial Page Editor Chuck Plunkett wrote an opinion in April 2018 headlined, “As vultures circle, The Denver Post must be saved,” criticizing Alden’s draconian newsroom-gutting and asking the owner to run the paper responsibly or sell it to someone who would. It was a bold and risky move.

Plunkett wrote a second editorial on Alden’s profits that was rejected. He then resigned. Uncharacteristically, staff members wrote an open letter to readers on the “unconscionable censorship” imposed on Plunkett.

Before all this went down, we saw closures coming. Yet, we clung to moments of hope. Back in 2000, E.W. Scripps, which owned the Rocky Mountain News, and MediaNews Group, parent company of The Post, formed the Denver Newspaper Agency L.L.C. “to produce and market Denver’s two Pulitzer Prize winning newspapers and secure both newspapers’ future well into the 21st century.” It was a 50-year agreement.

Fifty years, huh? The Rocky closed less than nine years later.

Many of us became journalists with a power-to-the-people purpose. With minimal staff, any paper would be pressed to do the most basic of functions – listening to police scanners, running down stories, following scandals. Watchdogging powerful people.

Readers are part of this equation, letting us know when we missed. We’re not always successful, not always liked. But we’re in the business to find the truth, however it lands.

Tomorrow, we’ll raise a glass in solidarity to our colleagues at The Post. Meanwhile, we’re reminded of an inscription on one of The Post’s earliest buildings: “O Justice, when expelled from other habitations, make this thy dwelling place.”