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Defiant Denver Post opinion editor resigns

Author: Mark Harden - May 3, 2018 - Updated: May 4, 2018

Chuck Plunkett, The Denver Post’s editorial page editor, at the Democratic National Convention in Denver in 2008. (Mark Harden, Colorado Politics.)

Chuck Plunkett — the Denver Post editorial-page editor who called out the owners of his own newspaper in spectacular fashion — has resigned, the Denver daily says.

Plunkett, a veteran reporter and editor, a month ago orchestrated a six-page opinion package in the paper that blasted Alden Global Capital, the hedge-fund owners of Post parent company Digital First Media, for a series of severe cutbacks at The Post that have diminished the news staff to a fraction of its former size. The package made national headlines.

In an interview with his own newspaper Thursday, Plunkett had this to say:

Being the editorial page editor of The Denver Post was a years’ long goal of mine, and I thoroughly loved the position. I did not wish to leave The Denver Post for years to come. I wanted to grow in the role and mature in the role and create an editorial page that Denver and Colorado could be proud of.

This is a terribly sad day. I hope all the journalists who have worked for The Denver Post and continue to toil in this difficult environment can continue to do good work. Don’t lose heart at what’s going on in our company. I also want to thank our readers for their support, and I hope to remain in journalism.

In a separate interview with the news website Denverite, Plunkett had more to say, including this:

It’s a tragedy what Alden Global Capital is doing to its newsrooms and what it’s doing to the Denver Post. It’s just… it’s an act of apostasy to our profession and I could no longer abide it.

Last week, at the Boulder Daily Camera, another Digital First Media newspaper, Dave Krieger, the editorial page editor, was fired after publishing a critical editorial about Alden without the publisher’s permission on another website.

Plunkett told Denverite that Digital First acting chief executive Guy Gilmore killed a follow-up editorial he had written that referred to Krieger’s ouster, “so I took a walk in the rain and wrote a letter of resignation.”

The cover of The Denver Post’s opinion section blasting the newspaper’s owners on Sunday, April 8, 2018. (Mark Harden, Colorado Politics.)

He said he had been “pretty much told that we weren’t supposed to talk any more about Alden or Digital First Media.”

And he told the Associated Press:

I was trying to follow good journalism ethics and I was not allowed to do it anymore.

Plunkett’s exit comes after media business analyst Ken Doctor reported that Alden is realizing profits greater than many of its media peers, including 19 percent profit margins at its Colorado newspapers, due in part to cost reductions from staff cuts that have left The Post and many of its sister Digital First Media newspapers nationwide with skeleton crews.

Full disclosure: Mark Harden was an editor and reporter at The Denver Post from 1993 to 2007 before taking a voluntary buyout in a staff cut.

Mark Harden

Mark Harden

Mark Harden is managing editor of Colorado Politics. He previously was news director at the Denver Business Journal; city editor, online news editor, state editor, national editor and popular music critic at The Denver Post; and an editor and reporter at newspapers in the Seattle area and San Francisco.