A Colorado civic group is spearheading an effort to buy The Denver Post, which on Sunday excoriated its owner, a New York hedge fund, in its opinion section by saying “Denver deserves a newspaper owner who supports its newsroom.”
The group, Together For Colorado Springs, said it had begun contacting potential investors in the state, who have so far pledged $10 million to the effort.
“We believe that The Denver Post is vital for Colorado,” John Weiss, the chairman of Together for Colorado Springs and the founder of The Colorado Springs Independent, a weekly newspaper, said in an interview. “It should be owned by people in Denver but it should also be owned by people statewide because it’s a statewide paper not just a Denver paper.”
The initiative follows a revolt at The Post that grew out of years of dissatisfaction with the paper’s owner, Alden Global Capital, which has cut costs and significantly shrunk the newsroom staff. Last month, the hedge fund ordered 30 jobs trimmed from a news-gathering operation that already had fewer than 100 journalists.
Mr. Weiss said several wealthy Coloradoans had emerged as potential investors, including Perry Sanders, a hotel owner, and John Street, a technology entrepreneur. It was unclear how much money would be needed to buy the newspaper or whether Alden Global Capital would consider selling it.
The Post, which covers a metropolitan area of roughly three million residents in a state of nearly six million, has a weekday circulation of about 170,000 and about 8.6 million unique monthly visitors to its website.
In a statement on Thursday, Mr. Sanders and his business partner, John Goede, said they were “committed to helping facilitate the purchase of The Denver Post to ensure open-minded, journalist-driven print and digital news for decades to come.”
Representatives for Alden Global Capital and a subsidiary that runs The Post, Digital First Media, did not respond to requests for comment.
The effort in Colorado comes amid a broader reckoning over the ownership of local newspapers, whose financial problems — many have struggled to offset steep declines in print advertising and circulation revenue — have prompted questions about whether they might be better off operating under local control than as part of large media companies.
A recent newsroom rebellion at The Los Angeles Times, for instance, helped induce its owner, Tronc, which is based in Chicago, to sell the paper to Patrick Soon-Shiong, a local doctor and billionaire.
The other papers Alden Global Capital runs through Digital First Media include The Boston Herald; The Pioneer Press of St. Paul; The Mercury News of San Jose, Calif.; The East Bay Times; and The Orange County Register.
The Post garnered widespread attention and support with its public denunciation of Alden executives as “vulture capitalists,” and editorial saying that “If Alden isn’t willing to do good journalism here, it should sell The Post to owners who will.” But journalists at other newspapers under the hedge fund’s control — frustrated by what they view as similarly relentless cost cuts — have also been hoping to be sold to local buyers.
The editor of The Mercury News and The East Bay Times, Neil Chase, has for months been holding discussions with people and groups in the community who might be interested in purchasing the newspapers. On Tuesday, he wrote a column that called for support of local journalism.
“Democracy cannot succeed without a healthy, free press,” Mr. Chase wrote. “So the owners of the press must be committed to its vital role, even if it reduces their profit.”
The Bay Area News Group, which, in addition to The Mercury News and The East Bay Times, includes The Marin Independent Journal, now has 160 newsroom employees, down from 380 in 2011. Over that time, the group’s operating profit has increased, Mr. Chase said.
In the Philadelphia suburbs, the union that represents journalists at four Digital First Media papers — The Mercury of Pottstown; The Times Herald of Norristown; The Trentonian in Trenton, N.J.; and The Daily Times of Delaware County, Pa. — has been seeking new owners. The union, The NewsGuild of Greater Philadelphia, has also asked Alden Global Capital whether it would consider offers, Bill Ross, the union’s executive director, said in an interview.
“I think they would entertain an offer if we were to put one together,” he said.
Mr. Ross said the union had contacted local philanthropists, foundations and other hedge funds about the possibility of submitting bids.
Since Digital First Media took over the papers, the union’s membership, which includes reporters, photographers and other employees, has declined by about 70 percent, Mr. Ross said. The Daily Times, which once had 125 union members, now has just 25. The Trentonian has 20.
Of those who remain, many work under demoralizing conditions, he added. The Trentonian’s building, Mr. Ross said, had no hot water for so long that the union filed a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Rats scamper about. Employees at the Norristown paper no longer have a building of their own and must work either from Pottstown’s offices or out of their homes.
“They’ve put no money into any of the properties,” Mr. Ross said. “It’s a bizarre situation of neglect.”
All four of the papers the union represents are profitable, he said.
Despite Mr. Ross’s belief that Alden Global Capital would consider an offer, it is not clear how willing the company is to sell any of its papers.
The hedge fund generally buys publications at a low price — it recently bought The Boston Herald for roughly $12 million — with the goal of extracting as much profit as it can, for as long as it can. A sale might provide a quick infusion of cash, but it would deprive Alden Global Capital of future returns.