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The Denver Post: a local paper for local people?

The Denver Post: a local paper for local people?

Denver Post editor Gregory L. Moore announced in a note yesterday that the paper is now putting local news on the front page. “Every day except Sunday, the front page and the first part of Section A generally will be devoted to our metro report, what we call Denver & the West. This change is an effort to reflect our continued emphasis on local news, including our business report,” he writes.

Why is the Denver Post making the switch? Andrew Phelps at Nieman Lab points out that “the Post’s national content is typically provided by The Associated Press, The Washington Post, and The New York Times. Often, these are commodity stories, stories that readers can easily find elsewhere on the web — and, in many cases, stories that readers aren’t seeing for the first time in the morning paper.” So it doesn’t make sense to put them on the front page, when the Post could be giving greater exposure to its most original and community-focused content - content that readers can’t find elsewhere. 

Moore confirms this idea, telling Phelps, “we really want to promote the fact that we are spending an inordinate amount of time and effort trying to promote our local communities, and this demonstrates it better than any words can say.”

But Moore also suggests that national news will remain important to the paper, telling Phelps that among generally positive responses from readers, “I’ve also gotten some critical emails from people who think that we’re becoming a small-town newspaper and we’re de-emphasizing our national and foreign news — which, of course, neither is true.”

Phelps connects the Denver Post’s reshuffle with the fact that its parent company MediaNews is now under the direction of Digital First Media. He points out that Digital First Media editor in chief Jim Brady has stressed the importance of papers focussing on their own patch, and letting “the other guys handle the rest”. This is precisely the philosophy that underpins Digital First Media’s “Project Thunderdome”, a massive digital restructure of Digital First Media’s properties which, as Jim Brady explained to WAN-IFRA last year, intends to “help centralize resources to produce non-local content for all of the JRC’s properties” [and now at DFM properties too].

The Denver Post’s decision to go more local reflects one side of a double shift in news media described by The Economist last month. The magazine writes that according to media analyst Ken Doctor, in the coming years “there will be fewer national news outlets online. More will either look for new ways to make money from a small local audience, or try to get as big a global one as possible.”

The Denver Post is obviously going down the local route, but will it work? On the one hand, Phelps writes that, according to Moore, “reaction in Denver has been mostly positive”. On the other, Michael Roberts, who writes for Denver Westword, compares the Post’s new editorial priorities to those of the defunct Rocky Mountain News. And although the Rocky garnered a great deal of praise, and won Pulitzers in 2000 and 2003, its popularity did not save it from closure in 2009.

As the Denver Post makes these local changes, it is also shedding a lot of content, at least from its print product. According to Roberts, the Post may be dropping as many as 18 pages from its printed paper per week.

Sources: Denver Post, Nieman Lab, WAN-IFRA, LinkedIn, The Economist, Denver Westword


Hannah Vinter


2012-04-04 15:33

The World Editors Forum is the organization within the World Association of Newspapers devoted to newspaper editors worldwide. The Editors Weblog (www.editorsweblog.org), launched in January 2004, is a WEF initiative designed to facilitate the diffusion of information relevant to newspapers and their editors.

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