It was either Mark Twain or Rod Stewart who once said that every picture tells a story " don't it? But while a picture is still worth 1,000 words and all that other good stuff, sometimes that actual story isn't exactly what we think it is. Consider a photograph of young Denver Post journalist Elizabeth Hernandez, sobbing on a colleague's shoulder, that went viral after she and her colleagues were told that 30 people on their already emaciated news staff will be losing their jobs in the coming weeks -- the latest blow to the ever-shrinking American newspaper industry.
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Hi, @ rgay. I'm the journalist crying in this @ washingtonpost column (http:// wapo.st/2HEz2Za ) on cuts to the @ denverpost newsroom by a greedy hedgefund trying to destroy newspapers. Know anyone who likes democracy and has the means to buy us from our owner?
I know, I know ... you've heard this story a million times as the agony known as the 21st century has unfolded. The internet is killing American journalism. No one reads newspapers anymore, and there's no real way for anyone to make money from the nano-pennies earned from every online click (unless you're a massive vampire squid like Facebook or Google), and so the money to pay young and once enthusiastic journalists like 25-year-old Elizabeth Hernandez just isn't there. Too bad.
The only problem is that this is not the real story of why Hernandez -- No. 1 on the layoff list since she was just hired back at the Post three weeks ago, by editors who had no clue that a financial neutron bomb was about to go off -- and her colleagues wept. While the bigger problems of modern journalism are as true in Denver as everywhere else, the real problem at the Post is the shady financial shenanigans of the vulture capitalists who bought the paper's parent a few years back, stripped it down like a Pittsburgh steel mill, and left a major American city with a tiny Alamo-like band of journalists surviving to report on its civic life and keep an eye on its politicians.
Critics have accused the New York-based hedge-fund, Alden Capital, that now owns the majority stake in Digital First Media (the owner of not just the Post but other struggling newspapers from Boston to Oakland) of running a "harvesting strategy" aimed at keeping the newspapers in the black but extracting those profits rather than investing them back into community journalism. Most recently, Alden's harshest critics -- including the union representing journalists at the Post and disgruntled shareholders -- have accused the hedge fund of using trickery to siphon money to cover other bad investments in businesses, like a pharmacy chain, that have nothing to do with newspapers. (Alden Capital has remained mum about these allegations so far.)
"It's disgusting to know that our owner doesn't care about the local community and doesn't care about it's employees -- that we have no value to them," Hernandez told me this week by phone from the newsroom where she's still covering important Colorado stories like raging wildfires ... for now. Hernandez has long wanted to be a journalist and even went to school in Colorado, far from her native Las Vegas, with dreams of ending up at a paper like the Denver Post, which has won nine Pulitzer Prizes, most recently for its 2012 coverage of the Aurora movie theater mass shooting.