The Denver Post’s Death Spiral Will Affect the University of Denver

One has only to think of Dan Ritchie’s sentiment that, “all great cities must have a great university’. The University of Denver absolutely achieves Ritchie’s message, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get that message to the local public.

Chancellor Chopp’s 2025 Strategic Plan lays out exactly how the school plans to bridge that gap, But if DU really wants to achieve this plan to more effectively integrate DU into the greater community, a healthy presence in the community, through various media platforms is critical to DU. Additionally, if DU athletics wants to expand their reach to a broader local audience, they must look at alternatives to the current model, which arguably places too much emphasis on a partnership with the struggling Denver Post.

The Denver Post’s hockey beat reporter and friend of DU athletics, Mike Chambers tweeted the following several days ago:

The article and Chambers’ tweet come a just few months after former Post Rockies beat writer and current Post Broncos beat writer, Nick Groke laid out a similar story on Twitter. In his multi-tweet thread, Groke explained to his followers just what is going on at the Denver Post.

In essence, The Denver Post is owned by a hedge fund that doesn’t care about the quality of news. They are in it to make a quick buck and leave. Never mind the ridiculous business decision (making money with an investment in a newspaper? Really?), there are numerous ethical issues that are likely going to lead to the demise of the once prominent news agency.

First and foremost, the fact that the owners have no regard for reporting the news is and should be extremely troubling, not only to current Post employees, but to loyal Post readers. To borrow from a well-known business ethics term, when the “tone at the top” is such that the owners and decision-makers don’t care about the product, that same product suffers.

Based on various stories, the current owners have all but refused to infuse any of the profits the Denver Post has generated back into the paper. Writers aren’t getting paid what they deserve, coverage is lacking in many areas, and to be blunt, the Post hasn’t been what it once was for a number of years now.

As is the case at almost every newspaper (every company, really), when the top talent feels like it’s time for a new and sometimes better challenge, they leave. in an ideal situation, the company is supportive because it knows that it can simply go out and replace that talent with more talent. Since the owners have stopped spending their money on news, the Post has been unable to retain and replace its top talent as it leaves.

This process will continue on and on until the Post is no longer a truly viable news source in Denver. Some may argue that they will find a way to survive in the digital age, but at this point, the only hope for the paper is to convince the current owners to sell.

Now, how does this affect DU? This is just a Denver Post problem, right? Well, not exactly. For decades, the University of Denver has relied upon the newspaper to maximize its regional reach. From regular hockey features to the frequent news articles profiling some goings-on around campus, the Denver Post has been an integral piece of DU’s marketing strategy. And, for the most part, it has worked really well.

Journalists and supporters alike protest the lack of high-quality content with #NewsMatters
Journalists and supporters alike protest the lack of high-quality content with #NewsMatters

However, with the budget cuts and lack of funding, the Denver Post has been forced to make some tough sports coverage decisions. Embedded in those decisions is one simple question: “what will people click on?” After all, clicks drive revenue.

The answer to that question is simple: Broncos.

Well, really it’s the coverage of the local professional sports and the larger universities in the region that drive click and advertising revenue. The unfortunate reality is it doesn’t matter how incredible DU’s athletic department is. DU just doesn’t move the needle in Denver.

While the Post may be a viable marketing tool for DU over the next decade or so before it begins to slide completely out of relevance, the question remains: what can DU do to maintain and grow its regional presence when the Post proves to be no longer reliable?

The first thing DU should do (and they’re already starting to do this) is maximize its social media presence. News and sports media has become extremely social over the past five years. Essentially if you’re a journalist without a Twitter account, you’re irrelevant. More traditional writers might scoff at that idea, but that’s the reality of the journalism industry today.

Over the past few years, the DU athletic department has made some very good investments in social media. They have made it clear that they want the best people running their social media accounts. A well-operated social media presence means greater exposure to a wider audience, both locally and nationally. By hiring some of the best Sports Information Directors (SIDs) in the business, DU has shown that it is dedicated to growing in today’s climate.

Social media isn’t everything though. It’s an excellent starting point, but it goes well beyond that. Social media grabs the attention, but it’s the “content” that holds the attention of fans. And it’s the content that DU has been lacking recently. From a lack of televised hockey games to a lack of awareness that the University boasts a top 10 men’s soccer team, there needs to be a way DU can get this message out beyond social media. And not just sports, the University needs greater visibility for it academic and community outreach efforts as well.

The move to Altitude for television coverage and stabilizing their ever-changing radio affiliations are important first-steps for DU athletics.

One possible more long-term solution would be to buy a stake in a local television station. It’s a popular practice in the northeast as Boston University owns a public station in the city and uses it to televise various events. While Boston is a much different market than Denver, it’s certainly an excellent idea because, and this has become exceedingly clear, people don’t read things much anymore. They want to watch videos. They want to watch their teams play. And of course, under Chancellor Chopp’s 2025 Strategic Plan, DU wants greater visibility and reach across the Denver metro area.

If DU could find a TV station, the school would be able to televise any events they want and live stream them online. This would offer a new and unique way to connect with Denver, promote a more effective brand, and in effect, create a more cohesive DU community.

Bottom line, The Denver Post, on its current trajectory, will soon no longer be a viable marketing tool for the University of Denver – unless a local buyer, such as Phil Anschutz, buys the paper, finances losses and changes the current publishing philosophy. This scenario is highly unlikely so DU needs to recognize the new reality and understand that the Post’s effectiveness is declining. There are alternatives. It’s time for DU to get its own voice.

Meanwhile, we’ll be here the whole time just enjoying the ride wherever it takes us.

7 thoughts on “The Denver Post’s Death Spiral Will Affect the University of Denver”

    1. Fair question. Other schools have made it work. The school has access to funds and donors beyond tuition. It would have to make financial sense and an ongoing entity. Smarter people would have to figure it out – be it a purchase or ‘stake’ in a current station.

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  1. Good article, Tim.

    Yes, the Denver Post is ailing and social media is growing.

    Bottom Line: DU does need its own voice. And it needs to be a pretty loud one in a market are that is shares with eight pro sports teams (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, MLS, ECHL, MLL, NLL) and four larger public D-I football schools (CU, CSU, AFA UNC) within an hour of the DU campus, as well as world class ski areas, etc.

    I think DU should own a TV station and a radio station. It would allow the school to control sports programming and distribution, enable new community outreach and be a great recruiting and real-time learning land for the School of Media, Film and Journalism Studies.

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  2. If DU “has access to funds and donors beyond tuition,” then why aren’t these “funds” used to make DU more affordable to students? Shouldn’t the focus of DU, or any university, be education? I live out-of-state and I watch DU games on Altitude and Root; occasionally on CBS, FCS. When I’m in Denver I hear games being broadcast on local radio or at least saying they’ll be broadcasting. Just because other colleges “made it work” doesn’t guarantee DU would or could. Those other colleges probably bought or created their outlets years ago, not now. DU has the subscription PioneerVision. DU has a lot more issues than buying media outlets.

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  3. What games would be broadcast on a DU TV station? Home games? In that case people could stay home rather than attend games and save money. Then people will complain about home attendance.

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  4. Well I don’t know where else to vent this so I’ll leave it here: Due to the university’s inability to act like a professional institution in the handling of the recent “free speech wall” incident where they absolutely submitted to ridiculous PC culture, it is apparent to me they are not fostering a learning environment that promotes the exchange of ideas. It doesn’t bother me if the administration has progressive leanings, but it certainly bothers me they drew a line in the sand and took sides on such a ridiculous, benign issue that literally involved a “free speech wall”. I don’t care if anyone else is in agreement with me but I am sick of the culture that is pervading the campus and want to bring attention to the issue. I will not support DU financially through donation or ticket sales until this baby-like culture resolves.

    -A frustrated former athlete

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    1. Glad you checked in Pio Jack. I don’t know the details but a “free speech wall” should involve free speech. The University of Chicago has been the first top tier university to eliminate safe spaces and foster open speech – starting this year. Maybe they will usher in a new era. It is troubling. I have shared my view on this issue with the Chancellor and I would encourage everyone to do the same.

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