Media

The Denver Post Has a Personnel Problem

Downtown Denver skyline (Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports)
If the opinion pages of the Denver Post cannot be used to present and discuss the views of people in Denver, then what, exactly, is the point of those pages?

The Denver Post has fired the wrong person. It should can its incompetent opinion editor, Megan Schrader.

The story (told by our Madeleine Kearns here) is this: Jon Caldara of the Denver-based Independence Institute had long written a weekly column for the Denver Post, but was fired over taking an objectionable view on a trans issue — an issue of transparency. In a column arguing for greater openness in public affairs, he excoriated the Colorado legislature for avoiding the legally required referendum on a new state tax by repackaging it as a “fee” — and then prohibiting hospitals from listing the fee on patients’ bills. On the same theme, he criticized the state’s educational authorities for imposing a speech code forbidding speech considered “stigmatizing” by the self-appointed tribunes of the various sexual tribes. “In case you hadn’t noticed,” he wrote, “just about everything is stigmatizing to the easily triggered, perpetually offended.” Continuing on his theme of transparency, he also complained that the schools were not doing enough to make parents aware of the contents of their curricula.

And so Megan Schrader of the Denver Post gave Jon Caldara the shoe.

The alleged newspaper published a note in which it affirmed with po-faced sincerity that it wishes to cover a “variety of subjects and feature a variety of voices, even when some of our readers find them offensive,” which is a transparent and obvious lie, as is the subsequent disclaimer: “We believe it is both possible and desirable to write about sensitive subjects and about people with whom one disagrees using respectful language.” The Caldara column can be read in full here. The language is entirely unobjectionable. Caldara was not fired for using a slur — he was fired for affirming his belief that H. sap. is an animal that comes in two sexes.

I know how he feels: After one of the familiar hysterias by the ridiculous ninnies who make their living and fill their empty hours in this way, the editors of the Chicago Sun-Times announced that they were severing their relationship with me — a relationship that I had not been aware of, as it turns out, because I’ve never had any kind of professional association with that newspaper, which simply reprinted work of mine from National Review on its own initiative. That was vexing: Normally, a respectable publication has to put up a few hundred thousand dollars for the privilege of firing me.

I am not much of a believer in firing people for having unpopular views, even naughty ones. And I do not think that the Denver Post’s Megan Schrader should be fired for taking the wrong view here. She should be fired because she is incompetent, i.e., unable to do the thing that a newspaper editor is supposed to do. If the opinion pages of the Denver Post cannot be used to present and discuss the views of people in Denver, then what, exactly, is the point of those pages? She doesn’t belong in a newspaper job for the same reason she doesn’t belong in the National Football League: She can’t do the job.

Lee Ann Colacioppo, the Denver Post’s editor, and Heath Freeman, the hedge-fund dork who ultimately is the money here, ought to be embarrassed of hiring such incompetents in the first place. But that is par for the course among American newspaper managements in the 21st century: Wall-to-wall cretins, cretins stacked high, cretins all the way down. (Freeman, I should note in the interest of full disclosure, acquired the wreckage of Journal Register, where I once worked and knew to be the largest collection of witless, gormless, gutless, clueless excuses for newspaper publishers in North America.) A newspaper that as a matter of editorial policy refuses to carry out the ordinary functions of a newspaper is not likely to be much of an asset in the long run.

The culture of inconsolable childish hysteria that characterizes much social-media discourse and practically the whole of the transgender-rights movement is not new, although outlets such as Twitter have made it easier to communicate.

Narrow-minded stupidity and intolerance are human norms, not human outliers: See, for example, the current campaign to bully liberal defense lawyer Alan Dershowitz over his decision to take a case with a high-profile client: Donald Trump, in this case. “Why did Alan Dershowitz Say Yes to Trump?” demands the New York Times headline. Presumably for the same reason he said “Yes” to Claus von Bülow and O. J. Simpson: Because he’s good at his job, likes doing it, and is not in any obvious way averse to the money and attention and other rewards that go along with that. A presidential impeachment is a pretty interesting case to be on the defending end of, I would think. Why would he say anything other than “Yes”? Why would any comparable talent (his critics by and large are not comparable talents) decline such a case? He’s a defense attorney: Cooties are an occupational hazard.

And that, of course, sheds some light on the fiasco at the Denver Post. The newspaper already has been gutted, and it is edited by third-rate journalists because the first-rate and second-rate have better offers. (Irrespective of Jon Caldara’s particular merits, as a former newspaper editor, I can tell you that filling your pages with the work of think-tankers and political hacks, who work for cheap or for free, is one of the things you do when you don’t have the money to hire top-notch columnists.) Maybe that’s a business plan that makes sense to somebody.

But any sensible person (and there are a few of those left in Denver, under its dank cloud of marijuana smoke) would have to ask: What other political positions are mandatory as terms of employment at the Denver Post? What other thoughts are unthinkable? Perhaps Megan Schrader could publish a list for prospects.

And if you’re wondering what the point of that might be, you might also ask yourself what, exactly, is the point of the Denver Post, which is at this moment far from obvious.

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