Weed can treat a lot of things, but it didn't save The Denver Post

Weed can treat a lot of things, but it didn't save The Denver Post

VicesApril 11, 2018 By Reilly Capps

No matter how sticky, no matter how green, cannabis might not save The Denver Post.

The Post's newsroom is in rebellion against its own bosses, a New York hedge fund that seems intent on destroying the paper. In a surreal move, like a kid calling his own mother a rock biatch, Post writers took over the opinion section Sunday and ripped their own owners, Alden Global Capital, for not supporting journalism the way owners at papers like The New York Times and Washington Post have. 

This was active insubordination. If this were the military in the 1800s, everyone would be hanged.

Over its 126 year history, Denver's Post has had all kinds of folds and triumphs. But by the last recession, its parent company was in big trouble, and started cuts and buyouts. A sad scene for people who like newspapers.

Not too long after, weed offered hope. 

It's an industry that has lifted Denver; streets are now bathed in money that grew on weeds. Never has Denver been so rich with new blood, bold ideas, wild food and rocking music. The museums, gardens, parks and symphonies crackle with new life. 

The documentary Rolling Papers covered this cultural breakthrough. It's a documentary about the Cannabist, a weed news section at the Post, and its first editor, Ricardo Baca. When the Cannabist came online in 2013, Baca was suddenly a weed guru, even though he smoked as often as your grandma does.

The Rolling Papers movie initially asked: can pot save the Post? Can attention and ad dollars from healthy green cannabis plants prop up the dying paper, and its wilting gray leaves? 

"Everybody is saying that newspapers are dying but I think those people should be excited — and many of them are — that the Post is going out on a limb and trying something like this," Baca said in the movie

The documentary had a lot of holes. The biggest was that it ignored its own main question; it wandered into personal stories of pot critics and marijuana moms. It didn't talk about sales or readership, or whether marijuana attracted a younger audience. 

For a while it seemed like the answer might be yes. In just a few years, Cannabist passed High Times in readership. It helped make the Post solidly profitable. 

But finally an answer came to the movie's question — popping up this week like a weed, in the form of, who else, Ricardo Baca. 

Seems the huge success of the the innovative section wasn't enough to rescue the company from the inky waters of doom. Recently, Alden announced it was cutting 30 of the paper's 90 reporter jobs.

Baca was and is furious. 

His words are there in the huge spread of the opinion pages, tearing into Alden Global Capital as "vultures." Baca says Alden bosses are "heartless" and merely "vulture capitalist whose Nixonian legacy will involve the attempted murder of local American journalism." Alden, by design, purchases failing companies like the Post and sells them off. Post staffers had to leave their headquarters downtown and work out of their printing office in Adams County; the Denver Post isn't even in Denver anymore. In his piece, Baca marveled that journalists are protesting anything, let alone their own newspaper. Journalists aren't built to protest. Writers stand in a corner and take notes. 

Baca left the Post in 2016, sickened by job cuts, and founded a cannabis content company, Grasslands.

On media in the past few days, Baca has aimed and fired at Alden. 

On Democracy Now!, Baca called his former bosses "crooked." On Instagram, he wrote “Nobody but corrupt politicians and crooked CEOs will benefit from a Denver without a daily newspaper.” He asked Media Post, "when will this soulless hedge fund tire of this profitable, if heartless, work?" 

So, no, Rolling Papers, green cash didn't flow to The Denver Post — or not enough, anyway. 

But if the Post dies altogether, don't blame cannabis — blame greed.