Exit interview: Greg Moore leaves The Denver Post after 14 years as editor

Greg Moore, who leaves The Denver Post April 1 after 14 years as editor, answered a few questions this week via email about his future, his tenure at The Post, and the state of Colorado journalism.

Moore, who was managing editor of the Boston Globe before being recruited to serve as Post editor in 2002, announced his retirement March 15, telling his staff that it was time for “new challenges.” He’s said he intends to remain in Denver.

Under his leadership, the newspaper won numerous awards, including a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the Aurora theater shooting. More impressive to me is the fact that The Post continued to produce a stream of high quality journalism in recent years, despite unprecedented budget cuts, layoffs, and general shrinkage.

(See similar interviews with departing journalists here.)

Do you think your next challenge will be related to journalism?

I do not rule out anything, but I am open to new possibilities outside of journalism. I have been in the business almost exactly 40 years. When I was 21, I told myself I would give 40 years to the business and I did. I loved it and it loved me back. Now I am looking for something else. I am interested in some strategy firms, non profits that do God’s work, corporate boards that align with my interests in journalism and diversity and are just killing it and need different perspectives, and I am very interested in education reform. But one of the reasons I needed to release from The Post was to open myself to all kinds of possibilities for the next chapter. I am wide open. The chief criterion is whatever I do has to be meaningful and fulfilling.

What do you think you’ll miss most about being The Post’s editor? The least?

What I will miss the most is the power I had to get any story done at a high level with the staff we had. I loved story identification and generation. Journalism is the best and most direct way to affect change in any community and you get addicted to that.

The least: That’s easy. I won’t miss laying off people and cutting the paper and scope of our journalism. I know it is a reality of the business today and I think I did it with my team about as well as you can do it and remain an ambitious enterprise. But it wears you down and is distracting because the end game is constantly shifting based on economic outlook. It was just time to explore other ways to use my brain.

What are a couple of your best moments at The Post? And a decision or situation you regret?

Well, winning the Pulitzer for Aurora is right up there. It was such a terrible tragedy, and the community was counting on us to help make sense of what happened. There were so many heroes and there were other big stories that year, including the Newtown school kid murders. So winning it was huge. I was so happy for our hard working, innovative staff that just put everything into reporting, photographing, editing and presenting the news smartly and sensitively.

Our coverage of the Democratic National Convention was the other. Not only was it historic with the nomination of the first black president, but all eyes were on the Denver Post and we elevated. I also think we helped show the city what it could be through our coverage: Sophisticated, lively, diverse and more than a way station between Chicago and LA. The city was electric every night during the convention. We’ll never go back from that as a city or a news organization.

Regrets: That I lost my hair doing this job! Seriously, not to be Trumptonian, but I don’t have regrets because I tried to be in the moment of the stories we covered, offering ideas and criticisms in real time. If we missed or botched something it wasn’t for lack of trying to be better. But if I had to pick something, we could have been better covering issues of race. Despite our progressive political history, there are far too many monolithic settings in this city and we could have done more to help change that, I think.

Resources aside, what are the strengths and weaknesses of political journalism, as practiced in Colorado, not just by The Post but by political journalists as a group in Colorado? In other words, how would you assess the state of political journalism in Colorado now?

Well, I think some pretty good political journalists have come out of Colorado and what is unusual is that a number of them were TV journalists. Because we are the state capital, there is some good stuff done here. The investigative work by TV and now bloggers is pretty impressive, honestly. Overall, I think the coverage is good. But in general, the environment for journalists is really shitty. You have to fight for everything. You can’t get a document without a lawsuit or paying exorbitant fees. Even when you win a lawsuit, the next time the situation comes up it’s like a brand new fight. That type of struggle wears you down and gets distracting. And you can lose focus. This is the least corrupt place I have lived in but I don’t buy that it is absent of corruption and malfeasance, misfeasance, whatever. I don’t think reporters here are guilty of cozying up to power because there really is not much access even if you wanted it. That alone should make us all even more aggressive. My charge to fellow journalists would be to ratchet up the pressure.

If The Post’s economic situation had been easier, would you have stayed longer?

Maybe another year, possibly. But 14 years is a heck of a run and you put the success we had on top of that and it really was time to drop the mike and move out of the way. Honestly, we creatively navigated the economic headwinds the last six to eight years. And we demonstrated we had developed a deep bench of talent and created opportunities for the folks on it. I was proud of that. But I have always believed that everything has a season and it was just time. I started with a big story my first day with the Hayman Fire and I had the chance to walk off with stupendous coverage of a Denver Super Bowl victory. So I did. And the Post is in good hands with people whose values I know and respect. It doesn’t get better than that.

Any other comments?

I love Denver and Colorado, my children were born here and I want to do other important things in the community. Lastly, I love The Post and I hope people are starting to realize how important it is to have a robust, independent news operation as part of the community fabric. Otherwise, you risk becoming Flint, Michigan with a water crisis no one told you about. That means rolling up your sleeves and figuring out smart ways to support independent news gathering. Make demands for quality and solid customer service but fight for and fund independent fact gathering. It is the key to our democracy and we need that more than ever now.

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