Creating yet another gaping hole at Denver’s leading news outlet, Alicia Caldwell ended a twelve-year run at The Denver Post Tuesday, when she left the newspaper for a job as communications director for the Colorado Department of Human Services. Caldwell started in 2003 as a news reporter and joined The Post’s editorial board in 2006. Prior to joining The Post, she spent 16 years at the St. Petersburg Times in Florida.
Before her departure from The Post last week, Caldwell answered a few questions via email about journalism,The Post, and her new job.
Why are you leaving The Post?
Caldwell: The opportunity to become communications director for the state Department of Human Services was too good to pass up. Many of us get into journalism because we are drawn to important issues and care about the condition of society at large. This job gives me a more direct way of contributing on both those counts. The work CDHS does is really difficult, yet the agency is making headway on a number of fronts. I’m not sure there is a broad appreciation of that progress.
Do you agree with me that as journalism shrinks, opinion-writing jobs at newspapers, like yours at The Post, are even more endangered than jobs on the news side? If you agree, what will be lost in a place like Colorado, as jobs like yours disappear? If you disagree, please explain why.
Caldwell: I both agree and disagree with your premise. Yes, I think that the loss of voices on the opinion page diminishes breadth and depth of debate on issues of public importance. Love us or hate us, well-researched opinions on the topics of the day, especially the complex ones, bring value to the public sphere. Where I might part ways with your supposition is that opinion positions are more endangered than those on the news side. The newspaper has been cutting everywhere, unfortunately, due to shrinking revenues. It makes me profoundly sad, I will tell you, to see the diminution of the staff and the coverage we’re able to provide readers.
Diminished resources aside, what are your biggest concerns about how journalism is practiced today in Colorado? What do you admire most?
Caldwell: Well, I think all of my concerns are directly tied to diminished resources and the many effects that has on how journalism is practiced. As budgets grow thinner, it’s not just that journalists are losing their jobs, it’s that the business can no longer afford to pay for experienced hands who generally produce the most sophisticated stories. It also means the more subtle stories that might take time and research fall to the bottom of the priority list. Journalism will survive, but I worry that at regional newspapers, it will turn into a low-wage profession. And hey, I understand the need to balance the books, the need for revenues to cover expenses, but I do think that changing financial landscape will inevitably change the nature of the workforce and the product. As for admiration, I very much admire those who are carrying on despite all of these challenges because they have passion for their work and respect for the mission.
What would you say to a young person considering journalism as a career?
Caldwell: Keep your eyes open going in and don’t expect it to go back to the way it was even 10 years ago.
What do you think you’ll miss most when you leave The Post?
Caldwell: Being on the editorial board has been a profound honor. I have appreciated every day the freedom I’ve had to write on a broad range of topics. Working with Vincent Carroll, the editorial page editor at The Post, has been a pleasure. Vincent is a true professional who is always willing to consider opinions that differ from his own. I have to tell you, I think America would be less politically polarized if more people would sit down and rationally discuss the merits of an issue with people who they might not initially agree with. That piece of common ground that many of us long for is actually bigger than one might think.
NOTE: See other “exit interviews” with Denver journalists here.