The first woman editor of The Denver Post in nearly its 124-year history, Lee Ann Colacioppo, told Colorado Press Women members and guests meeting at the Denver Press Club Sept. 22 that she first got interested in journalism in junior high because she wanted to know everything first.
She answered questions candidly for about an hour on a wide range of topics — how to keep a job in today’s journalism market, techniques for covering the news with fewer reporters, facing down inequities in the work place.
And, yes, she feels her salary is equitable; it’s the result of a market comparables study ordered by the Post’s HR director. Reporters’ salaries are set by the union, but management salaries had some gender equity problems. An analysis found some women were underpaid, and that’s been remedied, she said.
Colacioppo credited her predecessor, Gregory L. Moore, for being a terrific mentor. “He heard me when I was struggling.” She told him she couldn’t get heard in meetings of the managers when she was often the only woman in the room, so he changed the meeting format so everyone could be heard. She has been at the Denver Post for 17 years, previously working as city editor, investigations editor and news editor.
Women mentors have been few but included the managing editor at the Des Moines Register who hired her and a boss at a Greenville, SC, newspaper who told her there was no future for her there, that she could do better elsewhere, so she moved on.
Asked about the shrinking of the newspaper industry and fewer staff, she said the Post has 110 people in the newsroom (not all reporters), down from 200 before, and shrunk mostly through buy-outs until some recent layoffs. She said the editors have to make hard choices about what they cover, but the newspaper will continue its investigative unit. Newsroom survivors are flexible and passionate about reporting .
The paper has partnerships with some other Colorado newspapers and also cooperative agreements with such outlets as ChalkBeat, an educational website, which is transparent about its funders. The Post’s former educational reporter took a job there. “We have partnerships if it makes sense, is smart, brings quality and we trust them,” she said.
“Print still pays the bulk of our bills,” she said, when asked about the balance of the print versus digital news. “Nobody touches us with online reach.” Although the Post no longer has a daily newspaper competitor, “It remains a very competitive environment.”
The DPTV (Denver Post TV) feature has been a huge moneymaker for the Post, which hired a television reporter to do short news features for the newspaper’s website. “It’s not unusual for our videos to get 100,000 hits…It’s not for me, but video is how a lot of people like to get their news,” Colacioppo said. The good news is that videos can pay 10 to 15 times what a print story does. Facebook is a huge driver for us, she said. She reads comments on the Facebook page to find out what people are thinking. While comments left online can be nasty, she believes they have value.
As for continuing gender discrimination, she said a few young reporters have experienced condescension and the “you just don’t understand” attitude from some news sources. “Young women need to know what the job is worth,” she said, while acknowledging that finding out wage information isn’t easy.
As an editor, she has experienced that the number of men in the newsroom seeking to move up in management far outstrips the number of women asking about it.
Asked if the Post will call out politicians who lie, she said yes. “We’re not stenographers.” Going forward, she wants reporters to include more voice and personality in their stories, to foster a better connection with the audience.