Former Denver Post editorial page editor Chuck Plunkett will receive Colby’s 2018 Lovejoy Award for courageous journalism on Monday, Oct. 8.
Plunkett, an outspoken critic of newspaper buyouts that diminish local journalism, will deliver the Lovejoy Convocation address at 7 p.m. in Lorimer Chapel and will receive an honorary degree. The public is invited to attend.
Elijah Parish Lovejoy, Colby Class of 1826, was hailed as America’s first martyr to freedom when his printing press was burned and he was murdered in 1837 for publishing anti-slavery editorials. Colby has honored other courageous journalists since 1952 with the Lovejoy Award.
Plunkett is receiving the award for his outspoken commitment to local journalism. Earlier this year, his stance against the Denver Post’s owners, Alden Global Capital, led to his resignation from his post. He criticized the new owners for abandoning the core mission of the newspaper in search of greater profits, leading to layoffs and cost-cutting that he said crippled the paper.
“The Lovejoy Award aims to recognize journalists who uphold the principles of a free press in trying times,” said Colby President David A. Greene. “Chuck Plunkett has fought to keep the distinctive voice and essential coverage of local papers, long a source of critical exchange in local communities.”
Plunkett says that receiving the Lovejoy award helps validate the stand the editorial board took at the Denver Post. “I welcome the chance to give more oxygen to those advocating for local coverage of issues that matter to communities, and am humbled and overwhelmed to be honored in the name of Elijah Parish Lovejoy—an editor who gave his life for press freedom,” Plunkett said. “Our newspapers are being shattered by forces of profit at the terrible and dangerous expense of eroding quality journalism and free speech in communities across the country.”
A professional journalist for more than 20 years, Plunkett was deeply involved in local journalism from the start. He began at his hometown paper, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, before moving to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He started at the Denver Post in 2003, advanced to political editor in 2011, and was named the editorial page editor in 2016. Plunkett is currently director of CU News Corps, a capstone program for journalism undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Colorado Boulder.
Patrice Franko, director of Colby’s Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs notes, “We gather each year at Colby to reaffirm the courage of Elijah Parish Lovejoy to stand up—or lay down one’s life—for a free and open press. This year’s Lovejoy recipient, Chuck Plunkett, exhibits bravery in taking on the forces of our times that are closing down news coverage critical to communities. It is a call for each of us to defend our basic liberties of a free and vibrant press.”