Chuck Plunkett, former Denver Post editorial page editor, delivered an impassioned address after receiving Colby’s 2018 Lovejoy Award for courageous journalism and an honorary degree Oct. 8.
Plunkett, who President David A. Greene called “a champion for the highest principles of journalism and the value of community news in our democracy,” said he hoped to inspire attendees to think seriously about challenges facing their communities in light of shrinking newsrooms across the country.
Following publication of an editorial criticizing the Post’s hedge fund owners for layoffs and cost-cutting initiatives, Plunkett resigned his post earlier this year. “In refusing to accept what he deemed the degradation of the paper and the owners’ failure to see the value of local journalism to communities and to democracy, tonight’s Lovejoy recipient lived his values much in the way our esteemed alumnus did,” Greene said. “He would not be silenced, and he demonstrated courage and commitment to the principles we celebrate tonight.”
Plunkett urged citizens, professionals, and scholars to act boldly and overcome fears to keep community newspapers alive. Drawing on Lovejoy’s spirit of courageous journalism, Plunkett said, “Our responsibility is to the truth and to the readers, not to the special interests or elected officials. Not the powerful who run things in our community. Not even to the people who sign our paychecks.”
Communities should support news outlets they feel are doing a good job, he said, by paying for journalism they feel is truthful and fair. “That’s the great power of what it is we do as journalists,” he said. “We are completely transparent when we are at our best.”
Plunkett’s address was part of a suite of events sponsored by the Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs that included a panel discussion, “The Shrinking Newsroom: Implications for Democracy,” a community discussion on the impact of smaller newsrooms, and a conversation with Catrin Einhorn, one of the New York Times journalists who broke the Harvey Weinstein story in 2017.