Mike Littwin on his Denver Post ouster and new Colorado Independent challenge
In March 2012, Mike Littwin, widely acknowledged as the best known and most popular newspaper columnist in the city, was ignominiously bounced from his gig at the Denver Post in a cost-cutting tactic.
Since then, Littwin sightings have been rare. But at long last, he's back, reemerging as one of the main draws at the relaunched Colorado Independent website. Below, hear what he has to say about his departure from the Post, his Independent move and the future of newspapering.
Littwin, who'd served as a prominent columnist at the Rocky Mountain News until the tabloid's 2009 closure, didn't say much publicly after being disappeared at the Post, which also bid farewell to business-section columnist Penny Parker and YourHub's Dacia Johnson, and ended Chuck Murphy's metro column in order to shift him to a new position.
Sources told us the latter move was made due to union rules that would have required Murphy, the most recent columnist hire, to be laid off instead of Littwin. And things got even more complicated when the Post's sole remaining columnist, Tina Griego, took a severance deal and moved with her family to Virginia. Under the aforementioned union contract, the Post either had to rehire Littwin or Parker or do without a columnist until March 2013 -- and the paper chose the latter course.
Littwin is still using the photo that ran with his Post columns as his Twitter icon.
"They never really tried to hire me back," Littwin confirms. "We had some discussions, but most of them were basically about health care and making sure I was covered while I wasn't writing. That's the world of newspapers: You think of all the difficulties of people losing their jobs, but it really comes down to something as simple as, 'Do I have health care?' and how scary it is to be out in the world without it. But we got that straightened out, fortunately."
Regarding his sacking, "they came to me and said they were in deep, unexpected financial trouble and they had to get $500,000 off the books," he recalls. "I wish I could say that just getting rid of me would have saved them $500,000. If so, I'd be off on some nice island at this point. But it shows the financial straits they were in then, and I think they remain in."
To save the half-million, Littwin notes, "they got rid of me, they got rid of Penny, and they got Woody" -- that's sports columnist and ESPN personality Woody Paige -- "to give back some money." (We contacted Paige at the time after hearing such reports; he never responded.) "And they got a couple of other people to give back money, too.
Littwin with Michael Scherer at the 2009 inauguration of President Barack Obama.
"It's sort of ironic that for the people who were in the union, they couldn't ask them to give back money -- so instead of asking them to give back money, they just got rid of them, laid them off." He adds, "It was really hard to take at the time. It was difficult."
No wonder, since, as Littwin points out, "I've been in the business for forty years" -- his first job, at age 21, was covering the ABA's Virginia Squires when the team featured Julius "Dr. J" Erving -- "and a columnist for thirty."
Looked at in its totality, Littwin believes "I've had one of the luckiest careers anybody could ever image, with all the stuff I've gotten to do. But when you're tossed out and you're sixty years old, you've still got to figure out what to do."
Continue for more of our interview with Mike Littwin.