What a wonderful world it would be if R.C. were still around

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All this “Dream City” stuff that The Gazette is pushing seems to be affecting my sleep. The other night I had a dream that was so vivid, that seemed to ring so true, that I wrote it down as soon as I awoke.

Apologies to Samuel Coleridge, but journalists don’t dream of “Xanadu, where Kubla Khan/A stately pleasure dome decreed.” We’re just pedestrian folk, dreaming of … interviews!

And this was a rare interview indeed — a sit-down with R.C. Hoiles, the founder of Freedom Communications, still running the business.

“R.C.,” I asked, “You’ll be 131 in a few months. How do you explain your longevity, not to mention that you’re still the hands-on owner of the most successful newspaper chain in America?”

“Johnny,” said R.C., “I’ll leave it to the sawbones to explain how I managed to live so long. You’re a nice boy (even though you’re much too liberal!), so let me answer your question and tell you a little bit about my philosophy.

“First thing, you go to work every morning, you do your best, you expect everybody who works with you to do their best. You treat everybody fairly and equally, and you publish the best newspaper you can, every day.

“We’re still just a newspaper company — never got into TV, never got into radio. Of course, once the kids came up with the Internet, we knew that this was the place for us, so that’s why we partnered with that young fellow Bloomberg — you know he’s the mayor of New York now, don’t you? — and we put up most of the cash for Google. That Sergey Brin, he went to school with one of the great-great grandkids, so I knew he was a good boy, an honest boy.

“But every newspaper, every Web site in Freedom has to stand up by itself. You know, I’ve never borrowed a nickel — and that’s why we’ve never gotten into trouble. Once you go to the moneylenders, they own you. That’s why I sold the Orange County Register back in the ’80s to that damn young fool Otis Chandler. We would have had to spend money we didn’t have on this newspaper war, so I just took the money and used it to buy other properties — and parked a little bit of money with that young Buffett fellow.

“You know, one of the reasons I’ve had a little success is that I never pay any attention to all the liberal nonsense. There’s always something — some new hotshot telling you how to manage, or where to invest your money or what’s going to happen. I’ve been around long enough so that I’ve seen it all, so I never get too upset or too enthusiastic.”

I asked R.C. how he could run his company, which is thought to be the most valuable private company in the world, out of a suite of shabby offices in the old Cheyenne Building at the corner of Pikes Peak and Cascade avenues.

“Johnny, 10 dollars or 10 billion, it’s all the same,” R.C. said. “Besides, ever since your mom moved her bookstore around the block to Kiowa, and we put the brewpub in a few years later, it’s been a great place to work. We were sorry when your mom left, but she was such a pretty girl that she used to distract some of my people — especially that worthless young Harry!

“Why waste money on fancy furniture and show-off buildings? When people see you acting too big for your britches, they just try to take advantage. And you know, I’m a believer in freedom, and in voluntary action. And let me read you something I said a long time ago. ‘I believe that the newspaper business is one of the most important of all businesses. It is a business that can do a lot of good or a lot of harm. It cannot do very much good unless it is consistent and stands for principles that are in harmony with natural, moral law.’

“Of course, nowadays newspapers are in some difficulties. But you know, they mostly brought it on themselves. They loaded up with debt, they built big, fancy buildings for corporate headquarters, they acted as if the Internet were just going to go away, and they could keep on gouging their advertisers for ads that don’t work — we didn’t make those kinds of mistakes, I’m glad to say!”

I would have listened to more, but the interview was clearly over.

“Johnny, you’ll excuse me, but I’m going downstairs to lunch with a young fellow I’ve been — I guess you’d say mentoring — ever since he went to work in the business a few years ago,” R.C. said. “You might know him — young Bob Rawlings at the Pueblo Chieftain. Nice boy — but he’s much too liberal in his thinking … and by the way, say hello to your mom. I’ll bet that she’s as pretty as ever!”

I didn’t have the heart to remind him that my mom, had she lived, would be 111. As I left, I could hear him affectionately berating Bob Rawlings.

“You young fool, are you still trying to be nice to the union bosses?” R.C. asked. “Trust me, they’ll destroy you if you let ’em!”

John Hazlehurst can be reached at John.Hazlehurst@csbj.com or 227-5861.