Editorial: Gazette’s status remains cause for concern

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When the first news came out of California to start the week, everyone who cares about the stability and future of Colorado Springs had to feel encouraged. After months, actually years, of uncertainty and rumors, The Gazette would have new ownership, and the city’s longtime daily newspaper could move forward again in a positive way.

That’s how it looked as Freedom Communications Inc. announced the end of its long presence in the Springs with the “merger” of its company with 2100 Trust LLC, an investment firm out of Massachusetts. In a news release, Freedom’s leadership and the new owners said how much they cared about preserving community journalism and valuing the staffs of Freedom’s properties.

That message soothed the many community-minded people here who believe a strong daily newspaper still is a vital ingredient to a healthy Colorado Springs. We’re among that group. We feel this city and region need a daily paper, as well as a weekly business publication. Though The Gazette would continue with non-local ownership, perhaps having fresh supervision would reverse what many local readers have seen as a steady decline for going on a decade.

But something didn’t seem quite right about The Gazette’s news. As it turned out, 2100 Trust LLC has existed only since 2009, has failed in two previous attempts to acquire newspapers, and its CEO has no journalism background. Nobody came here to address the staff, deal publicly with the media and assure readers of a brighter future. Nobody was available, even from afar, to answer questions and talk about the transaction. There wasn’t even a phone number to call or a website to check out.

That led to further questions. What if the new owners really didn’t care about Colorado Springs or keeping The Gazette after all? Quickly, the Los Angeles Times reported that 2100 Trust’s only goal was purchasing the Orange County Register, Freedom’s biggest property, and unloading the other papers, including The Gazette, as soon as possible.

So now we’re back to the rising likelihood of MediaNews Group, via the Denver Post, stepping in to capitalize on the situation. That might sound fine, but the reality also might be The Gazette becoming merely a Post bureau, even printed on the Post’s presses in Denver. That’s not the same as having our own daily newspaper, with owners committed to a strong local presence and being civic leaders with a stake in Colorado Springs’ economic future.

We don’t know what the outcome will be, but after all the hope to start the week, it now appears that was only a mirage. The Gazette staff deserves better, and the city of Colorado Springs deserves better.