Editorial: Gazette adds to Anschutz’s impact

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We at the Business Journal felt no surprise late last week after the official announcement of billionaire Philip Anschutz buying Colorado Springs’ daily newspaper.

For months we had been hearing Anschutz had his eye on The Gazette, after spending more and more time here as owner of The Broadmoor hotel and resort. Two weeks ago, CSBJ columnist John Hazlehurst referred to the newspaper transaction as “a done deal.”

It was clear that wheels were turning, with apparent direction in advance coming from Anschutz’s Clarity Media Group. During the past few months, Gazette management moved forward with filling specific key positions, which never would happen just before a sale without guidance from the incoming ownership.

Now the deal is wrapped up, and from all indications the daily paper’s new power structure will waste no time making noticeable changes. In early statements and hastily done promotional ads, The “new” Gazette’s leaders have told readers to expect more staff additions, more pages — including the return of daily lifestyle sections — and more quality content.

Many have wondered whether we might feel threatened about these developments. More than a few quickly have assumed that we will shift into attack mode, with The Gazette as a more dangerous enemy.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

To be totally honest, we’re encouraged by The Gazette’s new status. We think it’s a huge win for Colorado Springs, after many decades, once again to have local — OK, kind of local — ownership. Clarity Media Group might be headquartered at 555 17th St. in Denver, but rest assured The Gazette’s staff already knows that Anschutz himself will begin many of his mornings reading their daily product inside his Broadmoor suite.

From our perspective of also being in the same business, we’re pleased to know that someone as prominent as Anschutz believes enough in the future of newspaper publishing here to make such an investment. In many other cities, this obviously would not have happened, rescuing a paper like The Gazette from years of decline. But it has just happened here, showing that Colorado Springs indeed is different.

But this isn’t just about improving the city’s daily paper. We’re hearing other indications that Anschutz, from behind the scenes, is willing to make even more commitments for the long-range betterment of Colorado Springs. The details are sketchy and unconfirmed, but if they become reality, Anschutz is positioning himself to become this city’s unparalleled business and philanthropic champion of the 21st century. He has the capability, and apparently the desire, to earn a legitimate, permanent place among the Springs’ true giants.

At the same time, we may never get to know Phil Anschutz. He has shown no interest in having a public presence around Colorado Springs, which is understandable. (We’re guessing he’ll give an in-depth interview to The Gazette someday, but otherwise stay in the background.) Yet, fortunately for this city, at the age of 72, he clearly wants to embrace Colorado Springs — and offer some of his massive resources to make an even more extraordinary impact.

For all that, the least we can do is say thanks. And applaud.