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Freedom’s just another word…

Mon, Aug 31, 2009

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 For nothin’ left to lose.

Yesterday afternoon, at 3:29 PM, the Wall Street Journal reported that Freedom Communications, the parent company of the Colorado Springs Gazette, would file for bankruptcy this week.

How did I know the precise time that the WSJ reported the story?  Because the Google alert, sent within microseconds of the WSJ web post, hit my mailbox at 3:29.

Shortly afterwards, the news was up on Facebook, in a post that twitted the Gazette for not reporting the story.  A few minutes later, a Gazette employee responded indignantly, and still later the Gazette’s Web site ran the AP wire story about the impending bankruptcy, along with a “localizing” quote from editor Jeff Thomas.

The story isn’t the story-as Marshall McLuhan so presciently remarked decades ago, the message is the media-or was it vice versa?

We no longer organize our lives around the daily newspaper-in fact, most of us are scarcely aware of daily print media. We go where the news is-and newspapers no longer have the news.

Freedom’s long-rumored demise surprised nobody.  Take an irrelevant business model, add a recession, thrown in predatory competitors (Craigslist, anyone?), load up the company with $770 million in debt, and what happens?  Ask General Motors, ask the Tribune Company, ask Pan American World Airlines, ask the New York Central Railroad.

Yet Freedom’s bankruptcy seems particularly sad and ironic, in view of the company’s staunchly libertarian philosophy.

As a corporation, Freedom didn’t exactly hew to libertarian principles, as articulated by founder Raymond Hoiles.  In fact, it was run by feckless, delusional managers who, like so many of their peers, thought the good times in the media industry would never end-and bet the farm on it.

But Hoiles would have been proud that the company’s libertarian heritage was, and is, still prominent on the editorial page.  Led by argumentative, articulate, and extraordinarily bright guys like the two Dans (Griswold and Njegomir), Sean Paige, and Wayne Laugesen, the G’s editorial page has always been interesting-not to mention occasionally infuriating.

And I, of course, owe a great deal to the Gazette.  The paper gave me my first job (newspaper boy back when there were actual newspaper boys), the news of my hometown for all those years, coverage of my so-called political career, free trips to Spain & Monaco, a couple of Bronco games, and, best of all, my wife-whom former publisher Scott Mckibben hired from Cincinnati a couple of years ago, and whom I met five days after she arrived in town…through today’s equivalent of newspaper personals, Match.com.

 

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