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No joy in Gazette layoffs

Mon, Nov 16, 2009

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It was dismaying to read some of the vengeful comments on the Gazette’s Web site this morning, as readers reacted to a news story published Friday about yet more layoffs at the daily.

The trolls were out in force, leveling all sorts of bitter criticisms at the paper. They attacked its editorial philosophy, its inherent biases toward left and right (nice trick if you can do it!), its failure to support community initiatives, its supposedly incompetent reporting and its bankrupt out-of-town owners.

Compared to the Post, the Gazette suffers. But it’s still a good paper, with smart, competent reporters, an interesting and delightfully combative editorial page and a daily feast of news and information that no other medium can match.

But let’s say that the trolls are right, and that the Gazette richly deserves its present fate. The paper has shed 40 percent of its employees during the last three years, so if present trends continue the Gazette will cease publication within the next couple of years. That’ll teach ‘em, right?

Those of us who compete with the ‘G’ might profit by its demise, but the city would be severely damaged. Even in this era of declining circulation, reduced advertising revenue, and shrunken editorial staffs, metro dailies serve communities in ways that no other medium can replace or duplicate.

Consider the breadth, depth, and continuing coverage of daily newspapers, which still define, celebrate, criticize, investigate, and breathe life into cities. There’s not a single local print publication, Web site, or blog that has the resources to do the kind of journalism that the daily does every day-and often does very well.

Every sizeable city in America has been defined by its daily newspaper(s) for at least a century. If that era is coming to an end, what will replace the dailies?

Conventional wisdom suggests that newspapers will endure on the Web. Maybe they will, but as skeleton organizations, stripped of the revenue and resources that now power their sites.

The Gazette, even in its present diminished state, employs scores of reporters and editors. Those men and women create the stories, the multiple sections, and the continuous updates that make the site worth visiting. Absent the revenue generated by print, the Web site couldn’t support such an editorial staff. The Web site would become one of many, constantly under attack by anklebiters trying to carve out specialty niches on the local Web, and bring in slivers of revenue.

It’s hard to imagine Colorado Springs without the Gazette. Much of what would pass for news would be incomplete, partial, biased, and inaccurate.

Absent the gray lady of Prospect Street, absurd rumors would proliferate, local governments would cheerfully do whatever they pleased, and the TV stations would (horror of horrors!) have to do their own reporting.

If the ‘G’ disappears, its employees will suffer for a while. They’ll find new jobs-but where will we find a new daily? Not in the unmediated, angrily partisan snark of the Web – and not in the pages of free community weeklies.

The old era passeth – and the new has yet to be born.

And for all of you trolls – where are you going to post comments?

<-Back to CSBJ.com

18 Comments For This Post

  1. Hunter W Says:

    I’m a big fan of the Gazette as it is the local paper. I buy it because it is the only source I have for local news. I don’t see much wisdom in putting a lot the national news in the Gazette though – by the time it is published it is already old news. More than 80% of the city is connected to the Internet – I get national news from Yahoo, Fox News, Google News, and the Washington Post. Since the Gazette is my only source for local news (unless Ted’s name is attached to it) why not refocus efforts there?

  2. mike Says:

    Maybe the Gazette could become a weekly insert in the Independent.

  3. Gibson Hazard III Says:

    I couldn’t even imagine this city without the Gazette. They are and continue to be a part of our history and a vibrant important economic cog to our city. I completely agree with the writers blog. It will be a sad day when we are reading about our cities news in the Denver Post or some other publication/internet site. Not enough people get involved with stories deeper than what the radio or TV can convey with local, national & international news. Lets support Journalism, The Gazette & the Colorado Springs Business Journal with (paid) readership!

  4. Jessica Says:

    I sincerely hope we can stop asking ourselves these painful questions of what happens if Colorado Springs doesn’t have a daily paper, can’t support an airport, doesn’t support its park, fire and public safety, can’t attract and retain businesses —- we live in a community which happens to be at a crossroad — will we choose to put on our big boy pants and grow-up as a city or will we be satisfied to complain about how backward things are and lead our disparate lives. This community has such potential, vibrancy and assets, I hope we recognize this before it is too late.

  5. oweye Says:

    The G also contributes directly to many non-profit organizations in town with printing and other media services, to say nothing of their annual holiday Stocking Fund. Who will fill these voids? Kinkos? How often do you see an ad in the daily for some worthwhile community function that doesn’t have the logo of the Gazette as a sponsor? To you recently migrated misfits who likely comprise the loudest cynical voices about the demise of our local paper, and most other issues in our community — go back to the cesspools you created in other places … and then left. You offer us nothing here, except your rants and vitriol about most everything we, who are native to the state, valued and nourished just fine before you invaded. Off with you now … get along. SHOOO!

  6. Dave Says:

    Good points John. The Gazette may not be perfect, but it is infinitely better than nothing. Few people realize who much other media — TV, Radio, and yes, the city’s other papers — rely on the Gazette for a foundation of information.

  7. Kenyon Jordan Says:

    “Much of what would pass for news would be incomplete, partial, biased, and inaccurate.” The Westside Pioneer takes offense to that, John!

  8. sharon berthrong Says:

    John
    Nice article. I am tired of the daily vitriol wishing ill to people. It is time for some civic discussion and I hope you have started it.

    thanks

  9. Ed Duffy Says:

    I disagree with the notion that this venue can’t be replaced. The model has to be different. Different enough that changing the Gazette doesn’t make sense compared to starting something new from scratch. But, if there’s a market for daily local, hard-copy news, it will be filled. Don’t muck it up by declaring a crisis and asking the government to get involved.

  10. Trevor Dierdorff Says:

    Regarding the posts by the trolls that John mentioned. Of course people will criticize the Gazette’s opinion as too far to the left and right. Regardless of which side of the isle you identify with there will always be someone more left and more right of you. You really must let it go as everyone is entitled to their opinion (as long as it is mine).
    As far as the Gazette’s failure to support community initiatives, where were you this past election where the G stepped up with the Indy in unprecedented support of 2C? They didn’t just quietly support it they came right out and campaigned for our city’s sake. I doubt you did as much.
    If you think the G has incompetent reporting I suppose you’d prefer blogs, Twitter and Facebook posts to get your news. That’s hardly a reliable source. Sure maybe the Gazette gets it wrong once in a while. I bet you do too. I wish I could say I’m perfect at my job every day, week, month and year. Heck, I’m glad to have a great couple of hours some days.
    The Gazette has been an important part of this community since our city father General Palmer launched it in 1872. If you care about preserving the history of Colorado Springs you should think twice before condemning her paper. They are a good community contributor and employer and I think that it is a shame that they’ve had to trim so much staff. As an employer I know how hard it is to let folks go. To the degree that the Gazette has shed staff I guarantee that executives, managers, and staff are losing sleep over the heartache of the layoffs. Perhaps you trolls should try being productive, pick up a paper and spend a few bucks with an advertiser.
    We should support all of our local papers and local businesses.

  11. atomicelroy Says:

    Oh come on JH, I think your infecting your argument with too much exaggeration, I remember when the CS Sun was bought up by the Gazoo, everybody said how this town would turn into a refuge for waco right wing extremists and evangelical christian demigods… oh wait a minute.

  12. Rosanne Gain, Gain-Stovall, Inc. Says:

    Good blog entry, John. Whether or not people like the Gazette in its current incarnation (or any past ones for that matter) the layoffs are people, not the publication. These reporters have families and contribute to the local economy – but not so much after their last day at the daily. Let’s hope that each one of them lands on their feet as soon as possible.

  13. Diane Wengler Says:

    John,

    Well said! The Gazette’s demise would be a very sad situation for Colorado Springs.

    Diane

  14. John Hazlehurst Says:

    Kenyon, no disrespect intended! But none of us, jointly or singly, can provide what a reasonably well-staffed & funded daily provides. On the other hand, a single feisty west side pioneer can provide a lot more than a certain freshly inked freebie from the daily…

    And Ed, the last thing we need is a government bailout. If the people of this city decide that they can do without a daily print newspaper, and want to rely upon weeklies, blogs, and websites, that’s up to them. We probably won’t miss it until it’s been gone for a while-kind of like the onset of senile dementia, you don’t realize that you’re going downhill until the process is well underway.

  15. Jo An n meadows Says:

    wow – this Hazlehurst column so well defines the problem facing our newspapers today. Thank you, John Hazelhurst, and thanks to the Colorado Business Journal for publishing it.

  16. Larry Jones Says:

    True, John, a daily is, or can be, a valuable community resource. But the communications industry will evolve and replace it with something else. If readers and advertisers say there is little value in a daily, then there really is little value.
    I suppose a century ago the buggy-whip makers made the same argument you just made.

    P.S. I bet you most of the Gazette staffers (who mostly all voted for Obama) would love for an Uncle Sam bailout and wouldn’t mind one bit working for the government (kind of like working at PBS, ala Bill Moyers and his ilk). They’ve always disdained those grubby mercenaries over in the advertising department, anyway. (I use to work at the Gazette, so I have some inside knowledge of this.)

  17. Ed Jones Says:

    You are going to have a very boring and one-sided blog/comment post if you delete anyone who even mildly disagrees with you, Mr. Hazelhurst. (By the way, the buggy whip / daily newspaper comparison was originally made by George Will, but I guess you take offense at any dissent and erase it.)

  18. John Hazlehurst Says:

    Ed, I delete nobody! As one whom the voters once summarily deleted, I’m not one who believes in relegating any comments, however much I might disagree with them, to the dustbin of history. But I’m not in charge of determining what comments don/don’t pass muster. If any have been deleted, it’s because they’ve been X’ed by a spam filter, or dtermined to be obscene or libelous-as far as I understand, anyway.

    Larry, I agree. Print dailies will vanish, but I’m not sure that they’ll be replaced with media of equal value to our many continuing national debates. And look at the nuts & bolts of local/regional news. Every sizeable daily in Colorado used to have a reporter at the state capitol, and that corps of reporters has nearly vanished, replaced (if that’s the word) with hyper-partisan blogs peddling misinformation.

    So who knows? Whatever happens, the Republic will endure.