It’s no secret that many of the progressive voices in our community would like to see the Gazette become another Denver Post.
They’re not yearning for the depth and breadth of the Post’s news coverage – the just want the Post’s editorial page. They’d love to have a local rag which reliably supports taxpayer-funded projects and has little space in its editorial pages for the anti-tax right.
That’s why it was so interesting to learn that Gazette publisher Steve Pope let slip a couple of tidbits the other day in a meeting with community leaders (I wasn’t there, but community leaders love to gossip as much as the rest of us).
He said, according to Mr. Anonymous Community Leader, that the Gazette would emerge from bankruptcy within five days, and would have new owners and a new editorial policy.
If true, that’s big news. Not because the paper will have new owners – that’s old news – but because the editorial tone and direction of the paper may change.
It may mean that the Gazette will abandon the Libertarian philosophy which has guided it since the 1940s when R.C. Hoiles bought the paper and folded it into his then-tiny chain, Freedom Newspapers.
Unlike most newspaper chains, Freedom saw itself as a company with a mission. R.C. Hoiles, the chain’s founder, had articulated his Libertarian philosophy long before Ayn Rand attracted national attention with “Atlas Shrugged.” Almost alone among publishers, Hoiles fiercely opposed the detention and internment of Japanese-American citizens during World War II. Hoiles insisted that the editorial policy of every newspaper in the chain reflect his own Libertarian beliefs.
Hoiles believed in government with a very small “g.” For instance, the Gazette editorialized against the public school system during the 1950s, holding that only public safety and certain public works deserved taxpayer funding.
Freedom grew and prospered until the early years of the century, when a heavily leveraged partial buyout of dissident family members saddled the company with a massive debt load. The company struggled for years, finally declaring bankruptcy last September.
No member of the Hoiles family retains any equity in the company. When it finally emerges from bankruptcy, the new owners will include J.P. Morgan Chase, the company’s largest secured lender, as well as Angelo Gordon, a private equity firm that has acquired deeply discounted media company debt.
The Gazette has mellowed somewhat since the50s, but its editorial policy has remained conservative and Libertarian.
During the last 20 years, The Gazette has had four staunchly Libertarian editorial page editors (Dan Griswold, Dan Njegomir, Sean Paige, and Wayne Laugesen). While the paper has never endorsed specific candidates for office, its voice has been powerful and influential – and not always popular with the folks at the Chamber and the EDC. The newspaper has looked skeptically upon the kinds of initiatives that the Post would have endorsed without hesitation and has endorsed measures that the Post would have condemned.
So will the G feature Maureen Dowd instead of Michelle Malkin, laud Obama and Michael Bennet and call for the reinstatement of the city’s Human Relations Commission? We’ll see – but after quarreling with those right-wing curmudgeons for the last 25 years, I’ll miss ‘em if they get kicked to the curb.
There’s nothing better for politicians or journalists than jousting with very smart people who disagree with you. They’re amused by your jejune antics, and you may even learn something.