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Gazette’s editorial policy to change?

Thu, Apr 29, 2010

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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.

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18 Comments For This Post

  1. Ed Duffy Says:

    So they’re going to emerge from bankruptcy and follow the NY Times model? Aren’t they down another 10% in readership so far this year?

    I wonder where they stand on government subsidies for newspapers?

  2. Thomas Says:

    We’ve already got the pot-smoking Independent. Do we really need another liberal rag in this town? I suspect they’d lose about 60% of their current customers if The Gazette goes the way of The Denver Post. I for one would cancel immediately!

  3. amanwhosees Says:

    I think Laugesen does a fine job sticking to issues rather than partisan opinion. I’m a moderate Dem, so I don’t always agree with him, but he at least presents cogent arguments that make me think. I would not want to see the Gazette’s editorial page slant either Left or Right away from where Laugesen sits.

  4. JC Says:

    Even though I think conservatively meaning I believe in free enterprise, low taxes and smaller Federal Government, it would be good to have media that reports the news presenting both side of a story. There is too much not being reported and the only way we hear about it is in foreign news media. I appreciate the Libertarian view but my concern is the G will now be just another liberial newspaper and we will receive scewed news.

  5. Ellen Says:

    Here’s an idea: Just report objectively and allow more than one point of view on the editorial page.

  6. Sean Paige Says:

    Good column, John — thanks for staying on top of what’s happening over at the G.

    It’s no surprise where I stand on this topic. I think the G’s freedom-oriented editorial philosophy, and its refusal to budge on matters of principle or bow to municipal fads, remains a good fit for this city. That the Powers That Be find it annoying is all the more reason why it needs to survive. Some in the news department seem to think that readers will come flocking back if you water-down the editorial voice to a bland, tepid, consensus-oriented gruel –the kind of glop you can read on all but a few editorial pages in America. The internal pressure to do that has been building for years. But that’s market-stupid, in my view – especially in this area. It would cost the paper more faithful readers than it would bring in.

    Attempting to scapegoat the opinion pages for the paper’s woes is a cop-out, in my view: the news side should ask whether it is as tuned-in as it ought to be to the pulse and thinking of this city.
    An internal assault on the page’s ideas and independence was already underway in the last years I was there. It’s not by chance that you have to go on a daily safari just to find the pages, or that it’s been reduced to just one page, or that the current edit page editor has been asked to sign his name to editorials that formerly represented the voice of the paper. There’s been a relentless effort, from insiders and outsiders, to tame and marginalize and undermine the page — making it easier, now that the family is out of the picture, to kill it once and for all.

    I think that would not just be a loss to the city — since a lap dog daily is the last thing we need around here — but to journalism, since few editorial pages left in America have the personality, pugnacity and philosophic integrity that that one does.

    But then again, I’m a biased observer.

    Sean Paige

  7. Green Flash Says:

    I hope they do well. Our town needs a daily newspaper that’s worth reading.

  8. Jon Says:

    Wow. The Gazette’s editorial leanings were considered Libertarian? I stopped reading it as I considered it a liberal rag years ago.

    John, you are fringy left to see the Gazette as a right wing paper.

    Then again, I think you make your living a lot like Floyd Mayweather Jr. A few like him, but most hate him. It’s all part of his (your) ploy to make a living off the angst of the majority (Colorado Springs still holds a conservative majority).

    But, here I am, baited just the same.

  9. Dave Hughes Says:

    1. If the GT left a Libertarian like Wayne still there and printing ONE political side, but added a second ‘editorial page writer’ from the middle or left (not as far a the way left Independent) there might be ‘balance’ attractive to more readers.
    2. But the GT really has to do a far better job managing its online Blogs, AND Fresh Ink than it does now.
    a. If it listened to me and made ALL posters in the Blogs use their real names, and not handles, there would be far fewer outrageous postings, name calling, flip cracks AND if the reporters or columnists whose items are printed that day are hooked to a blog truely MODERATED the ‘discussions’ and opinions by the public would be far more serious and useful AND more actual important city figures (councilpersons, organizational leaders, spokesmen WOULD join in the online discussion and CONTINUE THE DIALOGUE on important issues) THAT would attract serious readers, and if when the GT started charging for online access (which it must if it is to survive economically) then the multi-media paper could remain on top in the city.
    b. Fresh Ink and its predecessor Hub, as ‘citizen journalism’ had potential. But once again they do NOT know how to balance ‘citizen written pieces – up to 1,000 – 1,500 words with just one illustration, with photo heavy pieces that Fresh Ink has become. Its now a ‘picture’ book with some text. It COULD attract more advertising than it does now, as wll as readers.

    The GT is lost in its own woods.

  10. SonnyJIM Says:

    Hazelhurst vainly imagines himself to be “very smart people who disagree with” the politicians or the right wing curmudgeons.

    The main question is: can the CSBJ survive with Hazelhurst constantly whining about the conservative business people who want to keep their own money and who want to keep the political aristocracy from perpetually wasting the public’s money.

  11. Real Estate Says:

    The Gazette’s ridiculous love of sensationalizing the smallest news item and inability to report more than one side of a story (the Gazette’s side) have caused me to subscribe to the Wall Street Journal and the CSBJ for the last three years and counting.

    I get enough sensationalism from reading the National Enquirer covers in my weekly visits to the checkout line – no need to have it delivered to my house as well.

  12. GC Says:

    Why do papers need to lean one way or the other?Here is a novel idea put the ed page right in the middle. Let the left side pose their points on the left. The right side pose theirs on the right. Then I can have a nice big middle piece to line my birdcage with and I can go on with my life and make my decisions based on what I see for myself.

  13. Dissident Says:

    I believe I’ve seen figures that fewer than 15% of newspaper readers regularly read the editorial and op-ed pages. So this “news,” about the Gazette possibly abandoning its venerable libertarian voice, is not that big a deal, even if true.

    What would be much more significant is if the “news” pages changed from their tiresomely relentless leftwing spin of the news to something a bit more fair and objective. But when “reporters” and editors live in a little liberal world where everyone thinks more or less alike, that’s not likely to happen.

  14. Ken G Says:

    We have a local paper? I know some people in my area recieve a local pamphlet called the “Gazette” but I don’t think 10 pages of print with 6 pages of ads is a news paper.

    Drudge-report is where I get my news.

  15. Randy Says:

    Nice job see I am not the only one who considers Mr. Hazelnut, well a nut.

  16. doug Says:

    per Ellen…Here’s an idea: Just report objectively and allow more than one point of view on the editorial page.

  17. John Hazlehurst Says:

    Ok, all right already! Tomorrow’s column will discuss the G once again-but I’m going to maintain a dignified silence about the daily and its doings for a while-or at least until the leaves fly this fall.

    And yeah, I love Wayne’s editorials in the G-well written, provocative and entertaining. I think that we should put Wayne, Sean Paige, David Sirota and Keith Olbermann in a room with nothing to read but “Atlas Shrugged” and “Das Kapital” and see which one is the last to go crazy…

  18. Elaine Brush Says:

    What a refreshing read…..Now I truly hope the Gazette will follow through and be more objective!