By John Hazlehurst
Here’s a puzzler for you: Among presently employed journalists in Colorado Springs, which one worked for the Gazette-Telegraph in 1952? Keep reading and you’ll find out.
To begin with, let’s jump forward 50 years, when it was becoming clear that the golden age of print was coming to an end. Advertisers were uneasy, newsprint was expensive, labor costs were soaring and even big city dailies were troubled.
I was a novice journalist, having begun my so-called career in 1997 after the voters ended my days in elected office. Former Business Journal owner John Weiss offered me the opportunity to write a weekly column for the Independent, and agreed to pay me the princely sum of $50 a column. That eventually turned into a full-time reporter/columnist job with the Business Journal (then owned by a national chain) and finally back to being a non-reporting columnist when Weiss acquired CSBJ from the bankrupt chain.
The printed page had long been a source of delight. For decades, I‘ve subscribed to three papers (The New York Times, The Denver Post and The Gazette). As dailies shrank, folded or were acquired by financial predators, I wondered whether The Gazette would survive. Acquired by arch-conservative newspaper publisher R.C. Hoiles in 1946, The Gazette was one of the flagship papers of the family-owned Freedom Newspaper Company. The company had long been carefully and prudently managed — but everything changed when the Hoiles heirs started feuding.
R.C. died at 91 in 1970, leaving the company to his three children. Intra-family fights became bitter, pitting those who wanted to sell against those who treasured their newspaper legacy. In 2004, the Hoiles family put together a partial buyout for dissident shareholders (including Springs resident Tim Hoiles, who owned almost 10 percent of the company and cashed out with a few hundred million). The buyout loaded the company with nearly a billion dollars in debt, and then things went bad. After the 2008 financial meltdown, Freedom’s revenue dropped by almost a quarter of a billion dollars across the 20 months from early 2008 to August 2009. Freedom declared bankruptcy in 2009, and it seemed likely that The Gazette would fall into the hands of a predatory hedge fund. Weiss was apparently interested, but resident billionaire Phil Anschutz eventually bought it. Rumor had it that Anschutz wanted to make sure that his city’s newspaper didn’t fall into the hands of a notorious liberal, but who knows? We’re one of the few cities our size with a fully-staffed daily that prints seven days a week. The Gazette’s carriers also deliver the Times and the Post to antediluvian old cranks like me.
Unhappily, it looks as if the end times are near. During the last several weeks, many Gazette subscribers have had to deal with late or missing deliveries. Call and complain and be told that your carrier quit and they haven’t found a replacement. Why? Maybe because it’s too difficult for seniors who might want to supplement their fixed incomes and too poorly paid for everyone else. Get up at 3 a.m. every day of the week, learn your route, drive your own car, pay for your own gas and make $1,000 a month? Fuhgeddaboudit!
So why don’t they bump up the pay? My guess is that Uncle Phil is not in the business of subsidizing his newspaper. Too bad, geezers!
And yeah, I’m an expert on newspaper delivery. I jumped on my bike every afternoon and pedaled around the neighborhood, proudly delivering the evening Gazette-Telegraph to our neighborhood. I usually made about 15 silver dollars every week…good money for a 12-year-old.