A series on the evolution of the growth and technology of newspapers over decades from the pioneer days to the present.
NEWSPAPERS WERE A BOOMING ENTERPRISE Part: 4
Colorado newspapers have always been in demand from the mining camps to cattle country. As the Colorado Territory became a state in 1876, there was a newspaper located close to every county courthouse across the state. County seats were planned about one day’s horseback or wagon trip apart. As towns became cities, newspapers grew and prospered. Many second, third, and fourth generation family-owned newspapers were located in communities of Ft. Morgan, Steamboat. Springs, Limon, Lamar, Louisville, Grand Junction, Montrose, Durango, Pueblo, Rocky Ford, Craig, Burlington, Longmont and Loveland. These family newspapers have given way to large chain newspapers that own more than 50 percent of Colorado newspapers today.
Ogden Newspapers headquartered in Virginia, now owns my old newspaper in Craig, no longer a daily, but twice weekly. They purchased the large Swift Newspaper organization headquartered in Carson City, Nevada with around 18 Colorado newspapers including Vail, Aspen and Steamboat Springs. Alden Newspapers, a New York hedge fund, owns most of Dean Singleton’s empire of around 160 newspapers, including The Denver Post, Boulder, Longmont, Loveland. Ft. Morgan doing business as Prairie Mountain Media with about 18 flags.
The Colorado Sun, started by a band of former Denver Post staff started the non-profit digital-only Colorado Sun. In the past year they purchased the 28 Colorado newspapers owned and operated by Jerry and Ann Healey under the Colorado Media News flag. At last count there are approximately 110 legal newspapers operating in almost every county in Colorado. Three companies now own somewhere around 64 of these publications. The majority of these newspapers print at major newspaper printing plants including where this newspaper is printed in a Denver Post plant in Berthoud. Another printing facility is located at the Pueblo Chieftain. One of the last pioneer publishers is Merle Baranzyk in Salida who owns a chain of mountain newspapers including Leadville, Fairplay, Buena Vista, along with his Salida Mountain Mail and printing facility. Durango, once with a huge printing plant. is now printed in Farmington, NM. The Cheyenne Eagle plant in Wyoming prints some Colorado newspapers and is chain owned. As lumber prices have skyrocketed with inflation, the price of newsprint has risen with wood pulp rising costs with several price increase in the past year, driving subscription prices higher.
This is the lay of the land today; there are only a handful of even second- generation newspapers still operating. We still have some family members involved in our two newspapers operating in Arapahoe and Gilpin Counties. The 41-year old Villager started in Cherry Hills Village and a new acquisition in 2021, The Gilpin County Weekly Register-Call, the oldest newspaper in Colorado dating back to 1862. The official address and office is in the 1864 original newspaper building containing the antique printing equipment of the original newspaper now owned by the Central City Masonic Lodge No, 6, our landlord.
This will be my last newspaper adventure and one of my dearest. Loving the history of the gold strike on Gregory Gulch in 1859 and the rush of 20,000 miners to the “Richest Square Mile On Earth.” History reeks in Central City and Black Hawk.
Starting way back with the first acquisition of a second newspaper, The Middle Park Times, in 1964, with the efficiencies of technology we could print and operate multiple newspapers. Eventually, we had a Photon computer to set type at lightning speed. Each year we would add one, or sometimes two additional newspapers that would be printed in the Craig plant. We remodeled the newspaper building and added a new four-unit King Press with color printing capacity. The Craig Daily Press had expanded with 15 newspapers and 80 employees located across many Colorado towns. We didn’t have locks on the doors, and we operated around the clock, composing, printing, addressing and shipping newspapers to various locations.
I delivered the newspapers to Walden, driving over Rabbit Ears Pass every Thursday morning, sometimes wearing ski goggles to see through the blinding snow storms. There would be patrons waiting in the lobby of the North Park post office to read the historic Jackson County Star. The postmaster would help me unload my Volkswagen fastback sedan loaded with a vastly improved newspaper containing photos and school sports. The prior owners used a classic linotype and antique press to publish. I donated the pristine machine to the CSU journalism school. Don’t know where it is today.
(To be continued)