OPINION – The merry-go around of news

The media business has changed in recent years  with blogs and social media and the internet bloated with information.  Networks now have political identity, FOX for conservative views, the other networks lean left. I once liked CNN, started by Ted Turner and the best news source in America. While traveling in foreign countries I could always find a CNN station, maybe in Spanish or Arabic,  but covering world news events.

The same pattern has befallen the newspaper world.  We have liberal and conservative newspapers. In Colorado we once had a choice between The Rocky Mountain News and The Denver Post.  They seemed to swing back and forth in editorial coverage depending upon ownership.   The “Rocky,” owned by Scripps-Howard out of Cincinnati, and in recent years, The Denver Post locally owned by newspaper magnet Dean Singleton, who made Denver his home base for his 165 publications.  We know that Alden Capital, a New York hedge fund became the eventual owners of The Denver Post and a large group of Colorado daily and weekly newspapers that include Boulder, Longmont, Loveland, Sterling, Greeley, Ft. Morgan, Burlington, Lamar, and many more. 

Alden has been the successful bidder for Tribune Newspapers for an estimated $630 million that will make them the largest newspaper organization of major newspapers in the United States.

The Denver Post is part of this team of leading newspapers flags.

When Singleton sold his newspapers, the new ownership made severe cuts in the newspaper’s Pulitzer prize-winning staff.  The cuts were necessary to sustain the newspaper’s profitability and remember that the newspaper was no longer  locally owned in Denver.

Three years ago, the veteran newspaper staffer launched the non-profit Colorado Sun as a digital newspaper and has sustained that operation for the past three years.  Lately they have suffered financial duress due to COVID-19, like all area newspapers.

Last week The Colorado Sun was able to partner with The National Trust for Local News and complete the purchase of the Healey family of 24 local newspapers.  Six months ago, I joined Jerry Healey for lunch at The Twin Dragon restaurant in  Englewood,  close to his nearby headquarters, for a cordial lunch.  Healey is currently the president of the Colorado Press Association.  I served the Association twice as president decades ago.

During the lunch he offered to purchase The Villager,  I declined.  I offered to purchase The Littleton Independent, he declined as well. He did explain that he, and his wife Ann,  would like to sell their newspapers and they would like to retire.  If I was much younger, his stable of newspapers would have been a challenging  opportunity.

My wife Gerri and myself should have retired years ago, but we like the newspaper business and have enjoyed the industry for many decades. The Villager  keeps us active in the media world and community activities.

My view of the non-profit world is that foundations, who enjoy a tax-free existence,  should be assisting those in need. And, helping organizations that deal with youth like Boy and Girl scouts.  I think there are no better non-profits than The Salvation Army and Goodwill Industries, along with the many of others The Villager proudly features.

It is my belief that non-profits should not be purchasing or funding newspapers.

In recent years some Foundations have wiggled their way around the 501-C3 laws to make political oriented grants. When a Trust  Fund finances a 24-newspaper buyout, what is the real motive?  Does a New York entity really care about newspapers in Colorado?  How much independence will The Colorado Sun maintain with their new non-profit ownership? How deep are these trust fund pockets?

Will The Colorado Sun have to make the necessary cuts in these 24 papers to survive the competition from The Denver Post and newly established digital Denver Gazette?  The new conservative newspaper is owned by a Phil Anschutz corporation, the same owner of the Colorado Springs Gazette-Telegraph and the nearby historic Broadmoor hotel. I note the hotel ads in the Daily Denver Gazette.

What is really unique is that the Colorado Springs newspaper is printed at The Denver Post plant in Denver.  It was my belief, and many others, that sooner or later,  Anschutz would purchase The Denver Post.  However, with the growth and expansion of  Alden, the Post is probably not for sale being profitable, according to reliable sources.

It appears at this point in time The Villager is one of a  few independent newspapers  left in the metro area.  

It seems that we’re caught up in a battle of media titans and it appears that the more liberal Sun will battle the conservative Gazette.  Both newspapers are cutting edge digital newspapers.

How long will it be before the weekly newspapers are just on-line? The Denver Post will remain the stoic daily print newspaper with editorials reprinted from the Washington Post and The New York Times.  They also have online editions along with print editions.

The Villager will continue to provide local news, features, and columns just like we’ve done for the past 39 years.  Watch for our new ‘Looking Back” photos of Villagers taken during the past four decades.

We’ve recently had a resurgence of subscriptions  and many calls of support at 303-773-8313.  What else can you buy delivered to your home for a scant $1 a week?  I spent $8 for two coffees at Starbucks Saturday morning.

Our circulation manager has been in the hospital for the past month after he became seriously ill from COVID-19.  He contracted COVID-19 shortly after traveling on a vacation, not in the office. 

Where this road leads only time will tell.  The Villager will just continue on serving the good people of Arapahoe County and surrounding areas.