Denver billionaire buys the Gazette, plans to boost content




Multiple media outlets are reporting that, as we've been hearing, Denver's Philip Anschutz, via his Clarity Media Group, has bought the Gazette from Freedom Communications. The move adds the 140-year-old daily to his portfolio of Colorado Springs-based assets that includes the Broadmoor.

The Denver Business Journal, which has led the coverage of this transaction, has a good story on it.

Clarity Media says it plans to increase the number of pages, beef up the newspaper’s editorial staff and coverage — especially of military issues and topics — and expand the Gazette’s website and online services.

Having new, Denver-based owners interested in investing in the newspaper will make for “a better paper, and a more responsive organization to the readers, advertisers and the community,” said Dan Steever, the Gazette’s president and publisher.

In the meantime, there are unconfirmed reports of departures from the newsroom; we'll update this post if we hear more.

Anyway, along with the news that Steever, a friend and business partner of now ex-owner Aaron Kushner, will stick around came word that Joe Hight, a 30-year veteran of another Anschutz property, the Oklahoman, will become our daily's editor, likely supplanting "content director" Carmen Boles. In June, Boles drew heat over her handling of a dispute with former employee Barrett Tryon, who had linked a story on his Facebook page about a possible re-sale of the Gazette after its parent company was bought by Kushner and his investors.

In a press release, Kushner says: “The Gazette is one of our premier properties and an incredibly important institution. We were impressed with Clarity and how they share our belief in the value of the Gazette and investing in its health and growth."

See the full release after the jump.

DENVER, Colo. and SANTA ANA, Calif. - Nov. 30, 2012 - Ryan McKibben, CEO of Clarity Media Group, announced today the purchase of the Gazette — the Colorado Springs daily newspaper - from Freedom Communications, Inc.

One of the first decisions made by McKibben, who will also serve as Chairman of the Gazette organization, was to retain Dan Steever in his present post as President and Publisher.

"Dan is an exceptional manager who has strengthened and grown every organization he’s led," McKibben said. Most of all, his passionate commitment to the Gazette makes him its ideal publisher."

The Gazette was founded in 1872 and was acquired by Freedom Communications in 1946. The Gazette is the second largest daily newspaper in Colorado behind the Denver Post, with a daily circulation of 74,172 and a Sunday circulation of 85,718. The Gazette serves El Paso and Teller Counties.

McKibben added: "We have had an interest in the Colorado Springs market for some time. It's a growing, dynamic region anchored by a robust tourism industry, significant military operations, the U.S. Olympic headquarters and training facility, and several leading hi-tech firms.

The Gazette has been an important part of the Colorado Springs community for 140 years. We intend to create a new level of excellence at the Gazette by adding additional news pages, growing circulation, improving digital capabilities and bringing more focus to local news that’s important to readers."

Aaron Kushner, CEO of Freedom Communications, which owns the Orange County Register and five other daily newspapers, was also pleased with the transaction.

"The Gazette is one of our premier properties and an incredibly important institution, Kushner said. "We were impressed with Clarity and how they share our belief in the value of the Gazette and investing in its health and growth. Clarity is a savvy and experienced media company and we are thrilled to see the commitment to quality that they bring to Colorado Springs and the Gazette."

Both McKibben and Christian Anschutz, who will serve as Vice Chairman of the Gazette, pledged to expand coverage of the region's military operations.

Anschutz commented on the importance of the military's presence in El Paso County by saying, "Outside of Washington, D.C., the Colorado Springs area has the most significant array of military operations in the country, with the headquarters of the North American Aerospace Defense Command/United States Northern Command (NORAD/NORTHCOM), and the United States Air Force Space Command, located at Peterson Air Force Base Complex, the U.S. Air Force Academy, and nearby Fort Carson, home of the U.S. Army’s Fourth Infantry Division. As well as the Space and Missile Defense Command of Army Forces Strategic Command (SMDC/ARSTRAT), the 50th Space Wing (USAF) at Schriever AFB, and the Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station. Together these important military operations provide employment of more than 61,500 and an annual economic impact of nearly $6 billion to the Colorado Springs area."

McKibben also announced the appointment of Joe Hight as editor of the Gazette. Hight has been in journalism for more than 30 years, ranging as a reporter to managing editor. He served as managing editor of the Oklahoman and director of information and development for the organization, where among other things, he led on-line development. As a reporter for the Lawton Constitution in 1982, he covered military affairs and city government.

Hight was elected last year to a three-year term to the Associated Press Media Editors board, based in New York. He has also authored and co-authored articles on journalism and the media’s coverage of tragedies. Hight has lectured throughout the United States, Australia, London and Ireland.

McKibben commented on Hight's appointment: “Joe Hight is a perfect fit as the new editor of the Gazette. He has experience in virtually every facet of journalism, from the ground-up as a reporter to managing editor. We have every expectation that Hight can reinvigorate all aspects of the newspaper, and his more recent concentration with Internet development ensures that the Gazette will be a well-positioned news organization going into the future."

Financial details of the transaction were not disclosed.

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