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Changing times in local print

Between the Lines

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As the past week has overflowed with news and rumors throughout the Colorado Springs print-media scene, friends and strangers alike have offered a variety of messages, in person or by other means.

The most common themes:

• "That's really great, you guys taking over the Colorado Springs Business Journal. Can't wait to see what happens."

• "Why didn't the Independent go ahead and buy the Gazette instead?"

• "You'd better not be planning to turn the Business Journal into a liberal rag."

• "Will this hurt the Indy? Because a lot of people would be disappointed."

• "While you're at it, would you please consider taking over the Hispania News, to save it from going away?"

For us, of course, acquiring the Business Journal has been, and continues to be, a very big deal. We officially take ownership on June 1, and the CSBJ issue that comes out that day will list our company as owner.

We're excited about the possibilities, not to mention the challenge of producing a second newspaper. Having local ownership, we obviously believe, should make a positive difference for the Business Journal, which has endured cutbacks in people and resources.

The reaction so far in public settings has been both positive and apprehensive, even from the same people. To paraphrase, the city's business community (a) feels glad that somebody local is taking over the CSBJ; (b) wants that publication to succeed as a visible part of the Springs' economic recovery; and (c) will be watching closely to make sure the Independent's "alternative agenda" doesn't influence the Business Journal's content in any way.

Those are fair expectations, and we're sensitive to them. We know, and we've been telling people, it's not enough just to say we'll make sure the two papers' editorial operations will remain separate, philosophically and otherwise. We also have to prove it in the weeks and months ahead.

At the same time, we have a similar obligation to the Indy's regular readers, all 142,000 of them. They don't want to see us slip on this end, and that's understandable. We aren't deviating from our quest to be the best alternative newsweekly anywhere, and that mission will continue because it's not just one or two people making the Indy special. We have a full staff of writers and editors, designers, salespeople and administrators, and all of us share in the responsibility. Nobody is more valuable than anyone else, and that will pay off now.

There's enough on our plate, which is why we aren't a feasible solution for Hispania News. All of us in local media knew Bob Armendariz, the Hispania News founder, publisher and editor who died three weeks ago. Sadly, that paper's fate is uncertain now, unless someone can provide the money, energy and commitment. It would be nice, for Armendariz's sake, if that could happen. But it'll have to be somebody else.

As for the Gazette, there was interest last year on this end, but Freedom Communications never responded to our inquiries. That implied another buyer would be stepping in, most likely MediaNews Group, parent company of the Denver Post. That hasn't happened, but Freedom also hasn't made any noise about the Gazette being available for negotiation.

In the past week, Freedom's current owners — who are really creditors, not newspaper companies — have accelerated selling off papers in chunks. When all four of Freedom's Texas properties (Odessa, McAllen, Brownsville and Harlingen) were sold to a group of investors based in Dallas, that was the clearest signal yet of the company being "dismembered," as one former Freedom executive put it on Facebook. Even the flagship Orange County Register might be sold soon, if persistent reports are correct.

Yet, still nothing in terms of a possible Gazette purchaser. Some have suggested (perhaps "hoped" is a better word) that billionaire Philip Anschutz, after buying The Broadmoor, might empty his pocket change and buy the Gazette, simply to control the local message. If there is a secret buyer out there, Anschutz still would be the most likely suspect. That said, don't be surprised if MediaNews comes back into play.

But not our company. We're consumed now with two distinct challenges: improving and revitalizing the Business Journal, while making sure the Independent stays on course.

That should keep us busy for years to come.

routon@csindy.com

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