Columns » Ranger Rich

Gazette: It's now a fixer-upper

Ranger Rich



I know this will sound unbelievable, like I just made it up, but here goes: Nobody wants the Gazette.

I don't mean just regular people, the thousands who stand in their driveways at 6 in the morning, loosening up their arms so they can throw the Gazette back at the delivery guy. Or the former advertisers who discovered spending ad money at the Gazette was like giving $10 to a homeless guy outside a liquor store as he holds a sign reading, "Please Help With My Tuition."

Oh sure, the Gazette still has a small following thrilled to get the paper, a fascinating collection of four-day-old Associated Press stories from other states tucked neatly inside that nice plastic sack. But enough about people who own poodles that poop a lot. (These dogs are called pooples.)

No, I mean no one wants to own the Gazette. It's been for sale since the bankruptcy of its parent, Freedom Communications (motto: "Founded Many Years Ago by a Nut"). The most serious offer came last year when the U.S. Secret Service wanted to buy the Gazette building and convert it into a complex for national security work and, of course, to store its fleet of large-breasted Colombian dancing women. (Q: What do the Colombian dancing women and the current occupants of the Gazette building have in common? A: They don't really understand English and will do just about anything for $5.)

Seriously, no one has shown much interest in the newspaper. Until now.

As announced last week, the Gazette and six other Freedom newspapers have been sold to a Boston investment group. This has the immediate effect of turning a lousy newspaper with no advertisers into a lousy newspapah with no advahtisahs. Also, the New York Yankees suck.

Gazette newsroom boss Carmen Boles — the "content director" at a paper that has no editor — reacted to the news of the sale by calling a staff meeting and asking the two obvious questions:

Doesn't my hair look absolutely marvelous?

Didn't I fire all of you worthless bastards last week?

Just kidding. As the top news executive at a daily newspaper in a region of some 600,000 people, Boles reacted to the sale just as you might think: She wandered around the newsroom asking if Boston was in Pennsylvania or Maine.

The buyer is Aaron Kushner, 39, head of 2100 Trust and former boss at a greeting card company. From the Los Angeles Times: "Kushner has no media experience and is relatively unknown in the newspaper business."

Which makes his interest in the Gazette seem logical. In a prepared statement, Kushner said: "We believe that newspapers are essential to the fabric of our lives and are excited to own and grow these unique institutions."

As a former Gazette employee, I can say in all seriousness that working there was like being institutionalized. For more detail, see the film One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. (I was the giant, crazy "Chief" Bromden.)

But before we get all giddy about the Gazette having a new owner with long-range plans, the Times says Kushner's plan is to re-sell the Gazette and other small papers, but keep the Orange County Register in California.

"The new owner hopes to spin off the smaller papers in separate deals by the end of the summer to help finance the purchase of the Register," the Times reported. Which makes the Gazette a fixer-upper, to be flipped as soon as possible. (An expanded living room could be created by using content director Boles' office, now storing brooms, cauldrons and flying monkeys.)

Actually, Indy owner John Weiss has expressed interest in buying the daily newspaper, which on a personal note might mean this: I'd be asked to increase my work schedule to 40 hours per week from its current figure of 40 minutes per week — except during weeks when major news stories with monumental local importance are developing and then I don't work at all.

Anyway, maybe the L.A. Times is wrong. Maybe former greeting card executive Kushner will own the Gazette with its plastic delivery sacks for a long time. I can already see his new marketing motto:

Roses are red, violets are blue.

If you don't get the Gazette,

You'll have poop on your shoe.

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