Last week, southern Colorado found out about the new owners of The Pueblo Chieftain: GateHouse Media.
The Chieftain will no longer have local ownership and has become a part of the largest newspaper group in the United States.
Instead of a family business with deep roots in the community, The Chieftain joins a stable of 144 daily newspapers, 341 community publications and 569 local market websites.
GateHouse is aggressively buying papers (see Chieftain sale raises questions and concerns). The Chieftain sale was announced May 8, and less than a month earlier, GateHouse purchased a paper in Akron, Ohio. It is accumulating newspapers and counting on economies of scale to make them profitable.
With the change in ownership comes a change in focus and in the Chieftain’s business operations. The company shares content across all its papers, and does all the editing at its Austin location. GateHouse uses a different revenue approach than The Chieftain’s former owners, one that could cost local jobs in circulation, production and editorial — and one that could remove the emphasis on local news.
In the wake of the cuts at The Denver Post, owned by a hedge fund that is bent on squeezing every cent of profit from its papers at the expense of news coverage and community involvement, the news from Pueblo is troubling.
And while it’s too soon to tell if there will be job cuts, that’s been GateHouse’s model in the past. We don’t know yet if they’ll use the same heavy hand that The Denver Post and Boulder Camera’s owners use — firing editors who complain that cuts are threatening their ability to report the news and laying off workers at every level of the operations.
We’d hate to see the legacy of Bob Rawlings’ fiery independence disappear with its new ownership.
Corporate ownership is part of a trend that started back in the early 2000s, when companies started purchasing legacy media from local owners, and the pace has only increased over the years.
We think the trend is bad for the news business, bad for subscribers and bad for the community.
Local ownership makes a difference. We know. The Business Journal was once owned by a corporation that didn’t understand the characteristics of the Colorado Springs market. It was clear when they asked for stories about mergers and acquisitions that they were using Long Island as a benchmark to cover the Colorado Springs market. That organization is now bankrupt, and their papers now part of yet another chain. The Business Journal is the exception, with an owner interested in improving the community, telling its stories through local journalism by local reporters and editors.
Newspapers are a vital part of the community, and they need community support. We believe in keeping jobs local, in promoting local businesses through advertising and in supporting the community through honest, accurate reporting.
As the stream of news from Boulder, Denver and Pueblo shows, locally owned journalism is at risk of becoming a thing of the past.
But not in Colorado Springs — at least not yet. We’re fortunate that we live in a city with committed local owners at its newspapers, and one with several thriving media outlets. There is no shortage of voices in Colorado Springs and no shortage of outlets to tell their stories.
If you don’t want to add Colorado Springs to the list of cities with newspapers controlled from outside the state — and experience the helplessness that comes from understanding that no amount of local support will stop the budget ax from falling — support local journalism.
Purchase a subscription, buy an ad, go to an event. Listen to KRCC, pick up the Colorado Springs Independent, read the military papers.
A city the size of Colorado Springs — one with such a bright future — needs local ownership and local investment in journalism.
Keep journalism local — it really is up to all of us.