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A week after my third-grade class went on an overnight adventure deep into the New Hampshire forests, my science teacher, Mr. Phillips, gave us a glossy magazine article that described how every single New Hampshire maple tree had perished due to acid rain. We were then given a multiple-choice quiz, and all 22 kids in my class checked off that acid rain had killed off every single New Hampshire maple tree, even though just a week earlier we had all seen such trees with our very own eyes.

Four decades later, I'm reminded again that one can't believe everything one reads. Last Thursday, April Fools' Day, we reported that Rich Tosches had been named the Independent's new publisher. Contrary to last week's issue, I remain happily ensconced in the publisher's chair in our new wonderful building at 235 S. Nevada.

And actually, Tosches, formally of the Gazette, has indeed joined our paper -- as both a reporter and as a columnist. The Independent, with Cara DeGette's Public Eye, Kathryn Eastburn's Domestic Bliss, John Hazlehurst's Outsider, and now Tosches, sports, in my opinion, the best collection of commentators and essayists of any paper in the United States, with the possible exception of the New York Times.

* * *

Currently -- and this is no April Fools' joke -- five behemoths control about half of America's media:

General Electric, which owns NBC, Telemundo, CNBC, MSNBC and a vast collection of nuclear, military, healthcare and insurance holdings.

News Corp, whose holdings include Fox TV, DirecTV, New York Post, Harper Collins and a collection of professional sports franchises.

Viacom, owner of CBS, Blockbuster, Simon & Schuster, MTV, VH-1, Nick at Nite and about half of America's billboards.

TimeWarner, which owns AOL, Time, People and vast cable holdings.

Walt Disney, owner of ABC, Disney channel, ESPN, and the History Channel, whose CEO "earned" $287,000 per hour in 1999.

And media concentration is accelerating, with cable giant Comcast's current bid for Disney and the consolidation of radio ownership. Less than a decade ago the largest radio conglomerate owned 65 stations, today Clear Channel controls 1,200-plus stations, including every single radio station in some markets!

Here in Colorado Springs, the impact of media consolidation hit home with the recent announcement that independently-owned Chinook Bookshop will be closing in June, after losing 40 percent of its revenue to Big Box stores and the Internet. It is hard to compete when one's competitors can buy books so much cheaper than you can.

* * *

This is America. We don't give in -- we fight back. And as devastating as Chinook's closing will be for our community, we still live in the greatest democracy on earth, where consumers and citizens still rule.

It gives me great pleasure to announce that in addition to reading Tosches every week in the Independent, you can now hear him every Thursday on the Eagle morning show, 103.9 FM.

The Independent has also helped persuade Citadel radio to start airing Al Franken's daily show opposite Rush Limbaugh's, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday on 1300 AM, The Buzz. Plus, Franken will be coming to Colorado Springs sometime in 2004!

***

Another terrific announcement is that readers can now receive home delivery of the Independent by 6 a.m. on Thursdays. And your Independent subscription includes the Sunday Denver Post. Two great papers home delivered for just $26/year, or 50 cents a week. We need 2,000 paid subscribers by August in order for home delivery to be sustainable. To sign up, call 578-2828.

The Independent has also become the exclusive sales agent for local ads published in the Southern Colorado edition of the Denver Post/Rocky Mountain News Sunday TV Week magazine, giving advertisers a cost-effective vehicle to reach the Post and the Rocky's 40,000 Pikes Peak area subscribers.

Today, one of four area adults (more than 108,000 people) read the Independent at least once a month. Our survival is completely dependent on our readers and advertisers. Even with our home delivery option, we will always rely on the goodwill of more than 750 local businesses (including such chains as Barnes & Noble and Borders) that allow us to distribute our 36,000 Independent every week. The next time you pick up an Indy, please thank the store owner for his or her decision to carry our paper. And finally, thank you to our readers and advertisers, for supporting the city's largest locally owned newspaper.

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