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Tosches goes down singing 

One knows that one is going a little soft in the brain when one actually feels bad that a rival -- who once accused you in print of driving around in a VW bus, smelling of bong water and scraping by on futon ad sales -- has been relegated to the features section of a competing newspaper to cover shuffleboard and Christian romance novelists.

Last week, while exploring the current goings-on at 30 S. Prospect, we reported that Gazette columnist Rich Tosches was being bumped from the Metro pages to the Lifestyle section of the paper (that column can still be read here). This week, Tosches confirmed that he hasn't just been bumped, but his column is to be killed outright. He has been assigned two beats to cover, as a features reporter: seniors and local authors.

"I'm a local author; the first thing I'm going to do is interview myself," joked Tosches, who is much funnier in person than in print. In addition to the day job, Tosches, 48, has published a book on fly-fishing and is currently writing another one about golf, with the working title "Hairy Putter."

"I was told it was an economic move; it was a purely financial decision," Tosches said of his soon-to-be-killed column.

An economic move? Has he taken a pay cut? "That issue hasn't come up," he said.

Tosches came to the Gazette nine years ago after a long stint as a reporter and columnist at the Los Angeles Times. His first big assignment was to cover Pope John Paul II's visit to Denver for the World Youth Conference. All told, he has written 1,600 columns for the daily newspaper -- including the aforementioned dope and futon jibe at the Independent -- and has been given extraordinary space in which to make fun of the city's rich and powerful. So you have to wonder why a guy who gets sucker-punched like this by his bosses wouldn't simply quit. But Tosches is accepting the decision with remarkable ease.

"You know, I've been in the [journalism] business forever and I'm OK with everything," he said. "When all is said and done, there is still no heavy lifting involved; there are no wild animals biting. It's good work."

Still, isn't he disappointed? "I don't get disappointed anymore; things come and they go," Tosches said. "I have a job, and I like my job. When this is done to some people, they get all excited and dart out in the middle of traffic. I'm not going to dart into traffic."

All well and good, but it's unclear how the Gazette's readers -- who as of Independent press time have not yet been informed of the upcoming change -- will respond to the news. Tosches said he's doesn't know the exact date the column will be dropped, but his bosses have not indicated that it's a decision they plan to reconsider. Given that Tosches' column is arguably the most popular feature currently in the newspaper -- and that his pay presumably won't be cut -- the move is somewhat mystifying.

But this is the Gazette we're talking about, a newspaper that last Saturday and Sunday published business sections filled with wire service stories and not one single locally generated business story. The newspaper, whose parent company is for sale, lately appears to be floating like an unmanned barge. Perhaps its editors and publisher are simply waiting for the new captain to arrive.

Earlier this year, the daily's parent company, family-owned Freedom Communications, was put on the selling block. The deadline to accept bids was last week, and the offers are scheduled to be discussed at a board meeting this week.

Among the media companies who were expected to submit bids were Gannett, which owns 100 daily newspapers in the United States, including USA Today; and MediaNews Group, the seventh-largest newspaper company in the United States whose properties include the Denver Post and the Los Angeles Daily News. Lee Enterprises, which owns 44 newspapers in 18 states -- none of them in Colorado -- was also expected to submit a bid, as was the Journal Register Company, which owns 23 dailies and 235 non-daily publications, mostly on the East Coast.

However, several Freedom shareholders are also working on a deal that would keep the company in the family, and instead pay off shareholders who want out, including Tim Hoiles, the grandson of Freedom founder R.C. Hoiles who owns 8.6 percent of the company. Bickering within the family has resulted in a contentious process, Hoiles said in a recent interview, and the timeline for a final decision is anyone's guess.

Meanwhile, Tosches has his own fantasies about a new Gazette owner: "My personal favorite would be Oscar Meyer."

-- degette@csindy.com

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