Gazette's final breaths 

Ranger Rich

In memoriam: The Gazette (Colorado Springs Gazette-Telegraph, The G, The Gazelle), 1873-2011

The Gazette, Colorado Springs' daily newspaper that delighted its Jewish readers seven years ago by tossing Bibles into their driveways and once falsely reported that the Denver Post's editor had resigned so he could raise bees in Vernal, Utah, has died. The Gazette was 138.

The end came last week when it fired more than a dozen employees and then published a story headlined "Gazette reorganizes to put digital first," failing to mention all but one of the family-shattering layoffs just weeks before Christmas. The paper did mention the departure of its editor, who reportedly fell out of his beanbag chair when informed of his "resignation."

"Determined to cement the Gazette's position as the dominant source of news in the Pikes Peak region," the creepy story began, "interim publisher Mike Burns on Thursday announced a companywide reorganization designed to more deeply connect with readers."

Doctors confirmed no brain function, and the newspaper was removed from life support. Its remaining viable organs will be donated to the company that owns the Denver Post. The local paper was a medical anomaly, defying accepted cardiac knowledge by living for the past decade without a heart. It also struggled with acute digestive tract abnormalities that included having two enormous anuses: former publishers Tom Mullen and Steve Pope.

Among those canned in this attempt to "more deeply connect with readers" was editor Jeff Thomas, who, as business editor in the late 1990s, authorized publication of the story about Post editor Dennis Britton resigning to become a beekeeper in Utah. The story was sent to dozens of media outlets as a prank. Only Thomas and the Gazette published it.

Thomas was unavailable for comment. Initial analysis indicated the biomimetic 24-volt programmable logic controller near the base of his neck had malfunctioned. From the Gazette story: "Jeff Thomas has resigned his post as editor. Under Thomas' leadership, the news organization established a reputation for thorough reporting and a deep commitment to responsible journalism."

Thomas was so highly respected that even today, every Christmas, Dennis Britton sends him a greeting card. And a jar of honey.

The Gazette began in 1873 as a Saturday-only newspaper owned by Gen. William J. Palmer, who wanted something to read when he sat in his outhouse. Palmer's majestic horse, Tippy, later wrote a restaurant review column titled "Strappin' On the Ol' Feedbag." (In 1873, an annual subscription cost $3. By comparison, back then you could buy an El Paso County building inspector for $1 and a City Council member for $1.75.)

In 1946, the paper was purchased by snake-oil salesman R.C. Hoiles, who appointed his son Harry publisher, hoping to stop the kid from staring at the sky and shouting, "Ooohhhh. Big cloud. Lookee-like Grover Cleveland!"

In 1957, the paper moved into a marvel of aluminum-shed architecture at 30 S. Prospect St., where it has remained. Major improvements included installing "Push" signs on both sides of the front door in 1967. And in 1993, looking toward the future, owners installed a revolving door in the publisher's office. First through the door, in 1994, was N. Christian "Chris" Anderson, who got the attention of employees by spinning his head completely around, vomiting across the room and throwing a priest out the window.

In the final move before its death, the Gazette announced that it would no longer have an editor. As if it had one before.

Instead, the news operation will be run by Carmen Boles, who taught herself social media catch phrases such as "digital inclusion," "geotagging" and "living in my parents' basement," and thus became senior director of interactive content and audience development. She's now director of content.

Insiders say the latest firings were conducted in the typical business-model way: sending waves of flying monkeys into the newsroom to pluck people from their seats. "We're embarking on a transformation," Boles said in the bizarre story. "We want to collaborate in real-time with the community in defining what is relevant."

In the meantime, of course, all but the Gazette's last remaining handful of readers have figured out what is not relevant.


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