The Gazette chews up two more papers

The story in the Gazette last week was accurate, factual and uninformative.

"Clarity Media, owner of The Gazette, has acquired The Pikes Peak Courier and The Tri-Lakes Tribune," wrote veteran reporter Wayne Heilman, "and formed a new subsidiary called Pikes Peak Newspapers to manage the two weekly publications along with The Cheyenne Edition and The Woodmen Edition."

"We are extremely proud to add The Tri-Lakes Tribune and The Pikes Peak Courier to our growing portfolio of news and media solutions," said Heilman's boss, Gazette publisher and president Dan Steever. "Localized news, down to the neighborhood and school district level, is in demand now more than ever. While national and international news sources are plentiful, high-quality and reliable news from individual neighborhoods is scarce and we are happy to be making another investment to help residents."

Print dailies are the passenger pigeons of our time. Once common, abundant and perfectly suited to their ecosystem, a dangerous invasive species (that internet thing!) threatens them with extinction. The unwary pigeons rapidly succumbed to the murderous efficiency of Euro-American hunters, but print dailies are still in the game.

The G's print edition has two problems — people over 60 and people under 50. The former subscribe to and love their daily paper, but they're dying off. The latter find print dailies awkward, inconvenient and irrelevant — yesterday's news today.

That's why the G's daily circulation has dropped from more than 100,000 in the early 1990s to around 40,000 today.

What keeps the creaking legacy business alive? Not marijuana ads — we're a family newspaper, bub! Not classified ads — Craigslist and other sites took those away. Inserts, those irritating advertising circulars that accompany my Thursday, Friday and Sunday papers keep the enterprise alive.

Thanks to media fragmentation, it's difficult to reach a mass audience. That's a problem if, like Lowe's or Macy's, you want to sell stuff to everybody.

[pullquote-1] By inserting community newspapers in the daily, they'll be more attractive advertising platforms for local merchants. The Gazette can slowly withdraw the pubs from other distribution channels, making them add-ons for G subscribers in selected ZIP codes.

The more ways of paying the freight, the better — but how will this alter the feisty, neighborhood-centric world of community weeklies? Mom-and-pop weeklies are of, by and for neighborhoods. They cover stories in depth that other media ignore, bringing not only reportorial skills but deep understanding of local history. It's never their first rodeo. What Steever calls "localized news" is, to the Gazette, a product — but one that may be ill-suited to the daily.

Take the Westside Pioneer, owned and published by Ken and Therese Jordan, with occasional help from their two sons. Once published weekly, the Pioneer is now a free quarterly, albeit one that's frequently updated on the web.

A few days ago, I picked up the September-November issue. In it were at least three important west-side stories I hadn't seen elsewhere.

I live a block from the historic West Junior High School building, which now houses West Elementary and West Middle School. The pioneer reported that if D-11's bond issue passes on Nov. 8, the district may build a new structure on the playing field/neighborhood park to the north of the existing building, which would subsequently be razed.

WTF??!! How did that one sneak by?

The Pioneer also reported on the demise of the Good Times Car Show after 25 years and the probable end of the Coronado High School homecoming parade. Both events take place on Colorado Avenue, but city charges and regulations have become too onerous for organizers. Again, WTF??!!

Finally, I was delighted to read that the city will repair and repave the 26th street bridge over Fountain Creek. I bike across the bridge and back every morning in the summer, and it's a road cyclist's nightmare. Thanks for the heads-up, Ken!

Ken Jordan knows the territory. That's what makes the Pioneer a must-read for west-siders. Corporate ownership might bring the Pioneer back to weekly publication, but how do you replace the knowledge, passion and experience of local owners? You don't.

The Gazette may be a doomed dinosaur, but it's the Tyrannosaurus rex of local media. If the owners of the Tribune and the Courier hadn't accepted the Gazette's offer, the G might have started competing pubs.

And it's tough to compete with a billionaire.