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EDITOR'S DESK: Big media, their little papers and love via copy-and-paste

By Kenyon Jordan

Jan. 18, 2018
       Call me old-fashioned, but I remember a time when community newspapers were always owned and operated by, people in… well, those communities.
       I can attest to some personal experience in that regard, having worked for the former Pikes Peak Journal in the late '80s when the Graham family had owned that Manitou weekly for over a century.
       John Graham, the editor then, had expansion plans, so one of my tasks was to compete with the then-fairly-new Cheyenne Edition under the banner of Graham's new hybrid publication, the

Cheyenne Mountain Journal. I did my best to find stories in the Cheyenne/Broadmoor area, and I suppose some of its residents even read them once in a while, but all the time I had the qualm that I was trespassing, in a journalistic sense. Sure, we were all residents of the Pikes Peak region, but this was a distinct community in that region and I was not part of it.
       I was ignorant of the businesses, the leaders, the politics, the landmarks, the driving shortcuts and the long-time history.
       I had a similar sensation in the early 2000s, after fate (and a depleted bank account) made me editor of what was then the Tri-Lakes Tribune, a community paper serving mainly Monument and Palmer Lake. Hard as I tried - and they in turn to make me welcome - it was painfully obvious that it was their town, not mine.
       Still, I've never regretted the experience, because working there for a year sparked the epiphany that led Therese and I to start the Westside Pioneer in January 2004.
       It all came down to this: If I wanted to be a community news guy, then I needed to do it where I'd made my home - the Colorado Springs Westside. It might be harder to write objectively, but at least I'd have a tighter grasp on my subject matter.
       What I'm getting at here, in a roundabout way, is the increasingly sad state of community journalism in our area. Those papers I mentioned above?... The Pikes Peak Journal folded around 2000, replaced by the locally owned Pikes Peak Bulletin, which was then bought out by the Colorado Springs Independent.
       Not to be undone, the Gazette snapped up the Tribune, the Cheyenne Edition, the Woodmen Edition and the Pikes Peak Courier. All but the Tribune had small-business owners at the time; I guess they were looking for pension plans.
       We won't say the two Big Media dictate what their little papers print, but if you take a look in them you'll often see company-provided articles and/or photos,
This was the Page 1 banner from a 1989 edition of the now-defunct Pikes Peak Journal newspaper during a period when the current Pioneer editor worked there. The Journal served Manitou Springs as a family-owned weekly for over a century.
Westside Pioneer scan
political like-mindedness and advertising that the littles could never procure if not for their big-paper ties.
       The top two names in the Bulletin staff box are those of the Independent's publisher (John Weiss) and former key editor/columnist (Ralph Routon), who's listed as "executive editor emeritus"). The Manitou publication was so worried about being perceived as a company mouthpiece in the last city election that it ran a notice insisting that it wasn't. And wait, is that an article next to it bemoaning the corporatizing of community newspapers? Ha-ha. Not!
       For the Gazette, if any doubt had remained about who's running the show for its vassals, it was recently settled by the naming of an editor for all of them.
       The public part of that job is writing a column each week. It must be tough to do because obviously the editor, whose name is Hannah Blick, can't be in all those places at the same time. So she produces a one-size-fits-all piece.
       Each has a slightly different heading: “Tribune Tales,” “Courier Tales,” you get the idea… and a slightly different note at the end: “Hannah Blick has lived in the Pikes Peak region for five years and enjoys exploring the many neighborhood
This was the Page 1 banner from a 1989 edition of the now-defunct Cheyenne Mountain Journal newspaper, published by the Pikes Peak Journal, during a period when the current Pioneer editor was a writer/editor for both papers.
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haunts and side streets of north Colorado Springs” (Woodmen Edition)… “Hannah Blick has lived in the Pikes Peak region for five years and enjoys exploring the many neighborhood haunts and side streets of Teller County” (Courier)… etc.
       But this little shtick hit the fan this week, when she took on the apparently formidable task of individualizing two of her column's paragraphs. The first was part of her attempt at a localized response to reader grumblings: “Whatever the case, no matter how big or small, it does matter, I can't always fix it immediately, but I can offer genuine assurance that despite what's happened in the past, Cheyenne Mountain community members are of value to the Cheyenne Edition.”
       At least that was the wording in the Cheyenne Edition. For each of the others, picture the same wording, subsituting its locale and newspaper name as needed. So far, so good.
       But then there was the concluding paragraph, which appeared in all four papers, and had this sentence: “Whether you love us or hate us or haven't given us a second thought in a while, I believe print media is here to stay, including your Edition.”
       That's right. I said all four papers. The sentence appeared that way, even in Woodland Park's Courier and Monument's Tribune. Which are not “Editions.”
       Oopsie. Mistakes like that could start to make readers question how “genuine" those "assurances” are.
       They might even think the whole corporate/community paper arrangement is… dare we say it? Opportunistic greed? With a thin veneer of phony gladhanding?
       Oh well, At least there's company money behind it. Company money is good at buying out problems.
       With some exceptions. We're one of them. A Gazette rep once called us to propose a purchase of the Westside Pioneer. We didn't wait to hear a price. We just said no. Somehow we felt the community would agree.

(Opinion: Editor's Desk)

       Kenyon Jordan is the editor of the Westside Pioneer.

       Would you like to respond to this column? The Westside Pioneer welcomes letters at editor@westsidepioneer.com. (Click here for letter-writing criteria.)