You may have noticed ads flying around online from the Denver Gazette urging you to “leave” The Denver Post “in the past” and turn to the Gazette for “news you can trust.”
Trust the Gazette? There are a billion reasons to wonder about that. So, in hopes of starting a newspaper war, the Colorado Times Recorder fired back with an ad today, asking you to “leave the Denver Gazette to its owner, Republican Billionaire Phil Anschutz.”
Another Denver Gazette ad states, “We are NOT The Denver Post.” Our Colorado Times Recorder (CTR) ad counters with, “We’re NOT Owned by a Republican Billionaire.”
We aren’t picking up the fight against Anschutz to defend The Denver Post, which has apparently decided not to comment on the attacks.
Instead, our ad campaign is saying that the Gazette‘s attack on The Post conceals a bigger threat facing Colorado journalism.
That’s the Gazette itself.
It’s owned by a conservative donor with bizoodles of money who’s building a media empire with serious potential — especially as we look ahead — to spew forth lethal propaganda across Colorado, undermining elections, government, and progressive ideas and leaders.
How could this be possible with so many fine journalists currently working at the Denver Gazette and its sister Anschutz publications, you ask.
With The Post’s hedge-fund owner, Alden Global Capital, bleeding The Post to death, it’s just a matter of time until Anschutz’s not-so-secret offer to buy The Post is accepted — or until The Post is so weak that it’s worthless and just disappears as the Rocky Mountain News did.
Maybe the death of The Post is one year away; maybe it’s five or more. But it’s gonna happen.
At the same time, Denver’s local TV news stations will fade, especially when it comes to political coverage. That’s what you see now as the stations cut veteran journalists and salaries and desperately try to retain audiences, much less younger ones.
And as legacy media outlets decline further, Colorado’s blossoming landscape of news media experimentation and collaboration will likely wilt as investors and philanthropists inevitably get bored or go broke and turn their attention elsewhere.
Meanwhile, in the background in the coming years, the Gazette — as it spits at The Post — will continue to expand its media properties in Colorado via Anschutz’s company Clarity Media. It already owns the Colorado Springs Gazette, the (online) Denver Gazette, and Colorado Politics, a political newspaper and online news site built on a century-old publication, the Colorado Statesman, that Clarity Media took over in 2017. And Anschutz’s Washington Examiner safely injects national conservative content into Colorado via these platforms.
All this leads to a future in which Anschutz’s media empire (maybe with the appearance of a Ft. Collins Gazette, Aurora Gazette, a TV station or three, community newspapers, and more) dominates the news in Colorado.
Today’s conscientious journalists at the Gazette will slowly run away in horror, leaving media platforms staffed by Anschutz’s minions, whose salaries will have been increased because Anschutz, like other billionaires, will be even richer than he is now.
Colorado’s Anschutz-owned media outlets of the future won’t be all bad. They’ll report breaking news. They’ll tell stories. They’ll publish analyses and profiles.
But when it’s time to drop the hatchet on a progressive — boom, crunch. It may not work all the time, but sometimes it will.
Anschutz would certainly dismiss this prediction that he will use his media toys in Colorado to do his political bidding, but a fair observer would agree it could happen.
Signs already point in this direction.
As one of our CTR ads points out, lurking in the Gazette’s closet is an editorial page editor who launches wild right-wing salvos that confirm the fears of those who believe the Gazette is a propaganda bomb waiting to explode.
And there’s anecdotal evidence of conservative favoritism/leanings on the news side too (running conservative news content, ignoring an unflattering story about Anschutz, sponsoring a conservative program).
And the most ominous signal is the anti-journalistic behavior of the journalist at the top. As if to justify his newspapers’ conservatism, the Gazette’s ballyhooed editor, Vince Bzdek, who won’t even return phone calls from a weakling like me, makes evidence-free, Trump-like claims that other Denver news outlets (Colorado Public Radio, The Colorado Sun, The Denver Post, Westword) lean left in their news coverage. No proof given. No study cited. Nothing to back himself up.
At least he didn’t call them fake news.
The Denver Gazette won’t run ads telling you it’s owned by a Republican billionaire and has conservative clouds surrounding it.
That’s why the Colorado Times Recorder, which is an openly progressive news site, is spreading the word about Uncle Phil, as Anschutz is called by at least one former staffer.
We don’t think our community is taking Uncle Phil’s threat seriously enough. And we can’t stand aside and watch the Gazette buy attack ads that deflect criticism — rarely heard as it is — from itself.
RELATED: Conservative CO News Outlet Stops Publishing Articles from a Conservative News Service. Read more on the Gazette’s ads from journalist Corey Hutchins here.