OK, if I were smart, I wouldn’t post this tidbit. It’s the kind of red flag bulls love. But, heck, here goes…. I found this on an Associated Press digest of newspaper industry news:
“The editor of the Weekly Register-Call of Central City, Colo., was dismissed after the newspaper was purchased by a mayor it had criticized. Debra Krause says Black Hawk Mayor David Spellman bought the paper to silence criticism. The newspaper, located 40 miles west of Denver, is the state’s oldest after the closing of the Rocky Mountain News. The newspaper will be merged with the competing Gilpin County News, where Editor Aaron Storms says the mayor won’t have any control over editorial content of the combined newspaper.”
Now, that’s what I call putting your cash where your clout is — or where you want it to be. I can name a couple hundred business, social, cultural and political types who’ve probably day dreamed how wonderful it would be if they never had to face the Register Star Editorial Board again. Or, had to answer a reporter’s question about something they’d just rather not talk about.
There’s been at least one serious petition drive to get me fired for the editorial positions taken by the board back in the 1990s on the Rockford school district desegregation lawsuit. Some folks really, really didn’t like what we reported and our unwavering position that the district did, indeed, discriminate.
A couple hundred folks signed the petition, including Dave Winters, our then- and current- state legislator. Dave and I have mended that fence, well, sort of.
It’s understandable that folks would like to own the newspaper so they could control who got covered, who didn’t and who got special treatment and who didn’t. Owning a newspaper is now, and has always been, a heady, powerful thing. And, while one can use that power to do great good, one can also do great harm.
Former private owners of the Register Star and its “parents” regularly used the newspaper to promote their specific points of view — usually to the exclusion of all others. There was no room for dissenting opinions. Period.
Up until the late 1960s, this newspaper refused to run pictures of or stories about blacks — unless it was crime stuff. A mother whose daughter was getting married didn’t get to publish the wedding announcement if the bride were black.
Those things can happen when one owns the newspaper. That Colorado mayor must have been really, really ticked off, and really, really rich because few can afford to buy a newspaper these days. That’s a lot of anger and a lot of power. I’m pretty sure that’s not a very promising combination.