Reports began surfacing earlier this week about the impending Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing of Freedom Communications, a California-based media company whose properties include the Colorado Springs Gazette. The move was made official yesterday afternoon, and the Gazette's subsequent coverage of its parent's financial mess has tended toward the upbeat. The generically bylined main article on this development -- supplemented by the filing documents and an affidavit by Freedom chief financial officer Mark McEachen, which can be examined by clicking these links -- emphasizes at the outset that Freedom's creditors have already approved a bankruptcy-exit plan, and quotes interim CEO Burl Osborne as saying, "I consider this to be good news, not bad news. It's not about liquidation or going out of business. It allows the company to operate more effectively."
Maybe so, but the Hoiles family that founded Freedom will be more or less displaced by the court action. Current shareholders, including the Hoiles, will be left with as much as "a 2 percent equity interest in the company," with lenders winding up with control over the rest of the firm. Once Freedom emerges from bankruptcy, the new owners can presumably do what they wish with the papers -- but Osborne and Gazette publisher and president Steven Pope clearly hope they'll maintain the highly conservative status quo.
The following exchange appears in a bankruptcy Q&A jointly attributed to both Pope and Osborne:
Q: Will The Gazette's libertarian editorial philosophy change?
Osborne: Nothing in the agreement with our lenders affects the editorial positions that we believe are appropriates for the communities we serve. I assume the new owners will not act against their self interest by interfering in the way we interact with the communities where we operate.
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That's wishful thinking, of course. Even so, the Gazette's rightward list is likely to hold sway for the foreseeable future, if only because it so closely matches the dominant views of the Springs' populace as a whole. The Gazette suddenly becoming a radical left-wing rag would be bad for business -- and this week's move is all about making more money, not less.