As the Denver Business Journal’s Neil Westergaard reports, an icon of Colorado political news is being absorbed into Republican billionaire Phil Anschutz’s growing media empire–and the loser is, well, all of us:
The Colorado Statesman, a venerable political and public policy weekly newspaper and website that has been in continuous publication since 1898 in Denver, is getting a new owner — Denver industrialist, financier and newspaper owner Philip A. Anschutz.
A deal to acquire the Statesman was signed late Wednesday. It will be combined under Anschutz’s Clarity Media Corp.’s Coloradopolitics.com launched by Clarity and its Colorado Springs Gazette daily newspaper last year.
The Statesman was acquired from its principal investor, MDC Holdings Inc. CEO Larry Mizel. The purchase price wasn’t disclosed…
Eventually the Statesman nameplate will be retired in favor of the Colorado Politics brand.
Clarity Media owns The Gazette newspaper and several weekly publications in Colorado Springs as well as the Washington Examiner, Weekly Standard and Red Alert Politics in Washington, D.C.
As our readers are aware, Anschutz is a major player in Colorado politics, as well as the owner of a vast range of businesses from sports and entertainment to energy and transportation. In January, criticism of Anschutz’s politics exploded into national headlines after his history of donations to anti-LGBT and other far right groups was linked to his controlling interest in the Coachella Music Festival.
Anschutz’s purchase of the Colorado Springs Gazette didn’t change much regarding that paper’s reporting or editorial bias, as it was already a staunchly conservative outlet to begin with–much like the Washington Examiner, the Weekly Standard, and other outlets owned by Anschutz. The launch of ColoradoPolitics.com featured a new quasi-reporter, Dan Njegomir, a former GOP Colorado Senate staffer, who gave the new site a decidedly conservative editorial bent sandwiched in between other political news stories.
A major scandal erupted in late April after a campaign group connected to former GOP gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez was hit with large fines for illegal campaign activity. Prior to that ruling, Njegomir and the Gazette’s editorial board had engaged in a lengthy smear campaign against the filer of that complaint–while Njegomir failed to disclose tens of thousands of dollars he was paid by Beauprez’s group during the 2016 election cycle.
With all of this in mind, the acquisition of Colorado’s old and most reputable masthead for political news, and its unceremonious folding into this existing and dubious outlet under Anschutz’s control, is an ominous development for local political coverage. We’ll be watching to see who among the good reporters at the Statesman the new site keeps on, and whether they’ll enjoy the same freedom to cover the news.
In the meantime, we can all watch Phil Anschutz doing his best Citizen Kane.