By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
By Jeff Balke
One thing Singleton showed us that I guess we should be grateful for, if we didn't already know: you don't save a newspaper by cutting staff, space and expenses. You save it by making it better and spending more on staff and space. I've always felt Singleton, a simpleton, was a front man for others, maybe his New Jersey partners, maybe his mentor, Houston banker and media mogul Jo Albritton, who, it should be remembered, once owned the now-defunct Washington Star. These people obviously didn't want to fight the Chronicle; they wanted to milk the Post, figuring that if things didn't work out they could always sell out to Hearst.
And there is no question that Singleton and his cohorts were handed a big profit by Hearst. No way was the Post worth $120 million. Why would the Chronicle, excuse me, Hearst, give Singleton such a nice, big, fat going-away present? Well for one thing, they wanted to make sure they got the Post and not anyone else who might make it into a competitor. But I like to think of it as a great big "thank you": Thank you, Dean, for running the Post into the ground and making Houston a one-newspaper town, to go along with its one horse.
Singleton threw out a couple of red herrings after the Post's closure was announced. First, he blamed the demise on the rising cost of newsprint. Nonsense. Even if the cost of newsprint had stayed constant, how was Singleton going to meet his balloon debt payment due this year? Singleton was finished regardless. It was just a matter of when, not how. Second, he claimed he didn't want to put out a farewell edition because such editions are pathetic. Yeah, sure. What he did is what he wanted to do: negotiate with Hearst in secret, cut a deal in secret and present Post employees (and all Houstonians) with a fait accompli so that they would not have a chance to do anything, such as protest to the Justice Department or arrange alternate financing to make a competitive bid or take a pay cut to keep publishing.
When something big happens in the life of a city like the closing of the Post, we need to ask at least two questions: who benefits and who is harmed. We know who benefits -- the Chronicle and its cronies, the political incumbents and business establishments (big retailers and advertisers will save money, even though the Chronicle will jack its rates up, because they no longer have to spend money at the Post.) Those who are harmed are harder to identify exactly. But the readers of the Post, certainly, and anyone who wants to challenge a political incumbent or a competing business, and finally, future generations of Houstonians who will grow up in a one-newspaper city.
Editor's note: Brewton worked as a reporter at both the Chronicle and the Post. He is now an attorney in Houston.