Though maintaining separate reporting staffs and the semblance of distinct perspectives, the Gazette and the Daily Mail merged their press and business operations in 1958. It only took the U.S. Justice Department five decades to discover and respond to this alleged antitrust violation – which it did, to little effect, in 2007.

But all the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't take Humpty Dumpty apart again, so to speak, and neither could Attorney General Patrick Morrisey when he later gave it his best, if misguided, shot.

What looked like monopolistic empire-building to people ignorant of the newspaper business was clearly seen by others for what it was: a long, drawn-out death spiral.

What's happening to the Gazette and the Daily Mail has happened to newspapers in major cities all across America as radio, television, the internet, and other new media changed the way people get information and eaten into the market share of papers.

Two years ago, parent company Charleston Newspapers found itself unable to honor its commitment to employee pensions and filed a distress termination with the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), which officially took over the obligation late last year and has now notified affected employees and retirees of the changes.

A federal agency, the PBGC protects the pension benefits of nearly 40 million Americans in private-sector pension plans and is currently responsible for the benefits of about 1.5 million pensioners in failed plans. The Charleston Newspapers Retirement Plan covered just over 500 people and had $17 million in assets to cover $37 million in benefits. The $20 million deficit will be covered by PBGC.

Ironically, throughout its history, the Gazette-Mail has steadfastly editorialized in support of unions, despite using strikebreakers against its own unions in 1972 and remaining union-free ever since.

Like the politicians it has supported over the years, Gazette-Mail management has long had a habit of saying one thing and doing another. That may be another reason for the paper's steady decline.

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