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Last issue of the Phoenix Gazette was published was Jan. 18, 1997

Last day the Phoenix Gazette was published was Jan. 18, 1997. I was pissed!


Fake robbery story, real feud with Gazette

by Richard Ruelas - Jan. 23, 2010 12:00 AM

The Arizona Republic

The Phoenix Gazette was nothing if not a trendsetter. The afternoon daily newspaper folded back in 1997, ahead of other newspapers that were just getting around to shutting their doors in the 2000s.

The Gazette printed its final edition Jan. 18, 1997, featuring a front-page essay by longtime columnist Sam Lowe that took a final swipe at The Arizona Republic.

"[T]here was a time when we hated our big brother because it was rich and powerful and good, and we were small and tough and better," Lowe wrote.

The Republic-Gazette rivalry was deep and ingrained. And historical.

An anecdote in "All the Time a Newspaper: The First 100 Years of The Arizona Republic," by Earl Zarbin, told a tale of ruthless competition that dated to March 1912, one month after Arizona became a state.

The Arizona Republican, as the paper was known then, had suspected The Gazette of stealing its news and reprinting it in the afternoon without doing any original reporting. To catch The Gazette in the act, The Republic planted a fake story.

The story, published on March 9, 1912, told of a crime. The headline was "Job yields large sum of 20 cents."

The first paragraph read like this: "Another of the more or less sensational hold-ups with which this town has been afflicted recently occurred at a late hour last night when Frank Sells, who recently came to Phoenix from Waterloo, Iowa, was held up and relieved of the large sum of twenty cents on West Jefferson Street as he was returning to his room after an evening down town. Until he reads this story, if he does read it, the footpad will not know that he overlooked a couple of ten dollar bills and a five dollar bill which Mr. Sells carried in the watch pocket of his trousers. All the robber got was a couple of dimes which the victim shelled out without protest."

The story said the robber held a gun to Sells' face. Sells asked if the gun was fake. The robber assured him it was not. The story said Sells gave the robber the dimes, the robber complained that he was a "bum customer" and told Sells to scram.

"Sells did move along," the story concluded. "And he was so thankful to get away with his twenty-five dollars that he didn't even report the holdup to the police."

That afternoon, The Gazette printed its version of the story. Its headline: "Highwayman resumes his business. Man relieved of twenty cents while on his way home."

The story started this way: "A very bad and very bold highway man 'robbed' Frank Sells last evening while he was walking along West Jefferson street near Fifth avenue. That is, he accepted the two dimes Sells offered him and took his word for it that it was all the money that Sells had about him."

The Gazette's story continued with some colorful details that expanded on the Republican's fake story.

"When Sells got to his room he ran his finger down into the watch pocket of his trousers and fished out two $10 bills and a $5 bill. 'Forgot all about those,' he muttered to himself. Sells was so pleased with his little joke that he didn't report the 'holdup' to the police."

The next day, The Republican let loose with a front-page story exposing The Gazette's gaffe. It called the paper, then known as The Arizona Gazette, "nothing but a common, ordinary, every day pilferer of news. In place of energy and brains, it uses a paste pot and a pair of scissors. Lacking the enterprise which it boastfully claims and being utterly devoid of the commonest ethics belonging to the newspaper business, it has been brazenly and methodically stealing the news which The Republican has paid to have gathered and to publish."

The Republican said it tried to leave clues that its story was a fake. Not only did it have the victim question whether the gun was fake, but it also made the first word of the first three paragraphs read: "Another rank fake."

The Gazette admitted it took the story from the pages of The Republican, but took its own swipe back.

It said it couldn't verify the story, so it was left to ponder "whether the morning paper was sufficiently reliable to warrant The Gazette printing the story without having confirmed it," it wrote. "This paper went on the theory that it was. We seem to have been mistaken."

Reach the reporter at or 602-444-8473.


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