The newspaper industry's been dying for years. Anyone who launches a new local newspaper—and hires several journalists in the process—is a hero of journalism. Even if he's a con artist.

The residents of Gainesville, Georgia, have been the lucky recipients of a new local paper recently: The Gainesville Observer. It has a website, a staff, stories, and everything! What it didn't have, according to a story in the competing local paper, The Gainesville Times, is any money. (Please take their report with the requisite grain of salt— you know how dirty the Gainesville newspaper wars can be.) The Observer's founder, 25-year-old Joshua Randolph, is under investigation (he has not been arrested or charged) for, the police say, hiring a staff and starting a business with no real assets.

“They didn’t know that they were being conned, pretty much,” [an investigator] said. “And my feeling is that he was probably setting them up to get them in and probably use some of their identity or information to further the business. ... I don’t think he has the intention of doing a legitimate newspaper and paying them legitimately, like paying them with actual income, because there’s no assets in the company.”

Let's see: screwing writers out of paychecks, failing to make money... sounds a lot like a regular media outlet to me. Said one investigator, "this is the first time that I’ve personally encountered anything even remotely close to this — where we have someone who’s a known criminal posing as a legitimate media representative.” Hm. Must have never been to New York.

[Gainesville Times via Romenesko. Photo via]