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Is The Connecticut Post Part Of “The Oppressive Machinery?” If You Haitz Newspaper Coverage, Call Henry

September 18th, 2014 · 7 Comments · Analysis and Comment, City Council, Media, News and Events

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Knock knock, anyone home?

Journalism in general, and print media specifically, ain’t what it used to be. How in creation does the daily newspaper covering the state’s largest city slot just one full-time scribe to City Hall? Well, we’re spread thin they’ll say, we have this and that and this and that and with cutbacks from corporate suits, it’s hard. Seriously though, just one reporter for the state’s largest city? Sounds lame. It is. And that’s just the way politicians like it. Stay away. Don’t cover us. We love it.

So when community watchdog John Marshall Lee asserts in a letter to the editor (to the paper’s credit they printed it), when “local media ignore the voice of the people, you become part of the oppressive machinery,” he makes a valid point.

Executive Editor Barbara Roessner and co-Managing Editor Jack Alcott, both seasoned journalists, have shown no force of will among editorial leaders at the Post to deploy a representative staff to Bridgeport. Actually if you examine what they’ve done, the editorial deployment has been schizoid the past year or so. Just when you think they’re beefing up city coverage, bang! Let’s ship her off to the suburbs, or this one to Greenwich, no let’s assign her to cover Trumbull and write business stories as well. No one will really notice and if so, who cares, right? Readers notice.

This miniscule coverage isn’t just about staffing decisions by editors. Editorial leaders are at the mercy of bottom-line corporate suits. The Post is owned by the powerful Hearst Corporation. Henry B. Haitz III is president and group publisher of Hearst Connecticut Media Group publishing four daily newspapers in Connecticut–Bridgeport, Stamford, Greenwich and Danbury. Haitz’s job is more bottom line than journalistic integrity, but if he wanted more staff to cover Bridgeport it would be done.

Talk to the power structure in City Hall and they’ll say CT Post coverage often isn’t positive enough. Too negative, too this and too that. They might be crossing their fingers.

The one reporter the Post has assigned full time to the city, Brian Lockhart, is a professional journalist who’s broken a number of stories the past few years that both informed and titillated. It was Lockhart who broke the story about the city paying a developer more than $400,000 to improve his own property as part of a controversial airport improvement project. It was Lockhart who wrote about Mayor Bill Finch, no matter how well intended, allowing an urban farmer to set up a veritable wild kingdom in the city’s animal shelter that was eventually shut down because of a variety of irregularities.

When Lockhart walks into the newsroom, every day he’s flooded with community requests for coverage in addition to the stuff editors throw at him. You pick, you choose, you do your best.

One man, one reporter to cover the state’s largest city. (In fairness, Linda Conner Lambeck does a solid job covering city education.) There’s plenty of talent over there to free up one or two more. Paging William Randolph Hearst!

(Full disclosure: I spoke to not one CT Post representative for this commentary, to protect the innocent.)

Full text of Lee’s letter published in the Post:

Your community-based opinion pages are not filled with material these days. You have increased the size of print face for your editorial columns which uses up space that could feature material such as I send to you quite regularly.

You have not had a reporter at City Council meetings in several months and even then attendance was irregular. The most interesting subjects are raised by the 4-6 public speakers crying out the “needs of the people.”

Recently I invited a young woman from P.T. Barnum housing. She is a vice president of P.T. Partners, a group working steadily on informing and empowering residents on civic skills. She was surprised that response to the five minute talks on the part of Council members was non-existent.

To the extent the council and local media ignore the voice of the people, you become part of the oppressive machinery. Whether that is accidental or part of an unspoken agreement with those in power is a matter of opinion, rumor and secrecy. However, facts are facts, recorded at the City Clerk office, archived on video, and emailed to each of the Council members every time I speak.

When will you begin to connect the fiscal info available in the monthly financial reports (especially the June final audited report each year), the Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports, and purchasing records into a story worth telling of a decline in financial strength in your core City?

Who or what are you protecting otherwise? I share my essays with all who care to read them and will meet with anyone to discuss and develop the subjects I address.

It is truly a tragedy when a reporter like John Gilmore passes and especially when there is no one to replace him and … and the press media do not seem to care or respond.

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7 Comments so far ↓

  • Jennifer Buchanan

    Hear hear! Great letter JML, my hope is the CT Post gets the message and has not published the letter just for show in hopes we will be satisfied with the gesture. Brian Lockhart is an excellent reporter, did you school him Lennie? Keep the pressure on the City and the Post JML. Thanks for your insight and comments, Lennie.

  • Grin Ripper

    Don’t mean to beat an old horse. CT Post today ran another Foley banner ad under CT Post breaking news. Wind Breaking News!

  • flubadub

    It’s the power of the press. If you own the presses, you’ve got the power.

  • JMart

    Are the majority of people able to read in Bridgeport? The test scores don’t lie.

  • John Marshall Lee

    Several years ago, Budget Oversight Bridgeport looked at the City of Bridgeport purchases. One area we touched on was the amount of funds from the City budget that went to newspapers, presumably legal advertisements for hiring, for meetings, other notices and perhaps subscriptions. The total came to about $260,000 if memory serves me. Perhaps it is time to look at this issue again.

    Does not such a cash flow from the largest and poorest City in the region, since it is also the City with the weakest and most compromised governance process in the region might be allocated more investigative coverage than is current?

    If you think so, please raise the question with the man in charge, will you? Time will tell.

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