An email issued on Wednesday by Mayor Bill Finch’s Chief of Staff Adam Wood to business and governmental leaders takes a bite out of the Connecticut Post claiming its coverage of the city is “hurtful to all of our efforts to improve our city.” Wood’s email, in particular, takes issue with Post columnist Keila Torres whose recent opinion pieces have drawn the mayor’s wrath including her latest column that criticizes the city’s framing of a question asking voters to approve a mayoral appointed Board of Education in November. Wood also writes “The Mayor and others have tried numerous times to get through to the publisher of the Connecticut Post” John DeAugustine. Some OIB readers have come to Keila’s defense.
The genesis of this effort by the mayor’s office is the Post’s coverage following the announcement that leading outdoor retailer Bass Pro Shops will become the anchor tenant of the Steel Point redevelopment area. The Post has published several news articles and columns focused on the federal government accusing Bass Pro Shops of employment discrimination that was dismissed by a federal judge but refiled by government lawyers as well as raising questions about the company’s legal gun sales in light of the city’s recent spike in gun violence.
The mayor’s office says the Post has gone out of its way to smear a company that will have a major economic impact on the city in the areas of job creation and tax revenue. Wood’s letter asserts “Just this summer (the mayor) announced Bass Pro Shops as the anchor tenant at Steel Point and was hammered by the Connecticut Post with 9 negative articles in a row.”
OIB would welcome a response from Post Publisher John DeAugstine. The Post is owned by the Hearst Corporation. See email below that Wood issued to an assortment of business leaders including Paul Timpanelli, president of the Bridgeport Regional Business Council, and government officials such as City Council members. Wood’s email also includes DeAugustine’s email and a link to Keila Torres’ recent column.
Subject: A message to Bridgeport leaders regarding CT Post coverage–inaccurate and misleading–A call to action
It is so damaging to the public and to the institution of journalism when opinion pieces are not fact checked in any way and are published as news, rather than clearly identified as opinion and run on the opinion page. This happens almost daily now in the Connecticut Post. How unfortunate for the readers, the advertisers and the public–not to mention hurtful to the City of Bridgeport.
An example from Keila Torres’ rant in today’s paper, “(The Mayor) had power for decades over many other issues that this city is still struggling with, like economic development.” Fact: Bill Finch has been in office for only 4.5 years (not decades) and has made substantial progress on economic development completing long-stalled projects and bringing in tens of millions of dollars from the state and federal government and hundreds in private investment for downtown and Steel Point, not to mention many other projects and progress in neighborhoods across our city. Just this summer he announced Bass Pro Shops as the anchor tenant at Steel Point and was hammered by the Connecticut Post with 9 negative articles in a row.
Another example from today’s rant, “this is a mayor whose solution to making dissolution stick was to appoint a charter revision commission that voted in record speed to approve the changes exactly as he wanted.”–Fact: The charter reform commission began work in January and held 35 public meetings and public hearings. The Mayor chose a highly respected, bi-partisan and independent group of individuals to oversee this process. They were informed by experts from across the United States on education governance and listened to all sides of every issue they examined. Their worked spanned the better part of a year and it had nothing to do with a state takeover that was voted for by the democratically elected Board of Education at the direction of former Board President Barbara Bellinger. There are so many other inaccuracies such as his alleged flat funding of the Boar-–Fact: his first year in office, Mayor Finch proposed a $1.5 million increase to the Board of Education budget, etc.
Today’s piece is another in a long line of examples of the CT Post’s inaccurate and misleading coverage of news in the City of Bridgeport. The Mayor and others have tried numerous times to get through to the publisher of the Connecticut Post that this type of coverage is hurtful to all of our efforts to improve our city, but perhaps you may consider it time to weigh in with your voices as well. The future of our city, its image and the reputation of many good hard-working people and employers is on the line.
Timpanelli issued the following email to his board members:
One of the key needs of any city that is working hard to build its tax base, grow jobs, and improve its image, is to have as much positive media coverage as is possible. We must be diligent in our efforts, as business leaders, to help assure that Bridgeport, as the economic center of our region, is seen in a positive light by our local and regional residents, our current and potential businesses, and by the wider community. The more positive news we get, the more likely Bridgeport will ultimately succeed in its efforts to build the tax base, grow jobs, and attract businesses and residents.
The Connecticut POST is one of the key sources of local news, and, therefore, it plays a key role in helping to mold the image and perception of the city. Certainly the POST has a journalistic obligation to report the news, and report it accurately. It also has on obligation–as a taxpaying, job generating, member of the community–to be a partner with us in economic development and image enhancement. I know, from my conversations with John DeAugustine, Publisher and BRBC Board member, that he clearly recognizes that obligation.
My ask of you is to–when you get a chance and by whatever method you choose–let the POST know of your commitment to Bridgeport and to let the POST know of your desire to increase the level of positive news for the city.
There are so many positive stories to tell, so many successes to recognize and a lot of positive change to celebrate. We need to have our daily newspaper be a renewed source of positive stories about Bridgeport’s, and the region’s, progress.
Here’s how Bill Jennings, president of Bridgeport Hospital, responded to Timpanelli’s email:
I support this and will assist in delivering the message. The pile-on regarding Bass Pro is not only counter productive, but despicable. And represents a new low.
Keila Torres’ column that Wood references in his email is here.