A few days ago the mayor’s office declared war against the Connecticut Post in an eblast to the business community condemning the paper for coverage “hurtful to all of our efforts to improve our city.” One way to rally support against a media concern is to win over the folks who invest advertising dollars. So far, publicly at least, the Post is allowing its scribes to handle the response. For instance, a passage from the latest column of Keila Torres Ocasio who’s in the mayoral office scope as one of the chiefs of negativity.
“City officials and business leaders often complain about the city’s negative public image. They say it’s too tinged with crime and violence and negativity in general. But what they should know is that residents can’t concentrate on much else because they are afraid.”
Hugh Bailey, assistant editorial page editor, suggests in his Sunday column that Mayor Bill Finch is disingenuous in claiming a mayoral-appointed school board takes the politics out of the process to seat BOE members. His column here.
Newspaper publishers don’t have a history of practicing what they preach when they become the news–and a mayoral effort to win over the business community against the publisher is news (yes, the eblast was authored by mayoral Chief of Staff Adam Wood, but it was sanctioned by the mayor)–so it’s hard to know what Post Publisher John DeAugustine’s thinking about this effort. OIB has sent an email to the publisher for a response.
The relationship between a newspaper publisher and the government power is a tricky thing. It can be good, it can be bad. Dudley Thomas, who served as publisher of the Post when Joe Ganim was elected mayor in 1991, wanted to be partner in news content and in government operations. That’s a bad thing. It was good for Joe though because once the newsroom learned Ganim had hired Jo Fox as governmental press secretary at the urging of the newspaper publisher they were terrified to write anything against the mayor or meow about Fox who wasn’t bashful voicing the reason for her hiring. She was a friend of the publisher. Joe and Dudley had lunch often through the years. That relationship was such that in 1994 Thomas ordered a screaming header on the front page of the Sunday Post endorsing Ganim for governor. Funny thing about it, Joe was not even a candidate for governor. He became a candidate for governor on the strength of that headline.
What will become of the relationship between mayor’s office and the Post publisher? Depends how hard the mayor’s office weighs in on this effort. The Post is owned by Hearst. The bottom line matters most. If the Post loses some key advertisers in this effort DeAugustine will have some explaining to do to his boss in San Francisco. He might be able to explain it away but he must explain. Today’s newspaper publishers are not newspeople like the old days. They’re marketing/advertising professionals. But bottom lines can also be impacted if Hearst develops a reputation of going in the tank for governmental powers. They could also suffer a newsroom revolt from scribes if they perceive a cozy relationship at the expense of news judgment.
So far it appears the Post response is we hear you, but …
The headline in the print edition of Keila’s column: “It’s hard to talk about anything but violence.” The headline in the online story: “It’s hard to change the subject from violence.” Keila’s holding her ground. Her latest:
Within seconds of meeting 3-year-old Katelin Gordon, it is clear she has lots of energy.
The rambunctious preschooler doesn’t stand in one spot too long. Instead, she chooses to run between the living room and kitchen in her Bridgeport home collecting random items–including a rag, a packaged handkerchief and magnetic letters on the refrigerator -for a pile she is building in the doorway.
As she goes to cover the pile with the rag, her plan is cut short.
“Katelin, put that stuff back,” says her mother, sitting at the kitchen table. “And stop running.”
Any parent would worry about their child tripping over a pile in a doorway and hurting themselves. But few parents probably worry about the kind of injury Katelin could sustain.
The preschooler has a bullet lodged in her pelvic bone. Doctors didn’t want to remove it for fear of crippling her. Her parents worry about what could happen if she falls too hard on that side and lands on it.
Katelin was shot April 30 as she was walking hand-in-hand with her mother on the city’s West Side. They were caught in the crossfire of a shootout between rival groups.
Since then, Katelin has been afraid of loud noises and prefers to stay indoors. Fireworks on the Fourth of July paralyzed her in fear. Her father, Marlon Gordon, still remembers her panic and the way she dug her fingernails into his back.
Now, every time Katelin hears a bang–even if it’s just the sound of a pot falling on the floor–she begins yelling, “They’re shooting. We’ve gotta go. We’ve gotta go.”
Last week, a 9-year-old girl sitting in a room in her East Side home was grazed in the face by a stray bullet during a shootout that claimed the life of a 17-year-old boy. Neighbors say they have not seen the family since then.
Shootouts in the middle of the day are becoming commonplace in this city and the violence has many residents fearful to step out of their doors.
So last week I tried to change the subject and focus on some of the more positive things going on in Bridgeport.
Steelpointe Harbor is now a real project with a tenant, developer and actual dollars committed to the East Side development. In the city’s downtown region, revitalization is chugging along with developer Phil Kuchma successfully breathing life into lower Fairfield Avenue. The Bridgeport Economic Development Corporation, a public-private partnership, was recently revived and the city hired a new development director.
On Monday, I made this progress and any other economic development issues in the region the topic of my latest weekly online chat.
For the first six minutes, no one participated.
I was left talking to myself for the first half-hour of the chat. The conversation only picked up when the one person who was commenting on economic development asked, “On another note … What the heck is going on over on the East Side? Those kids over there are going crazy.”
There have been three shootings in the East Side in the past few weeks. I couldn’t get anyone to talk about economic development, but lots of residents were upset about the violence there and in the city and wanted to discuss that.
City officials and business leaders often complain about the city’s negative public image. They say it’s too tinged with crime and violence and negativity in general. But what they should know is that residents can’t concentrate on much else because they are afraid.
And that goes for Katelin’s parents who are finding it hard to focus on anything but that fact that their 3-year-old is living with a bullet in her body.