I’m melancholy whenever a company goes out of business especially so when we’re conducting funerals for newspapers, where I got my start. The newspaper business is experiencing an agonizingly slow death.
Actually, as so many in the profession tell me, they’re the living dead reinventing themselves on the www dot thing, as I’ve done here. We learned on Tuesday that the publisher of The Herald of New Britain and the Bristol Press has told employees that the two newspapers will be sayonara by January unless buyers step forward. The struggling Journal Register Company, parent to those papers, also owns the New Haven Register and Connecticut Magazine, the latter pub I’ve penned for on occasion.
Early this year I made the decision to take this blog solo, after starting it under the umbrella of the Fairfield County Weekly, owned by that goliath Tribune. Just about fifty percent of the traffic to the Weekly’s website had come from you. I wanted to do my own thing, without the worry of some bean counter in Chicago saying okay boys see you later. I had some trepidation leaving the Weekly. Would you follow me to the new OIB? You have, along with thousands of new readers. Thank you.
OIB traffic is now 50 percent more than it was when I left the Weekly in March, representing more than 16,000 unique (individual) visitors and 275,000 page views. Last week the Weekly pulled out of Bridgeport, moving into the offices of its sister publication the New Haven Advocate. My friend Tom Gogola, who recruited me to start this blog, left the Weekly months ago. Jim Motavalli, also my friend, the guy that caused Gogola to leave the Weekly, is no longer there. On the news side the paper is now in the trusted hands of a young journalist Nick Keppler. Good luck St. Nick.
All of this leads me to the Connecticut Post, owned by Hearst, that also owns daily papers in Greenwich, Stamford and Danbury. Sounds like the scribes at 410 State Street in downtown Bridgeport are breathing a little easier these days, and that’s a good thing. No imminent danger, it appears, of layoffs locally. In fact, the product actually looks better by virtue of by lines from scribes at sister papers. How long this lasts who knows?
Why does any of this matter? Newspapers are an important check on pols. When newspapers die it’s like ringing the dinner bell for greedy elected officials. In fact a guy named Dudley Thomas, publisher of the Connecticut Post 15 years ago, was totally in the tank for Joe Ganim, a talented former mayor that lost his way. Dudley was more interested in propping up Joe for governor than doing the readers’ work.
We’re far from perfect here on OIB, but reader commentaries, observations, insights, suggestions, policing of pols and criticisms help to keep some bastards in line. So keep squawking (even if it’s at me).
So keep your suggestions for fixing the city budget coming. I’m sure his honor Bill Finch will appreciate all your suggestions.
For me, it’s déjà vu all over again. Twenty years ago as press secretary to Mayor Tom Bucci, I had to explain along with the mayor that the city was broke and needed state help.
The circumstances, however, were somewhat different. Bucci, a Democrat, had reached out to Gov. Bill O’Neill, a Democrat, for help. Can we use the state’s bonding powers to borrow money and retire a $50 million fund balance deficit (which had grown over three administrations)?
O’Neill told Bucci in a nice way to stick it in your ear, go talk to the legislature. So, Bucci went to see State Senator Bill DiBella, the Democratic swinging dick of Finance, Revenue and Bonding. Bucci told the senator the city was in a deep hole and required state assistance, adding that he needed a little more time to line up quiet legislative support for an action plan. Sure, no problem, said DiBella.
While Bucci was driving back to Bridgeport, after thinking he had a productive meeting with DiBella, it was all over the radio–the city was broke and needed a bailout. Son of a bitch ratted out Bucci.
It was a nightmare, media all over the place, and I’m sucking wind trying to explain the depths of the city’s problems. (Thanks, Billy.) For eight consecutive budget cycles, until Joe Ganim had met the financial cure, the city operated under the thumb of a state mandated oversight board charged with making sure the city’s budgets were in balance.
The city’s current situation is now teed up for everyone to see. The city’s in deep trouble in a nightmarish climate that impacts everyone.
Let’s hope Bird Man can cure this without state intervention. Are you holding your breath?
Thursday morning I’ll be speaking to students of Mass Communication Professor Sue Katz at the University of Bridgeport. Professor Katz, who designed the cool look of OIB, likes to use me as a guinea pig so we hope to be broadcasting live in case you want to see what it takes to keep a bunch of kids awake at 9:45. I’m bringing my espresso machine. Check us out Thursday morning at www.justin.tv/susankatz