(Fuck you too, Sam)
You've likely already heard that the Tribune Company is interviewing bankruptcy lawyers to help the fabulously overrated Sam Zell get out of a fix.
Of course bankruptcy does not mean that Tribune papers will necessarily slip below the surface and drown, but it could mean that some sub-producing properties might disappear, and other more valuable properties might be spun-off and sold.
What's it mean for the Courant? Hard to tell from the outside, but in general, it's not a great season for dailies in Connecticut, especially for one which has just reinvented itself into something that resembles a newspaper, but is not quite one.
The Courant's own Kevin Rennie, just yesterday, published a reasoned argument why state support of a news organization is a bad idea.
I think it's a bad idea too. Not because I don't like newspapers. I do. I want a hunk of pulp and ink in my hands every morning.
But corporate publishers have leveraged many newspapers, The Hartford Courant among them, into a situation that is totally akin to homeowners who have subprime mortgages which have turned completely upside down.
The debt is destroying these dailies at a time when other forces have already made an effective run at legacy dailies.
I don't want my tax dollars poured into an antiquated, over-leveraged, outmoded company whether it's a behemoth automaker which hasn't had the courage to look to the future to reinvent transportation, or a humble daily with dented furniture, and high-speed presses.
Who, in their right mind, would pay good money for something they could create themselves.
Message to my friends at the Courant, the Herald and the Bristol Press: don't buy the company, remake it yourselves. You are the most important assest the papers have. Why buy yourselves from someone else? It's kind of a demented servitude.
You don' t need the buildings, or the printing presses, or the executive salaries.
All you need is you. Good writers, good editors, good photographers, good designers, a couple of crack ad salespeople, some administrative staff to compile online classifieds and collect obits, a fast-computer for eveyone, and a server. Voila. You've got yourself a new newspaper, without the baggage. (And for the folks in Hartford, I even have a name, how about The Hartford Times?)
And if once a week you've got to print a wrapper for advertising circulars, so be it - you can contract that out.
You've got the skills; you've got the sources; you've got the reputation; you've got the institutional memory; and one would think, you've got the motivation, considering the circumstances.
Hell, it doesn't even take much more money than the lot of you could pony up.
Sure it's a scary leap at a doubly scary moment in history, but the alternative is to wait for the inevitable collapse. And it is inevitable.
A year ago, a friend told me that the Hartford Courant netted $40 million, but that most of that went to pay the Trib's debt service.
At a fraction of that, you could make a new, high-journalistic quality, frequently-visited, web paper. Look what Paul Bass has done in New Haven. Look what Naomi Klein says about seizing the opportunity to change at times of "shock" (there's a bit of a leap needed here since Klein mostly talks about governance and politics, but the analogy to re-creating journalism is an easy one to make).
To be fair, I know this has been an ongoing discussion over beers and burgers, but opportunity doesn't knock twice.
Believe me, you are the most able to make this happen, and if you don't do it, someone else surely will.
And besides, we need you.
UPDATE: The Tribune has filed for bankruptcy.