Sunday, August 3, 2008
Where is the Courant's reporting on its layoffs?
I know these are depressing days at the Hartford Courant. They're depressing days, indeed at all US newspapers facing a spiraling decline in readership. In an effort that can only be described as desperate self-strangulation, the corporate owners of the papers are shedding reporters, news copy inches, and number of pages to "save themselves."
The Hartford Courant, like a number of US dailies, is trying to reinvent itself as a sleeker, more-focused version of itself, but it's unlikely that the paper will be able to reinvent the news-seeking habits of a new generation of readers. The defection to either web-based news, or complete insular, non-news, ignorant bliss, is endemic in a generation who would rather laugh at the news than understand it. What I don't understand, is that one must know what the news is to get Jon Stewart's jokes.
But why has the Courant refused to devote a single line to the sizeable loss of reporting staff (and for that matter, support staff), which occured Thursday July 31? Is it bad business to acknowledge that the news will be written by fewer hands?
Credit to Diane Smith of WTIC-AM for spending time honoring some of the departing writers and performing the eulogy that other media outlets seemed to ignore.
In my email correspondence with a few friends at the Courant, I discovered that there is not a definitive list circulating at the Courant, but among those whose bylines have disappeared are Carole Goldberg, Greg Morago, Linda Giuca, photographer Marc-Yves Regis, and many copy editors. Many were offered buy-outs, some were victims of lay-off.
The wake for the departing writers was held at Kenny's (now the Red Rock tavern), which has been an indispensable hang-out for Courant writers. It's reported that the short good-bye was bittersweet, but as cathartic as a real wake.
UPDATE: Found an unofficial list here which includes all 2008 departures, layoff and buyouts, thanks to CT News Junkie.
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Some of the columnists got a chance to say "goodbye" in the print edition, such as the Reader's Rep Karen Hunter (last week) and Bruce Berlet (this week.)
The fear at the paper is that the Zell-lots are not done pillaging. The really sad thing is that, when the takeover happened last year, all the employees were supposed to become stockholders. Do they lose that status with their buyout or lay-off? Does it matter?
Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I seem to remember reading somewhere that the vast majority of our nation's newspapers have remained very profitable, in the traditional business sense: making money. I think this was/is still true of the Courant. The problem, as I understand it, is that there is an all-consuming, short-sighted, and self-destructive drive for continuous growth in profits year after year. This is true of most publicly traded companies these days, and it's a symptom of what one person has termed "a pathological mutation of capitalism." That a well run local paper putting out a decent product most days would be forced to cannibalize itself for the sake of some external greed is the real sad part. Something's all twisted up here if this assessment is accurate.
BTW, we are one of the households that has decided to hold off for now on renewing our daily subscription. The real news was becoming sparse in the thinner and thinning paper. Still, I really prefer good old-fashioned newsprint to web pages -- at least for mainstream news.
I don't know any of the columnists or reporters personally, but I came to appreciate the work of many of them immensely. Several were shoved out much earlier. We are poorer for losing them.
Hartford Courant Ex Employee...
I was let go from the Courant a little over a year ago from a mid executive position. I've since found work in another field, in another state. I sold my Connecticut home (the new owners work in MA) and my wife quit her job. The state has lost 2 working people, we don't shop or dine out in CT anymore. After reading about Zell and Tribune, guess I was one of the lucky ones....
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