Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A big "thank-you" for failing to do the impossible

Barbara Roessner is out at the Courant for taking on the thankless and impossible task of plugging a leak in the Titanic. She couldn't fix the thing that the owners and publishers had ruined, so she's off the plank without a snorkel. Let's hope, for her sake, that when she took on a job that had "failure" printed all over it in banner 200 point type, that she made a deal for a financial lifeboat. It's no consolation that the entire enterprise seems to be taking on water faster than anyone can bail.

I was among the early dissenters who felt that by rejiggering the layout, printing more and bigger pictures, and re-focusing the stories so that they all took on the soft blur of TV news that the Courant would be alienating their base - people like me who still like to read a daily - and not gaining any new readers because those readers aren't interested in a newspaper.

It didn't take a genius to see that the goal was Quixotic and that Roessner's was tilting at windmills. The owners and publishers had already stripped all that was good and attractive about the paper (good reporters, town coverage, columnists), and expected readers to shout "hurrah" because the logo slid into the gutter, and we could read advertisements for Foxwoods on page 1.

In short, corporate leveraging of healthy papers has driven them to the brink of extinction. Some notable dailies have already stepped into the abyss.

And now, a new knight in shining armor, former top salesman Richard Graziano, rides over the hill, from, of all places, a Fox New affiliate. Of course, Fox 61 is not Fox News, but there is an affiliation with the network which brings us Hannity, O'Reilly, Beck and Cavuto. Be prepared for a dose of "fair and balanced," along with celebs stories, and cute baby animal photos.

While publisher Graziano's background is sales, he recently appointed Jeff Levine, who ran two news dot coms in Florida, as combined managing editor of Fox 61 and the Courant. You can see a sample of his work here.

And so Roessner, and Cliff Teutsch are out the door and we are about to see a formerly great daily take the backseat to a superficial local news broadcast, and a website that promises fabulous party recipes.

No comments: