Friday, November 14, 2008

Another one bites the dust

The Journal-Register Co. didn't leave the New Haven area untouched in its campaign to rescue itself from its bad decisions.

In addition to closing two daily papers and who knows how many weeklies in central Connecticut, leaving many communities with no local news coverage, fired five members of the tiny New Haven register staff. One of those is Abram Katz, the science writer and staff intellectual.

The paper also laid off a part-time copy editor. Hey, who needs copy editors -- they're only the last line of defense against little things like libel suits, horrible mistakes or embarrassing misspellings and the like. 

They also closed Play, an effort to compete with the New Haven Advocate as the arts journal. The Advocate, owned by the beleaguered Tribune Co., isn't the force it used to be in that world, but why go reinvent the wheel?

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Abe Katz is a smart guy with a big moustache and with a soaring sense of the ridiculous. Here's an example.

In the late 1980s, the newsroom of the New Haven Register and recently deceased Journal-Courier was not a happy place, not like a few years earlier. Then,  Lionel S. Jackson Jr., known as Stewart, had taken over the reins of the paper from his father, Lionel Sr. 

For a few shining years, Stewart had run the company as a company should be run, and the news staffs had responded, winning just about every regional and state excellence award that was offered.

Then Stewart Jackson sold the company to a fast-talk artist with too much money named Ralph Ingersoll II and his buddy, junk-bond king Mike Milken

It took some time, but the wheels soon started to come off the bus. Morale plunged like, well, like the stock market during the past few months. Yeah, that bad.

Tom Geyer, the man Ingersoll sent in to run the Register (who turned out to be a pretty moral guy), saw the lack of morale and suggested some kind of a project.

In stepped Abe Katz. In short order, he wrote a play called "Lost in the Bucket." It may have been "Lost in a Bucket." I can't remember.

In any case, it was just what the morale doctor ordered. Members of the staff decided to put on this play and televise it through the then-new medium of community-sponsored television.

Joe Amarante, who is still the Register's television editor, was sent off to take classes at Citizen Television in how to use the camera, microphone and other equipment. We were then able to borrow the equipment. I had a small part. Steve Hamm, who was the business editor, was a star and the set was Phil Blumenkrantz' apartment. (Blumenkrantz was a reporter, strictly anti-establishment, whom I heard is now working for the IRS in New Jersey.)

I can't remember who else was involved. In any case, we did the play, which had to do with two guys eating a bucket of chicken. It was full of allegory, symbolism, great puns. 

Geyer staked us to an opening-night party and the thing ran a few times on a local citizens' television channel. 

That was Abe Katz' role in trying to buoy morale. It lasted a few months, but then came Ralph Ingersoll's abortive attempt to start a tabloid in St. Louis, of all places. The Register purchase was financed with junk bonds, and as the wheels came off that wagon, the Register and its parent company, now Journal-Register, began heading for the bottom of the financial ocean.

And now Abe Katz, the man and the legend, must move on.

Just remember, Abe, if you should happen to read this, Post hoc, ergo propter hoc -- After this, therefore because of this. In other words, what goes around comes around. They'll get theirs.

Best of luck, Abe. I know you'll land on your feet.

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Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. It's a trial balloon, running it up the flagpole to see who salutes it. 

We could do worse.

Speaking of worse, the weather is supposed to be horrible tomorrow. Try to stay dry and despite the weather, have a great weekend. Hey, the new Bond flick is out. It's not Sean Connery, but it is a Bond flick. 

Have a great weekend and, for those in the Tribe, a great Shabbos.

Until next time...

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