Thursday, November 13, 2008

Fewer voices means less freedom

Well, here we go again.

The Journal Register Co., the corporation that owns the New Haven Register and a bunch of weeklies around New Haven, is threatening to close two of the daily papers it owns in central Connecticut by the middle of January unless someone buys them before that.

I'm talking about the Bristol Press and the Herald, formerly the New Britain Herald.  I know they haven't been independent sources of news for some time now, but they did cover their local towns. 

I grew up with the New Britain Herald, a local paper that covered the city and towns around it like Plainville, Newington, Farmington, Kensington and Berlin. At one point, each town had its own page, staff, photographers and the like. Local sports were covered like a blanket and the weekly games of the New Britain Golden Hurricanes were major events.

That's what a local paper does, or rather, what a local paper did. 

It was an afternoon paper and many households got both the Hartford Courant and the Herald. Judith Brown, the publisher of the Herald, was involved in journalism causes and served on the panel that chose the Pulitzer Prize winners for a couple of years.

I don't know much about the Bristol Press except that it served the same function as the Herald in Bristol, Forestville, Plainville and other towns in central Connecticut. 

Neither was the New York Times or even the Hartford Courant, but they didn't need to be.

Then the families that owned the papers sold out to the same sad chain, just like the Jacksons in New Haven sold out to Ralph Ingersoll II and the bunch of pirates who became the Journal Register Co. 

I don't know what the Courant will be able to do in covering New Britain and environs because of  the weakened condition of its parent, the Tribune Co., brought about by the greed and ego of Sam Zell, a real estate mogul who apparently knew little and cared less about the newspaper game. 

It's going on all over the place. I hear that the Poughkeepsie Journal, owned by Gannett, will be printed in Westchester at the Journal News plant in Harrison. That's more than an hour away in the best weather, a lot more in snow and ice. The paper will be transmitted electronically one way, but the physical papers will have to be trucked back to Poughkeepsie over some bad roads.

That means deadlines will have to be set back. Therefore, night meetings and night games will not appear in the next morning's paper. That'll set off another drop in circulation and advertising. It's a vicious cycle. 

I don't know what the folks in New Britain, Bristol and their satellite towns will do for local news. 

Government works best with a bright spotlight on it. As weak as they had become, the Press and the Herald still shone that light on local elected and appointed officials. Nobody is saying those who govern those communities are a bunch of crooks or ne'er-do-wells. I'm sure they're the same overworked and under-appreciated folks who run towns all over the nation. People in those jobs, most of them at least, try their best.

But when that light goes out in January, who will make sure?

It's just one more case of freedom being sacrificed on the altar of corporate stupidity.

Until next time...

1 comment:

Steve Collins said...

If only people like Bart Barnes and even Judy Brown had been able to live forever, these papers would be safe and strong. Instead, an endless dark night approaches for two communities. It's just terrible.