Thursday, February 26, 2009

Imagine There Is No Courant

Let’s say you start off with a chair, then you remove the left forward leg, then you remove the seat, then you remove the backrest – do you any longer have a chair?

Some people would answer “No.”

The Hartford Courant, under the inspiration of current owner Sam Zell, a real estate poobah who has no intellectual or emotional connection to the people of Connecticut, now has dumped a major political reporter, Mark Pazniokas, the paper’s Washington Bureau chief, Jesse Hamilton, its Religion Reporter, Elizabeth Hamilton, a business reporter, Robin Stansbury, a handful of greenies -- environment reporter David Funkhouser, Steve Grant and Anna Marie Somma -- sportswriter Matt Eagan, itowns editor Loretta Waldman and itowns reporter Nancy Lastrina, two administrative assistants, a couple of feature copy editors and a library staffer and researcher.

The Courant previously has shed staff through attrition and early retirement. The latest round of bodies were shot behind the curtain, so to speak, the dispossessed receiving their pink slips by e-mail.

After all these removals, do we any longer have a Courant?

The schadenfreuders in the paper’s commentary section were steaming with barely suppressed pleasure now that the “liberal’ Courant was breathing its last breath, one commentator writing that the paper’s demise was owing to an excess of toxic liberal opinion, which is partly true.

Here, for example, is the Courant’s present take on obstructive Republicans: “Congress will be his [President Barack Obama’s] biggest problem. It is far behind the president and the people. The Republican minority relies on the tired nostrums of tax cuts and deregulation that helped dig this hole in the first place.”

Truth here is wonderfully mixed with fantasy. It is true that Congress, a viper’s pit of special interests, will present a problem for any president who wants to control costs. It is not true that Republican Party's “nostrums of tax cuts and deregulation… helped dig this hole in the first place.”

The hole, by which the paper must mean the current business collapse, was not caused by tax cuts. It was caused by the unregulated housing bubble. And it was Republicans – as the video below shows – who were demanding that Freddy Mac and Fannie Mae should be regulated.

Here are the Dems defending the non-regulation of Fannie and Freddy:



In an age in which YouTube is but a mouse click away, it becomes less and less possible to slip by the public such Democratic nostrums as those presented on the Courant’s Editorial Page. President John Kennedy, to whom President Obama has sometimes been compared, relied on the tired notion of tax cuts to “lift all the boats” on the rising tide caused by his selective tax cuts. And President Kennedy was no tired and exhausted Republican.

Part of the fun in having a liberal paper that seems to have fallen prey to nostrums far older that those of President Kennedy – FDR preceded him by nearly three decades -- is that those who think for a living may sharpen their brains upon it, the way a knife is sharpened on a whetstone.

It is true that a loss of advertising revenue has contributed to the Courant’s loss of income. As business goes, so go the papers that depend upon advertising revenue to purchase their labor. It is also true that the technological grim reaper has diminished newspaper staffs.

But none of this helps to answer the question: What will life in Connecticut be like when the much diminished Courant succumbs to its fate and, no longer a recognizable paper, becomes a useless piece of publication furniture without a back or a leg or a seat -- or worse, a glorified blog?

It will be a sadder world, somewhat like a state with but one unappeasable and unapproachable political party.

6 comments:

Greg said...

In an age in which YouTube is but a mouse click away, it becomes less and less possible to slip by the public such Democratic nostrums as those presented on the Courant’s Editorial Page.

This is true. However, that along with conservative talk radio and blogs were not enough to slow down the MSM or the liberal train wreck that's still hurtling down the tracks.

Most people are out of touch with policy and politics and just want Obama to make them feel good. Which he will until present hardships become even harder.

People will hopefully take a real interest eventually. Unfortunately it will probably only happen due to much greater economic suffering.

David Moelling said...

The problem was the newspaper decided it had to be an opinion generator first and a news reporter second or not at all.

Despite Zell's lack of experience in reporting, his editors and publishers always had the ability to steer to uncovering and reporting news. When I used to get the NY Times years ago, the reporting compensated for the liberal tone. We do need local newspapers or their equivalents. It strikes me that if you had some reporters with the ambition to get scoops and follow up on them with details, (and you don't give it away for free) people would buy.

A new Courant with a decent business reporter that understands insurance/finance, a military reporter for Pratt/Groton/Sikorsky news, a decent police/crime group and a non-elitist entertainment section would stand a better chance. Plus a real upbeat "Hey life is OK" attitude instead of the dour, PC tone.

Don Pesci said...

Dave,

A prescription for news sales, if ever I heard one. There is also this to consider, and it relates to Greg’s point: The Courant has been liberal for a few decades. Oddly enough, The Hartford Times used to be the liberal paper, while the Courant was more conservative. What about recovering some market share, that portion of sales that drifted away and never came back because the Courant was, to some moderates and conservatives, indigestible? I’ve been one of their most persistent critics: Just write “courant” in the search engine of this blog and see what happens. Really, it’s all to no purpose. Twenty years ago, I might have said to the friends of honest journalism – start your own newspaper, but that was before newspapers were stretched on the morgue tables. People dissatisfied with the ideological tone of their papers now either give up reading them or they drift off to some ideological cornet of the net to seek solace, at which point we run into Greg’s perception. Cross your fingers, hope he’s right.

mccommas said...

"People dissatisfied with the ideological tone of their papers now either give up reading them or they drift off to some ideological cornet of the net to seek solace, at which point we run into Greg’s perception."

Well that is certainly is what has happened to me. I used to read three papers a day 20 years ago. I read it all - opinion, local news even if it wasn't local to me and national news. I was a sponge.

After a while you have seen it all before and you are disgusted that your values are not in what you read. I mean stuff that’s down right un-American. Governor Sarah Palin is a monster because she doesn’t abort her imperfect child, because she doesn’t know what the Bush Doctrine alluded to ( I would have needed help with that myself) but someone that blows up ladies rooms is an enlightened intellectual.

With the internet, I can get more news first hand but I miss a lot too. Honestly I have not bought a Courant in years.

The lady I interned for, State Rep Jo Fuchs, would not read it she thought it was so biased.

James Bailey Brislin said...

The Hartford Courant has ultimately been done in by the burden of excessive debt financing. The Courant was gobbled up by the Times-Mirror Syndicate, which in turn was gobbled up by the Tribune, which in turn gobbled up lots of media outlets through the use of cheap credit.

When Tribune priced its acquisitions, it straight-lined revenues, never accounting for the age of 20-25% profits to end.

In the process of trying to pay creditors and stave off bankruptcy, the Courant has incrementally gutted the content… local news, sports, business news, political news… all gone.

Now the wolf of bankruptcy is upon The Courant, and it finds itself offering its advertisers room in a dying third-rate product.

You see, the liberalism of The Courant was not confined to the editorial pages. It seeped its way into the paper's reporting and ultimately its business management. It was this liberalism that made possible, the risky, heavily financed acquisition deals with the Times-Mirror and Tribune.

James Bailey Brislin said...

The Hartford Courant has ultimately been done in by the burden of excessive debt financing. The Courant was gobbled up by the Times-Mirror Syndicate, which in turn was gobbled up by the Tribune, which in turn gobbled up lots of media outlets through the use of cheap credit.

When Tribune priced its acquisitions, it straight-lined revenues, never accounting for the age of 20-25% profits to end.

In the process of trying to pay creditors and stave off bankruptcy, the Courant has incrementally gutted the content… local news, sports, business news, political news… all gone.

Now the wolf of bankruptcy is upon The Courant, and it finds itself offering its advertisers room in a dying third-rate product.

You see, the liberalism of The Courant was not confined to the editorial pages. It seeped its way into the paper's reporting and ultimately its business management. It was this liberalism that made possible, the risky, heavily financed acquisition deals with the Times-Mirror and Tribune.

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