Unprinted here are a slew of editorials and commentary pieces, all more or less bearing the same message: that Mr. Powell has attacked all single parent moms; that he is a holdover from those glorious days of yore when print media enjoyed a monopoly on dispensing information; that he has failed to understand properly the regrettable inroads made on the monopoly by the internet and the loss of advertising that has impoverished many newspapers; that he is a closet misogynist who has unjustly denigrated the poor.
It is also a distortion.
Rather, that editor -- this writer -- wrote in a column that the decline of newspapers and the news business generally may correlate less with the rise of the Internet than with social disintegration, as represented by the collapse of public education and voter participation, the failure of government to alleviate poverty, and the growth in welfare-dependent households, particularly those headed by unmarried, unskilled, and largely illiterate women who have several children by different men.
It was the latter example that set everyone off.
It was said to be an attack on all single women, all single women with children, and all households with unconventional parenting. But the column criticized an entirely different group.
It was said to be "misogynist," as if in the era of women's equality certain women are not to be held responsible for their anti-social behavior.
It was said to be "racist," as if the inability of much of the population to speak and read the national language does not impugn immigration policy and risk disunity.
Some critics disputed the column's assertion that half the children in Connecticut are being raised in households without two parents. The figure is arguable but the Washington-based research group Child Trends reported last year that more than half of children nationally born to women under 30 are now born outside marriage. Meanwhile the fatherlessness rate approaches 90 percent in Connecticut's cities and exceeds 50 percent in many public schools in inner suburbs, dragging education down.
So why argue the exact percentage if not to suggest that this phenomenon is not a problem? And if it is not a problem, why is Connecticut spending $800 million a year on its Department of Children and Families?
For many years now even the liberal social science research has reported that childbearing outside marriage is far more than a problem -- that it is a society-wide catastrophe.
Poverty and the ignorance it imposes are not environments for selling newspapers or any news -- nor for preserving democracy.
Disputing the column, the Hartford Courant said welfare rolls are down. But food stamps, government disability benefits rolls, and earned income tax credits are way up. Indeed, as National Public Radio reported in March, disability is the new welfare.
The Courant's dismissal of the relevance of all this to civic life and journalism is refuted by the newspaper's own circulation figures, its long having had more home-delivered subscribers in suburban West Hartford than in Hartford itself though Hartford has a far larger population -- one far more dependent on welfare.
The Courant also faulted the column for "general nastiness," as if the newspaper's own premier columnists, Colin McEnroe, Kevin Rennie, and Jim Shea, have achieved their audiences with a devotion to subtlety.
The challenge to the news industry, the Courant says, "is to create a business model that supports quality journalism, however delivered." But there can be no such model if society keeps impoverishing itself.
The news industry, the Courant adds, should "embrace the future, not run to a mythic past." But of course for the Courant's parent company, Tribune, which is selling its newspapers, the future is television -- a future without any need for literacy. And there was nothing mythic about a past where Americans were educated, read, participated, and voted.