The Hartford Courant Fades From Voice To Echo

The printed newspaper is a media in trouble, readership and subscriptions have declined parallel with the growth of the cable television and the internet.  In the past a local newspaper’s impact on local, state and national thinking was no doubt a force or sphere of influence on public thought, today much of that has been lost to other media.

Hartford in the 1950’s was the home of two daily newspapers, the Hartford Times and the Hartford Courant.  The Courant would give you news in the morning and the Times would provide updates and late day news in the afternoon.  There was a competitive atmosphere between the two papers each trying to provide the best in coverage while increasing subscribers.  The Hartford Courant prevailed and the Hartford Times closed their doors but that is how the system works, the strong survive.

When competition is lacking sometimes people get lazy, complacent and apathetic, they lack that drive to create and expand their horizons.  Sometimes, like they say about an aging ball player, “they just mail it in”.  So the question of the day here at the Opining Quill is:  Has the Hartford Courant gotten so lax in news coverage that today they just mailed it in?  Let’s take a look and you decide.

Here direct from the “Connecticut Breaking News Latest Headlines” as seen on the Hartford Courant website are some of the headlines:

Woman Stabs Man With Butcher Knife, Hartford Police Say

New Haven Man Stabbed By Wife During Domestic Dispute, Police Say

One Injured In New Haven Shooting

Hartford Police: Man Hospitalized, Stabbed Four Times In Back

Man In Critical Condition, Shot Multiple Times Inside New Haven Pizza Shop

Man, Woman Shot At West Haven Bar

New Britain Senior Hospitalized After ‘Violent’ Assault

To this observer it sure looks like what is to be passed off as “Breaking News” is nothing more than a quick check of the recent incident reports from the local police officers.  Not even a single fire to report?  A quick check of a local television website at the same time finds a headline about a bus crash that sent 22 people to the hospital.  Maybe the officer hasn’t sent in his report yet or maybe it would take some effort and creativity to cover such an event.

Have the bean counters cut away the life blood of the newspaper paring off reporters in the name of bottom line profits?  Where is the tradition of journalism headed in Hartford?  The Hartford Courant has been around a long time but can it survive?

It is too bad to see a once strong voice become an echo of news, for an echo soon fades away.  In their prime the Hartford Courant was the dominate media in local towns throughout much of Connecticut.  Today the dominance is fading, gone are the dedicated local reporters providing coverage of local government, events and community affairs.  The loss is significant in terms of community life.  It is sad indeed to report the echo is fading.

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3 Comments

Filed under CONNECTICUT ISSUES, CT issues

3 responses to “The Hartford Courant Fades From Voice To Echo

  1. As a former Courant reporter (and now editor of an online local news blog) I can tell you that when they cut costs – and this happens everytime they’ve changed owners – the first thing to go is reporters, especially the ones over 40. Trouble is, that’s like trying to cut education costs by eliminating teachers — guess who does all the work? In addition to cutting the “grunts” from the field, the Courant (and other papers I worked for) began bouncing reporters from one town to another. The problem with that practice is that, unlike the days when a reporter was assigned a particular town or towns long-term, there is no opportunity to learn what the important issues are to the people living in that town. Also, the people who deal with reporters — the town manager, the chairs of the various committees, the local police — don’t have the opportunity to get to know you as a reporter so that if your predecessor screwed up and wrote something inaccurate or unfair, there is no trust and therefore, your sources are less forthcoming. Interestingly, local news blogs – including mine – are experiencing the same problems. Lack of bodies. For example, Patch.com came on like gangbusters — three years after we (HTNP) opened the door the “hyperlocal” news in this area — with big bucks from AOL, saying they would provide daily local news and hired tons of editors and freelance writers. Within months, they changed their tactics and started pushing their local editors to get people in their towns to write their own blogs… it wasn’t really about giving local people a voice in their own town’s news site, it was about cutting costs. And on most Patch sites, there’s an awful lot of “fluff.” At HTNP we also struggle because we are dependent on local sponsors and have a squeaky-tight budget, so I don’t have much editorial support and our day-to-day coverage has suffered. (We’ve also been targeted by hackers and despite cleaning up our sites and ramping up security, Yahoo still shows these Viagra, etc. links when you do a search for HTNP, even after several attempts to contact them. Talk about lousy customer-service…) The Reminder, where I worked as a staff writer for many years (and still contribute an occasional story) also is struggling – and that’s a shame, since that is a free weekly paper and it covers the “little” stories that papers like the Courant rarely do. So, that’s the why and wherefore of the “news.” Most of it, as you say, is the police and fire stuff coming over the scanner. If there’s a murder in your town, The Courant and the TV news will be there. Real reporting takes bodies in the field, and that costs money. The smart thing to do would be to generate more income, instead of cutting away at what’s already the stump of a tree. – Brenda Sullivan, Editor HTNP.com

    • Brenda, thank you for your comment. The Hartford Courant like any other business must be aware of the bottom line. It is the role of management in any business to create a product or service worthy of the price to sustain demand and profit over the long term. When management fails to deliver in their role the market of opportunity will bring their demise and a new supplier will arise to fill the void. The reduction in local news coverage diminishes the demand for a regional paper like the Courant. In the world of media today what is passed off as national and foreign news is already history on the internet and of little value over a morning cup of coffee. The thirst is for local news about town and that is becoming a driving force in social media such as Facebook and to a degree Twitter. The dinosaurs and echos of the past are fading in published media but memories recall a golden age.

      • I grew up in Hartford and I remember the Hartford Times and you’re right, competition made for better news coverage. While I agree that a newspaper is a business and needs to manage its finances, I don’t think The Courant has done a good job in that area, thus the many different owners it’s had over the years. I also agree that social media, such as Facebook and Twitter are filling the gap as far as breaking news – ironically, I noticed that about three quarters of my followers on Twitter have been other news agencies – we all monitor each other to make sure we’re not left in the dust on some breaking story. I think I probably do the best job of providing local and breaking news on the HTNP News Facebook page because of the large number of civic and local groups that I, in turn, “like” and so their info is posted on my page everyday and I can then “share” with my group of followers – depending on what’s happening (I share state and national news, too), I can have as many a 10,000 people “reached” on a single day – the average is 700 or so, and that’s fine by me at this point. And for more in-depth discussion of issues, people are increasingly creating news blogs for their town — like yours — where people can share information and debate issues. The only problem with that, however, is that shared information as often as not is misinformation. Newspapers, at least, have some responsibility to be accurate or be called to task for it, and stories are attached to bylines – versus anonymous names used in comments.

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