What will become of The Hartford Courant?

There’s trouble afoot at the historic Courant. It’s not just that it’s replaced a generation of great journalists with a crew of reporters who can barely write the language — though that’s a problem — it’s that the paper has come under scrutiny from the bean counters in Chicago, Los Angeles and Wall Street. Its fat profits aren’t quite enough to satisfy the greedy bastards who own papers nowadays.

So what’s going to happen? Well, the Courant may be sold.

Whether newspapers have a future in Connecticut may depend on who buys it. All you have to do is look at what’s happened to the other papers in the state that got swallowed up by even worse media chains. Look at how the Journal Register Co., for example, has ransacked the papers it bought in the state a decade ago. They’re all heading for the trash heap at an astonishing rate. The Courant could join them.

I’d like to see the paper snapped up by the Chase family, which has proven itself as a champion of the community over the years, or bought by its employees, as Colin McEnroe suggested, or perhaps we could try something truly novel: The paper’s readers could buy it. Let’s say it’s worth $200 million, to keep the math simple, and that it has 100,000 readers. If each reader paid $200, he could own 1/100,000th of the paper, with the understanding that the paper would be run for its readers, not to make a profit but to deliver the news as effectively as possible for as long as possible, without losing money.

Think about that. It could happen.

And there’s nothing to stop the idea from spreading to other papers, too. I bet that readers of The Herald in New Britain or the Journal-Inquirer in Manchester or The West Hartford News would pay something extra in their subscriptions if it meant they’d actually own the paper forevermore.

I know there are probably lots of legal complications and practical issues involved. But it can be done — and it’s worth considering. It’s not enough just to preserve the Courant. We also need to save it.

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1 Comment

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One response to “What will become of The Hartford Courant?

  1. Let’s suppose, for argument’s sake, that Bank A loaned the new “Courant Readers Corp.” $200 million to buy the paper. It wants the loan paid back at, say, 8 percent a year. That would make it so the Courant Readers Corp. would need to make profits of 8 percent to pay back the money, until the loan was paid off, and could use anything over and above that to improve the paper. The company itself would be owned by readers who pay for the stock by forking over $100 a year extra for their subscriptions. Potentially, of course, the new company could be co-owned by employees and readers.
    I really think this could work out, but it would be quite a challenge for enterprising MBAs and lawyers. They’re up to it, though. Lord knows they work out more complicated things for rich people all the time. Let’s try to get them to work it out for all of us for a change.

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