I find it alarming that the Tribune Co. is selling two papers in Connecticut to Gannett, a newspaper company that embodies mediocrity as its mission statement. Its showcase paper is USA Today, which says it all.
Gannett is a newspaper chain driven by lust for profit, with executives vying with one another to see which of them can come up with the worst way to ensure that important news is delivered to the communities they supposedly cover. In Florida, for example, Gannett has turned many of its reporters at one paper into one-person web site updaters. They spend their days taking pictures of stupid events and writing little blurbs about them — all of which would be fine, I guess, as long as other reporters were still doing the Lord’s work of detailing what the titans of industry, the leaders of government and the rest of the power crowd were up to in town. But, of course, they ain’t. That’s just not done in Gannett towns.
There isn’t any reason to think the Courant itself will be sold to Gannett soon. But you have to worry that this terrible newsaper chain is going to own the Greenwich and Stamford papers. It’s oozing our way.
Between the Courant and Fairfield County are several newpapers that could also be in Gannett’s vision: the right-wing Waterbury Republican-American, the solid Meriden Record-Journal and the Connecticut Post in Bridgeport. The Journal Register Co., which is hardly better than Gannett, owns the New Haven Register, The Bristol Press, The New Britain Herald and even our own West Hartford News. The terrific Journal Inquirer on the other side of the river appears safe for the moment.
Gannett could swallow them all up. Newspapers as a whole are worth barely more than the paper they’re printed on these days, though I’m not sure why. They mostly make profits. They still have lots of readers. They have a future, though it may be online more than in print (and, yes, making money online is still a trick).
I don’t like a lot of things about the Courant, especially its lack of interest in covering the news in West Hartford, where a pretty hefty chunk of its readers live and work. But I hope to God that Gannett never gets its greedy paws on America’s oldest continually published paper.