The Twilight of Newsprint

Newspapers in Connecticut have fallen on very hard times. The Courant recently completed a large-scale downsizing and redesign, the New Haven Register eliminated its Capitol reporter, and today we received word that the Herald and Bristol Press may disappear completely by the beginning of next year.

Worse, a source informs me that the Journal-Inquirer, my favorite Connecticut paper, has laid off several staff–with the possibility of more cuts coming in the near future if things don’t turn around.

Times are tough for newspapers all across the country. GOP Chairman Chris Healy has written a poignant piece about the decline of newspapers–especially those owned by the hated Journal-Register company, which Healy refers to as “evil” and “a hedge fund with no newspaper people to speak of within its ranks.” Healy was a reporter for the Torrington Register-Citizen, now also owned by Journal-Register, and it’s heartbreaking to read his stories of the way these papers used to be. I also encourage you to go read Steve Collins’ impassioned plea for his newspaper’s survival.

I remember the Herald back when it had great local news and competed in my hometown of Newington with the Courant. The Herald that exists now is a shell of its former self, and that’s a tragedy. But losing it would be much, much worse.

Where’s the end of it? What’s going to happen to journalism in Connecticut?

There are plenty of people who would not be sad to see newspapers go, but those people don’t get it. We need the newspapers, or something like them. We need professional journalists covering cities, towns, government and everything else in Connecticut. Blogs and citizen journalism are great, and help cover some of the gaps, but they only go so far and do so much. The problem is that huge gaps are appearing in coverage, and there is not much out there that’s filling them. One needs only to look at how thin the ranks of Capitol journalists are to realize just how much of a problem this is.

Some sort of new model is needed. Professional journalism is a cornerstone of our republic, and it needs to survive in some form. It’s sad that it may not be as newspapers, although I think they still have an important place in our society. I may be a blogger and a denizen of the Web, but I’m also a librarian, and I know that words printed on paper have a power and a weight that words printed on the ephemeral, mutable and chaotic internet simply do not.

However, if online-only news services like CT News Junkie and the New Haven Independent could be made to be profitable, then that might be the form text-based news stories take in the future. People seem to be willing to put up with lots of ads to get the news through online news services for free. If I had the money, I’d start something like that.

Actually, scratch that. If I had the money, I’d buy the Herald and the Press.

How would you save journalism in Connecticut?


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