One of the themes I plan to explore in “The Wired City,” my book on the New Haven Independent, is that a non-profit city news site, freed from the constraints of appealing to affluent suburban readers, can cover stories that for-profit newspapers simply can’t. At its best, you get a sense of neighborhood life that you can’t get from a large daily newspaper.
In catching up with the Independent this morning, four examples stood out. The region’s major daily, the New Haven Register, did not have any of these stories. But it’s not a matter of the Independent having beaten the Register — my guess is that only one of the four stories would fit with the Register’s big-picture orientation in the first place.
“The Register obviously has a different mission than the Independent. They’re advertisement-based and have to do what they have to do,” local activist Clifton Graves told me recently.
I’ll begin with a story posted on Friday by Paul Bass, the Independent’s founder and editor, on a dangerous intersection in the Westville neighborhood, a few blocks from his house. This is not the first time the Independent has reported on the intersection, and Bass links to a video shot earlier by Independent contributor Leonard Honeyman. Bass finds that the city botched a recent attempt to make the intersection safer.
Next up are two stories by staff reporter Allan Appel — the second installment of his series on New Haven’s “Gardener of the Week,” and an amusing feature on an event organized by the Arts Council of Greater New Haven (video above): those damnable vuvuzelas were handed out to passersby on New Haven Green so they could take a stab at playing the National Anthem.
The one story I think the Register would like to have had is a report by managing editor Melissa Bailey showing that Democratic gubernatorial candidate Dan Malloy’s political action committee donated $1,000 to a controversial African-American minister’s charity just before the minister endorsed Malloy over his primary opponent, Ned Lamont. Malloy crushed Lamont last Tuesday.
Now, I don’t mean to suggest that the Independent always beats the Register on New Haven stories. You have to visit the Register’s website this morning to learn about the city’s latest murder, and about an off-duty police sergeant who has been accused of leading his fellow officers on a high-speed chase.
But you definitely get a sense in reading both news sites that each has a different purpose.