Talk of the neighborhoods


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.

8 thoughts on “Talk of the neighborhoods

  1. L.K. Collins

    You’ve been touting the New Haven Independent for some time now. It certainly has a lot of aspects of old, small time community newspapers of 40 or 50 years ago.

    Two questions come to mind.

    1. Is the Independent‘s circulation (including pass-along readership) showing that it is finding a consistent place in the fabric of the community? And,

    2. Is the financial situation such that the paper will be viable over the long term — like 50, 20, even 5 years?

    Lots of good journalistic enterprises have fallen on one or both of these issues.

    1. Dan Kennedy

      @L.K.: Websites don’t have pass-along readership. What you may find is that people copy and paste articles and e-mail them to their friends, but I don’t know if there’s any way of measuring that.

      Paul Bass spends many of his waking hours trying to figure out how to make the Independent self-sustaining. I think the Independent will be around in five years. I don’t think it will be around in 20, because I believe we’ve entered an era when news projects are going to come and go. You can check readership for yourself at compete.com, but I think they understate everyone’s numbers. The Independent’s readership is small, but based on my reporting, it seems to be universally read by opinion-leaders in New Haven.

  2. The Independent is not alone in this field. There are a number of other Placebloggers like myself who provide a valuable alternative for traditional media.

    I do try to provide the whole story without going the scary and many times misleading headline route. I also concede the ambulance chasers to whomever wants to follow them and write up what happens.

    I think my value add is to do credible real-time and live reporting from the various Town Council, School Committee and other town meetings there are. I also look to provide a focus on the good news when it is available.

    For those amongst my readers who don’t want the daily option, I do a weekly summary: “take ten minutes to find out what matters in Franklin, MA”.

    With the development of the Globe’s “YourTown”, the GatehouseNews “WickedLocal sites”, and now the Patch local editions, who will be standing in the future is anyones guess. Lord willing, I’ll still provide what I can as a public service.

  3. Rick Peterson

    I’m guessing the members of the Arts Council of Greater New Haven don’t put their hands over their hearts when the National Anthem is played. With all the appropriately frivolous options, (e.g.,Simpsons or Flintstones themes), it’s a shame they had to choose something to mock that is sacred to many people.

  4. BP Myers

    @Rick Peterson says: it’s a shame they had to choose something to mock that is sacred to many people.

    Folks who hold the tune to an old drinking song “sacred” have other problems, I suppose. Still, I ain’t seeing one iota of mockery.

    I’ll bet its been played on the spoons in the past to rousing applause.

    But folks see what they want to see.

  5. Rick Peterson

    @BPMyers says “Folks who hold the tune to an old drinking song “sacred” have other problems, I suppose.”
    Yes, BP. Our “problem” is that we consider it to be meaningful beyond just a tune by John Stafford Smith. (36 USC Sect. 301 even says so.)Then again, we all aren’t sophisticated citizens of the world like you. If it’s nothing more than an old drinking song to you, that’s your loss. I was taught that respect for the beliefs of others was an American value. My bad. Next time you’re at a funeral, play “Ave Maria” or “Amazing Grace” on a kazoo and then wait for that “rousing applause”.

  6. BP Myers

    @Rick Peterson says: I was taught that respect for the beliefs of others was an American value

    And yet you mock me and my beliefs (“citizens of the world like you.”). Curious, that. Looks like a case of “do as I say, not as I do.”

    Folks got over Jimi Hendrix’s version. Jose Feliciano’s version was thought a travesty at the time and is now held up as one of the best.

    Have no idea where you’re going with the funeral thing. Think I’ll just leave that alone.

    In my opinion, there’s nothing at all wrong with playing “The Star Spangled Banner” in a public park on the vuvezuela on a beautiful summer day. Seems to me the freedom to do just that is exactly what the song is about.

  7. Rick Peterson

    One last try, BP. The fact that you CAN do something hostile to the sensibilities of others doesn’t automatically mean that you HAVE to. I’m sure that most of the folks on the New Haven Green meant no disrespect unlike say, the Westboro Baptist Church displays at military funerals. Hell, the NEA survived “Piss Christ” on display. The question is, were they ALL showing respect on The Green with a pop culture item now synonymous with absurdity? I think not. Ironically, the keeper of this forum has more expertise than most on this subject, due to his work with those living with physical challenges. (Ask a little person how they feel about the constitutionally-protected “m-word”.) We have freedom of speech; I get that. I just think it also entitles me to comment when ignorance or gratuitous trivializing of that freedom (AKA acting like an a-hole) takes place. The fact that Harry Reid and I agree on ANYTHING (i.e. the Ground Zero Mosque)is a pretty good indicator of how combustible these issues have become. Can I use “the n-word” to dramatically illustrate how “sticks and stones…etc”? Sure, but why would I? In my opinion that is as provocative as using a US flag (you know, a “Star Spangled Banner”) as toilet paper just because I may be able to. You bestow your respect wherever you choose. I will do the same.

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