By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Tag: Andy Thibault

Great news in Connecticut as The Winsted Citizen gets a second life

The nonprofit Winsted Citizen, which reportedly closed its doors earlier this week, is getting a second life. The newspaper has been acquired by American Business Media, a national company that is based in Simsbury, Connecticut, a 40-minute drive from Winsted. The Citizen’s editor and publisher, Andy Thibault, will continue as a contributing editor. The complete announcement follows.

Winsted Citizen Acquired By Conn. Media Group

The board of directors of the Connecticut News Consortium Inc, announced today that American Business Media LLC, a Simsbury, Connecticut-based national media company, has acquired the Winsted Citizen newspaper.

“There were news reports earlier this week that the publication is closing. That is not true. We are very pleased that the work of the Consortium on this publication and all of those involved in creating and producing the Winsted Citizen will continue under new ownership,” said Jedd Gould, a board member and spokesperson for the Consortium. “Our objective in this has always been to find ways to connect the community through news, events, and inspiration. We’re delighted to turn this project over to someone who shares our vision, and has the media infrastructure to support and grow it.”

American Business Media publishes seven magazines across the country, numerous email newsletters, and more than two dozen conferences at venues from Mohegan Sun to Los Angeles. Its CEO, Publisher and Editor-in-chief is Vincent Valvo. He has garnered dozens of journalism awards over his career, has served on the board of directors of the Connecticut chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, and was president of the Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information.

“I believe in the power and the mission of community journalism,” Valvo said. “I have been cheering on the creation of the Winsted Citizen since the first of the year. I’m delighted to be able to ensure that it will have a strong future.”

Valvo said he expects to see the publication evolve. It will have a greater emphasis on Litchfield County, but will be adding stronger online and social media offerings, community events, and articles that dig deeply into the fabric of the region and its people.

“We believe in the power of print publications,” Valvo said. “But we are wholly aware that people get their news and information from a wide swath of sources. We’re going to expand and strengthen how this publication connects with residents. It’s the only way for modern community journalism to thrive.”

Valvo said there will be no layoffs and no changes to the Winsted Citizen’s editorial production. Founding Publisher and Editor Andy Thibault will continue as a contributing editor.

The transaction was effective immediately.

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The Winsted Citizen, launched amid a dispute with Ralph Nader, will close its doors

Andy Thibault and Billie Holiday

Update: The Citizen has been acquired by American Business Media and will continue to publish. See our latest here.

Connecticut’s Winsted Citizen, launched last February with funding by the consumer advocate Ralph Nader, is shutting down. The Citizen got off to a rocky start over a dispute with Nader over how much money he had actually pledged. But the editor and publisher of the paper, Andy Thibault, told Ellen Clegg and me on the “What Works” podcast last June that he and Nader had reached an understanding and were working cooperatively.

Andrew Larson reports in the Hartford Business Journal that the Citizen was able to produce nine monthly editions before shutting down. Even though Thibault said the deficits were shrinking over time thanks to reader support, the ongoing losses became unsustainable.

In a statement that Thibault sent to Ellen and me, he said, “We beat the Grim Reaper every month for most of the year. Our best month financially resulted in our lowest deficit. Now, our quest regrettably has become the impossible dream. It sure was great — despite numerous stumbles, obstacles and heartaches — while it lasted.”

Best wishes to Thibault and his staff on whatever comes next.

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Andy Thibault tells us about The Winsted Citizen and his relationship with Ralph Nader

Andy Thibault and Billie Holiday delivering The Winsted Citizen

On this week’s podcast, Ellen Clegg and I talk with Andy Thibault, editor and publisher of The Winsted Citizen in Connecticut. The Citizen is a monthly print newspaper serving Litchfield County and the surrounding area. The paper’s digital presence is minimal, although it does publish The Winsted Citizen Blog. But that’s about to change, Thibault says. He’s going digital.

Starting a news organization is never easy, but the Citizen hit a brief speed bump. A speed bump named Ralph Nader, a native of Winsted who was initially the prime mover behind the paper but who got caught up in a dispute over how much financial support he was going to provide. According to Andy, he and Nader are now working together cooperatively and everything is moving ahead just fine.

Jack Walsh, a graduate student in Northeastern University’s School of Journalism, joins us to talk about his recent profile of the Chelsea Record,  a 150-year-old weekly paper in the small city of Chelsea, Massachusetts. You can find Jack’s story on the What Works website and read his newsletter, Local News Matters, on Substack.

I’ve got a Quick Take on Gannett. Recently, many union journalists at Gannett staged a one-day strike over layoffs and cutbacks in benefits. Yet there are some interesting moves being made at the top of the company as well, with two news leaders being added to the senior executive team. Is the chain actually looking to bulk up its journalism?

Ellen discusses a recent poll about local news and accountability journalism. Surprisingly few Americans believe that local news media hold public officials accountable, according to a national poll commissioned by the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. This shows the devastating impact of the hollowing out of community news. And it calls into question whether local journalism is fulfilling one of its primary missions.

You can listen to our conversation here and subscribe through your favorite podcast app.

Ralph Nader helped launch a newspaper. Now he’s accused of failing to pay for it.

Ralph Nader. Photo (cc) 2007 by Ragesoss.

Consumer advocate Ralph Nader was hailed as a hero in late February when it was reported that he would launch a nonprofit newspaper in Winsted, Connecticut, where he was born. The new paper, the Winsted Citizen, hired veteran journalist Andy Thibault as its publisher and editor, and it looked like nothing but bright skies on the horizon. The paper is the town’s first since the Winsted Journal shut down in 2017, although the community is covered by the daily Republican-American of nearby Waterbury.

But the Citizen stumbled right of the gate — and the reason is that Nader apparently didn’t come through with the money he had promised. According to Bob Sillick of the trade publication Editor & Publisher and Daniel Figueroa IV of Hearst CT, Nader failed to provide the $22,500 that Thibault said he had pledged to fund the Citizen’s second edition, instead offering an $8,000 loan. That offer was turned down. The Citizen is having trouble meeting payroll, and it sounds like the future of the Citizen is in doubt, although Thibault says he and his staff are pushing ahead.

If there’s another side to the story, we’re not hearing it from Nader. Both Sillick and Figueroa say that Nader has not responded to their attempts to obtain comment. Meanwhile, the print-centric newspaper, which costs about $30,000 per issue to produce, is going to pivot to digital-first, although print will continue to be offered. The website will be paywalled. Thibault has posted the statement he gave to Hearst on the Citizen’s blog, and I reproduce it here in full:

It is true that we put out the second edition without promised funding and that we owe many contributors pay for services rendered. With ongoing support from subscribers, advertisers and donors, we absolutely will honor all our obligations.

I am so proud to work with all our staff individually and collectively. These are real people running on broken glass through the desert sand to get the job done. They are young and old, some approaching the end or their careers and some just starting It is my duty as editor and publisher to serve our readers and staff. As long as I breathe, I will, without fear or favor.

Our leadership team and staff continue to work eight days a week. On Monday we will conduct a thorough review of all financial data. Story conferences have cranked up already for the April edition. Deadlines [have been set].

Initially, Ralph told me he only wanted to do a pilot edition, then sit back for six or eight weeks to get feedback. I told him that would not work, we need a Second Act and funding for six months at double the rate for the first edition. Managing Editor Melanie Ollett and Advertising / Circulation Director presented detailed budgets by request and they were ignored.

These are indisputable facts and I would submit to a state police certified polygraph exam.

During a conversation with Ralph and his legal counsel I agreed to produce 25% of the revenue needed for the second edition and was promised funding on that basis.

This has not happened. Instead Ralph switched gears and, through his counsel offered a loan of $8,000 that has not shown up … We are deeply grateful for the support of the community.

Andy Thibault

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