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

Tag: New Jersey

Hearst CT de-emphasizes print while expanding its newsroom and digital subs

The New Haven Register’s printing plant is long gone. And now its owner, Hearst, will be printing it out of state as the chain doubles down on digital subscriptions. Photo (cc) 2009 by Dan Kennedy.

A newspaper battle is brewing in Connecticut — but print is becoming an afterthought.

Hearst Connecticut recently announced that it would move its printing operations to Albany, New York, meaning that deadlines for titles such as the New Haven Register and the Connecticut Post of Bridgeport will be earlier than ever. Twenty-eight jobs will be eliminated, reports Greg Bordonaro of the Hartford Business Journal.

At the same time, Hearst has been growing in Connecticut. The chain is adding positions to its combined newsroom of about 160 full-timers. According to confidential sources I’ve been in touch with with, digital subscriptions have risen from about 21,000 to 39,000 over the past 16 months.

With Connecticut’s statewide daily, the Hartford Courant, being strangled by the hedge fund Alden Global Capital, the privately owned Hearst is attempting to fill the void. Last summer, Hearst unveiled a new statewide website, CTInsider, that has its own staff and also draws on content from Hearst CT’s eight dailies and 13 weeklies.

It’s an approach that emphasizes statewide and regional coverage over community watchdog reporting, and it’s similar to what Advance is doing in New Jersey, where papers such as The Star-Ledger of Newark, The Times of Trenton and the South Jersey Times have been united under the banner. Nevertheless, the emphasis on growth and real journalism at Hearst CT is heartening at a time when hedge-fund cutbacks are dominant.

The golden era of newspapers

Public domain photo by Gary Todd

I love this passage from David Sachsman and Warren Sloat’s “The Press and the Suburbs: The Daily Newspapers of New Jersey” (1985). They’re writing about The Record of Bergen County, but it could have pertained to any number of papers:

It is the happiest of newspaper cycles. The advertisers supply the money, lots of it (49 pages of ads a day). The newspaper spends the money freely to produce a solid product, employing 198 full-time news staffers and 81 part-timers to fill a 24-page news hole. The high-income audience centered in towns like Ho-Ho-Kus, Wyckoff, Franklin Lakes, and Rivervale buys the newspaper and goes shopping, pleasing the advertisers, who buy more ads.

A chain of 14 weeklies in New Jersey will convert to nonprofit ownership

Bernardsville, N.J. Photo (cc) 2012 by Doug Kerr.

I love this. A small chain of 14 weekly papers in north central New Jersey is converting to nonprofit ownership. The New Jersey Hills Media Group will work with the Corporation for New Jersey Local Media in order to make the transition — and will immediately embark on a fundraising drive with a goal of $500,000. Co-publisher and business manager Steve Parker explains the move this way:

Our family has served as stewards of these newspapers for 66 years, and we are pleased that a nonprofit group based in our communities has come forward to ensure that they will continue their mission of community journalism far into the future.

The papers — some of which are more than 100 years old — serve 52 communities in Morris, Somerset, Essex and Hunterdon counties.

According to the announcement, the chain might become the largest nonprofit group of weeklies in the country. Among large daily papers, The Salt Lake Tribune has converted to nonprofit status, while there are a handful of for-profit papers owned by nonprofit organizations — a list that includes The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Tampa Bay Times, the New Hampshire Union Leader and The Day of New London, Connecticut. And, of course, public radio stations are nonprofit news organizations.

You sometimes hear that nonprofit ownership doesn’t solve all the problems faced by shrinking newspapers, since they still have to balance the books. That’s true. But it solves a lot of the problems. Tax-exempt status and ownership by people invested in the community rather than by corporate chains and hedge funds go along way toward ensuring the future of local news.

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