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July 1, 2020

Hartford Courant journalists make plea for local ownership

hartford courant credit union HBJ Photo | Joe Cooper The Hartford Courant’s former headquarters at 285 Broad St.

Unionized journalists of The Hartford Courant, America’s oldest continuously published newspaper, are calling for local investors to buy the downtown-based publication that they say is being gutted by parent Tribune Publishing and its largest shareholder, Alden Global Capital.

“Only the smallest part of the Courant's history belongs to stockholders and hedge funds, and if we come together, we can get back to a better way," Rebecca Lurye, a Courant reporter and chair of The Hartford Courant Guild, said in a statement Tuesday. "We need owners who will put the public service of journalism first and the needs of our democracy ahead of a desire for profit.”

The Hartford Courant Guild, made up of 50 Courant reporters and editors -- some of whom have been periodically furloughed during the COVID-19 pandemic -- on Monday launched “The Save the Courant” campaign alongside other unionized Tribune newspapers seeking local investors “who value the critical role our newspaper has in the community and the essential coverage we provide.”

The release states that the Courant would be better run by not-for-profit owners who share a community-driven spirit for local reporting. 

“The Save the Courant campaign comes as we continue to cover a global pandemic and a civil rights movement, a time where the public’s need for fact-based, accountability journalism has never been more relevant or important — and at a time where the paper’s survival is at risk,” The Hartford Courant Guild stated.


Andrew Julien, publisher and editor-in-chief of the Hartford Courant Media Group, declined a request for comment on the group’s latest demands. Tribune officials could not be reached for comment.

The plea for local ownership comes months after the Courant's newsroom shrunk from buyouts for the second time in two years. The buyouts -- terms of which were not disclosed -- came a year after the Courant’s newsroom agreed to form a union and months after New York hedge fund Alden Global became the largest shareholder of Chicago-based Tribune.

Those fears were driven by Alden Global’s history of slashing newspaper jobs at other media organizations it controls through its MediaNews Group subsidiary, including The Boston Herald, The Denver Post and St. Paul Pioneer Press.

And with Alden now expected to take over additional seats on Tribune's board, Courant journalists say they "fear" additional cuts will be made.

The Hartford Courant Guild this week slammed Tribune for depleting local reporting resources, and for its effort to “fill the wallets of stockholders and grow their own parachutes while scores of veteran journalists are laid off or bought out … .”

The group says it’s looking to foster a business model where profits are reinvested into its newsroom.

“We seek a better future for our paper than one under Alden Global Capital, the hedge fund that has systematically dismantled local newspapers across the country,” the Hartford Courant Guild added.

Elsewhere in Connecticut, the local news media industry, particularly newspapers, have been struggling financially for over a decade. Those troubles have only been accelerated during the coronavirus health crisis.

The industry’s financial decline has especially been felt at the Courant, a 256-year-old newspaper.

In 2014, Hartford Business Journal reported the Courant’s newsroom peaked in 1994 at 400 employees and fell to 135 employees in 2009. There are about 60 newsroom employees today, a member of the Hartford Courant Guild said Tuesday.

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July 3, 2020

I agree with the prior "anonymous" comment. Courant has lost a lot of support for this reason. .

William Hoelzel
July 1, 2020

Connecticut can make this happen — the way Thomas Green once launched this enterprise. It’s challenging, but invite citizens to buy shares so we’ll be ready when Alden sells Trib properties one by one. Otherwise, Hearst will monopolize the major legacy media in Connecticut.

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