November 13, 2008

The interesting case of The West Hartford News

Only two newspapers owned by the Journal Register Co. in Central Connecticut are slated to remain within the company fold, the Middletown Press and The West Hartford News.
I don't know much about Middletown except that it's not that far from New Haven and has a rich college. It runs on the cheap and, I guess, turns a profit healthy enough to survive the scrutiny of the accountants who pour over spreadsheets but ignore the real world.
The West Hartford News, however, is a classic case of a paper with almost unlimited potential that is held down only by a refusal or inability to turn it into a weekly that its wealthy town can embrace.
It used to be a great little paper, a mandatory read for everyone in West Hartford.
These days, it's mostly little press releases surrounded by ads. But it has enough of those ads to make real money.
It's going to be based in Middletown, I'm told, which is only slightly more ridiculous than being in Bristol.
What gets me is that West Hartford has a real craving for news that isn't satisfied by any publication at all. The Courant, which has gotten rich off the town, barely notices it. And the monthlies are just trying to cater to the elite.
The West Hartford News could fill a gigantic niche and prosper to a degree its owners don't recognize -- if only it had more quality reporting filling its pages (and a website to match).
That is one reason I think the encircling the Courant strategy could work if a buyer for the Press and Herald emerged that could ally with the JI. West Hartford is the obvious battleground for news because it has the money and people to afford whatever they want, except for me and three other folks.
Anyway, what's strange is that the West Hartford News is actually worth something, because it could prosper, so why isn't it for sale? The JRC has already shown it doesn't know how to invest in its papers in order to maximize profits. Why doesn't it just take the money from a sale of that paper? What is the point of keeping one little outpost far removed from other JRC properties? Is there some grand vision that I'm missing?
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at


Anonymous said...

Maybe the JRC keeps the WH News so dull just to frustrate you, Steve. Didja ever think of that?

Anonymous said...

Middletown's paper does a fine job considering the manpower they have. There is unlimited potential should the paper return to its roots and cover the entire Shoreline, including Old Saybrook and other surrounding areas.

I wouldn't be surprised if it gets shut down, though, with this economy.

Anonymous said...

It is "pore" not "pour"!!!!

Anonymous said...


I think you may be dissecting things too much. The newspaper business is a slow bleed. The Herald and the Press are going to be the first to go, if they go. Eventually, JRC will get around to putting shutters on the West Hartford and Middletown Papers and then eventually the New Haven Register. The JRC are not committed to Connecticut and are pulling out, but it takes time.