December 14, 2008

Taste and sensitivity award for Laurence Cohen

In a column for tomorrow's Hartford Business Journal, Laurence Cohen compares The Bristol Press and New Britain Herald to "sick puppies" whose corporate owner plans to take them out back and shoot them by the end of the year.
Very nice, on so many levels.
Cohen, of course, has his facts all mixed up and his conclusion is almost idiotic.
What is true is that the Journal Register Co., which owns the dailies, is "a basket-case media holding company," and that it says it will shutter the two papers next month, along with 11 Central Connecticut weeklies, unless a buyer emerges.
Cohen, who also has a column in The Hartford Courant, writes that "savvy investors have not exactly been lining up around the block to put in an offer. The economy is terrible, the newspaper business is even more terrible and two struggling papers in blue-collar factory towns that don’t have any factories is far, far down on the list of attractive investments."
As it happens, he's wrong. There are at least two offers on the table -- one of them solely for The Bristol Press -- and perhaps others. I have no inside knowledge, but I do talk to people in the community who know a little bit about what's going on.
Cohen, naturally, has fallen for the lie that politicians and state economic development officials are looking into some sort of bailout for the papers.
That misinformation seems to be confined to Tribune Co. columnists and a handful of faraway conservative bloggers who mostly apologize for their error when the facts are pointed out to them. I don't mind the bloggers who are mixed up, but how come Cohen, Stan Simpson and Kevin Rennie can't bother to learn the facts before they bat out a column?
What Cohen says in his wrongheaded piece is that "community leaders, politicians and state economic development bureaucrats" have "come together in a big sloppy mess to conjure up state incentives, loans or tax breaks to keep" the two dailies afloat.
It is a fact that our community, political leaders and state economic development officials are trying to help find buyers for the papers. But they're not conjuring up anything at all. They've simply agreed to make sure any potential buyer knows what programs are available to any business for low-interest loans, tax breaks for new equipment and the like.
Whether that matters or not, I have no idea. It isn't hurting, though, to try.
In any case, when Cohen predicts that "no formal government assistance specifically targeting the papers" is going to be coming down the pike, he's not exactly hitting the Lotto. He's just saying what everyone involved has said from day one. That's the kind of brilliant insight the Hartford Business Journal is paying Cohen good money to deliver?
I'm still waiting for someone out there in the media -- the Hartford Business Journal is certainly up to the job -- to explain why The Bristol Press is not simply yet another casualty of hard times for newspapers. It's the victim of a ruthless corporation that stripped the 126-year-old paper of its ability to function coherently -- to deliver copies to subscribers, bill advertisers properly, greet customers pleasantly and so much more, Then having plundered what it could, the JRC declared the paper incapable of making money. 
When the JRC bought The Bristol Press, the paper had the highest penetration rate of any paper in any city in New England, with 70 percent of families subscribing. It made money hand over fist. The JRC took that golden goose, wrung its neck, stole all the eggs and now has the temerity to complain that it can't make a profit so the paper has to close.
That's the real story, not a mythical 'bailout.'
I'm not sure why Cohen is itching to see sick puppies shot. He's clearly got some personal issues. But he should not know that any dog can come back to bite you.
*******
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

That Cohen is a sick puppy himself.

Anonymous said...

"Bristol is a blue collar factory town without any factories". Not too far from the truth, though.

Anonymous said...

Steve, why would you expect anyone who works for a Hartford area newspaper to come to our rescue. The Herald and Press are in the Courant's and Hartford Business Journal's bullseye. We are a competitor. The last paper standing makes the money and everyone's salaries go up. Basic economics. Are there any conspiracy theorists out there?

Poboy said...

Cohen is a hack. All he does is regurgitate party line politics while unsuccessfully attempting to be witty. Another fine example of a "C" student journalist. Him and his liberal counterpart ( Gina Barrecca ) must have cheated off each other's papers in college.

Adam Benson said...

On a day when Dan Barry of the NY Times wrote such a stirring and dead-on portrayal of what the Bristol Press is all about, yet another Connecticut media personality comes forward with a tone-deaf and totally inaccurate picture of what's actually happening on the ground here.
For the 1,345th time, nobody is seeking, asking for or expecting special government intervention to keep the Press and Herald functioning. Lawmakers made this clear during their press conference, articles about the incident made it clear and economic development officials made it clear.
Still, we have Leonard Cohen and Stan Simpson (among others) gleefully celebrating the fact two long-standing local institutions are on their way to the graveyard and chastising any attempts by workers at the publications or those on the state level to find solutions to the problem.
It's really too bad, in this day and age of public disdain for media and journalists, that reporters and editors still can't be bothered to make sure their facts are straight before heading to print.

Anonymous said...

No factories in Bristol? If Cohen means black smoke-belching mountains of brick and cider block, true. What we have instead is lots of manufaturing and assembly. ESPN isn't the only employer in town, y'know.

Anonymous said...

Shooting sick puppies? Maybe that's what Cohen does. The rest of us try to nurture them back to health.

Anonymous said...

Adam, I'm sure it was unintentional, but please don't confuse Laurence Cohen, the hack columnist from the Hartford Courant, with the brilliant Leonard Cohen, the well-respected Canadian singer-songwriter known for such songs as "Suzanne" and "Bird on a Wire."

Adam Benson said...

Wow. That was the king of all Freudian slips and you are absolutely right! Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa.

Anonymous said...

Cohen should just crawl back under his rock.

Anonymous said...

Adam, I would never have pegged you for a fan of Canadian music.