Read Journal Inquirer Managing Editor Chris Powell's latest column and you sure don't get a sense that he's advising anyone to snap up The Bristol Press or, especially, The New Britain Herald.
In a lucid argument that state tax breaks aren't going to make a difference to newspaper owners, Powell points the finger at the real problem: that Connecticut's cities are too poor to support dailies anymore, except maybe in Stamford.
"The decline of newspapers reflects community disintegration," Powell correctly argues, and the way to save them is to fix our state, our society, ourselves.
"Newspapers don't need tax breaks," Powell says in the piece. "They need what the state itself needs, a middle class – self-sufficient households with two parents who are involved with their kids, schools, churches, civic groups, and such, interests that attach people to community and thus, almost inevitably, to newspapers, the chroniclers of community."
In New Britain, where The Herald is struggling, 40 percent of the residents speak something other than English as their first language, Powell says. How are they going to become readers of the community daily?
"New Britain is desperately poor," Powell says, and lacks the sort of rich suburbs that might make it possible for a daily to survive anyway.
"So among Connecticut's cities New Britain probably is least able to support a daily paper," Powell says, which ought to put to rest any thought that the JI is going to buy it.
On the other hand, Powell's column seems to contain a hint of interest in an old plan to come at The Hartford Courant from its fat, wealthy and uncompetitive suburbs.
I know that West Hartford, where almost everyone seems to get the Courant, feels that it's mostly ignored by the paper. The West Hartford News, the Journal Register Co.-owned weekly, doesn't fill the vacuum at all.
I'm not sure the JI has the financial werewithal or interest in trying to have some kind of JI West that could take the Courant on from the other side of the state capital, but it might.
Maybe we'll know more in the coming week.
I'm skeptical the JI is coming to our rescue, but I do know that whatever happens to us, Hartford's decisionmakers should pay attention to Powell's policy prescriptions.
We don't need the whole state to keep slipping down the slippery path that has swallowed up too many of its cities and too many of its residents' dreams.
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at firstname.lastname@example.org