Friday, June 26, 2009

Double trouble for the Courant

Those in the trenches once again pay for corporate's screwups. Photo from Gerry Brooks' blog.

I’m sure the first book I read cover to cover was See Spot Run or something like that, but the first words I actually remember reading were in The Hartford Courant sports section. Many a weekday morning was spent eating my breakfast with my elbows imbedded in the newspaper. Inevitably, that was followed by me making a mad dash for the bus stop with my mother and a soapy washcloth in hot pursuit. She’d scrub and scrub but my elbows didn’t become clean until about 1994.

Likewise, I imagine the first televised images I ever absorbed were a Tom and Jerry cartoon or an episode of Sesame Street or maybe The Magic Garden on WPIX 11. But as a future unemployed sportswriter, the most pivotal figures in my development as a media observer were local news anchors such as Gerry Brooks, whose hilarious “The Brooks File” essays on WFSB (the local CBS affiliate) were must-see TV every Saturday night. (My favorite, about how men are never satisfied with how they mow the lawn, aired right after mowing the lawn became part of my chores at home)

So you can understand how I felt young and old all at the same time earlier today, when my oldest and best friend from Connecticut sent me a link to a blog by Brooks in which he notes the Courant ran the same Boston Globe story twice on a single page in today’s sports section.

That Brooks, who has been the co-anchor of the nightly news at WVIT, Connecticut’s NBC affiliate for years now, has a blog is cool. That he tackles touchy media issues in it, despite having every reason not to, is even cooler. That he has to write about the Courant running the same Globe story twice on the same page is incredibly disheartening, yet also not all that surprising.

A year ago, the Courant wouldn’t have had to worry about running the same Globe story twice because it would have, you know, actually staffed the Sox game in Washington. And replacing its once outstanding road coverage of the Sox with a Globe story is a kick in the pants to the Courant readership. Apparently, Sam Zell doesn’t think readers are savvy enough to go online to or head to the local convenience store and buy the Globe. Giving your readership reasons to read and buy the competition: Only in journalism.

Sad, too, is the line from Brooks in which he writes of “…sav[ing] the sports section for last to linger over the box scores and Dom Amore’s fine baseball coverage.” I can appreciate leaving the sports section for last (even though it was always the first thing I read), especially now, as I lament how it’s impossible to savor the Courant sports because it’s so thin.

There was a time when Amore was one of several writers providing the Courant with fine baseball coverage, not the only one. Now we can only wonder what will be axed first as the Courant, the oldest continuously published daily newspaper in America, hurtles towards the day when another newspaper inherits that honor: Amore and the baseball beat or the box scores, which are a morning ritual for a newspaper’s core readership but an easily disposable feature for newspapers trying to live up to the execrable mantra of “do more with less.”

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