The Tribune Company has laid off New Mass. Media group publisher Joshua Mamis along with two graphic designers. The company publishes publishes the Fairfield County Weekly, Hartford Advocate, and New Haven Advocate.
When a news website in Pasadena made headlines last year for its decision to outsource City Hall coverage to reporters in India, the group managing editor of the Hartford Advocate, New Haven Advocate and Fairfield County Weekly wondered if his three alt-weeklies could do the same thing. While John Adamian's idea started as a joke, it quickly led to an actual exercise in outsourcing journalism -- and the results are this week's papers, which have been mostly generated by Indian freelancers. The papers say the experiment proves that outsourcing a local newspaper is possible, but not recommended. "Call us old-school, but we think good, old-fashioned shoe-leather journalism is worth the price," the staff writes in an editors' note. "Outsourcing could certainly fill pages, probably very cheaply, but what's lost is the very essence of local newspapers: presence."
"What does this mean for the Advocates? Who the fuck knows? We're so low in the Tribune food chain that we're not even mentioned in the annual reports," writes Christopher Arnott, who spent 17 years as an Advocate staffer before going full-time freelance. "The Advocate's sucked it up before and [stayed] alive in hard times. Let's hope the corporation gives it the chance to do it again."
The embattled Tribune Company, which owns three AAN papers, has hired an investment bank and law firm in recent days to advise the company on a possible trip through Chapter 11 bankruptcy, according to the Wall Street Journal. Tribune owns the Fairfield County Weekly, Hartford Advocate and New Haven Advocate. Sources tell the Journal that a filing could come as early as this week. UPDATE (4:05 pm): The company did indeed file for bankruptcy protection today, and will stop making interest payments on $12 billion in debt as it attempts to restructure its loans, the Los Angeles Times reports.
To save costs in an ever-tightening economy, two of the three New Mass. Media papers will now share office space in New Haven. Staff members have been given laptops and cellphones and will seemingly be traveling in the Fairfield County area -- about 20 miles from New Haven -- quite a bit.
To mark the occasion, the paper has put together a package reflecting not only its 35th anniversary, but its purchase last winter by Newspapers of New England Inc. During "seven-plus years of corporate ownership" under the Hartford Courant and the Tribune Company, the Advocate "found itself in the hands of a corporation that prized uniformity over individuality, that worried more about its shareholders than its readers, that bought into a world view that has become endemic in mainstream publishing," editor Tom Vannah writes. "More than a simple marking of time, then, this 35th anniversary is part of the Valley Advocate's rediscovery of the virtues of being an independent alternative to the corporate brand of media we were born to challenge."
The Hartford Courant announced plans Tuesday to sell the Valley Advocate, an alt-weekly covering western Massachusetts, to Newspapers of New England Inc., which owns newspapers in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Editor & Publisher reports that the sale lets the Courant focus its attention on its properties in Connecticut. The Advocate will continue to share content and do cross-market sales with the remaining alt-weeklies the Courant purchased in 1999 from New Mass. Media: the Hartford Advocate, the New Haven Advocate and Fairfield County Weekly. The sale is expected to close later this month; terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Janet Reynolds, a 20-year veteran of publishing group New Mass. Media, will leave the papers on Sept. 28 as part of a company-wide restructuring. "Publishing a newspaper has always been a challenging business particularly in the last few years," says Reynolds, who began as a listings editor at the Hartford Advocate in 1986 and has since served as a reporter, managing editor, editor and publisher within the New England-based chain, which was acquired by the Tribune Company's Hartford Courant in 1999. "I feel that I met many of those challenges and am able to leave them in good shape and in good capable hands that will take them to the next level." Josh Mamis, currently group publisher of New Mass. Media's two other alt-weeklies, the New Haven Advocate and Fairfield County Weekly, was named group publisher for all four papers, their websites and other products. Sean Hitchcock and Do-Han Allen will assume associate publisher roles at Fairfield County Weekly and the Valley Advocate, respectively.
On July 30, Fran Zankowski is leaving his role as chief executive officer of the company that publishes the Hartford Advocate, the New Haven Advocate and the Fairfield County Weekly, all in Connecticut, and the Valley Advocate in Massachusetts. He has been CEO of New Mass. Media since 1999, when the company was purchased by The Hartford Courant. Zankowski chairs the AAN board's Organization and Bylaws Committee, whose proposed amendments to the AAN bylaws were accepted at the annual membership meeting in June. He is also a member of the Admissions Committee.
Eric Benjamin, a 20-year alternative newsweekly veteran, becomes associate publisher of Gambit Weekly. The Boston native played a significant role in the growth of the alternative newsweekly industry as board president and founding board member of Alternative Weekly Network, which represents more than 120 alternative newsweeklies nationwide. He comes to Gambit directly from New Mass Media, where he was national sales director.