The chain owner of the Connecticut Post has purchased the New Haven Register and other local news outlets reportedly for under $50 million, consolidating its southern base in its statewide competition with the chain owner of the Hartford Courant.
Officials from Hearst Media, which owns the Post, broke the news to a staff meeting of the Register Monday afternoon at the print daily’s Gando Drive headquarters.
Hearst already owns the dailies in Bridgeport, Stamford, Danbury, and Greenwich in addition to six weeklies. It now owns not just the Register, but Connecticut Magazine, the daily Torrington Register Citizen, and the daily Middletown Press, as well as a group of weeklies, all of which Hearst purchased from a chain called Digital First Media owned by the Alden Global Capital.
The purchase leaves Hearst and Tribune Co. — owner of the Hartford Courant — as the dominant print daily newspaper operations in the state.
Hearst Newspapers President Mark Aldam used to hold an executive position in Connecticut with Tribune. Aldam made the presentation to the New Haven staff in the newsroom Monday.
Bloomberg News, citing “a person familiar with the matter,” reported that the sales price was less than $50 million.
The Register has been owned by a series of chains, and undergone two bankruptcies and repeated newsroom staff slashes, since the local Jackson family sold it in 1986 to a chain run by Ralph Ingersoll. That chain reportedly paid close to $200 million just for the Register and its sister daily the (now deceased) New Haven Journal-Courier back then.
Hearst told the Register staff Monday that Helen Bennett will remain the editor of the New Haven paper and claimed there would be no newsroom layoffs or salary cuts, according to a staffer present. Top local business executives, including Publisher Kevin Corrado, are out. Hearts Group Paul Barbetta “will oversee business and news operations for the acquired properties,” the company stated in a release. (However, a Register reporter who covered Hamden, Kate Ramunni, confirmed that she was in fact laid off.)
“People were kind of stunned,” the staffer said of colleagues at the Register meeting. On the other hand, “they’ve been through this before.”
Hearst’s statewide news operation is run by former Hartford Courant Managing Editor Barbara Roessner. Asked Monday about the company’s plans for New Haven’s editorial coverage, Roessner told the Independent, “Hearst’s mission is to raise the quality of community journalism. That’s what we’re about.”
“We’ve seen this so much over the past eight to ten years. Nothing stuns us anymore,” said Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce President Anthony Rescigno.
“I always look at these things positively. You bring in some new blood and some new capital maybe. I’m anxious to meet the new people as fast as I can so I can figure out how to engage them.”
In a release from Hearst, Aldam is quoted as saying: “This investment strengthens Hearst Newspapers’ commitment to local communities in Connecticut, and expands Hearst’s local media presence to eight daily titles, 11 weeklies and a robust collection of digital outlets within the state. The New Haven Register has a rich tradition for high-quality community journalism dating back to the Jackson family ownership era. By connecting our current Connecticut media assets across Fairfield County with the New Haven Register group, we expect to advance enterprise journalism across southern Connecticut.”