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More Advocate Layoffs

by Staff | Jul 8, 2011 4:50 pm

(20) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: Business/ Economic Development, Media

File PhotoThe dwindling band of survivors on the good ship New Haven Advocate were disheartened to learn Friday that their corporate parent is continuing to whittle away what remains of their staff.

The staff learned at a meeting that the alternative weekly’s parent—Tribune Co., owner of the Hartford Courant and Fox 61—has eliminated three more positions. That means two graphic designers, including New Haven’s Chris Fasanella, are out of a job along with the paper’s publisher, Joshua Mamis.

Mamis came to New Haven in 1993 to edit the New Haven Advocate, when it was still independently owned. He oversaw countless award-winning investigative and news reporting projects and the dramatic expansion of the paper. He eventually rose to become publisher of the three remaining weeklies in the group, the Hartford and New Haven Advocates and the Fairfield County Weekly.

Mamis was unavailable for comment.

The financially wallowing Tribune Co. has gradually reduced the size of the Advocate’s staff over the last decade. In fact, the New Haven edition no longer has a staff reporter. Nor does the Fairfield edition.

Now the papers will no longer have their own publisher, either. Rather than replace Mamis, Tribune is having someone at its corporate Courant/Fox office in Hartford assume the responsibilities.

You wouldn’t know that from reading the memo Advocate staffers received from corporate management first announcing and “explaining” the layoffs, which were part of a larger wave of job eliminations throughout Tribune’s Connecticut media properties.

(Recently Tribune also eliminated the popular columns in the Courant written by staffers Rick Green, Helen Ubinas, and Susan Campbell. For background on Tribune’s gradual, ugly demise as a serious media company, click here and here.)

Read the latest memo for yourself, below. Any attempts at translation to English from the original Corporatese are welcome—post a comment.

To All CT1 Staff Members:

Today, we implemented some important changes within our Hartford newsroom and production operation designed to meet the financial challenges we are currently facing, while maintaining CT1 Media’s position as Connecticut¹s leading source of news and information across multiple platforms.  These changes will allow us to deploy additional resources to areas of the most interest to our readers, viewers and advertisers ­ local news coverage, investigative reporting and 24/7 digital access to breaking news.

As our market continues evolving at a rapid pace, our “digital first” strategy will keep us strong as we move into the future, and CT1 media—including The Hartford Courant, courant.com, Fox Connecticut and ctnow.com—will remain the leading generator of breaking and relevant news content in the state.  We are committed to being Connecticut¹s leader in local and investigative news coverage and we will continue to evolve our digital platforms and products in the immediate future.

These changes will result in a reduction of some positions in the newsroom. While most of these reductions will occur on the news production and administrative side, some editorial positions will also be eliminated.

Other changes are a result of our on-going participation in Media on Demand (MoD), which provides fully edited and designed non-local news and features content for Tribune newspapers and websites.  MoD will expand to take on copy-editing and page design for several newspapers including The Hartford Courant at a center based in the Chicago Tribune newsroom, where the content-sharing hub is located.  This approach, already implemented at the Daily Press, will enable us to improve the efficiency of operations and position us to fulfill our local mission and to meet the challenges of the future.

Staff reductions are never easy.  They are necessary, however, to ensure the financial strength of the organization going forward.  None of these
reductions is a reflection on the work of the people affected, many of whom are longtime employees of The Hartford Courant and have made excellent contributions over the years.

Collectively, the changes we¹ve implemented will reduce expenses and position CT1 Media to capitalize on marketplace opportunities.  We appreciate your continued support and efforts as we implement these changes.

Sincerely,

Rich

Rich Graziano
ceo, president & publisher hartford courant
general manager wtic/wcct

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Comments

posted by: Morris Cove Mom on July 8, 2011  5:58pm

What the memo didn’t mention was the nonsensicalness of transferring their IT operations from India to Orlando.  I guess they think it’s another cost-saing measure.  Strange way to run a business.

posted by: Ellis Copeland on July 8, 2011  7:19pm

Sadly, the Advocate stopped being a decent publication years ago when it was first sold.  I used to anxiously await each week’s issue.  Haven’t picked one up in months.  It also appears NHI is following the same path: edgy, serious, investigative crusader for all good things to cheap claptrap designed to please the Establishment money pots.

posted by: Mister Jones on July 8, 2011  8:01pm

Oh boy! Even more non-local content!

“Other changes are a result of our on-going participation in Media on Demand (MoD), which provides fully edited and designed non-local news and features content for Tribune newspapers and websites.  MoD will expand to take on copy-editing and page design for several newspapers including The Hartford Courant at a center based in the Chicago Tribune newsroom, where the content-sharing hub is located.”

posted by: CC on July 8, 2011  9:04pm

Gatehouse Media is doing the same stupid ... at the Norwich Bulletin… sorry “The Bulletin”. Annoying…

posted by: nero on July 8, 2011  11:25pm

I had the pleasure of working for a short time with Josh and Chris, two guys who knew the business inside and out. The Advocate won’t be the same and New Haven will be poorer for it.

posted by: Bill Saunders on July 9, 2011  3:05am

Paul,

Maybe now Josh can get back in the business of hard-hitting journalism.
You seem to be the only boat still floating…..

posted by: robn on July 9, 2011  8:02am

What a shame…Josh is a good editor.

Since there seems to be no lack of ads in th NHA I’d love to see the numbers. Could it be possible that, rather than not taking in enough ad revenue, the cause of this is simply over aggressive profit taking by shareholders? In other words, has the farmer decided to drain the cow’s blood instead of milking it?

posted by: streever on July 9, 2011  11:13am

What a shame—Chris & Josh are great guys.

posted by: Frank Cohen on July 9, 2011  12:10pm

It’s sad to see these changes at what, in their heyday, were some of the better alternative newsweeklies in the country. I suppose the trend was set a few years ago when the Courant decided it could do without Circulation Managers (a position I once held in New Haven for nine years)in the field. Not surprisingly, the circulations of the three remaining Advocate-Weeklies owned by the Courant have shrunk drastically since then and there have been many problems. Now the papers apparently can do without a Publisher. Josh Mamis is a good man and will no doubt be sorely missed. I wonder what will shrink next?

posted by: Morris Cove Mom on July 9, 2011  1:17pm

@robn: You’re mostly right.  They are the most profitable of the 3 papers, but they are the little guy under the big umbrella, so their money is funneled up, not out.  I used to work there, too, and am not shocked at this weird strategy.  But am waiting for the house of cards to fold, as the Tribune/New Mass Media parent company is still in bankruptcy protection status.  If they had left this paper as a little paper, none of this would have happened.

posted by: nero on July 10, 2011  12:22am

@Morris Cove Mom: You have it exactly right. Newspaper chains paid too much for dozens of smaller papers and then could no longer support news gathering because of the huge debt load. Small, family-owned newspapers could have survived the Internet and new media.

Corporate media greed destroyed U.S. journalism and now, without journalist watchdogs, our democracy is imperiled.

posted by: joe from west haven on July 10, 2011  1:59am

hey paul and company,
so let me see if i have a few things straight. First there’s someone in chicago doing the editing, and basically proof reading articles from CT for accuaracy? Also, there are pretty much no local reporters there any longer so if there are any stories to be had, someone from chicago will be handling that too? wait let me ask a section of this last question over again….no local reporters? Really? Listen, not to sound sarcastic or outright make fun at tribune (i actually have a few friends still under their employ - although with their ever shrinking staff, I’ll have to keep checking that statement out often) Anyway back to my comment and actually my close to this statement too. My grand daughter Cassie will be turning 2 years old on September 10th. Does tribune have any upper management positions open? I’m sure that she can manage the group as well as, if not better than current management.

posted by: Michael Morand on July 10, 2011  8:26am

Sigh. Let’s hope Josh lands somewhere solid local, as he’s such a great civic contributor! Kudos to him for all that he’s done—especially in light of the often thankless environment he had to operate for so many years. Such a good man deserves way better!

posted by: Former Cog on July 10, 2011  2:10pm

Yeah, the Tribune Co. is “wallowing” alright, in hookers and blow and BANKRUPTCY, while they eviscerate a bastion of local reporting and s—t all over their staff for the sake of the almighty dollar. This is just a f—king shame.  Fire Josh? The Tribune needs smart, courageous, community-minded guys like Josh far more than they need inept, groping corporate tool boxes… What those guys at the top will never understand is that good journalism isn’t a widget that can be stamped off an assembly line, and people like Josh are an essential ingredient to making a relevant local newspaper work. Man, these guys and their ilk are killing an industry, and they’re seriously undermining the democracy that industry supports. Stringing along good writers on a freelance, no-benny basis, farming out column inches to tiresome non-local syndicated idiots, and canning the graphics dept.? The make-up rubbing off those Chicago strippers must be effecting their brains.

As far as a translation of the memo, the meaning seems pretty clear to me: “F—k our staff, f—k our readers and f—k even a modicum of community responsibility; this is about money, plain and simple. We’re going to strip this newspaper - excuse me, media property - to the bone, and spend just enough to make sure there are some squiggly lines between the ads in the space once reserved for ‘reporting.’ Then we’ll see how long it takes people to notice that one heroic, hyper-talented staffer is being asked to do the impossible for three different newspapers, and hope he doesn’t jump ship for warmer waters.”

God or whoever better save us when we look around and there aren’t any newspapers left. And Ellis - maybe when people start picking up a copy again, or even - and I know this sounds crazy - buy a subscription, you’ll have fewer newspaper deaths to lament….

posted by: Ellis Copeland on July 10, 2011  6:07pm

Former Cog—I’m not lamenting.  I stopped bothering with the Advocate when it became a cheap piece of claptrap.

posted by: Brian M. on July 11, 2011  10:50am

They have some really outstanding stories and their listings for local events are a must-have.

Plus, there’s some real journalism going on there. And they’d never devote page space to a fawning 1000 word press release like the one on Pike.

posted by: doug on July 12, 2011  11:41am

The whole point of being an alternative weekly is to be independent of the corporate entity that controls the larger publication/organization. It was over when the advocates were sold.

posted by: roger huzendubel on July 12, 2011  1:05pm

Ellis makes a great point. I myself read it only for the news of the weird. Most of the paper seems to just be articles on how bad wealthy people are and how everything is unfair. It really has gone down the tubes and if you read an advocate from 10-15 years ago you can see a clear decline in reporting. I take the Advocate with a grain of salt because you cant really trust that the whole story is printed in it, just the far far left version.

posted by: in translation on July 12, 2011  2:44pm

Attention survivors:

We’ve been chasing the market for some time, and our audience continues to move away from us.  Nobody is willing to pay for our really good journalism type stuff anymore.  People who want the depth and substance of longer form journalism and investigative reporting are getting it online from our former employees.  For example, there’s a slice of the public that still picks up our weeklies for the ads, but that’s about it.  Yeah, we screwed the pooch a few years ago when we had that franchise, but life goes on, and I’ve got to keep the lights on and try to figure out how to make a buck. 

Look, it’s as simple as this: we’re hanging on to anything that brings in money. Nobody’s making stacks online, the paper’s losing readers and advert dollars are dropping like a rock.  The car ads have all but died, and god help us if the Legal Notices move to friggin’ Craig’s list.  So basically, if we can’t use it on TV, on the website, and in the paper too, it’s probably gotta go.  Hey, it sucks, but I’m playing the hand I’m dealt.

Our best shot is milking our print properties and selling commercial slots on TV, and hopefully piggyback some online ads.  “If it bleeds it leads” has never been more true.  This formula gets us eyeballs three times a day and we don’t need specialized local talent to crank this crap out, so we’re gonna let our corporate unit do it for us.  We’ll focus our investigative work on the more sensational kinda stuff that’ll make a splash on TV for a day or so, and maybe get some viral viewing online once in a while.  Feed the beast, baby.

The best I can hope for is to be the last man standing.  So suck it up and pray you’re still here next July.

posted by: Karin on July 12, 2011  7:22pm

Bravo to them for at least being honest enough to use the word “eliminated”. We usually hear position realignment or the fancier, “workforce adjustment”. We also are forced to re-apply for our jobs against internal AND external candidates. And if we are dismissed we must TRAIN our counterpart in India before we ate awarded our severance.  It’s a cold, cold world.

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