Thursday, January 12, 2012

Clearing up some misconceptions

By Ed Stannard, Community Engagement Editor

The news the other day that the New Haven Register will outsource the printing of our newspaper to the Hartford Courant, at a loss of 105 full- and part-time production jobs, understandably created a shudder throughout the region. But we’ve been getting questions from people who misunderstand what’s happening to their newspaper. So here’s the bottom line:

  • The Register will still cover Greater New Haven, as always, from New Haven -- we’re not leaving the city.
  • Newspaper subscribers will continue to receive their paper.

A newspaper, in a real sense, is “owned” by its community, and we know that any time we make a change, even something small like deleting a comic strip, we upset a lot of readers. So the news that we will no longer print the paper and plan to move out of our Long Wharf plant is historic. But the newspaper that is delivered to subscribers won’t change.

I worked at the Register when we moved in 1981 from our downtown location at Orange and Audubon streets (shown at left, long before I worked there; I am in the May 1981 photo of the Orange Street newsroom below). When we moved to the former Gant shirt factory on Sargent Drive, it was a good move at the time. The paper’s previous plan for its new presses was to block off the end of Audubon at State Street. The Gant factory was big enough to hold our new presses and all of our news, advertising, circulation, production and business offices.

The glory days of print newspapers are gone and while the changes are painful to live through, that’s not likely to change. There is sadness about the layoffs. Several of the pressroom guys who are being let go have been here for decades. I was among 20 newsroom people laid off in 1990 (I returned nine years ago), and I will always feel for those who lose their jobs, even if, for many, better times are ahead.

But this plant is just too big for who we are now. The only thing keeping us from looking for a smaller space is the presses. So, having the Hartford Courant print our papers frees us up to downsize. We’re not the first. As our story said the other day, papers in New London, Stamford, New Britain and Bristol are printed out of state or in Bridgeport.

But to quell another rumor:

  • We are not being bought out by the Courant and we are not merging with it.

As for where and when we will move, it’s uncertain, according to our publisher, Tom Wiley, who met with the staff on Wednesday to answer our questions. As with any real estate deal, a lot depends on what happens with 40 Sargent Drive (at right in 1981, with the name of the old Journal-Courier joining the New Haven Register; our current newsroom, back in the day, is below). Ideally, we’ll be in the heart of downtown New Haven, with an open newsroom and café where people can come in, use a computer, search our archives and sit in on our news meetings. (You can do that now online at 10:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.)

As for other concerns that have come up: Local delivery of the newspaper will not be affected. Papers will be trucked from Hartford to our subscribers, just as the Courant is. And we’ll still compete for news with the Courant. All of our news is posted online before the paper is printed, so there is no advantage for our Hartford rivals in printing the paper.

The news industry, like many, is in the midst of a revolution, moving from printing to online. The Journal Register Co. is betting that news companies that focus on delivering the news digitally, whether on the Web, on your smartphone, or on some medium that hasn’t been thought of yet.

It’s disconcerting to be in the midst of this change, but it’s exciting too. I love learning the new tools we use to report the news. I’m sad for those who are losing their jobs, but to be honest, I won’t miss this old shirt factory much. I think it will be great to work downtown again in what I think is the best city in Connecticut.

Contact Ed:
Twitter: @edstannardnhr, @nhrvoices
Facebook: Ed Stannard-Register, Community Media Lab

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