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Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Hartford Times - Redux? Well, perhaps - but with a Twist!

Local Connecticut Conservatives are at again. 

This time the focus is the long overdue prospect of creating a viable option to Connecticut's main newspaper -  The Hartford Courant.  The brain child of this endeavor is none other than former West Hartford Town Council Member, and former First Congressional Republican Candidate Joseph Visconti.  Visconti, head of Visconti Media Group, is a popular activist who is well respected in Tea Party and main stream Republican circles.

Visconti's popularity stems from his willingness to stand up to Connecticut's tired Republican establishment.  He's been out front calling on current Chairman Chris Healy to step down after a disastrous trend of electoral failures under his leadership. Visconti will tell you openly: "this project is not about me. I'm just trying to create a forum so that Conservatives have a voice, and a chance to be heard in Connecticut."  A pretty accurate statement about a long time gap.

Irony and History 
The choice of the name of his new facebook group, called The Hartford Times, is as creative as it is ironic.  The Hartford Times (henceforth The Times) served as Hartford's afternoon newspaper operated between January 1, 1817 until its closure after purchase by its rival and new owner (The Hartford Courant) on October 20, 1976.  The irony is that The Times was a second headquarters for the Democrat Party propagating its positions and agenda for over a century. 

The Hartford Times Building
was the Democrat Party's base of
operations for over a century
The Times was created by wealthy Democrat Alfred E. Burr back in 1817 specifically for the purpose of advancing his Party's political agenda, largely pro-labor related issues. The first location was the Brownstone building at the intersection of Main and Grove Street. Alfred's son Willie Olcott Burr took over in 1899 continuing on with his father's vision until his death in 1921.  C. Everett Willson took over and owned the newspaper until he sold it to Gannett Publishing Company in 1928.  The newspaper was fairly successful until it was purchased by New Haven based, Register Publishing Company in 1973 which ultimately fast tracked its demise.  Former employees blame the newspaper's failure on rising costs, union demands, endless management turnover, and general staff incompetency. 

Notwithstanding the reasons cited above, my own view is that it's likely that successful circulation of an afternoon newspaper in the advent of popular televised evening news programs, both local and national, likely contributed to its doom.  By the time The Times published its stories, it was serving up old news to its readership better covered by moving images, and news anchors.  As demographics changed via the realities of changing culture, The Courant held its early morning readership, and The Times died on its dwindling vine. 

Regarding The Times long established tie to the Democrat Party - to be fair, while I don't have a complete list of Presidential endorsements The Times has made, the paper is rumored to have supported both Democrat and Republican candidates during its history.  Of course, given the well understood connection between the Democrat Party and The Times, its more than likely that Republican endorsements were far and few between - thus the Visconti initiative and his group's use of the name, The Hartford Times, is likely making Alfred Burr, et al turn over in their graves. In any case, the beautiful Hartford Times building, designed by architect Donn Barber in 1920, has been used as a backdrop for speeches by several U.S. Presidents including, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Lyndon Johnson, John Kennedy and Jimmy Carter. (These pictures can be found in the Hartford Library archives).  A side note: The columns on the building were originally attached to a Presbyterian Church at 1905 Madison Square in NYC.  As the Church was undergoing demolition, its likely Burr picked them up for free!

Vision's Purpose: Fighting Bias
It's worth discussing why Visconti and his friends would want to seek an alternative to The Hartford Courant.  You don't have to dig very deep into the The Courant's ink filed pages to see the clear alignment between its reporting and the Connecticut Democrat Party. To begin with  The Courant's endorsement of nearly every Democrat Presidential, Congressional, and Gubernatorial candidate, and state office seeker since the mid-1980s (with a few minor exceptions) outlines its bias.  The bias is particularly evident when it comes to its endorsement of people like Denise Nappier, who's investments have cost Connecticut taxpayer millions. And the Courant refused to acknowledge the result of her investments in Magic Johnson's shifty schemes as costly, and unrecoverable.  Most people in the private sector lose jobs for making such damaging investment decisions; they don't find themselves reappointed, and encouraged to make the same mistakes.

Further, news coverage and editorials have long casted Democrat positions in a positive light - for example, cheerleading the union labor movement, supporting higher taxation, running stories about business which paint executives and basic business decisions unfairly, and championing poor court decisions such as Sheff v O'Neill, and nearly all of former Attorney General Richard Blumenthal's counter-productive decade long litigation quests against businesses -  which have resulted in lost job.

In stark contrast, Republican positions are painted in a dark, cynical light-everything from ignoring government mandated fees and regulation burdening business, to critical coverage of Tea Party rallies.  The Courant's editorial board has clearly become intentionally blind to the impacts of Gov. Dannel Malloy's budget proposals on the middle class, and attracting (or keeping) businesses in Connecticut.  Schemes like eliminating the middle class tax credit, instituting a 19% tax burden increase on struggling businesses, and increasing costs and fees on nearly everything is deemed as merely a shared sacrifice.  Can The Courant bring itself to explore the possible ramifications of these policies?  And yet when it comes to its investigative reporting on the urgent need to reduce spending, or assigning accountability for the budget crisis to Connecticut's Legislature - no words can be found; not even an inference. 

As for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, the biased Courant reporting writes off the Christie's proposal to reduce public sector expenditures as a "popularity stunt".  Pretty shameful.  The Courant does a huge disservice to its readership by selling the Malloy budget as "necessary".

When the average working taxpayer picks up The Hartford Courant and sees it propagating the Democrat plan - if not outright selling their "only one way to handle this is through higher taxes" scheme, many people are opening their eyes for the first time and questioning why their hometown newspaper is championing the liberal cause to lead Connecticut further down the road to perdition through higher spending, and higher taxes. It makes you wonder why those at the editorial desk still wonder why The Courant is losing subscriptions at a record pace.  This cheifly explains why Connecticut needs an alternative publication, whether electronic or print, to combat the stale antics of the only game in town.

Grassroots Media Movement and Market
For the longest time, this author has preached high and low about the need for an alternative to The Hartford Courant.  The Connecticut Republican Party has always had monumental task  getting its talking points out in the open for fair hearing in a blue state dominated by a monopoly  of liberal media outlets well-positioned to directly and indirectly promote the Democrat agenda.  However, the use of social media such as Twitter and Facebook has allowed activists (on both sides) to only partially endgame these media giants. Social media allows everyone to be a reporter, columnist, or photographer.  But the subtle difference is that social media works best as a tool for activists;  it does little to impact the debate in the general public.  Social media addicts tend to already live in one camp or the other.  Unless you are seeking information on a topic or policy, you're less likely to want to read political tweets, or political Facebook posts. 

Newspapers and news sites are more effective in their ability to influence the general public on policy since most people are comfortable with the format, and generally do not recognize the clever skill of written manipulation used by professional media experts.  Thousands of newspapers are delivered daily to the front steps of Americans who digest what is provided as mere fact. While  the average person seems quite willing to be cynical of their Government, the general media gets a free pass; sadly deemed objective by the majority who do not consider themselves political.

It's clear that the cost involved in starting a large scale newspaper company is likely cost prohibitive.  It would require millions to secure a building, printing materials, reporters and staff, a distribution service, and all the equipment required to carry out the business.  This is likely why newspapers are going out of business, or consolidating, rather than popping up around the country.  It's more likely that a conglomeration would purchase The Courant before a rival newspaper would suddenly appear across town - particularly in a dow- turned economy like this one.

But its not all doom and gloom. 

Some of the options currently being explored are a good compromise between starting a media empire, and messaging each other on Facebook.  And as for a market, you can look at the desire for alternative national news programming with the success story of Fox News Channel overtaking CNN and other media outlets.  And before you're too quick to claim that the country is more conservative as a whole than liberal Connecticut (a point which I would concede), I would also argue that the Fox News Channel was not an instant success, but rather grew in popularity AFTER years of being offered as an alternative.  Thus it would be so with a Connecticut based, more conservative alternative.

A reasonable suggestion on the table is to build a fully operational electronic news organization.  This would still require significant capital to employ reporters, writers, network equipment, marketing and advertising, and so forth.  There are plenty of examples of webpage such as,, and others which are either fully electronic, or semi-electronic/semi-periodical and have strong followings among readers.

Connecticut based political websites have been somewhat successful in the past, but have never reached their full potential because most have been created for a limited audience by a small group of volunteers, or an individual without a budget trying to be a voice in a vast sea of repetitive liberalism.  Taking this idea a step further through serious financing, organization, and determination could result in the goal that has long evaded Republicans and Conservatives - a place to be seen and heard, and an opportunity to be a valid alternative for those seeking different views on Connecticut issues.

I urge those at this new Hartford Times - Redux, to continue forward on their mission undeterred by those who fear loss of their centralized power base.  Get yourselves organized with trusted resources fully vetted for ideology and competence.  With unyielding commitment and determination, the sky is the limit.  And with an audience as hungry as Connecticut's for an alternative to what the Hartford rag is pushing out each day, you might find yourselves with more subscribers than you know what to do with.  Just keep it manageable.

Good luck!  Don't give up the dream!

The King credits the book Images of Hartford Vol 3 by Wilson H Faude for background information on The Hartford Times.

This original blog post can be viewed at

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