A few days prior to Tuesday’s news that the Journal Register Co. may be shutting down its daily newspapers in New Britain and Bristol, another daily newspaper in Connecticut laid off four newsroom staffers.
Suffering from the same downturn in the economy and changing technology plaguing the print media, the Journal Inquirer in Manchester laid off a news reporter, a sports reporter, a photographer, and its photo editor last Friday.
Journal Inquirer Managing Editor Chris Powell said Tuesday in a telephone interview that the paper has eliminated about a half dozen newsroom positions through attrition this year and a few more on Friday. He said the staff is still large relative to the newspaper’s circulation, which he said has remained fairly stable. The Audit Bureau of Circulations reported the JI’s circulation at about 39,000 at the end of September.
The Journal Inquirer publishes three daily editions covering 17 towns, including: Andover, Bolton, Coventry, East Hartford, East Windsor, Ellington, Enfield, Hebron, Manchester, Somers, South Windsor, Stafford, Suffield, Tolland, Vernon, Windsor, and Windsor Locks.
Not counting sports staffers, the independent, family-owned paper now has 15 full-time news reporters.
Powell said the cuts in his staff were “not as dramatic” as they were at the Hartford Courant, which this summer eliminated a quarter of both its news staff and printed pages. However, Powell warned that after the first of the year, more layoffs may be necessary.
“There’s a contraction in the economy, and the newspaper business is cyclical,” Powell said. Newspapers rely on the real estate, automobile, and other industries for advertising dollars, he said, so when all those industries are hurting, so is the newspaper business.
It’s not the first time the newspaper has been forced to lay off employees. In early 2002, just a few months after the 9/11 attacks in 2001, the newspaper laid off staff, cut its remaining workforce’s pay by 5 percent, and ended contributions to its 401k plan. Despite the pay cut and the pay freeze in place ever since, many staffers have managed to stay at the paper and remain dedicated to the product and its readers.
Aside from the downturn in print advertising revenue, Powell said there also is a growing technological divide. While some readers want their news from the Internet, there is no market yet for online advertising, he said.
“It doesn’t seem to work yet on the Internet,” he said.
But considering the JI’s relatively stable circulation numbers, the New Britain Herald and Bristol Press have experienced far more catastrophic losses. According to many former employees of both papers and other JRC publications in Connecticut, the decline of the company’s publications is directly attributable to its management practices. The evening newspapers it purchased in Connecticut were transformed into morning publications in direct competition with the Courant, leading to immediate declines. Further, the papers’ workforces and resources have been continually slashed for profiteering purposes.
Where the New Britain Herald was once a 30,000-plus circulation daily, ABC reports its current Sunday circulation at about 19,000 and it’s Monday-Saturday circulation at about 9,000. The Bristol Press is down to about 8,000.
Steve Collins a veteran reporter at the Bristol Press blogged about what’s been going on inside the newsroom and the community from his unique vantage.
Earlier this summer, The Day, another independent newspaper in the state, laid off about 21 full-time and 17 part-time employees, according this story by The National Press Photographers Association.
Editor’s Note: CTNewsJunkie’s Christine Stuart is a former JI employee and her partner and husband, Doug Hardy, still works there as an associate editor.