As CTNewsJunkie celebrates 11 years in business this summer, it’s a good time to emphasize two things: Its reporting on state government and politics is needed more than ever, and its community of readers will need to rally behind it if CTNewsJunkie is going to survive in a rapidly changing media world.
Think about this for a second. For every Christine Stuart roaming the halls of Hartford, asking tough questions and uncovering secrets on the public’s behalf, consider how many people are employed full-time (by your tax dollars) to spin, hide, or obfuscate the news and information about state government she is trying to report.
CTNewsJunkie stepped up as newspapers and broadcasters were cutting back on Statehouse and state government reporting 11 years ago. And they’ve continued to do so as legacy news organizations have continued to cut.
And along with a small but very dedicated group of journalists from the Hartford Courant, CTMirror, and a handful of newspapers that still dedicate all or part of one person’s time to covering state government, they play what one investigative reporter called a game of “whack a mole” to expose public corruption, incompetence, and secrecy.
Most people know how we got to this point — a massive collapse of what used to be the cash cow of print advertising and newspaper subscription revenue.
Good accountability journalism can and is living on with the emergence of an “ecosystem” of online news businesses and nonprofits. CTNewsJunkie and sites such as the New Haven Independent and Lyme Line were among the first to fill these gaps.
But the transition from old to a mix of smaller old media and new has been messy.
While the disruption affecting print is well-known, few realize the funding challenges faced by online startups affected by the same rapidly changing technology.
Online advertising has never been an easy way to support a news business, but the rise of programmatic technology over the past few years has made it extremely difficult. Suddenly, businesses could follow readers around the web, targeting them as they jump from CNN’s website to Pandora to a Google search. Inventory exploded and rates plummeted.
CTNewsJunkie never has, and let’s hope never will, used clickbait headlines or aggregated out-of-state viral videos of pandas sneezing. Their stories about ongoing state employee layoffs will get a tiny fraction of the traffic that will arrive at a triple-aggregated story about a crazy crime in Florida.
But the reporting from CTNewsJunkie and their colleagues on the Connecticut state government beat does something else.
Secret government almost always leads to bad government and corruption. And bad policy, incompetence, and corruption do two things: harm the lives of the most vulnerable members of our population, and steal money from taxpayers.
So we are all stakeholders — morally and financially — in the existence and outcome of the kind of reporting CTNewsJunkie provides.
That’s why I signed up last year and continue to support the site as it launches its 11th summer fundraising campaign. It’s a small monthly donation similar to what I give to public radio. I think it could have as great or an even greater impact than donating to some of the charities dealing with the problems created by the lack of good journalism on important issues facing our state.
If you would like to make a contribution or start a subscription, click here to choose a plan. You won’t regret it.
Matt DeRienzo is a media industry consultant who lives in Litchfield. He is the former editor of Digital First Media’s publications in Connecticut, including the New Haven Register, Register Citizen of Torrington, Middletown Press and Connecticut Magazine.